Thursday, June 16, 2016

I don’t know your story

Almost 13 years back I was coaxed into attending a 2-3 day Art of Living course by my roommate, who was (and probably still is) an ardent follower. I was reluctant because at a time when I was still a student, earning negligible and had a lot of student debt to pay, I didn’t want to shell out close to $200 for a workshop I didn’t care much about. But I couldn’t figure out a way to say no. So I said yes. I attended the course and was surprised to see the wide demographics of attendees. There were men and women all the way from their early twenties to late fifties. There were students, working professionals and home makers. 13 years later, there is only one thing I remember from that entire session. It was an activity that we did in which everybody sat face to face with another person for, I think, a minute and then switched partners. We essentially got to sit opposite most of the people in the group. While sitting opposite each other, all we had to do was hold hands and look into the other person’s eyes. Yes. That was the exercise. I am giggling like a teenager as I am typing this. And I had a similar reaction back then as well. Well, this is an awkward exercise. Once we got over the initial awkwardness, something magical happened. There was this guy in the group and I had totally judged him the minute I saw him, for no particular reason. When I got a chance to sit opposite him and hold his hands and look into his eyes, I realized that all my judgement washed away. Looking into people’s eyes is powerful. It is probably the most honest part of our body. Our eyes tell our story. And more often than not, we don't pause to look into people’s eyes and take a moment to see them. Really see them. I think I have told this story before. But it is by far one of the most important experiences of my life. Because it taught me to try to understand people before judging them. 

The most powerful way, I have learned, of not judging people is to know their story. Everyone has a story. It is so easy to look at everything and everyone with one single lens and assume them to be good or bad. Until, of course, we know their story. Stories help us understand why people behave a certain way, or eat certain things, or spend on a certain item, or read a certain book, or play a certain sport, or wear certain outfits. 

Our story conveys the reason why we do what we do. Our story conveys how we got to this point. It makes us, even if for an instant, think about somebody else’s point of view. It makes our heart bigger. It makes our actions kinder. It makes our mind broader. It makes us love more. You will find out there is always more to people than meets the eye. You will understand people even when you don't agree with them. You will pass fewer judgements on people once you know their angle, their story. Especially when they are people who don't look, or eat, or dress, or think, or act like you. It will make us a better human.

Stories are important, people. Let us make time to find out someone’s story.

1 comment:

shortindiangirl said...

What a lovely narrative and one that I agree with wholeheartedly, albeit without have a Shri to the power of Shri experience like the one you describe.

I'm yet to post my experience of classism in India, but in the meanwhile I'll say that my acknowledging as peer human beings seems to make a big difference generally. The building electrician and the trash lady, the beggar, the vegetable seller, the milk man. I look into their eyes when I transact with them and if I transact with them more than a few times, I try to learn their names. And they respond to me warmly as though I've done something that is precious. It's an interesting dynamic and part of the novelty of moving back as an adult.