It was a Monday.
I woke up with stomach and lower back pain. I was feeling sluggish and blue. Today is just not the day, I thought, then proceeded to engulf back into the warm layers of bedding after calling in sick from work. I took the day to pamper myself by ordering in warm foods while watching movies in bed and feeling sorry for myself. I feel what I feel. I have the right to, I reasoned. What a realization it was when I remembered a story while sipping on warm coffee…
The story begins with my visit to Ahmedabad in 2016. I had taken a few weeks off of work to visit my parents and grandma in India. I had been going so often that the city had started to feel like a second home. I became familiar with the surroundings and with the local shop owners by a first-name basis. One of the day on the trips, my parents and I were walking back on our typical daily route from my aunt’s house to our home. The surroundings, till this day, are cemented in my head clear as day.
The night, like any other, was illuminated by miniature lamps stationed by each vegetable section on the roadside, some in a cart where the vegetables were displayed and some on a tarp on the floor beside the vegetables. Bike and rickshaw horns, chatter of negotiations and barks of street dogs blared during that seven-minute walk. I stopped by a small shop at the rear of one of the vegetable carts and exchanged banter with the shop owner. I picked up a water bottle and a few goodies to munch on throughout the day while my parents picked up a few groceries as well and were about to check out. That’s when we noticed a man, probably in his forties, walking on the adjacent street.
This man had dirt on his face, rough patches on his arms and hands, clothes that were stitched and re-stitched together and torn shoes that were hanging on for dear life. He was pushing a wooden wagon with a flat surface, not only full of fruits of vegetables, but also his wife and child. They were noticeably lacking basic accessories as well. For miles, this man had been walking on torn mesh that grazed the hard gravel all-the-while pushing a wagon containing his whole family. And for miles, the mother and child were sitting atop a hard surface open to chilly air and incessant noise.
Before handing over the cash, my family and I exchanged sympathetic looks. My dad then took the initiative to approach the man. They had a short conversation then my dad asked if he can purchase groceries for him and his family. The man shyly accepted the offer and simply asked for bread. My dad purchased a loaf of bread and handed it over to the man, who then proceeded to hand it over to his daughter. Immediately after, the man and his family were on their way to their next destination. They had to move themselves and their cart to their next work stop which they did on a regular basis. Miles at a time.
But what had to be done, had to be done. Period. Because irrespective of physical pain and aches, emotional stress and mental agony, the family had to continue moving for their own livelihood. They had no option two.
So while I sipped on my warm coffee in bed on my day off, this story came to mind and I realized…
I am so damn privileged.
How fortunate am I that I have the option of staying home to put my happiness first? How lucky am I that my livelihood, nor my family’s, depends on my daily work? And how privileged am I to have option two?
I can’t fathom having a horrible day full of pain or aches or grievance yet having to put all that aside because my well-being as well as my family’s depended on it. Let alone putting that aside to go to work that entails physical labor.
I have the option of going to work. I have the option of staying in layers of warm blankets. I have the option of consuming hot foods and drinks whenever I want.
The OPTION of putting my desires first, is a damn privilege.
Option. A simple word. But what a privilege for those who have it.
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