Reply from G. Gautama

I had earlier posted the letter I wrote to G. Gautama on my blog. I received his reply yesterday and it was one of the best things that happened to me in a long time.

Please look at my earlier post to understand the context.

I am publishing his reply with his permission. Although the whole mail is full of gems, I have highlighted some of the most beautiful lines. His words are lucid and genuine and his thoughts are so well accommodated in words. I am indeed lucky to have approached him with my questions. I am posting his reply because his message could make a difference to all of you.

Dear Matangi,

It was a surprise to receive your mail. The few paragraphs that you have written express your position, your questions and your thoughts. I must say that you write beautifully and express yourself very aesthetically. This is a rare gift!

Each of us in our life has certain abilities and capacities. What is not clearly seen most often is that we are all disabled as well. In most of us these are concealed and permit us to cope with life. We are conscious when the disabilities are physical. Someone may need a crutch to walk, a wheelchair to move around. Another may need a pair of spectacles for reading, like I do, a cane for walking, hearing aid for listening clearly. Less visible are our disabilities with language and mathematical operations. These are the ones most used in schools, unearthed so to speak for evaluation … Even less visible are our disabilities with music or dance, movement, people and communication, understanding of space.

It would not be wrong therefore to say that each of us has disabilities. You must have heard of artists who paint with their mouth because they do not have hands. Or people who paint with their foot. The finished work of such artists evokes a great deal of admiration and wonder. Rarely do we give thought to what must have been the first attempt of such an artist. Would the first swabs of paint have been artistic, beautiful?

It is quite apparent that whatever efforts human beings make, if we get to hear of them, or if we draw satisfaction from them, they are the product of persistent hard work. There is the famous story of an accomplished violinist. At the end of a concert a man came up to him and said “I would have given my life to have been able to play like this”. The violinist said “I did”. Could this violinist, as a budding musician, when he picked up the violin of the first time, could he have been adept or skilled? Would he not have fumbled many times to get the right note, to get the right combination of notes?

I say all this to place in context your own situation, renal failure at a young age necessitating a renal transplant. Surely a difficult situation! I’m sure you must have felt very sad about this on many an occasion. However you must also have felt that you’re luckier than many others. If you do not misunderstand me I would say all of us are in the same zone — some things to celebrate, some things can be better.

On the other hand life is a design opportunity. I never tire of using this expression. There are cards we have been dealt, there is a time we have been given. What we do with this time is the question that life poses for us. Often we are overwhelmed by the difficulties, the problems we see and the disabilities we encounter. We do things which others expect us to do, often halfheartedly. We do things which take our fancy. And then we drop them, disappointed, unsure, dissatisfied.

There is another dimension to our lives. We are also wounded children as a priest I know mentioned. We carry wounds from our childhood encounters with the larger world of adults. These wounds do not heal that easily and the painful memories are stored in our being. The violence, the exploitation, the harsh words, the agony of near and dear — all these we carry, mostly unconsciously.

So not only are we defined by our abilities and disabilities but also by these wounds and the memories that we carry. These define the things that we choose and those that we adamantly reject.

But then the question remains. Given who we are, disabled as we are what is it that we could be doing with our time on earth. This is not terribly clear to most of us and that only intensifies our agony.

Some of us are lucky because there is a deeper intimation of things. Something inside draws us to certain things. It is almost as if we have no choice. Some of us do not see clearly what is it that we need to do. We pick up something that appeals to us a little bit and then work quite hard at it. The journey and the end product turn out to be satisfying in various degrees. But most of us seem to spend our time, this one lifetime that we have been given, sitting on the fence trying to decide what is it that we should be doing. The other thing we end up doing is complaining. And this becomes a lament, which slowly fills our life.

As a young person it is a bit sad that you encountered kidney failure so early in your life. You’re also extremely lucky that your father donated a kidney to you. Given your interest in writing, teaching and trying out other avenues, it does seem crippling that you have to earn enough money for your medicines. It is also understandable that you do not want to be dependent on other people.

I do not know if I have much advice to offer. For each one of us there is one thing we bring to the table, every moment — a slice of our lifetime. What would we like to give our slices to is one of the decisions we need to make and almost each day. I know people, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, who devoted their life and time to taking care of people – young ones and older ones. I also know people who devoted themselves to dance or music, almost not caring about anything else. There are people who lead their lives with a smile on their face and others with unsure tense faces.

How would you like to choose your time? What dance would you like to dance and which song would like to sing? It actually does not matter who is looking. This is your time, and your action may be a gift to somebody else, but more than anything else it’s an expression of your own being, and a gift to yourself.

Playing it safe is not going to make one feel satisfied. You will have to ask yourself, looking back after 10 years what would you like to be able to say. “These are the things I tried” or “these are the things I avoided”. No audience outside of us matters because the rewards and recognition have a very short shelf life and are barely satisfactory in the long run.

If something that I’ve written is not clear please do not hesitate to ask any questions. If you wish to share some thoughts you are most welcome.

With warm regards and best wishes


2 thoughts on “Reply from G. Gautama

  1. the letter was truly profound, great in its simplicity. it touched a chord. i have had numerous opportunities to interact and to exchange my views. i know i have seen clarity , come out of very many preconceived notions of things , and have gained confidence in recognizing the fact that life is all about the choices we make and as stated it is up to us decide what we will give to the slice of life. i want to thank you Gauthamji for many of your GEMS. these are indeed beautiful lines.

  2. I keep visiting your blog and this made me leave a comment. It is indeed wonderful that you come across such people but as he said, ” life is just slice of time” and what we do with it …. thats all it is…

    keep up the good work.


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