Dasara (dussera) is a special time at my cousin's place as my cousin and her daughter are very skilled and everything on display is made with their own hands. And some of them cannot be made in advance like the dolls she made with vegetables this year (Pictures - previous post) and are created on the day of the display.This year I took a friend along - she is from the North-east and is visiting Bangalore and I thought she might enjoy this new experience.
Everything went well - we went, we saw, we admired; got our share of sundal and haldi, kumkum and some goodies.On our way back I received a call from my cousin telling me to come back as I had left my spectacles behind. Now without my spectacles I cannot read anything that is less than font size 20 but I keep removing them all the time and leaving them everywhere and about 25% of my day is spent looking for them. And since my cousin lives 25 km away and this takes a 25 minutes drive plus 50 minutes wait through jams,( yes, welcome to Bangalore!) I decided to return and reclaim the glasses.
I planned to get the glasses and start immediately so I left the keys in the car. But in a series of unplanned actions,we found ourselves locked out of the car. It was a Sunday afternoon and a festival day to boot and not any festival but Vijaya Dasami and hence it was daft even trying to look for a garage or a mechanic. We borrowed keys from other Santro owners in the neighbourhood and tried to force it open. No luck. Luckily the duplicate key was in my house and my son was in the house. So we decided to wait until the duplicate arrived. Meantime regretful self-reproach commenced among others: "oh if only I had not..." "No, I should have.." "No, no, it is totally my fault."
And there I was , totally detached from this guilt trip - calm, happy in the thought that we have a solution in sight. And I was telling them: "These things happen. Look at it this way, it could have been worse. I could have carried the duplicate and they could be in the bag inside the car right now. Or Siddhu could have been at work and we would have had no one to get the duplicate." (Husband was already out of town.) And the best part was that I was not doing this out of politeness or just to relieve their guilt. I honestly felt this way and I thought we were actually in the best possible scenario under the circumstances.And I surprised myself.

I do not know when I became like this because a few years ago,I would have been the first person to start fretting in such a situation. I would have thought of everything I should have, could have, ought to have done to prevent this and blamed me for not doing each of those. There would have been anger at myself and a sense of shame. Shame because in our circle all such goofs became legends with your byline by being narrated at every family gathering, in excruciating detail. One was surrounded by people who prided themselves on their perfection and lapses and mistakes were frowned upon with the contempt reserved for the incompetent.
For a while, when I was young it was important for me to be considered competent and infallible. But then one fine morning I woke up and said:"it is alright to make mistakes as long as they do not hurt anyone, are not harmful and can be corrected." I think that was the day I became an adult!

Things can go wrong despite the best intentions and meticulous care. And when they do, what can be worse than to obsess about them and flog yourself? How do you learn if you never make a mistake? I may be wrong but I believe that people who believe that things can go wrong are better at crisis management. Until a few years ago, I have noticed that in India the government owned airline was super efficient at handling delays while the new and naive private airlines staff were clueless if anything went wrong.
Additionally acceptance of what is less than perfect allows you to experiment and try out the untried and untested. As they say, a man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault. The good thing about life is that it in most cases, it offers you second chances and everyday need not be planned or executed with the precision required for a space flight.

I sometimes think that my obsession with lists and memo pads might have its roots in trying to ensure nothing goes wrong or nothing is forgotten or overlooked - basically trying to ensure that there are no mistakes from my side. But things can and do go wrong sometimes like they did on Sunday and it was nobody's fault. In the bargain we got to spend an hour more together chatting as there was nothing to do but wait. And if nobody makes mistakes, why are there duplicate keys?
Nowadays I don't mind being laughed at for my mistakes - if mistakes make my life colourful and enrich my experience, I'd rather choose a more colourful and enriching life than a boring perfect one.
19 Responses
  1. Savani Says:

    usha! what a wonderful post. It could not have come at a better moment.

    rotfl@And if nobody makes mistakes, why are there duplicate keys?
    Priceless Usha-ism!

  2. kudos to you! :)

  3. Kalpana Says:

    Right Usha - Life would be so dull without mistakes. Here's a funny quote about mistakes,
    "Making mistakes is inevitable, but repeating the same ones over and over doesn't have to be. You should endeavor to make all-new, spectacular, never-seen-before mistakes."-Jeff Atwood :-)

  4. Mahadevan Says:

    Very often I encounter the famous Murphy's Law - ' if something can go wrong, it will'. If that apple had not fallen and stuck to the tree, perhaps we would have lost the knowledge about Law of Gravitation.

    Your last lines

    'if mistakes make my life colourful and enrich my experience, I'd rather choose a more colourful and enriching life than a boring perfect one'

    bear the stamp of your inimitable style.

  5. Sunita Says:

    Loved it.

    I am one of thoes people who are constantly thinking about what to do if things go wrong all the what if my brakes fail, what if I am hurt, what if I find a theif in my house at midnight so on and so forth. With the peapod this negative thought trends have only reached crazier hieghts. Its always like I am waiting for things to go wrong and then use the solution I had thought about.

  6. WhatsInAName Says:

    That was a great post. How right you are! I would prefer an imperfect life too rather than a predictable boring one.
    I wasnt like this either. I think time makes the best teacher.

  7. yet another of those posts from you - about the mundanest things written in the profoundest manner. Yup, to be perfect is very boring indeed.
    and you know, I don't know if I'm weird, but while a perfect set of teeth IS nice, there's something very appealing about those lopsided teeth. Kondram pallu, we call it in mallu- when a tooth comes on top of the existing one.I find such smiles very cute :-D

    Do you think I'm nuts?

  8. S! Says:

    Boring & perfect one - yeah, I'm kind of halfway there! :)

    Good story, captain.


  9. Hip Grandma Says:

    'Now without my spectacles I cannot read anything that is less than font size 20 but I keep removing them all the time and leaving them everywhere and about 25% of my day is spent looking for them.'

    This is partly true for me too.I manage to read fine prints too but need my spects when I go out.And I am famous for misplacing them.I look for them each day of my life and put up with stares from .you know who !!BTW your change in attitude and accepting anything less than perfect indicates that you are ready for g'motherhood.Is sidharth ready?

  10. Raj Says:

    Mistakes are ok, as long as you can put the blame on someone else. If I were you, I would have fretted, but found my peace of mind by blaming the cousin for not handing over the glasses as I left the house.

  11. Raj Says:

    And, by the way, that was a lovely post.

  12. Very similar experiences.

    My car key lock in happened during a weekend. A call-out costs $100 during Sat/Sun.

    One fine day, I discovered I have become unflappable, smiling while the same situation earlier would have made me fret.

    Belive me, this attitude rubs off on those around you too.

    I would have even thought missing the glasses for some time would be a nice break from reading - if that is what your are used to in excess.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Great post Usha. I tend to think that way too and try to calm my hubby by saying the same things that life would be so boring which offcourse annoys him more but he blows his top off only if the mistake was mine. when the tables turn he would say that atleast he doesn't make as many mistakes as me !! phew !!

  14. Choxbox Says:

    your posts make me smile or think/ponder or both :)

  15. Unknown Says:

    I constantly keep pushing my glasses up over my head to read although by rights I must wear a pair of progressive glasses . I came to your blog via Madmomma's and am happy to find my friend Hiphopgrandma here! I liked reading your post and will definitely trawl through your archives !

  16. That was a great post:)
    I am with you on this one (seems to me like I leaving the same comment every time I visit your blog). I keep misplacing my specs too and spend a little <25% of my time searching for them ;)
    Making mistakes is part and parcel of life and why are there duplicate keys anyways :)

  17. Anonymous Says:

    usha, where art thou??

  18. Usha Says:

    Hi everyone, Thank you in your unstinting support and acceptance of imperfection. More power to the chilled out ones. :)

    Eve's lungs: Thanks for visiting. Will check yours soon.

    CW; Here, here. Bad case of eye infection first, then ENT trouble with fever. In between the airtel connection was disabled and when I called their support guys the guy said that he would check and then someone would be "get backing" to me soon. So as soon as they got back I am "get backing" to you. hehehe.