“I am going to the Galapagos Island to live as long as I can and die there,” was the response of a grand old man whom this writer met while travelling from Ecuador to Peru. As Confucius believes, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”, and this old man was soon on his way to fulfilling his dream of leaving behind the complicated for a simple good life.
The Simple Life
When I was traversing down the road of Ecuador to Peru, I met this “grand old man” who was 75 years old from the United States. I wasn’t at my best when I saw him that day. I was rather disappointed that one of my dreams of backpacking around the rest of South America came crashing down on me. When I went up to get my breakfast, all the tables were occupied except for this one table where this old man was sitting alone. Although I wasn’t in the mood to talk, I joined him and asked where he was going. To my utter surprise he said, “I am traveling alone”. Before I could gather myself, he gave me yet another jolt but of a far more unusual kind with these words, “In fact, I am going to the Galapagos Island to live as long as I can and die there.” Apparently he bid farewell to all his beautiful children and grandchildren so as to live and complete his dream – a rustic comfort in a natural setting.
He didn’t leave any sort of inheritance to his kids; he didn’t seem to be affluent as we normally think of the Americans. But he certainly appeared satisfied. He shared his little-big secret: his satisfaction comes in the fact that all his children turned out to be content, independent and happy people. Contrary to my expectation that a conversation about death over breakfast would sadden him, rather he seemed pretty peaceful and happy with his decision. My whole perspective about life changed that day. After months of living a hippie kind of life in Montanita Ecuador- a place that makes simplicity of life so much easier - I realized how fulfilling life is when it is simpler, when you surround yourself with positive and engaging people, when you don’t need a lot of stuff to make you happy; the less we have, the more attention we can give to those we own and truly need.
What a stark contrast life in Nagaland is! Life is so hard. Often I am made to wonder if returning back to Nagaland has been the right decision at all. I tend to be frustrated easily when people for no reason take so much pleasure in judging others for what type of car you drive and so on and so forth.. Once while I was window shopping with a friend, it pained me so much to see how a teenage girl was bullying her mother into buying her a leather jacket, the cost was almost Rs. 6,000. Her reason is that all her friends owned one. The more astonishing part was that her mother didn’t protest much. She bought it for her along with some other stuff. The total bill was more than Rs. 10,000 and it wasn’t even Christmas! (You have to excuse me for judging but I have to make a point here).
Can we Nagas really afford such a lifestyle? And yet this lifestyle seems to rule our society today. For instance, look at life in even the fringiest part of Kohima where even the stairs are so steep and the condition of living so challenging? But from one of these houses, anytime of the day, you will see a youngster coming out looking like a million dollar celebrity. Is this the reason we so willfully embraced modernity? Whenever I think of this, I get stupefied. Nagas do have a good aesthetic sense and we do have to appreciate or celebrate our sense of style. And no, I’m not condemning anyone for buying all these fancy stuff. What ails me is the kind of society we are creating for ourselves where we try to fit in when we don’t look like a million dollar worth celebrity.
In these 3 years of teaching experience in Nagaland, I’ve never met a parent who personally came asking about the progress of their children, besides the parents-teacher meeting day which happens once a year. I am not even talking about those Naga youth studying or working outside of our state, especially those who live lavishly with their parents’ hard earned money. Don’t we suppose it’s high time we take some time to really assess what is happening to our youth? Suppose we Nagas become very rich in future, will we be happy if our society is run by lazy and inefficient people? Instead of being busy hoarding wealth for the future of our children, why don’t we slow down a bit and spend quality time with them, motivate them to work hard, teach them to become independent individuals, to appreciate and to enjoy the simple things in life, and to be content with what they have?
Probably then we wouldn’t have to deal with all these social problems we are facing in Nagaland. Especially alcoholism – which I believe is sabotaging our land and our future. To satisfy our wants is limitless: the more we have the more we want. The houses will never be big or luxurious enough. It doesn’t matter how much you have, when money is the motivator, you always need more. I still think about this ‘grand old man’ and feel envious of him and all his accomplishments. He isn’t someone who had a luxurious life, but he loved his wife dearly during the worst of times, believing in their children and encouraging them to love, learn and live independently. He didn’t leave any inheritance but he did give them the biggest gift of life; he provided them quality education to pursue their dreams. To end with a moral on the lesson from this man’s story, he did not add to the woe of the society by producing a bunch of dependent specimen; rather he lived simply and contributed a bunch of hard working successful children towards securing the future of the society and nation.