Sarita Sarvate

I retired from my job recently. Like so many people, I could not wait to devote myself to my writing, to sit in my garden, to travel around the world. I hadn't anticipated the panic and guilt I would feel, however. Creating a structure out of the years that stretched ahead of me seemed daunting. Whenever I met older people who were struggling financially, I felt mortified.

Work expands to fill the time available. So I sat in front of my computer contemplating "what ifs." What if I had done pure research instead of applied science? What if I had stayed in India instead of coming here?

Life felt like an anti-climax. All these years, I had been jealous of stay-at-home moms. Now I had time but my kids did not need me so much. I had always juggled the demands of my birth family with my own family. Now I could go to India any time but I had no parents left to visit. Was I to follow the teachings of Hinduism and become a hermit awaiting nirvana?

After a little time though, I began to change. I talked to the checkout clerk at the store. I said hello to strangers. I no longer yelled at the service rep from Comcast. I was becoming kinder and more patient. For the first time in my life, I had the space to look at myself.

So I began to reinvent myself. I made a film about people with learning disabilities. I signed up to volunteer. I painted watercolors. I realized how much time I had wasted looking at the past and the future, while the present moment had simply passed me by.  

I live more consciously now. I see beauty everywhere, a flower on the road, a child in a park, a colorful sunset, make me happy.  

Life is an exercise in letting go, I know now, a preparation for our departure from this world.The knowledge has made me, not despondent, but joyous of the bounties of this world.  

 With a Perspective, this is Sarita Sarvate.

Sarita Sarvate is a columnist for India Currents magazine.

Once upon a time, I used to frown upon people who pampered their pets. Why are they wasting their time and money on animals, I used to wonder, when there are millions of humans in need of care? It is a reaction many immigrants have to American pet mania. After all, I grew up in India where mangy cats stole milk from babies; where rabid dogs bit children, prompting a series of injections in the stomach.

Everything changed the day my son brought home a kitten.  Cali, he called her, after California. She is not staying, I declared. But she stayed, climbing on curtains and chewing the sofa into bits. I don’t remember the exact moment my consternation turned to attachment. Perhaps it was the day I returned from a trip to find Cali running excitedly to the door to greet me. Perhaps it was the day she meowed good morning to me.

I know what you are thinking. But Cali does talk. Her greeting meow is totally different from her hungry meow, or her “let me out” meow. She understands language too. She follows me when I call her; she sits on my lap when I ask her to; she obeys when I say stop or sit. Sitting on our fence, she recognizes me from far away, and calls out to me as I walk home. Sometimes when no one is around, she is the one who stands between me and melancholy and despair.

Cali has given me a window into the animal world. I wonder what she sees when she looks at a flower or runs hungrily after a bird. I marvel that she is so agile with her limited color vision.

I understand now why Americans, who no longer live in close-knit communities, love their animals so much.

Like everyone else in this pet-crazy country, I worry about what I will do when Cali is gone. But I feel grateful that she has made me a true American.

With a Perspective, this is Sarita Sarvate.

Sarita Sarvate is a columnist for India Currents.