Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala became fascinated by climbing,
eventually becoming the first person from Sri Lanka to climb
Mount Everest – and crucial to that story was one empowering moment. The urge to break the mould, if nurtured, can result in great achievements – Pic by Ruwan Walpola
- Change is in the air; the The time to do things that really matter is right now
Two years ago, I complied with an inexplicable internal urge to abstain from one of my favourite muses – a peg or two of the best single malts on the weekend. This was followed soon after with an even more inexplicable decision – I stopped eating non-veg food. And then I surprised myself completely by a total abstention from anything sinfully sweet. “What’s the point of this life, machan, you might as well not live” was the refrain in all quarters.
But the fact is I have discovered so many amazing things thanks to these urges of mine. I discovered fruits – Sri Lanka is blessed with so much variety and I gorge on them. There’s the seasonal rambutan, ambarella, mangosteen, durian, the incredible varieties of mangoes available almost through the year, there’s dragonfruit, the local olives, starfruit and waraka (the yummy jackfruit). And then I have enjoyed each vegetable – such incredible variety – drumsticks, yams, ladies’ fingers, brinjal (eggplant), there’s cauliflower and broccoli.
I shut the door to the goodies which my life was centred around. Another door opened with many other goodies that life has to offer. These urges which overturned years of social conditioning on what is deemed “a good life” has been replaced by another one – one which now allows me the physical flexibility to sit on my haunches and smell a fragrant flower by the roadside or hike up mysterious peaks in the blessed island nation on the weekends. My fitness is peaking. And with it my physical ability to stay active and the urge to explore this gorgeous island nation has multiplied.
Our conditioning binds us to ‘things’ – a set of rules and behaviours which we internalise as required to be part of a group or social strata. But I broke these rules. My friends good-naturedly bullied me, coerced me some even chided me on the ‘wrong’ decisions. But I am still part of the group. In fact, many friends are now following my path. And yielding to their ‘urges’. Our fears are most often unfounded. Following one’s urges to bring personal change is most often highly beneficial.
Years ago, in Mumbai my cousin sister looked at her daughter – my niece – driving the car and seemingly had an epiphany. You will love being a pilot, she told my niece. My niece followed her mum’s instincts – she loved the idea. And went to Canada. Today she is flying jets across the pacific in North America as a young pilot.
Our social conditioning does not permit us to yield to our urges – a South Asian girl as a pilot? Typically, this would be deemed as unsuitable. But my cousin sister as a trailblazer mum revealing the epiphany and my niece as a passionate pilot made it come true. Yielding to fears is the first instinct. Yielding to urges and epiphanies are likely far more rewarding.
A senior executive in Sri Lanka talked about how as a youngster in India he always wanted to fly planes but his doting mum thought it was too dangerous and so he never pursued it. Later married and with children in the USA he didn’t give his passion much thought. Now with family back in the big Apple and he in Sri Lanka, the urge to fly re-emerged. Inspiringly he chose to go to Ratmalana and learn to fly. And clocked several hours over months till very recently. Time and place to follow an urge is a myth. The only time to do what one ‘must’ is right now according to this inspiring friend of mine. And he is so right!
Dillai Joseph is a homemaker. With two little kids and a very busy senior executive of a bank as a husband she has all the reasons to be home-bound and home-busy. Yet she runs her own ad company and is a very accomplished painter, having done two very successful exhibitions of her very high quality work. She feels she must find ways of expressing her creativity and has let nothing come in the way of that urge.
She rises very early – 4 a.m. – she says that’s how she gets high quality ‘me time’. She uses that time to paint and to work out and keep herself fit. She has taken a break from full time advertising work to focus on her kids. Yet she has not stopped her creative work. Her paintings feature very intricate details that come from intense observation of nature.
Time is not an issue for her. She drives to beaches sometimes under the hot sun to observe waves, at a time when her kids are busy at school just so she can observe waves, a subject for her painting. She thinks that if one gives into the urge of creating then one find ways and means of satisfying that urge. She says her life at the moment is content. Society expects a homemaker mum to do a great job at home. But Dillai does what she must. And finds great contentment in doing so.
Recently I met Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala and was so inspired and riveted by her story of how she became fascinated by climbing, eventually becoming the first person from Sri Lanka to climb Mount Everest – and crucial to that story was one empowering moment – when as a child, she would love climbing trees without her parent’s knowledge and when her dad came to know, instead of dissuading her, he coached her on how to do it safely. The urge to break the mould, if nurtured, can result in great achievements too.
In the last three months, we have all had time to take stock. Life as we know it is changing before our eyes. In the ‘new normal’ many things will be different- health, family, the way we live, the way we have lived our life thus far are all in focus.
So, as we navigate this period of serious self-reflection imposed on us by a harrowing pandemic – where many are learning new technology – zooming social interactions and forced online purchases, it’s time to really think of the important things – how are we breaking through needless conditioning? How are we responding to our urges? Are we listening to them to them or rationalising why we can’t yield to them? Actually, the thing is… you don’t have to yield to them but you must!
(The writer is a brand specialist and can be reached via email at [email protected])