Him: “Would you rather your child be smart or good?”
Her: “Can’t she be a bit of both?”
Him: “No. The distinction therein is the crux of the question.”
Her: “Well, it’s a stupid question.”
I felt sick in the stomach.
Dilip had just convinced me of the need to return to India. Or rather, of the need for me to be part of the team heading back to India. And that we would do it again over the Christmas break. Maybe it was the hot chocolate. I always get a bit bloated when I drink too much milk. And I did have a bowl of cereal a little earlier. I must be lactose intolerant. It could be that. But I also hadn’t planned on going back. Not anytime soon. In any case I felt sick. Or bloaty.
India. I do not see her as part of my identity. She does not define me. Certainly not any more than anything else in my life. I prefer to see my identity in the routine of daily life. My work defines me. That’s expected for something that takes up so much of my time. And I would take offence if someone tells me that I do not do a good job. I am a cyclist and I enjoy riding my bicycle. It is my most fun regular activity. Sure, I'm not as fast as I used to be, but I stepped up to A-grade and not everyone can say that. Races are faster now. But I was - and still am - a cyclist. And I’m a runner. A slow runner who would be lucky to run 4min k’s. But I identify as a runner. And I’m a brother. A son. An uncle to two beautiful children. A friend. A person who believes in the power of reason. And a votary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Not everyone has to sail an ocean to find themselves.
And not everyone needs to know the meaning of life to be happy. But if you live long enough then that question is bound to come up.
So once a year I go to India. That’s seven years now. Seven camps with Dilip in exhausting, exasperating India. Any measure of productivity would see that much activity is inefficient. And sometimes ineffective. But some good gets done. The good is very, very good.
India's a problem I don't need.
It’s just before 5AM on the Jinker Track. The stars are out. My breath fogs the air and the chill stings my arms. I rub my ears to get some blood into them. I pull my gloves on, drop the saddle, and hit the trails with lights blazing. Those that have tried it will know that night riding pares down the choice of available lines. Today I'm on point. I feel faster and more agile than I know I am. Focus. And pure joy. In a couple of hours I will be telling jokes and doing what I am paid to do. I get great satisfaction from the work and the mingling. I am part of a great team. In the meantime I have a clear run of the tracks. Solitude. I might be the luckiest guy in the world.
And yet I can be better than that.
Life can be guided by a few simple rules. Be curious. Ask questions. Have a bit of self doubt and reflection but not too much to be crippling. Breathe. Tell your own story. And never tell another person theirs.
Him: “I’m not saying that being smart or good are mutually exclusive. Rather, I’m asking which you value more.”
Her: “I value both. You cannot measure between the two.”
Him: “But if you had to?”
Her: “But I don’t.. You really have some silly ideas.”