By Kanika Bali
I’ve always been told that my twenties are the “best time to grow into myself.” It’s the time to change my habits, to learn new languages, to gain independence. But it’s also like food, the more you taste it, the more you realize what you like and dislike. I’ve been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to travel starting the day I turned twenty. Through these opportunities, I have learnt the places I love, the people I fit and the lifestyle I want to live.
This trip was a tasting platter.
It was a little portion of different experiences that the world has to offer. The adventure of zip lining, of jumping off a cliff, of hopping on a motorbike with a stranger and of leaving your life to the mercy of jellyfish in the middle of the sea.
But more important, it was about people. I had pondered becoming a recluse because I had been exposed to too many situations where people were too selfish to care.
In Guimaras, I met people.
On face value, these people were no different from the many I had ever met before. But I guess, that’s the point of never judge a book by its cover. These people were kind, simple and beautiful. They welcomed us into their homes and lives and wove us into the mundane stirrings of the month. The people at the company I worked with, grew to be friends and manangs ( sisters.)
We learnt from them, about them and against them. Through the informal channels we learnt about frustrations and gossip within the organization. We went on trips on the office account and got stuck in deserted areas in the middle of the night. We pitched to the board of directors, whose sudden change in attitude from one week to another was like predicting the outcome of a cricket match. When we put people at the core of our consulting. When we had understood how the little girl is given milk powder bought in sachets daily, the shampoo comes in minipacks, the cigarettes come in sticks and the soft drinks come in small bottles because they all depend on the daily wage. When we had understood that a day without money meant the house would shut down and that a storm meant more docking your boats and docking your livelihood. When all of this came together from our homestays, our friends and our colleagues, we came up with ideas that would appeal. We altered the solutions we had to lower risk and to make it simpler to implement. We made restructuring suggestions to give higher revenues per day, rather than per year and suggestions to make commodities cheaper for employees. We thought like them, so they finally accepted us.
I’m trying to live life simply. I’m trying to cut down the so called ‘sources of stress.’ I’ve been in a little bit of a lockdown since I’ve come back because I’m trying to come to terms with all the things I want and starting anew in Hong Kong. I’m still living out of that suitcase I took to Guimaras, wondering why I even need more clothes. Why I need to pick between the beige shirt and the blue shirt in the morning or think about whether to buy that pack of Oreos or not. I’m thinking about the job I have and why I was so anxious about taking it. I sit in an air-conditioned office, wearing nice clothes, I get a house where my rent and utilities are paid for and I get a salary which is more than enough to buy me food and water for a month.
At the age of 12 I was introduced to scarcity. Human wants are always greater than the resources. There is an integral difference between needs and wants. But as a race, that’s what keeps us going. The push to be more, see more and get more. Don’t get me wrong, when I say I am being simple, I don’t mean I’m losing ambition. I’m just simplifying my life to be happy with what I have. I’m going to work harder, because I’ve seen how privileged I am to be here.
I am going to strive for higher, but I’m going to remember that being cut throat doesn’t mean losing the humanity and kindness in you.