Of Life Lessons, Lotuses, and Loving Memories

Bloom where you are planted

The lotus seller — Vidya Sury ©

Last week, while returning from my visit to the doctor, I saw a young chap by the roadside selling lotus flowers. The sight of this beautiful flower made me think of the phrase “bloom where you are planted” and brought back some fond childhood memories.

Decades ago, during the ’60s and ’70s, we would visit my aunt, my mom’s older sister at our “native place” as we call our hometown in South India, in summer. During these trips, one of the most exciting and novel things was bathing at the lake attached to the temple near our house.

Every morning, we would set out as a group to the lake. My cousins, my aunt and uncle, my grandma, my mom, and I, all of us with an extra set of clothes, towels, soap, and a bag of laundry.

The spot — our spot — at the lake had a series of large flat stones at the point where water met land. The water was quite shallow there and a convenient place to bathe and do our laundry.

There, after placing our stuff on a rock, we’d wrap ourselves in a huge towel, which was really a cloth cut to twice the size of a towel, and get into the water. Of course, some of us would cringe at how cold it was, but once you get your feet wet and see the others enjoying themselves, you’re in before you know it. It used to be such fun to splash around in the water, with the warm sunshine drying us quickly each time we emerged.

My cousins would swim out to the deeper part of the lake to bring back lotus flowers, much to our delight. They are not easy to just pluck, you know? The stalks are tough and it took some knack to break them free.

By the time, the laundry was done and we would collect our things and head back home, laughing and talking as we took the short gravelly path.

Once we got home, we would get busy, hanging out the washing on the clothesline to dry.

As we arrived freshly bathed and hungry, my aunt’s mother-in-law, quite possibly the second most generous woman in the world (next to my mom), would have huge tumblers or steel glasses of coffee ready.

Much laughter and banter would follow. By this time she would have also finished cooking an elaborate meal.

Around 10.30 a.m., we would have lunch. Okay, call it brunch. This would be served on banana leaves freshly brought in from the backyard. Each item is served in a specific sequence — and we’d lose count of what we ate halfway through the meal.

The carefully planned menu consisted of several dry veggie dishes, gravies, rice, fritters, chips, and fruits. There would be sweets as the finishing touch! Burrrp!

Image via Shutterstock licence by vm2002

Then, after everyone ate, we would all help with clearing up in the kitchen — and then settle down in our favorite spots around the house. It was a charming house with tiled roofs and a courtyard in the center and pillars all around where we marked our spots. At the back of the house was a cowshed where my aunt’s pet cow, Lakshmi was tethered.

So as the children lazed around and amused themselves, the elders would settle down to their siesta. Some would catch up on their reading.

Around 2 p.m., the house would be abuzz again with the afternoon coffee and snacks. My aunt’s MIL was an amazing cook and believed in feeding everyone constantly. Then she would systematically massage everyone’s hair with oil, comb it for them, and braid it. In the meantime, a couple of the ladies would have made flower garlands that were woven into the girls’ hair.

I remember how excited I would be to see my mom’s knee-length curly black hair, freshly washed, and fragrant with the flowers.

Later, in the evening we would go out, usually to the market or the village fair, or to a movie, and return home to dinner. After dinner, and before bedtime, it would be storytime — legends, myths, family stories, and more.

My grandma would have spiritually uplifting anecdotes to tell us — what we call personal development stories today! And I’ll never forget those stories she tied up with what we saw around us.

Vidya Sury ©

One such story is about the lotus, a wonderful example of how ideal conditions are not mandatory for success. In spite of the way it is born in murky waters, the lotus rises through all the obstacles in the water, emerges, and opens its petals, pure and perfect, and blossoms, encouraged by the sun.

What a beautiful life lesson there. Why wallow in the murky waters of uncertainty and fear, when we can rise to the surface, emerge, bloom, and realize our potential?

My grandmother would say: always remember the lotus when you set out to achieve a goal; life’s conditions may be less than ideal, but look at the lotus bud — a symbol of potential. It embodies awakening, spiritual growth, and enlightenment. It shows determination. Even as it stays strongly anchored under the water, it grows in response to love and compassion. It looks delicate, but it is quite sturdy. It is flexible. It doesn’t let the water affect it. It floats on the water, serene.

What wonderful memories!

Fun fact: The lotus is the national flower of India, and represents beauty and non-attachment. It also has great significance in mythology. It is edible and used in medicine, to detox and cool the body and treat various ailments.

Talk about a solid combination of beauty and brains!

Here’s a lovely quote from one of my all-time favorite actors, Goldie Hawn:

“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. … The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. … Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one. ”

Bloom where you are planted ❤



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Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

Writing about Self Improvement, Mindfulness, Meditation, Parenting, Health, Travel, Life, Books. Showing my diabetes who’s boss. Visit: