Finding ‘Heaven On Earth’
by Taheseen Khan
This post was originally published on http://www.SaudiLife.net at http://www.saudilife.net/life-and-society/92-life-and-society/38047-finding-heaven-on-earth
As an expatriate living in Saudi Arabia for over a decade, life has been predictably silent and quiet on the outside; while struggles and the ensuing growth have been simmering and brewing within.
I have learnt the major lessons of life here, at times being a passive participant of life, sometimes a silent rebel, and sometimes an observer. Quite often my struggles and ‘active’ efforts to change things and circumstances around me have met a frustrating death, while at times I have been successful. Peaceful growth however took place when I just surrendered to what was and what is. Accepting what was given and making the best of it.
My first home in Saudi Arabia, was in Abha, a tourist place where it sometimes snows in winters, a fact that not many outside of KSA are aware of. People back at home were happy for me that I would be living with my husband in Abha, and probably have a second honeymoon. When my husband came to pick me at the airport, I was very excited. He, however, said we would be driving straight home and not linger in the city, as it would be nearly a 3-hour journey towards ‘home’.
After a journey that seemed to never end, having left the city far behind, driving through long winding roads on mountains and then some plains and then again some dangerous and steep hills… I finally reached home at night in the dark. It was a remote village with no electricity, no water supply, no roads, no telecommunication, nothing. In other words, no life for me. For someone who had spent her entire life till then in Mumbai, a highly developed and commercial city of India, this was too much to take, which Alhamdulillah I took gracefully to begin with. The morning sun brought bright hopes as I looked at the village around me. The closest neighbour was on the neighbouring hill. I took consolation in the lush greenery and the waterfall on the hills. Thus began the second honeymoon phase of my life, in a ‘heaven on earth’.
I had adjusted well enough, seeing it as a welcome change, being so close to nature, where I could constantly hear the chirping of birds during the day and the sound of crickets at night. It was heaven on earth. However by the second year the fascination got replaced by frustration and depression, as I desperately tried to cajole my husband to seek a transfer to any place other than that ‘heaven on earth’.
Circumstances later changed and over the next few years we moved several villages and towns, before we finally moved to a commercial city ‘Khamis Mushayt’. This felt more like home away from home. The apartment was a welcome change from the old, nearly dilapidated houses that I had lived in, in the villages. Complacency set in. Three years later, as kids were growing in age and size, the big house was no longer big enough. Nothing about the house or the neighbourhood seemed right. My kids had no place to play, neither inside nor outside the house. Space inside the house started growing smaller as bigger beds, cupboards and cabinets started filling the space, to accommodate the growing needs of the family.
The now ‘small’ house with overwhelming stuff, started overwhelming me. All I could find were excuses and reasons to complain about the house. At the same time, my new job and difficulties in conveyance prompted a search for a new house closer to my workplace. Yet could we couldn’t find the right ‘heaven on earth’ for nearly a year after the search began. Full-time job gave another excuse to neglect the house. Cupboards and shelves were overflowing with stuff that I ‘just might need some day’. Carpets had not been changed for long because it was a rented house and we would ‘move out sometime soon’.
One day, I had had enough. I could take it no more. The piling junk of books could no longer be ignored like many other things that needed to be taken care of in the house. Besides I had grown tired of being in a ‘down’ state all the time, unhappy with what I had; wishing for things to get better (Maybe all on its own?)
For want of something better to do, I started gradually clearing out the clutter in my house, a few hours per week. Every time I threw something I didn’t need any more, I got an endorphin release, fuelling the need to get more, again & again. De-cluttering took over some months, given my other commitments. I was dismayed that the junk never seemed to end. Yet the house was somehow changing. It was opening up as I started reclaiming more and more space.
I decided that this house was what I was going to make a ‘heaven on earth’ and totally gave up on the idea of looking for another one. It was around four months later that I could look at my house and smile at the ‘home’ that I was making. I settled into a place of contentment and gratitude; and life on that day was ‘perfect’.
That evening, my husband came to pick me at work. Instead of driving straight back home, a 45 minutes commute in the traffic; he took me to a block behind the hospital where I worked. We entered a ‘huge’ vacant house that was to let. Within minutes I said ‘Yes ! We are moving in!’
As if the house was not big enough for my kids to play in, there was a vacant ground right opposite the house for them to play in. Everything seemed nearly perfect. No more long dragging commutes. There was also a place in the compound that I could claim as my own place under the sun where I could sit in privacy and greedily, hungrily, consume all the sun that I wanted!
There was a sadness on the way back home though, that I would now soon be leaving the ‘heaven on earth’ that I was creating.
It then hit me like waves of wisdom. I spent years in the previous houses, dissatisfied, discontent, looking out for new houses, yet never finding ‘the right one’. However, when I settled into contentment and gratitude; accepting what I had and trying to make the most of it, Allah gave me something that was better than what I already had… SubhanAllah !!!
True to the promise of Allah…
“And when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely enhance you [in blessing], but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is indeed severe.” [Qur’an, 14:7]
Another lesson that I learnt was, though it is in the nature of humans to not be satisfied with what they have and they always keep striving for something better; one cannot move forward to the next stage in life till one has fulfilled the rights and dues of what stage one is at, at any given moment. To think that one can move ahead without doing so is a fallacy, an illusion. Because in the next stage too one would still find something that holds him back and keeps him tied down to what he thinks he has left behind, if he has not fulfilled the previous dues.
Now a few months in this new ‘perfect house’, I notice many things are amiss. Lights fuse off all of a sudden, plumbing is broken, it is far too dusty in here… the list could be endless. But wiser with experience… now it is ‘Álhamdulillah’ for everything. 🙂