Growing up in India, the primary source of protein for our primarily vegetarian diet was a regular supply of lentils. They came in all kinds of colors – red, green, yellow, orange, black, and more. There were the split lentils and the whole bean variety like the black-eyed peas, red kidney beans and the white and red garbanzo beans. The first step to cooking dry lentils is to sift through them to find any stray pieces of rocks that may have come with them. Once sifted, you soak them – sometimes overnight – and then cook them with spices suitable for the particular lentil. Without the sifting, the rocks end up cracking your teeth when you bite down on them while eating the soft, cooked lentils.
She was a wonderful cook and the kindest soul I have probably ever known. No one – friend, family, or stranger – could visit her simple home and not be treated like the most important person that they were. She lived the axiom that every “guest” is a messenger of the divine. I asked my maternal grandmother one day – what is your secret? How is it that you can be so kind to everyone who comes into contact with you?
She sat me down on the coir mat in her kitchen and made me my favorite flatbread on her griddle, drizzled it with a bit of clarified butter and sprinkled some brown sugar on top. “Eat first”, see said. “Then we will talk”. Once I was done eating, she asked – “will you have some tea”. All I wanted was the answer to my question. What I got instead was sweetness and kindness. After we were both done drinking a bit of tea in small glass cups, she gave me the answer.
“Every person in the world is like a bowl of uncooked lentils,” she said. “If each piece of lentil in the bowl is a character trait, then every person is bound to have some ‘rocks’ or flaws. You have to learn to ‘sift’ out these ‘rocks’ when you engage with them. Then you are engaging only with the goodness within them. In essence, you are doing them a great kindness. The benefit of this practice is that you end up sowing seeds of kindness within your own heart.”
Kindness, empathy, dignity, compassion, inclusion, dignity, faith, resilience, humility and joy. These are all seeds that are ready and waiting for us to plant in the fields of common ground, for the betterment of all. Kindness is the first seed. When we begin with kindness, then all the other seeds can germinate well and eventually yield a new, healthy crop of seeds for the next generation. My grandmother would be so happy today to see her namesake, Kamala, getting ready to sow seeds of kindness, unity and healing for the growth of a new world.
Will we exhibit leadership by taking their cue and plant a few new seeds of kindness of our own today, and every day from here on out?
P.S. Join our weekly twitter chat, Sunday Nov 8 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will sow some new seeds of kindness together for health, healing and harmony in our world. Namaste – @AjmaniK