Which are the real towers?
Almost nine months have passed since I last wrote a blog. Somehow, life took over and the blog took a back seat until a trigger caught me by surprise.
On a recent trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit my daughter, I was struck by the vision passing by to my right even as I tried to have a polite conversation with the Uber driver. The near symmetry of the cemetery's towers and the skyline of Manhattan was remarkable. I wondered about how many who had walked the marble lobbies and occupied the glass towers of Manhattan were now buried with a marble tower as their tombstone. I pondered about the irony of the scene. Who were these people? Who and what had they left behind? Was their death sudden or prolonged? Was their life more painful or death? And perhaps, the most profound of all questions for me was a reflection from my own past life - who was more dead? Those who were still occupying the corner offices of the highest floors filled with accolades and expensive possessions or those who had lived a purposeful life and were now resting in peace six feet below ground?
These thoughts transported me to my own world of hedonism. I had arrived in the US with a burning desire to own as many material possessions as I could because I had grown up with very little. I wanted to prove to the world that I was capable, that I had what it takes to succeed in a cut-throat world of "me first" and "me too", that I could also fit-in. And I was able to accomplish most of it, except I still felt like I was a stranger in an alien world. I simply did not fit in no matter how hard I tried despite the illusory towers of custom-made suits, gold watches, expensive cars, luxurious vacations, and a nice home in a toney neighborhood. To the outside world, I was on the top of my game. But inside, I felt empty. Dead. Incapable of feeling deep emotions except when I was praying or meditating. The metaphorical connection between my life and the scene unfolding in front of me was rather poignant.
Then one fateful visit to an orphanage that cared for sexually abused girls in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, transformed my life. It became clear to me that in order to begin the process of healing, I had to dedicate my life to helping build a sustainable life-path for abandoned and abused children so they could also break the vicious cycle of poverty and abuse. But, in the process, I had to bury many desires, career ambitions, and, sadly, some of the most sacred relationships - my marriage to an amazing woman who had stood by me during thick and thin, my dear friends who had been pillars of support, and my extended family who were very dear to me in more ways that I can ever express. At one point, I thought I had lost my daughters too but thankfully they continue to be an integral part of my life. In order to fill a hole in my soul, I had to take the earth from another site where I had to lay to rest some of my most prized treasures. There is no tombstone to mark this grave. No one visits this place to offer their respect or condolences. It's just a tower of memories of a good life past that will always remain a sacred grave in my heart. I visit it every waking day and often wonder which tower is more real - the one I left behind or the one that marks the gravesite in my heart? Perhaps, only those who visit my tombstone will ever know the real answer.