It was on a Tuesday, back in 1994, that I first learned about the power of kindness.
Nope. Not true. I have no memory of any Tuesdays of 1994. I was 4, in 1994. I didn’t even fully understand the concept of a week, in 1994. Here’s the thing about kindness, though. No one teaches you to be kind. Teachers will teach you manners and parents will teach you to be polite, but kindness comes from the heart. No one points out when someone is being kind to you. And no one marks it as a memory. Because kindness, like love, is different to different people. For example, to someone who’s used to constant nagging, a compliment might feel like kindness. While to someone else, it might just seem like an attempt to please.
So how do we identify an act of kindness?
Well, we can start by asking ourselves three questions:
Did it make me feel good?
Did it make the other person feel good?
Was it simple?
Because kindness, is simple.
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Want to know what’s easy? Being a jerk. Truth be told, it’s even easier for women. We are wired to be possessive, protective, territorial of our domain. And these animal instincts creep into our thoughts more often than we know. Have you noticed how the chances that a woman will call another woman a ‘bitch’ are higher, than a man calling her that? And chances are, these bitchy vibes have no logical reasoning at all. Why do we do this? Why are we so unapologetically unkind to each other? Would anything change if we stopped being mean?
Imagine how amazing it would be if women stopped judging other women. No rolled eyes, no smirks, no hush-hush gossip… A world where women don’t look down upon each other, where we don’t make assumptions based on looks, and judgements based on style. A world where we all stand by each other, in an air of solidarity. What a calm, un-dramatic world it would be. How do we get there?
By being kind.
Let’s start by being kind to ourselves, shall we? What do you see when you look in the mirror? The slightly crooked nose, or the cellulite on your thighs? Do you wish it were different? If it were, would it still be you? Well, if you want your body to be fit and your posture to be perfect, you have to start treating your body with kindness. Feed it a healthy meal, take it for a brisk run, don’t keep it up too late... But if you want a new nose, or a different smile, you need a major dose of kindness. You have to be kind to your body. Crooked or straight, your smile is unique to you. Your mother probably still remembers the first time you smiled. Your father must have made a million silly faces just to see it again. Be kind, to your body.
Next, be kind to your environment. Do you carry your own bottle of water? Do you carry a tote bag when you go shopping? Does your office have a recycle bin? How about a rain water reservoir? Ask yourself these questions because their answers, matter. Do you know India alone produces up to 9000 tonnes of non-biodegradable sanitary waste a year? Imagine how big a difference it would make if you shifted to biodegradable, or re-usable sanitary products? Small changes that you make in your lifestyle can mean a big change for the environment.
And lastly, be kind to your community. I don’t remember much from back when was I was 4, in 1994, but I do remember our maid, Rashida. Rashida wore a hijab, and a calm, beautiful smile. Every day, my grandma would make an extra cup of tea for her, which she would relish after she had finished sweeping the entire house. I remember Rashida because I wanted to be her when I grew up. I would cover my head with a dupatta and run around the house with a broom, pretending to be her. And no one in my family minded. My grandmother never stopped me from playing with Rashida’s daughter, and she never made Rashida feel like she was a ‘maid’. To her, Rashida was a helping hand. And every kind of help was welcome. That was my lesson of kindness. Not building walls of privilege between myself, and those around me. So, be kind to the people in your lives. Be good to your community.
So yes, kindness is simple. But it needs work. And when you do get it right, kindness can be empowering. Try and focus on the moments in your life when people were kind to you, and you were kind to them. It’s much more fulfilling than remembering the profanities someone muttered at you. And, it’s a much lighter memory to sleep with.
Be kind to your body, be kind to your environment, and be kind to your community. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s not too difficult either.
As the Dalai Lama once said, ‘My religion is simple. My religion, is kindness’.