Thorns and roses

One of my favorite quotations is by Alphones Karr “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns ; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” To me, this statement alludes to the duality of life. Life, like the two sides of a coin alternates between the positive and the negative– the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the roses and the thorns, all in one place. The question is - do you grumble because of the thorns or are you thankful that despite the thorns , the roses exist?

As human beings we like to be in control and surround ourselves with the things that make us comfortable. When I was leading a bachelor’s life, I cared only about myself, what I liked and what I enjoyed doing. When I got married , I experienced many changes ; some brought joy, while others challenged my patience and sanity –Friends, the duality of life was in full play.

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Ours was an arranged marriage ; we had never met each other before, but it was a marriage almost made in heaven. After the wedding we landed in Atlanta – a city with a rich history, dazzling skyscrapers and the glamor of hosting the 1996 Olympics. The city is also a natural paradise , surrounded by magnificent mountains, lustrous lakes and enchanting dogwood trees. The picturesque, lively city looked like an illustration straight out of a fairytale, and we had the most memorable year. Then we had a chance to visit India for a month long vacation. Since it was our first visit from America there was a lot of excitement. My wife began shopping almost three months ahead of time, went on lengthy shopping sprees, and she ended up with a pile of luggage – suitcases large , medium and small , handbags, shopping bags , gift bags , you name it. Even on the morning of the departure, she disappeared only to return with a huge stuffed Teddy Bear. When I loaded the stuff into the Taxi , I was exasperated by the sheer volume of it all, and then on arrival I found that one carry-on had been left behind on the porch during the commotion. I wanted to forget it but my wife cut me off – “what do you mean? all the gifts for my best friend are in that luggage- don’t you understand?” She was so beside herself that I had no option but to call a colleague, who drove me to the apartment, helped me to collect the bag and rushed back to the airport. My colleague was quite helpful but when he came to know the reason behind the mishap, he went bonkers “Why did you let your wife push you around?” and he continued his outburst till I reached the airport.

We hurriedly checked in and caught the International flight in the nick of time. But the drama continued throughout the international, regional, domestic airports as at the destination as I had to carry all those shopping bags and luggage from carts to trollies, from shuttles to taxies. It was as if I was carrying thorns, spines and prickles jabbing me everywhere.

But the story had a happy ending. When we arrived home, we were greeted by my wife’s relatives warmly. All the gifts were received with excitement and everybody was happy. She had also carried gifts and memorabilia for my parents and brothers that she had decorated herself; I was moved by her attention to the minutest details. Those were small moments, but taken together , they contributed to the string of joy that we felt throughout the trip. Even today I savor those beautiful moments. Yes, there were thorns in the form of shopping bags but her generosity, her warmth, her affections outshone them, and my wife stood bright as a radiant rose.

We came back after one month. When I returned to work, my colleague, in front of the others, began narrating the Airport incident. Although he said “Just joking” I felt the undertones of sarcasm in his voice. I wanted to tell him the happier side of the story, but I stopped because I knew he was someone who could see only the thorns and grumble. But unlike him, I was able get past the thorns and reach for the roses. The realization made me euphoric, and I stood there smiling. Friends, there are two sides to life - the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, the roses and thorns but like a coin only one side is visible at a time. During a time of crisis, we should not despair or lose hope because the other side is hidden from our sight only temporarily. Twenty years ago, I let go of my focus on thorns and I was rewarded with an abundance of roses – radiant, bright and beautiful. Friends, it has worked for me, and I imagine it just might work for you, if you let it be.

( The speech is dedicated to my wife Anjana ( Momi) Bora - What I become is because of her.)

Toastmasters Evaluation by Stacy Efthymiou

Great job on your second round of giving this speech. Last week I gave you the constructive feedback that I had noticed you had hesitated and paused a little bit between each word. Today, you implemented that feedback, as I did not observe more than one moment of hesitation. Everyone has some disagreements with their spouse, but not many are brave enough to voice marital disagreements in a speech, so I applaud your bravery, but I know it was all said in good fun. And I liked the moral to your story of thorns versus roses, where sometimes we as humans can expect roses but there are no situations that only have roses and have no thorns. It can be sad when we realize that a lack of thorns is just not reality. And I liked that you ended on a hopeful note that when all you see are thorns, all you must do is flip the coin over and find the silver lining or the roses.