Thorns and roses

Ours was an arranged marriage , twenty years ago while going for a short vacation to India from America where I moved in the previous year, I was introduced to my would be wife when I arrived and within less than seven days we got married , and then within less then 72 hours of our marriage it was time for us to take the flight back to America. I was about to have a new wife , a new home , a new country to settle down in – I was overwhelmed. I reached out to my mother for help – Mom what’s going to happen to me . My cheerful mother, who was attending to her flower garden, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye , handed me down a blooming red rose and said – Life alternates between the positive and the negative – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the roses and the thorns. While putting out her arms to embrace me, she said - Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. My son, be thankful that thorns have roses , you will always be happy!

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, as I was unloading, I heard a scream. It was my wife,“ My pink carry-on was left behind”. I could not believe! From the corner of my eye I looked into my watch – the flight is leaving in one hour five minutes. I just froze , raised my hand , and prayed – oh my good lord , oh Jesus Christ, oh Allah , oh lord Krishna help me. But then there was a sudden jerk - “What are you doing? all the gifts for my best friend are in that luggage- go and get it?”. I called a colleague for help, who like a maniac drove me to the apartment, helped me to collect the bag and rushed me back to 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 and at the destination as I had to carry all those suitcases, handbags , gift bags, shopping bags from carts to trollies, from trollies to shuttles and from shuttles to taxies. It was as if I was carrying thorns, spines and prickles jabbing me everywhere , left and right.

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 I felt throughout the trip.

We came back after one month. When I returned to work, my colleague, in front of the others, was narrating the Airport incident. But then , as soon as I began telling the whole story, how my wife and the last minute shopping made us leave the suitcase behind, my colleague who was quite friendly till then, suddenly turned on me. “This guy is spineless , he let his wife push him around?” He went bonkers , calling me a henpecked man, browbeaten, bullied, coward every name in the book. I was livid, but then I recalled my mom, this guy 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.

YouTube link

( 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.