I’ve known Nutan now for 33 years – an auspicious number for Christians since Jesus lived on the earth for exactly that number of years. That, and the fact that we call her God’s Elder Sister.
She is my nanad (my husband’s sister. Now wait a minute: does that make him God?) and my very dear friend, but this past week, I realized that she is also my Guru.
That is not a title I toss around lightly. A Guru is someone you turn to for wisdom; someone whose life you can study and learn from; someone who inspires and guides; someone who lives in full awareness and who makes decisions based on her deepest beliefs.
Integrity. Nutan in a Nutshell.
Gurus can be summed up, I find, in remarkably few words: Be the change. Do unto others. I have a dream. To be happy, practice compassion.
Nutan’s mantra would be, if I may be so bold: Your whole heart for your whole life. Six words. That’s twice as many as Jesus and Gandhiji, two more than Martin Luther King and one more than the Dalai Lama.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows her. Nutan can’t be compressed into quite as few words as other gurus. She is the embodiment of abundance, a living example of generosity and over-the-top-ness. More is more, you might say.
Last week I took my Dad to her house for a little R & R. I wanted some time alone with him and to give my sister and her family (with whom he lives) a bit of a break. Being at Nutan’s house with an anchor attached (Dad’s not exactly foot loose anymore) gave me an opportunity to observe her more closely than has been possible on other visits when I’ve been in whirling dervish mode. This time, I was able to reflect a little on what makes her so remarkable and what we can all learn from her.
Just for example:
These beautiful meals are standard in her house. It’s not because she’s a foodie (she isn’t) or because she is an awesome cook (she is). It’s because she believes if you are going to serve food, why not serve it beautifully? It’s because she cannot bear to do anything half-heartedly.
And that is really all you need to know about her.
Nothing with half a heart. Taking care of her children. Taking care of her mother. Taking care – actually – of anyone she loves, anyone who comes across her path, anyone who seems to need a bit of a break or an extra helping or a golden chance.
And with such pleasure! With such delight! The gorgeously decorated plates above are only the beginning. The full tank of gas in the car she is loaning you is next. Then there is the ride – not to the train station so you can schlep your suitcases up and down four flights of stairs – but to the very address in Manhattan to which you are going. Five hours out of her hard-won Sunday. Nothing half-hearted.
And no hidden agendas, no secret codes. We all know about that because we all do it. Say one thing and mean another. Say yes when we mean no and then get irritated because the person we are communicating to hasn’t understood.
Not Nutan. With Nutan, everything is hassle-free. No second thoughts or regrets or judgements. Staying in her house, I never worry if I have offended or annoyed because I know that if I have, she will tell me – right away, that moment, before I have a chance to make the same mistake again. How refreshing!
It’s a zest, an abundance, a joyful embrace of life at its fullest, a vision of life as it is meant to be lived. No sermons! No preaching! Simply living the truth: It is by giving that you receive.
She brings out the best in everyone around her precisely because she is having so much fun. Watching her being so generous and living so large, we first feel a little jealous, wondering why we don’t enjoy our lives quite so much. And then, if we hang around her long enough, almost without being conscious of it, we realize how much we have to give ourselves.
That’s true inspiration. That’s my nanad. And that’s why we call her God’s Elder Sister.