Swapping stories over a leisurely lunch with a delightful young German writer and actress, our coffee conversation took an interesting turn. We originally met at the wrap-up party for a film (see Dabba) that our partners worked on. Between the cocktails and canapés, found kindred spirits. We both have adopted India as our home and made deliberate choices in our lives which may be considered a bit unconventional.
Sipping our cappuccinos, she shared that once she stopped expecting to ‘plan’ as she would in Europe or confuse what she ‘wanted’ with what she ‘needed’, discovered that all her real ‘needs’ are fulfilled – often in unexpected and wonderful ways.
The best example of this for her was on her second trip to India. A chance encounter at a party lead to the seemingly unfriendly host tracking her down to offer help on discovering she was looking for somewhere to live. This near stranger provided practical support with affordable options, driving her around until she found a suitable situation – a paying guest arrangement with a Muslim widower and her children. Living with a family opened my friend’s eyes to life here in a way a typical tourist would never experience. In this case, she ‘wanted’ a place to live. She ‘needed’ a home that would transform her relationship with this marvellous and sometimes maddening Mumbai. So much so that today, she is writing a book on her experiences with her publisher delighted with chapters completed so far.
I thought this distinction between ‘want’ and ‘need’ rather apt and remembered meeting an American woman transferred here for work and her challenges in adapting. One example will forever stand out – her despair and angst in trying to find coffee filters! Yup, you got that right… she not only brought her coffee maker with her from the US but expected to be able to buy her exact coffee filters.
Now, I’m rather fond of a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning (just check out Ding Dong!). So I fully appreciate that wonderful hot caffeine jolt to get the day started right, however this was a perfect illustration of ‘wanting’ one thing whereas she ‘needed’ something quite different. By being fixated on finding filters, she missed completely the fabulous brews available here and myriad of options – from the popular super sweet chicory South Indian filter coffee, to stove top espresso makers or coffee machines that require no disposable filters! And yes, one can even get most types of imported filters but at crazy prices the other end of the city and really, why bother when so many better alternatives exist?
For me, it was blindingly obvious that the transplanted American was going about solving her plight all wrong. Now, before I become all smug over the her folly, stopped myself – honestly – haven’t I had moments where I too have been hung up on what I ‘want’ rather than what I ‘need’?
When my last position was eliminated as part of organizational restructuring, I thought what I ‘wanted’ was another job – just this time one based in Mumbai rather than Singapore yet hopefully with all the international elements and responsibilities that go with a regional role. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling across Asia and the opportunity to work with colleagues in multiple countries. One can always wish, right?
As I explored options, recognized that I chose to be based in India and what I ‘need’ at this point may be quite different from a regular job. Fortunately, I have some time and a supportive environment to indulge in this process of discovery. And I’ve come to realize that perhaps what I ‘need’ is to take a leap of faith and set up something of my own. My first steps in this direction are a couple of free-lance assignments with talks under way with a few promising companies for meaningful collaborations.
The process is taking time and I’ve decided to not over-plan, get impatient, or get hung up on the ‘wants.’ Who knows, perhaps my ‘needs’ will be fulfilled in unexpected and wonderful ways! After all, the journey so far has been fabulous and if I was content with a regular route, wouldn’t be enjoying a cappuccino in the The Yoga House, Bandra, Mumbai, India.
Have you ever ‘wanted’ something to discover what you ‘needed’ was a bit different?
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