I woke up one morning,
Sat up straight in bed
With a voice in my head.
“Mangoes in India, apples in Germany!”, it said.

This was during one of the darkest phases of my life. I was slowly recovering from a breakdown, a burn-out, a crisis, call it what you may. Yes, a difficult and a profoundly transformative time. All my life I thought I would be a scientist and I was one- even a rather successful one- an assistant professor at a well-reputed University, doing really exciting research on animals living inside sulfur-rich caves. And yet, my soul had another vision. A vision that it shared with me occasionally through cryptic messages like the one I had recieved that morning. “Mangoes in India, apples in Germany”, it said. This was back in the year 2011.

Your mind may have a plan, but your soul has a vision. And if you don’t listen to its cryptic messages, they start to get louder. They start talking through illnesses, depression, crises, accidents, coincidences, synchronicities…. It is in deciphering these messages that you start discovering the true art of living. Yes, life is a creative act, and you are the artist. And you can choose any colour you like, any brush-stroke you prefer, any canvas you fancy. It really is your choice, pure and simple. But who said it was going to be easy?

On the morning I heard this seemingly bizarre sentence in my head, I decided I would decipher the code and live by it. For the heck of it. Why not? Did anyone have a better idea?

Mangoes in India…. my favorite fruit! I used to devour four to five fresh mangoes a day as a child, and now it had been fourteen years since I had been living abroad and eating imported, store-bought mangoes. What kind of quality of life was this? This HAD to change!

Apples in Germany….what an incredible pleasure, so simple and yet so priceless! To be able to ride my bicycle around the lush-green German countryside, climbing trees next to bicycle paths, picking the crunchy, sour-sweet apples and munching into them. This was abundance, this was wealth, this was freedom! This was how my soul wanted me to live! Not stuck within the four walls of an office writing papers, answering emails and sitting in committee meetings.

Mangoes in India, apples in Germany…. hmmm…now getting a little trickier. What could this mean? In 2011, I had been living in Germany for three years and had already made close friends I could depend on. I loved these people and wanted to cultivate these relationships. And I knew how hard it was to keep moving from one town to another, one country to another, having to start all over again. And yet, so much of my heart lay in India. I love India – I love the chaos, the smells, the flavours, the colours, the vibrance, the kindness, the generosity, the spirit. Nowhere else in the world does darkness and light co-exist so intimately like it does in India. You either love it or hate it, and I happen to fall in the former category. So what was my soul trying to tell me? To capture the essence of both worlds in their simplest, most essential ways? To climb trees, pick fruit, eat, and enjoy them? That simple.

Now it is 2016 and I am slowly starting to live by this code. I am in India in the blazing heat of summer, eating mangoes to my heart’s content. I left my full-time job at the University in 2014 and am now self-employed or rather, self-engaged. Engaged in doing the things I love. Listening deeply to people telling me about their dreams, their visions, their soul-talk. That’s what I call coaching. Traveling to places I always wished to go to, like Ladakh. Living and working with tribal village children whose voices are sweeter than morning birds and whose eyes shine with purity and truth. And after six months in India, I will be back in Germany, maybe just in time to pick the last apples from the trees. Or eat apples some of my wonderful friends picked and stored in their cellar. This is my painting, my story, my fickle life ‘plan’ that any respectable 40-year-old would be proud of.

“Mangoes in India, apples in Germany”, it said.
And I listened, with a bit of dread.
Where would this take me?, I wondered.

To a world beyond the grasp of my mind,
Where sadness and joy intertwine.
Where I discover the essence
Of divine presence
In the simplest acts of daily life.

Yours truly,
Sharmishtha