River of no return

All of us are travelling on the river of no return. No matter how difficult the journey, we have to navigate the fast waters and dangerous rapids till we reach our destination.

 

As I bade farewell to an 11-year-old girl I met last week, I advised her to be good, to always do her homework and to listen to her elders and teachers.

“Yes, teacher,” she replied, “I must listen to my elders because they are going to die soon.” (She likes to call me teacher out of respect and also because I have been telling her a little bit about life and I think I look like a teacher with my spectacles and stern demeanor).

I was taken aback by her reply and quickly said, “No, not die soon. You must listen to them because they are older and have eaten more salt than you have eaten rice.”

“What do you mean?” she asked me. Apparently, my young friend does not know the meaning of “they have eaten more salt than you have eaten rice”.

It is actually a Chinese saying. In Asian culture, rice is a staple food. To say that someone has eaten more salt than you have of rice means they have been around and experienced a lot in life and hence you should respect their wealth of life experiences.

“But teacher, I also love to eat salty things. Why do they allow only older people to take salty things and not younger people?”

“Do you know many old people have hypertension, which is also called high blood pressure? It is the result of taking too many salty things in life. That is why you must avoid taking too much salty things at a young age,” I told her gently.

That was the end of my conversation with my young friend because her car had arrived and she had to go home.

Although the conversation had ended, I did not stop thinking about the Chinese saying about salt.

Besides having a wealth of life experiences, a person who has eaten more salt than we have of rice should also be wiser. However, in life, a person can only be wiser if he or she has learnt from his or her mistakes.

All of us are travelling on the river of no return. No matter how difficult the journey, we have to navigate the fast waters and dangerous rapids till we reach our destination.

I thought about my own journey after I accidentally stumbled across scenes from “River Of No Return” on YouTube. It is an old Hollywood movie starring famous American actress, model and singer Marilyn Monroe and American actor Robert Mitchum.

Both Marilyn and Robert have been dead for a long time and ended their journeys on the river of no return but thanks to the film and YouTube, fans of Western movies still get to see them in the prime of their lives.

As we continue our journeys in life on the river of no return, many things change including our looks, outlooks, likes and dislikes and feelings.

When I was in high school, I was crazy about a boy. I wrote a letter to him and was jubilant when he replied by sending me a beautiful Christmas card. Later on, I found out that I was not the only girl who was crazy about him. A few of my classmates also fell head over heels for him. They also wrote to him and received similar Christmas cards. I was heartbroken when I found out about the other Christmas cards. To him, I was just one of the girls who were smitten by him.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. Now, whenever I see him on Facebook or newspaper, I wonder what I saw in him. When we were both young, I thought he was the epitome of handsomeness. Now that we have both eaten a fair amount of salt in life, he looks very ordinary to me.

“I don’t know what I saw in him,” I told a close friend recently. I liked her wise reply.

“Now, if you fall in love with anyone, it will not be because of his handsome face. You will love him because he is good in something — a special skill or capability, whatever.”

As I continue my journey on the river of no return, I have learnt to enjoy the scenery along the way and laughed at how much I have changed from a love-struck, gawky schoolgirl to what I am now. I have no regrets.