Last week, I met my British friend and his partner who lives in East Sussex in a quaint little beautiful English town. Most of us in Pakistan idealise and hold the ‘white race’ in awe. Maybe it stems from being ruled by the British for so many decades or it’s the ‘brown skin complex’ but whatever it is, there is a cultural conditioning that puts the white man on the pedestal for us. I am guilty of somewhat idealising my friend too, for unrelated reasons but in all honesty; a part of me did feel the initial excitement of, ‘oh wow! I have a British friend!’. I believe we all carry the inferiority complex that we have carried over decades starting with the poor Indian man who was ruled by the ‘Gora saab’ (white man).

We also have preconceived ideas about how the British are where we have stereotyped them as cold, formal, and maybe not so easy to connect to, with the factors of culture and diversity blocking that connection.

My friends Russ and Katy broke all those myths for me and a day spent with them made me learn many things about a life whose fantasy had been floating around the edge of my consciousness but had not been explicitly experienced. I was welcomed into a home that was real and alive with warmth, generosity, and sensitivity to any concerns I have, like my profound fear of dogs that they catered to and did not judge me for.

I was treated to a lovely lunch and homemade cakes and lovely gifts to take home. I was invited by their neighbour for tea and I found Tess’ gesture to be so hospitable and welcoming. Their warmth and kindness knew no bounds and the pride we take in our Pakistani hospitality was met with some and more.

I was as comfortable chatting with Katy or Tess, who I had met for the first time, as I would be meeting someone new in Pakistan. Human connections are not limited by boundaries and that’s what I learned. I also learned that a simple life is perhaps the most profound way to lead a happy life.

I spent hours in a simple home with organic drinks, homemade jams, and honey, adorned with books, and two honest people who worked hard and did everything on their own with pride and ease and carried themselves with more confidence than many ‘fancy people’ I have come across in my life. Simply dressed and removed from the material choices and worries of designer wear and being in the rat race; Russ and Katy have taught me what truly counts to lead a fulfilling life and I don’t remember the last time I met two people who were so settled in their existence in the world, or who were so real. Perhaps it took them time to arrive here but I felt inspired and wanted to look at my life again and make my own rules for living a fulfilling life that is close to the real and true essence of life.

Russ is an experienced psychotherapist and Katy is a nutritional therapist and perhaps can easily make enough money to lead a fancy life in London. They choose to make their own life where they are happy to drive a simple car that Russ called a ‘gardener’s car’, work on their garden, enjoy walks in beautiful woods and lead a healthy life with beautiful casualness and a mix of integrity and pride for all the right reasons.

I found a home in a very old rustic little house in a remote village and I learned the true meaning of life. I realised how little we need to be grounded in our existence. Most of us are in fight mode, trying to earn as much as we can, driven by fear of not being able to experience the richness of life that we have been conditioned to believe is in fancy cars, big homes, private schools for our children and the list goes on.

Let’s try to simplify our lives. Let’s be more casual in our existence and not get sucked into expectations that culture and others have defined for us. Earn money to fulfil your basic needs but ask yourself next time when you want to change your perfectly functional car with a fancy 4 by 4; what drives the need to do that? Richness is found within one and that’s what makes people rich and not how fat their bank accounts are. For me, my friends Russ and Katy are the richest people I have met in a very long time. As Rumi says, ‘The wealth within you, your essence, is your kingdom’.