What Maya Angelou's words meant to me...

When WriteTribe asked us to choose a Maya Angelou quote as our inspiration to write, for me it was a pretty easy choice to make.

Her recent demise brought her back into the limelight with people waxing eloquent on her impact while others searched online to see who this celebrity was that they had not heard of before or seen on Page 3. That last bit did not really surprise me because Maya Angelou was never a celebrity or diva. She was many things during many phases of her life - author, poet, teacher, night club performer, teacher, freedom fighter - but above all else, she was inspiring.

Like many of the present generation, my first encounter with her name was via an innocuous quote in a magazine many years ago. It was a pretty metaphorical one-liner and made me grin but nothing more back then as I flipped the page.

A few years ago, I came across that line once more. This time though, things were different. I was going through a pretty low phase in my life and was battling issues of trust, faith and hope. I used to be that guy who would always want to please everyone (I blame my over-exposure to loving and selfless dogs for that characteristic. *Looks grumpily at Snoopy chewing his bone beside me*). Sufficed to say, helping everyone blindly was a disastrous policy. Choosing to cut out certain people of my life was a difficult decision... but it was the significance of that particular Maya Angelou quote that really got me wondering during a particularly unending night.


Kicking myself for my naivety only ended up hurting my own butt... could I learn from my follies instead? Could I not focus on those who actually could use a helping hand or a patient ear?

The funny thing was, once you open your eyes and truly observe, you find it is very easy to spot those who actually need an emotional shoulder to cry on. That year, I got out of my rut because I chose to do for others that which I wished somebody had done for me during my lowest point.
Yes, I did ignore many a self-serving friend; I focused instead on those who had retreated into the shadows because of an emotional scar they felt now defined them.
It took a long while but I helped see them through their worst phases... and they did the same for me too. I made fewer friends... but they were truer friends and remain so even today.

It sounds a lot simpler than it is.
In today's world, unless someone has something to offer, their sorrows are often irrelevant to us. We would be ready to share our handkerchiefs and wipe away the tears of a billionaire or minister yet turn away from an old man holding a begging bowl who begs for a single coin. There's no point being indignant... that's who we've become. People who do a selfless act are mocked and ridiculed unless it's for a video which can go viral.

The year I focused on this Maya Angelou quote changed my way of looking at life. It motivated me not to give up just because of the tricks of a few people... more importantly, it taught me to help those who truly needed help after they had fallen down while traversing the rocky terrains of life. Helping them through their bad times helped me forget my own sorrows...  it healed me as much as it healed them.


"Be a Rainbow in someone else's cloud."
 - Maya Angelou.

In the end, it's still a pretty innocuous quote, mind you.
There's just one thing she forgot to mention: By being a rainbow to someone else, you end up attaining a part of the joy and inspiration that a rainbow provides as well. 
You gain as much as you give. 



Author's note:
Two years back, I had spoken in detail about this quote while talking about how life-changing the previous 365 days had been. But Maya Angelou is not just about one quote....do check out the lovely compilation of her quotes here

34 Comments

  1. Very inspiring write-up, Roshan! Amazing really when you think about it - how a simple line, just a few words can do so much for someone's life. It seems this one quote made you completely get a new perspective, a new view on life and what is most important in life. Thanks so much for sharing this, and for inspiring the readers. The last paragraph is perfect!

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    1. Thanks Beloo.. we see certain lines and quotes and they make absolutely no sense to us at that point of time. Yet, when we revisit it someday in the future, suddenly there is a deeper meaning staring right back at you, isn't there?

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  2. So much truth in this write up! I have experienced this too and have finally understood that thin line between real and fake friends, the one you can see only when you are in a difficult time! And somehow I feel, that understanding has helped me a lot in becoming who I am today :)
    Swathi Shenoy

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    1. I agree... it is necessary sometimes to know who truly matters and who are worthy of being called friends. Trying to please everyone can be a disaster in the end..

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  3. congratulations! keep writing such inspiring articles.

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  4. Roshan, your words touched a chord today. This is exactly how I felt this morning about the frail nature of innocuous friendships. I am moved by the idea of letting go of those relationships that don't do much for us. It's hard for me and I need to work on it. But your write-up gives me hope.

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    1. Moving on and cutting certain people out of my life has been the hardest thing I've had to do... but it was the most liberating as well. Trust me.

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  5. she inspired you with her quote you inspired us with this rite up ,well done

    Insult

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  6. I somehow needed to hear this. I of course have read this quote a million times, even recited it to those in need. But your post is today serving as a reminder for my own life. I need to move on to realise how many people need me more..

    Richa

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    1. Exactly. Stick to those who truly feel blessed to have you for the person you are... not just for their own needs. Fair weather friends are all around... and they will always look to burden you until you get rid of them...

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  7. A truly inspiring post.

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  8. Nice write-up Roshan... inspiring...!!

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  9. I love the extra bit you added to the quote. So true that in helping others heal, you also heal yourself. Very well written.

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    1. Its a personal belief but I sincerely believe in it..

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  10. Well said and I second @Suzy...when she says that helping others heal ,you also heal yourself ..nice post ..

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    1. Thanks Alka. Yes, I totally agree.. It's something I realised the hard way but it was an exhilarating journey.

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  11. Its a beautiful quote and this write up has more truth in it than anything else. I've had fake friends and my share of being cheated by them ..not once but many times. One may think that if a person was fooled more than once he/she probably just deserves it. May be. Because for me any relationship is about honesty. But for majority of them , friendship and even love is about benefits. The world is full of such people and any amount of experience meeting them will not be enough as life teaches us lessons every single time. And it takes forever to heal when a good friend or someone whom we thought was reliable turns out to be too poisonous to handle.

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    1. Exactly... you've pretty much mirrored my sentiments on this issue. Especially the last line.. when you find people you really trusted intentionally tricking you for their own means, it can be devastating.

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  12. I guess destiny is playing up with me. When every door is closed it showed me a window from when if I try s bit hard and push myself then might get out of the hellish phase. This quote is that window. I think I need some hours to think over this, dig some deeper shit, but I will. Thank you so much for bringing up such a beautiful quote. If the quote is so powerful how powerful and brilliant the person who thought it might be! :)

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    1. exactly... sometimes quotes mean nothing to us when we first hear them... but when we need it most, those same words take on an entirely new meaning in our lives. Do consider what is best for yourself where fair-weather friends are concerned... it isnt about being selfish, it is about being happy sometimes

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  13. Beautiful post. Roshan, ur post is as inspiring as Maya's quote :)
    Helping them through their bad times helped me forget my own sorrows... Choosing to cut out certain people from life.... are some of the important lessons life teaches us as the days pass by.
    But more important lesson is - "not to give up just because of the tricks of a few people..."

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    1. Thanks Karanth.. yes, I loved that quote years ago and I love the lessons I learned following it too. Learning to let go of certain people can be the most difficult thing we've learned in our lives but it is necessary...

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  14. AnonymousJune 09, 2014

    It's such a beautiful quote, Be a Rainbow in Someone Else's cloud, doc and change comes from within. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the low ebb in life which I've been through, the times I decided to prioritize people in life. In life, being selfless is a form of emotional and soulful fulfilment on our existence as human beings. Great post. Life is such a learning curve and Maya Angelou is one women who comes in this world once in a while.
    Cheerz

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    1. so many have been through their own personal hell.. yet we make the mistake sometimes of not learning from it and allowing it to hurt us over and over again.

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  15. I am happy that her lines gave u hope during the low time.
    We never learn from our mistakes but maybe that is what makes us....us.

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    1. I agree... it is what makes us "us"... but sometimes we have to change to survive in this dog-eat-dog world.

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  16. Hi Roshan Radhakrishnan, Great Article. it’s Really Helpful and Enjoyable Post for Every Blogger. Thank you very much for Sharing with us.

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  17. To me she will always be the author of the Caged Bird. Such perfection her work has. Soulful!
    RIP.

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    1. True.. so many inspiring moments in there..

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