A very private person once lived here,
In a house that he built for family and friends.
Who thought so dearly for everyone around,
Didn’t realize that he had very few years.
Or maybe he did…..somewhere deep down.
He had to pack so much in those fifty,
That made him do things for others with sincerity.
His time was limited but his vision was not,
He was sent here with wisdom to impart.
He performed his duties and did depart,
But that private person still lives….
Not in the house but in the heart.
Two weeks after my daughter’s wedding and the post wedding wrap ups, thank yous and hours of rest and relaxation, I guess I have some private time with myself – time that belongs only to me and my thoughts. And here I am snug with my cup of tea, laptop and study table (yes, laptop on the study table may appear a misfit to today’s generation, but seriously I’m never comfortable holding it on my lap!)
Just like the wheels of a rapidly running bicycle take time to slowly come to a halt so is my mind and body taking it’s time. It is getting used to the change in the speed and quantity of work. There are no to-dos to be ticked at the end of the day, no deadlines – feels a wee bit strange. The paradox of the pace is amazing. But as we human beings are fast learners, I guess I’m loving this period of relative inactivity. There’s a lot going on inside me but there’s no rush, no race.
Well, the first feeling is that of an in-house friend becoming a pen/phone friend. Thanks to the technological advancements, I am also able to see my friend when I talk to her. And the double delight of addition of another is a real bonus (it’s like the double scoop of your favourite ice-cream!). We remain constantly in touch as we used to, sharing the minutest detail with each other. I’m happy to see her happier, content as she begins sharing her life with an amazing person whom she’s discovering with each passing day. May their journey together fulfil their lives!
Secondly, I’m now being referred to as being ‘free’ by many whom I meet or talk to. I, somehow, am not able to comprehend totally what ‘freedom’ they are referring to. I was not bound by chains then nor am I now. It’s just that I’m a little laid back now when I see my children happy with their partners and moving on into a new phase in their lives. We, as parents, have to let them grow. My blessings will be with them – may their paths be smooth.
My life hence will unfold its newer colours to me and I’m sure that they are in all those hues that I love. Come on life, I’m all set to welcome you with open arms, mind and heart.
I am writing today about a time way back in the early seventies when I was a teenager – bright and inquisitive, one who had just begun to form opinions (kids now-a-days start doing it much earlier, I guess!). The world around was full of opportunities and surprises and each day had so much to teach.
Mine was a nuclear family and summer vacations were the time when the cousins met at my grandparents’ home every year. It was a time all of us looked forward to. There was fun, fun and more fun in that month and I have vivid memories of those ‘sunny days of youth’.
Along with the pleasant anecdotes there is another memory which I am going to share with all of you here today. This one is not a pleasant one and I have not been able to forget it even till today. There was an obvious discrimination between us cousins based on the fact whether we were girls or boys. Simple things like my grandparents giving a little more pocket money to the boys, or an extra mango for them, or a glass of milk at night. At times we ignored all of it as the boys shared with us whatever extra they were given just by virtue of they being boys. But as we grew older, this discrimination started irritating and pinching us girls. Since my parents had never shown any such preferences, I was the most affected and vocal about everything. I loved my grandparents a lot but something inside me did not let me take the ‘injustice’. I could not understand the fact that when they loved all of us equally why was this difference in distributing the little pleasures of life. I would be secretly offered the second mango at times when I protested (which I, as a mark of solidarity, never accepted!) too loudly. However, the rebel in me decided not to accept being considered any less than the males – even though during that time it was limited only to getting the extra goodies. I tried talking it out with my grandparents who, I still feel did not totally agree with my views, but nonetheless over the years became conscious that they were doing something ‘unjust’. The practice did not stop totally but reduced remarkably. Had they lived a little longer, I may have succeeded in changing their mindset. By fighting for the girls, I also managed to send a signal to my male cousins that they were equal to us and were being given a preferential treatment only because of ignorance of a generation and there was no other reason behind it.
Even today whenever I see a little discrimination, I am reminded of my youth and still do not shy away from voicing it out – there is no harm. I may not be able to change someone, but at least I will not be guilty of ‘accepting’ an injustice. This is my way of celebrating girls, celebrating women!
People come into our lives with a purpose,
That is sometimes clear, and sometimes not so obvious.
There are those who come to impart many a valuable life lesson,
In a manner that is subtle, but has a mission.
They are the ones who never leave us, are always there to guide us,
We cannot see, feel or hear them, but they speak to us….
They are farthest physically, but closest to us,
Such is the effect they leave – those special ones.
My mother taught me many important lessons from the time I was capable enough of doing things. As far back as I can remember, she was always there for me to pass on this pearl of wisdom – what to do and how to do it. All daughters inevitably turn towards their mothers whenever they are stuck, and I was no exception – I knew where to look for and almost always received the most practical and sensible answer to my dilemma. At that time, I was plain happy and satisfied with the solution and did not have the time to think beyond; but today when I sit back and remember the instances my mother guided me on what to do and how, I’m filled with gratitude for her and amazed at her power to provide solutions to all my problems (in fact, she had solutions for everyone’s problems!).Everyone knew where to go to when stuck – a young mother-to-be facing morning sickness came to her and went back relieved, worried parents having problems with kids admissions met her and found a solution, the neighbors wanted her intervention in organizing community outings, festival celebrations and parties…..the list of people whom she touched is really long. She had the knack of getting things done – she was a ‘people’s person’ in the truest sense. Rarely was someone upset with her. The one supreme quality she possessed was an element of fun – no one ever had a dull moment in her company. Never was a task a burden for her – she knew how to enjoy what she was doing. She was full of life and she passed on this exuberance to all who came in contact with her. At times, when all of us crib about lack of time, I wonder how she always had (or made?) time for everyone and everything! Her twenty four hours were packed to capacity; but she knew the art of what to do and how really well – she continues to remain my role model and will always be!
This simple sentence was oft repeated by my mother. When I was a child it was difficult to actually understand it in all its complexity. It just instilled in me that if someone has a problem do not look to the other side. As I grew up and faced life the meaning of this sentence became clearer and clearer. It takes a lot to ‘be there’ with the person in his or her bad times. The person undergoing the phase remembers every single one who was there with him/her. He always wishes the very best for him/her….always wants him to remain happy. There have been many a lesson my mother taught me (like most mothers do!) and I try to follow most of them now (very honestly, I may not have followed all of them when they were given to me – a natural rebellious streak surfaces when ‘lessons’ are ‘taught’ specially by parents…..). However, I cannot do much for the time that has passed, but for what is still there in my hands I have vouched to abide by this simple sentence – be there in adversity. It gives a great satisfaction and inner peace when you are able to be with someone when they need you. Sometimes it may not be more than a few comforting words that are required, while at others, maybe, a little more than that. Adversity cannot be foreseen and hence its impact is tremendous….it can totally crumble a person. He/she requires the initial support and confidence to start again and the rest takes care of itself. I feel that if by ‘being there’ one is able to make the person stand on his/her own – it is worth the effort, isn’t it?
This is a true story….fit to be called a story because it sounds like fiction….but all incidents are absolutely true.
About forty years ago we had a family of four women as neighbors. There was the widow mother and her three daughters who were about 22, 19 and 17 years old. All went to a Government college where their mother ran the canteen. The mother’s income was the sole source of earning. They had a modest standard of living with a neat and well kept house. Needs were limited in those days and they managed well. The girls were very cultured and the neighborhood spoke highly of them. The eldest, Ruchi, was sick…very, very sick. She had a ‘hole in the heart’, as we kids were told, which was practically untreatable those days. She couldn’t attend college regularly as she was perpetually ill and very weak. The gutsy mother,though, never gave up. She spoke about her to all and sundry in the hope of hope for Ruchi. There was treatment possible in the US she was told. But she in her wildest dream could never afford that…. But as they say Ruchi was there to stay…. Her mother met a genuine soul in the Child Welfare Department of the Government who promised to pursue Ruchi’s case. One fine day when Ruchi was sick and her mother was at home on leave to take care of her, there was a knock at the door and on opening she saw a couple of unknown faces. They were from the Govt and required details about Ruchi. There was a silver lining the mother could see…..
After about a month or so, a packet arrived in their post which had an air ticket in the name of Ruchi and other details about the hospital, treatment etc. Ruchi’s case was being sponsored by the Government of India which was paying the fare and the American Govt was bearing the cost of her heart operation. She had to leave for New York for treatment in a fortnight! It was too good to be true but it was…. Someone up there had plans! Suddenly the mother was intimidated – intimidated with what lay ahead…. How could she send her sick daughter all alone for treatment to a place beyond the seven seas (and she could not afford the ticket for herself!), but she HAD to and she did that. Ruchi’s sisters were very happy for her – she was the special one they believed. The mother took an advance from the canteen where she worked and started preparing for Ruchi’s departure. The girl who had visited only a few places in her country was preparing to go abroad! The due date arrived very fast and as the mother went to drop her to the airport she stopped en route at a temple to pray for her daughter – she just asked God to be with her as she couldn’t manage to go herself.
After bidding adieu to Ruchi, the mother came back home. Ruchi’s tired but smiling face was still in front of her eyes. She was not crying, not sad…..but hopeful of having her back hail and hearty in three months – the months which ironically were both a long and short duration for her.
Gutsy Ruchi reached America and alighted from the plane on her own two feet (the hospital staff was all ready with a stretcher for her!) and she was directly taken to the hospital. Tests and treatment began in right earnest and the date for the operation finalized. Those were the days when phones were a rarity – and mobile phones unheard of. She managed to write a letter to her mother and requested the hospital staff to post it for her (it may have reached in about a month or so!). That letter was the sole link the daughter and mother had in those three months!
The ten hour long operation was successful and Ruchi was advised a bed rest of a month and a final check up after another month after which she could travel back to her country. During the rest period she was asked to stay with an American family as the hospitals were closing down for Christmas and not allowed to smoke or drink during the period (Ruchi received the biggest shock of her life on this precaution – terms like smoking and drinking for an Indian girl of her background were as alien to her as this land where she got a new lease of life!). Cheerfully she spent her days with her foster family and enjoyed the Christmas. After the final check ups at the hospital it was time for her to leave for India. The staff was happy to be bidding good bye to a mentally and physically strong, healthy and happy young lady.
After a long flight Ruchi came back and saw her mother and sisters waiting for her at the airport. Her mother had the biggest, teary smile on her face – it was the face of the most happy and proud mother. She and her daughter had shown immense faith and the courage and had proved that if one fights a good fight one is bound to be victorious.