Saturday, October 20, 2012

The joy of giving.

(image courtesy: google)

On a hot April afternoon Mom and I had been traveling by the ubiquitous cycle rickshaw that you get to see famously on Nagpur roads. The heat was unbearable and she had asked him to stop at a fruit juice centre for a quick thirst quencher. I gave her a raised eyebrow when she ordered for 3 glasses of fresh cold juice.

“Mom, are you sure you can finish two glasses?” I asked looking at the rather tall and full glass of the cold syrupy liquid before me. “I want only one.”


She slapped my head with her purse and said, “Go, give this to the rickshaw puller”. 

How embarrassing,’ I thought, more than the thought of her downing two glasses at one go.

“What? To the rickshaw puller? Mom…seriously?”

“Arre, isn’t he human? He might also be thirsty.”

 I thought she was eccentric, but there was something warm about the wide pan stained smile of the rickshaw –wallah as he sipped the cold juice, holding the glass with both hands, as if it were something precious!

Over a period of time I was witness to more such eccentricities by mom and dad… They never thought twice before asking their car driver to have meals with them irrespective of whether they were dining at a modest hotel or a luxurious one, if they were hungry, so would he be, there were always strangers in the house, being fed, or helped with medical treatment, if they could help, why shouldn’t they, they were always first on the list of friends, or relatives in times of distress…if they trust and need us so much, shouldn’t we be there…..the list was endless.

It however didn’t go down well with me and my sister to see them going out of their way to do their bit. We were forever questioning…’what are you going to get in return?’ will these people be around when you need them?’ and the answer would always be the same- don’t  expect a return of favour. Just look at the smile and joy you bring to someone.

To us it sounded plain foolish.

We were unable to get to the railway station one day due to a bandh. The entire vacation had been planned and if we missed the train, all our plans would go kaput! Dad called up the driver to ask if any arrangement could be made. The driver arrived within no time in his owner’s personal car and dropped us to the railway station.

“Arre saab, anything for you and madam.”

There would always be someone who would miraculously help them in times of need, even though they never asked for help. Maybe what they did made sense after all. But I had no plans of being as eccentric. I would certainly help if I could, but definitely not out the way. 

Many years later, as I raised my own family, and made new friends, the lesson came back to me.

Just on an impulse I went out of my way to help a friend. I thought it was an inconsequential favour . But she happened to win a contest because of it and she was very excited. She called me and kept thanking me profusely, all the while sounding like she could burst with excitement. I could sense the happiness in her voice, she sounded over the moon!  ‘just because of you….you are an angel..’ the words kept echoing in my mind, long after they had been spoken.  

The happiness in her voice brought me a greater indescribable joy. It made me incredibly happy too. I didn’t know giving could be so joyous!

It also won me a selfless friend for life. One, whom I could depend on for anything.

Now I know why mom and dad are so hooked to it!  

As mom and I cleaned the cupboards before Navratri, a big neatly tied bundle fell at my feet. Sifting through them, I found numerous cards and letters.

 ‘Thank you for sitting by me during my angioplasty and talking positive to me. It gave me a lot of courage. God bless you.’ From an old family friend whose children lived abroad.
Mom and dad had sat with her at the hospital as she underwent her procedure and had calmed her nerves before she was wheeled in.

‘Thank you for the meals that you gave me and my family, or else we would have had to go hungry that day. God bless you.’ From a couple who had gone on a pilgrimage and had to stop at Nagpur for a switch of trains.
 They had arrived after lunch hours at our temple and could not eat the onion- garlic food at hotels. Dad had brought them home, mom had fed them and even packed food for their journey !

There were lots more like these. A heartwarming story behind each one of them, an equal measure of joy and gratitude in every one of them. Mom smiled and put it all away in safekeeping. 
“That is why they call it the joy of giving.”

Hundreds of thank you cards and letters, and hundreds of smiles.
Hundreds of grateful hearts, who had received love.
Hundreds of friends for life.
And hundreds of blessings.

That is legacy that I will inherit from mom and dad.

 I wonder if I will ably pass on that legacy to my children. I wonder if they will be equally proud of me.

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