Relationships are strange…. Sometime you spend a lifetime with someone and still not able to make the connection and sometime you meet someone for a short span of time, in intervals and yet you share that connection. That’s how I feel about the person with whom I had this conversation a while ago and yet it’s as fresh in memory as if it was yesterday only.
I first met her during my engagement. Among all the faces of known unknown relatives, acquaintances, her face stood out. I don’t know whether it was the grace or the confidence or the caring attitude or maybe a mixture of all but I instantly felt connected.
“I congratulate you for your best choice”, those were her first words to me. Since then whenever I visited my in law’s house, I made sure that I visit her as well. People might find it strange that instead of spending time with my age group I always preferred to sit with her any day and for any length of time.
So it came as a real shock when I heard that uncle (her husband) is suffering from the last stage of cancer. What a gem of person he was!! You couldn’t find a gentle or kinder soul than him. When I went to visit, he still managed to give me that warm smile among all the pain of disease and the treatment. As expected, soon the news of his sad demise reached my ears and I deeply felt a sense of loss….they were such a power couple, imagining one without another was practically impossible …Oh! My heart-felt so heavy!
Every time when I visited my in-laws; meeting her was something I look forward to but this time I dreaded meeting her. Being an extrovert talking comes easily to me but as soon as I rang her door bell my mind went blank. What could you say or do to comfort anyone who suffered from such a loss!! Little did I know that the following conversation would be so meaningful and I would come out of that house a little wiser than before.
“So tell me what a meaningful life is? Everyone wants to have one.. Right? ”She asked me casually. I was not ready for this question but then all our conversation started in such casual manner only.
“I don’t know Aunty; I still don’t find myself mature enough to comprehend such a deep question… Why don’t you tell me?” I put the ball back to her court.
She gave me that sweet, gentle smile before responding.
“You know… A meaningful life starts the moment your soul chooses a set of soul to be your parents. Now if you are lucky or did some good karma in your past life you will be blessed with a wonderful set of parents. Parents; who understands their responsibility, grooms you according to your personality, gives you freedom to spread your wings, provides you with a safe, loving, secure and peaceful environment. If you are one of those lucky people believe me that’s the first step towards a meaningful life, not many people are blessed in this way. My husband was really lucky to be blessed with good parents.”She said with gentleness in her eyes.
“So aunty what is another parameter?” I probed her gently as I sensed her drifting away in a different world.
“Ah… the second step towards this meaningfulness is achieved if you are able to choose a path of your own choice. Then if you have good health, intellects, determination and sufficient finances to cover your expenses while you strive towards your goal…consider yourself really lucky! In this matter also your uncle was a lucky person.” She offered with a smile.
“And the third step Aunty?” As always I was looking forward to hear more of these words of wisdom.
“Once you achieve the fruits of your labor and settled yourself in your desired environment then come the third step towards a meaningful life which is again very, very important!! To find your soul mate, your partner with whom you will travel through thick and thin, ups and downs in your life, who will complete you in every sense, with whom you will feel love, happiness, contentment and sweet pleasures of life….Consider yourself extremely lucky because believe me there are very few people who are able to find marital bliss and their number is decreasing rapidly in this complex world.” In her answer I could sense the concern for the coming generation.
Without much pause she continued again…”Another important aspect towards a meaningful life is if you are blessed to have children and secondly if you were able to raise good kids from an individual perspective as well as from society perspective.. In a nutshell good human beings!! Then you have really achieved something meaningful in your life!!”
“Yes that’s really some achievement!” Being a mother myself, I could totally relate to this.
“What’s next then?” I contributed.
“Then comes the part where you are able to sail through your life smoothly, taking care of your responsibilities as an individual as well as a good human being without a major disruption. Juggling between career, home, family, friends, playing all the roles to one’s best ability.. Again this journey and your role in it is very important because believe me very few people are able to maintain this balance.” Her perspective was like a 360 degree view.
“And then comes the last step towards a meaningful life. Consider yourself very, very lucky and your life meaningful in a true sense if when you finally close your eyes, you are surrounded with those people who really loved you and care for you. And I am so glad that your uncle really led such a meaningful life… Till the last one!”
I was so wrapped in this monologue that for some time I didn’t even realized that she had stopped talking.
“What a beautiful way to remember someone and what a simple way of summarizing the true meaning of life!!”….I thought and looked up with moist eyes; she looked as calm and poised as always and yet I could sense that there was something else on her mind, something which was bothering her, something not pleasant, something maybe even a little hurtful.
After an uncomfortable pause she started again,” You know, I always believed that we both had a good life and I am going to miss him more than words can say … I try to stay positive as much as possible and yet sometime I find it hard to find my equilibrium.”
I had always seen her calm and in control, she was the kind of person who will keep doing her work irrespective of what others think of her so I was bit surprised and wondered what could have caused this disturbance?
In her eyes I could see the frustration, even a little bit of doubt; which was rare. In my eyes she saw the question and concern for her…. So she continued after a short pause though I felt she was founding it bit difficult to voice what was inside her.
“After your uncle’s demise, many people came to pay their condolences which was customary and I was grateful for their concern. But soon I started hearing whispers which made me uneasy.”
“What kind of whispers aunty?” I was really curious now.
“It was about a certain part of my house being unlucky. People started saying that it all happened because we didn’t demolish that part of the house and continued using it. Also there were whispers that it’s going to affect the general aura of the place and might affect others….Now I feel conflicted!!”
She further continued while I kept listening silently, “My rational mind is not able to understand that suddenly how a place could become unlucky which provided so much comfort and happiness to both of us and our family over the years? Also I believe that everyone’s time of arrival and departure is fixed and whatever we do nobody can change this fact”.
I could feel the hurt in her voice. Whatever little time I had known her, I knew how difficult it must be for her. Loss of a lifelong companion, questions about her belief, her reasoning ability, her intellect.. A person who supported education, open-mindedness, revolutionary ideas, progressiveness throughout her whole life has to listen to some notions, some blind belief at such an age and in such a vulnerable state of mind and heart. I witnessed her firm decision and determination once or twice yet at the same time I saw her being flexible and open enough to maintain the inner peace as well as the peace with others. When I came back from her place, I kept thinking about her dilemma and couldn’t stop myself from asking as what I would do if faced with same situation?
It was only after six months that I could visit her again. As soon as I reached her house our last conversation came back to my mind. As fresh as ever! So one could understand my sense of uneasiness as I looked at the house and found that ‘ unlucky part’ was missing and in its place stood a beautiful garden. Her smile and blessings felt as genuine and warm as ever when I touched her feet. I could sense that she found her equilibrium once again and yet it was difficult for me to accept that she agreed to do something which was such a contradiction to her principles. Finally I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “So Aunty, you decided to demolish the part you told me about?”
She sensed my uneasiness and smiled,” Yes, I did! I gave it a good amount of thought and felt that a small piece of land is making so many people uneasy; including me!! I follow my principles in life to the core and yet I believe that finding inner peace and maintaining harmony in one’s surrounding is equally important. So now the question is that how could I resolve the situation in hand without compromising my principles and yet maintaining peace in general surrounding. I also thought that knowledge is unlimited and nobody got a full picture neither me nor these people … There is no absolute truth in this world, everything is relative. What I believe they don’t believe, what they believe I don’t agree with so let me use this opportunity as a common ground where I can give them what they want but for my own right reasons not the wrong ones!!”
“Aunty you have such a broader perspective and you stretch yourself to maintain the peace … I admire it but tell me one thing would others be as understanding and as giving as you are…if they were at your place?” I was still not convinced.
She smiled gently and replied,” That is the thing, nobody can choose on other’s behalf. It’s their life, it’s their choices. I can only speak for myself, act as myself, my life is my choice and whatever I do it’s because who I am and how I see the world.
Many people told me that I should rent that place but if the place was unlucky then why should I bring that bad luck to someone else life? So I decided to convert it into a garden. This whole process took 2-3 months, demolition and plantation gave employment to 15 people for that period. 15 poor people’s family had food for three months. Then I hired a gardener to take care of the plants so now another person is employed. Trees are good for environment too so by doing that I did my small contribution to Mother Nature. In the morning when I get up and walk in this garden it gives me happiness and a sense of inner peace…. In every flower I sense your uncle’s presence too….” This time her pause was a happy one. I could feel that though physically she was sitting with me but mentally she was somewhere else, somewhere happy, somewhere content, somewhere with a loved one!!
On the way back home, I realized that this casual conversation gave me so much more than I could ever expect. It gave me answers to so many of my own questions because just like her I also felt trapped many times…what to pick; my belief or peace with surrounding? To do what is right in my eye or to find right reasons in an unfavorable situation? Till now I always felt clueless as how to regain my equilibrium…this conversation gave me that important piece of puzzle.
Next day when I was taking a cab to train station I saw a glimpse of her….busy as usual; she was leaving to a tribal village to set up a medical camp for the poor people. Oh I totally forgot to mention that she is a doctor…a very efficient,selfless,caring and a noble one!! As we waved to each other from a distance, in my heart and soul I thanked her for another wonderful learning…”Happiness is a choice.”!!!
Special Note: This story is based on a real life conversation and real life incidents.