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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Life's Lessons - Who taught me what? (2)

     It seems proper to start this series with my mother, my first teacher. She taught me so many things without my knowing until her death at the age of 99 with her fairness, forgiving nature, curiosity, and life-long learning.

Mother – Meenakshi

She lived to be almost 100. She did not have much “schooling”, but she was an “educated and wise” lady. I interviewed her for close to 6 hours when she was 99 years old and recorded our conversation. When I summarized her message to the younger generation (she lived long enough to see the 5th generation) for a monograph, these were the lessons she taught:  Forget and forgive; Adapt to time and place; Be straight forward; Practice compassion; Use kind words and Be flexible.

She was a life-long learner. She used to read till her final days. At the age of 92, she found an error in an article published in a local journal. She wrote to the editor and the editor published the correction!

She taught how to write. Her letters in Tamizh used to read like short stories.

She taught me to be non-adversarial in my relationships. Two of her famous statements were:     1. “do not corner people during discussions. If you do, they will behave like a cornered angry cat. They will see no escape and will pounce on you and excoriate you”. 2. “relationships are fragile like mirrors. If you break it, you can put it back, but the image will not be the same”. These two points taught me to think about their applicability to human relations in general. I learnt that “once you take a matter to a lawyer and a court, reconciliation becomes impossible”.

She also taught me to adapt to situations without being rigid.

She thought that everyone, irrespective of age, sex, economic status, should be respected and treated with dignity. She practiced it.

In responding to questions regarding the life-style of younger generation, she used to say: “ We have lived our lives. It is now your time. Do what you need to”.

There are two other lessons both Ramaa and myself learnt from her. 1. After doing any housework, particularly cooking, she will not sit and rest until the kitchen and the utensils were all cleaned up. Her reason was: “ this work has to be done sooner or later. If you let things stay in the sink, they will dry up and cleaning is that much harder and will take more time”. 2. In giving gifts and giving away family heirlooms she used to say: “What is the use of keeping those jewelries till I die when I can see my children enjoy them now?”

And her wisdom was shown in her answer to two questions during my long interview. When  asked about her view of after-life, she said: “No one who left this world came back to tell me what it is about. So, I do not have a definite opinion”. When asked about major changes that have occurred in the society during her lifetime, she said: “The freedom women enjoy now compared to when I was young is the most important one”.

I plan to end each segment with some quotes on learning. Here is the first set.

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested”-  Francis bacon (The Complete Essays of Francis Bacon. Washington Square Press, 1963. Page 130)

“A room without books is like a body without a soul” – Cicero

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries” – Rene Descartes

“That is the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet” – Jhumpa Lahiri


1 comment:

Lilly said...

A beautiful tribute to a wonderful soul!