She was one of those God fearing but rational folks, who remained always grounded.
It meant she walked the talk.
Like when she volunteered to work for the consumer guidance society.
That was like forty years ago. The fancy kirana shop at the choice location in one of Mumbai's poshest localities was reputed to be duping folks in the weights. She was never one to sit in symposiums. And so one day I accompanied her with some of her assistants, as she went in to buy some stuff. When it came to weighing the stuff, she demanded to see the standard markings on the weights and the weighing machine. Notwithstanding horrifying who-does-she-think-she-is looks from hi-fi-ladies, the manager trying to smile politely while seething inside, and signalling someone to disappear with the weights, she just looked at her assistants, who quickly took charge, checked the weights (which were counterfeit), and also the balance which was loaded in the bottom, much in favor of the kirana shop.
They didn't have cellphones with cameras then, and she had to painstakingly make a report, collect the exhibits, and submit it for follow-up . And she did that, sitting in that very hostile environment. I noticed much whispering between some hi-fi ladies, shaking of heads in sympathy with the shop owner.
And I learned that it isn't easy in life if you want to do good. Belief in what you are doing, is paramount, and you must do it within the frame work of rules. Flying of at an emotional tangent is a bad start for any good work.
Much later , in her old age , she was one of the trustees of a very important old set of temples in Pune. The only woman trustee . Not because she sat sedately in meetings, and prayed in her kanjeevarams, but because she had been an active devotee for more than 25 years, was environmentally conscious, fiscally prudent, and something they realized later, that she never hesitated to teach by example.
Like when amidst signs requesting folks to keep the courtyard clean, she once noticed a trainee priest returning back to some rooms with stuff after a pooja, and he casually turned, and spat to one side. She sent word to the head priest, that they should send someone with a small pail of water, soap, and brush-mop. And then called for the careless trainee chap. She then told the chap that we had no business putting up signs we could not follow ourselves, and that he should take the paraphernalia and clean up the area where he spat. Godliness required cleanliness. Both of mind and body. She stood there while it was done. Thanked the chap , and we went on our way. I am sure the chap cursed her. It was OK. It wasn't as if folks were queuing up to give her a prize anyway :-)
Old timer devotees, the new younger lot, and so many noticed this. And realised that she wasn't there to become popular and meant business.
Of course, not all appreciated this. Some smirked , secure in their ivory towers. But she taught by action, how to stand tall, for your beliefs, of which honesty was a big part. Your job was to do it well, and be grateful for what followed. There was something to be learned from reverses.
Not far from being a senior citizen herself, she nursed her elderly mother-in-law with a terminal stomach ailment and in her last days in a hospital. A trained nutritionist, who was quite strict with her own kids, she didn't blink an eye when the patient expressed a desire to eat soup and batata vadas. She checked with the doc, who knew the sad situation and advised her to comply. Hot homemade soup , and lightly spiced vadas duly appeared and were relished . And it was all about realizing that old age is another childhood, and it was important not to be a bystander and wash your hands off things, but to participate in an informed manner on consultation with other folks like doctors. Sometimes it was ok for the heart to rule the head, but it was nice to be careful.
It was all about how you were inside; your perception of your responsibilities , and how you went about doing them. Even if it was not the popular thing to do.
Many years later, her daughter and her husband were returning on their 2-wheeler from work, and barely missed an oil spill on the road. It was lunch time and the road would soon be crowded with school kids and elder folk. The two got off, spent about 15 minutes, lugging sand by the handful from an adjoining construction heap, and covering the oil spill , so people would avoid it , or at least not slip. This, as several folks whizzed past in a hurry. They had learned from someone, and believed in what they had to do.
(Someone else noticed too. And they received an unsigned letter from someone who had been around, a few days later, appreciating what they did. The irony made them smile. Good stuff remained secret. Bad stuff was publicised. But such are the ways of the world. And they saw and they learned . And hopefully, in turn, taught....)
Vidi. Didici. As they would say in Latin. मैंने देखा, मैंने सीखा, as we would say in Hindi, मी पाहिले, मी शिकले in Marathi, अहं अपश्यम् | अहं ज्ञातवती अभवम् | in Sanskrit....
She always said, that quality and quantity are two attributes that most things have. And one must strive for quality.
Quantity was all about Schools. Food. Art. Clothes. Followers. Friends. Enemies. Even Money.
Quality was more elusive , more tough, more mindful, even unpopular at times.
"Quantity", was like throwing money and buying a ready made decorative plant.
And the other, "Quality", was like getting your hands dirty, to dig in the mud, water, and help a drooping plant, help it grow up as a responsible member of the green, and feel good that it has taught you something. .
One has never forgotten that. And one tries to pass it on and teach it.
Vidi, didici, docui...
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