Sunday, October 24, 2010

Good Over Bad : It works !

Winner of the Blogadda "Good over Bad" Contest : Nov 12, 2010

Two score and ten years ago. A cool Shravan evening in Pune, at the foothills of the Parvati temple. Shravan (in August) , the 5th month of the Indian calendar is home to a time of festivities.

There would be a fair like atmosphere on the steps leading to the temple on the hill top. And we always accompanied our folks there, given that there were so many things to enjoy. And sometimes ache for ....Temporary tattoos on arms, paintings on the forehead, colorful bangles, tiklis, dolls, marbles, shell necklaces, roasted channa, ..... There was even a guy selling homemade (from tree branches) slings for boys. Many folks came in from the surrounding areas to do quick business with merchandise, home arts, toys, etc.

That evening , there was a commotion, and we suddenly saw a man bearing down on a child, about to thrash him. The boy had some one's footwear in his hand, and was trying to move away with it. (There is an old temple at the foot of the hill, and one left one's footwear outside while worshipping. ).

Madhu was the little boy. His mother sold flowers on the steps of the hill, a younger child lying in her lap. This fellow played around every day, and had got into bad company, and stealing footwear was the new attraction. There was a commotion as people gathered, and his mother, came tearing in, to face the angry man. She then proceeded to thrash the son herself.

My mother stopped her. A calm hand on the shoulder does wonders for the ebbing of anger, and she returned to her flower stall, which her neighbor chap was minding in the meanwhile.

Turned out that Madhu's father was bedridden and sick. They had moved from their village to Pune looking for work, and the mother had found this flower selling thing to start with. Madhu gallivanted around till it was time to go home.

I could see my mother having a talk with Madhu. First he was wary, then suspicious, and then he took a relieved breath and smiled. She wasn't going to turn him in. But there were conditions. Every evening he was going to sit outside the temple, and look after people's footwear for 1-2 paisa . ( In those days 2 paisa could get you a lot of stuff, such as a half serving of delicious bhel , a popular snack). But he was to turn over his daily earnings to his mother. While he sat, he would wipe the pairs with a some cloths that my mother would give him every week. My mother was a regular hill temple goer for almost 4o years, and he would see her everyday, in those days. Occasionally, my mother would stop by at his mother's flower stall. For those of us who had relatively safe , secure, uneventful childhoods, this was a Life Lesson.

At first his friends made fun of him. But he had a very enlightened mother. who could see why this was a good thing. By and by , the festival season got over, crowds reduced, but Madhu became a fixture at the foothill temple. A few years later, my parents helped him go to school, and paid for his books and fees, provided , of course, that he showed them his report card. Things were so different then, education was not an "industry" (unlike now), schools and teachers were simple , sincere, and strict. If the child was straying, they came home to discuss it with the parents. Somewhere in between , his father passed away, and Madhu grew up and became the man of the house overnight.

Today, he works in a printing press, where he joined as an apprentice soon after school. He learned to save as a child, and never forgot that. He and his family and his mother still live at the foothills, where they now have a small pucca 2 room place, thanks to the real estate development in their area using their small piece of land.

Long after we all grew up and went our ways, he and his mother would occasionally drop in to see my mother, in her seventies. The flower shop was no longer there, but his mother prepared tiffins on order now. Something she could do from home. But she would always bring wonderful flowers for my mother, which my mother would offer to the family Gods.

Today, my parents and Madhu's are no more. Geographical distances do not allow us frequent trips. Madhu himself is in his fifties now.

But this story remains etched in my mind. Of how something bad, needs to be addressed, looked at in empathy, and an innovative mind applied to it. No one is bad, but circumstances make them so. Shakespeare had a fancy way of saying that.

I like to think, that many times, something bad has to happen for something good to emerge from it.

And we need to get involved, whenever possible. Not because the festival says so, not because we are celebrating a special week, and not because it looks nice on your CV. Sorry to sound cynical , but that has happened.

We often think the world is binary.

Its all about being 0=bad and 1=good.

But what's real, is the difficult but dedicated trudge along those dicey fractions that convert a zero to a one.

Submitted for the Good Over Bad Contest at

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  1. Delightful.

    The paths that efforts can sometimes bear. Very thoughtful of your mother, and even so of Madhu that he stuck with the promise he made to your mother.

    I was wondering who's Madhu in the picture.

  2. Enlightening read,I loved the last part:)

  3. Anil P. Thank you. I dont have any photos from those days. This would explain why . Too long ago. But this was as close to a representative picture, as I could find on the Net.

    Raksha Thank you !

  4. Very touching. Your mother in her own way has reformed many, as is evident from some of your earlier posts.

    Coincidentally, I did a post on money and what is was worth then and now.

  5. Touching to say the least. Sometimes, the influence of small acts leaves a permanent difference in people !

    Quite like "But what's real, is the difficult but dedicated trudge along those dicey fractions that convert a zero to a one" !

    That was profound !!!

  6. Congrats on saving a life.
    I fear to think what would have otherwise
    And yes life is not binary, rather gray

  7. Wow! I would have loved to have known your mother- she must have been a remarkable person!

    Lovely, thought-provoking post.

  8. Your mother was an amazing person. Her empathy and foresight saved a family so much of unhappiness!

  9. very emotional
    thanks for sharing

  10. Wonderful post.
    Loved the ending.
    Hope everyone takes this as a lesson and starts spreading kindness.

  11. Yes, we need to get involved. It brings changes .. small though but at the same time big enough!

  12. What your mother did was truly remarkable. I wonder how many times people actually stop and think about the reason behind crimes (especially those committed by young kids) what’s even more remarkable is that Madhu kept his promise and went on to complete his education.
    Very Inspiring Read !

  13. WOW!! Beautiful sarees! :)

    I liked the line 'bad happens so that someting good emerges from it' very much. :)

  14. The more I read about your mother the more dwarfed i feel about being unable to do much for those around me. what a wonderful way of dealing with an erring child. I am sure Madhu must be passing on kindness and concern to others who need it. It is really true that children learn life's lessons from the experiences they have. i've learnt mine thro' this wonderful post of yours. let me see what I can do to put my learning to practice.

  15. I wish I could have met your mother - but then I wish I could meet you.
    You touch my heart with your writing.

  16. radha Thank you.

    kavi The leaf misses the security of the mother tree the most, when it has to float down to earth, sometime in the Fall of life ...

    Khalil Sawant Yes, life in indeed in shades of gray....

    Manju Thank you. And yes, like all mothers , she was special...

    IHM You know, one learns and picks up so much by observing such people. When you are a child you dont realize it. But one is grateful when one looks back at one's childhood...

    sm Thank you

    Md M Shah Thank you...

    aativas You said it ! get involved !

    Ruchira Madhu's mother must get the credit for ensuring that Madhu stuck to the routine. Without her he wouldnt be where he is today. If she had thought sitting and looking after devotee shoes was an insult, nothing would have taught Madhu the value of sincere work.

    Chandrika Unfortunately, the sarees do not belong to me :-(

    HHM True. Madhu too has learnt a lot from all this and will possibly teach another erring child how to get back on the straight path.

    One Woman's Journey Thank you. I wish you could have met her too !

  17. Beautiful post. Really loved browsing your blog & looking forward to reading more. I was blessed with a remarkable mom and grandma too...

  18. Vidya Sury Thank you. And I do appreciate your very nice comments on the blogadda competition page !

  19. Very heart touching....
    Thank u for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. I love this wonderful post. This is great and delightful heart touching story. Many many Thanks..... --

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