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Making a whole life happen

india Updated: Dec 15, 2007 01:42 IST
Renuka Narayanan

It’s a holy week on many counts and taking up where we left off last time, here’s a story I heard this week that I thought you may like to hear and, knowing the silent good that many of you do, that you’d feel a sense of apnapan with these people. The heroine of the tale is a sweet little Madrasi mami known to me, who presently happens to be visiting her son in Delhi. Her engineer father was a famous bridge-builder and roadmaker of the early 20th century, who constructed the sturdy old bridge at Alwaye (Alappuzha) in Kerala and made the Kanyakumari-Travancore road, amongst many other things. The family grew up with a strong sense of social duty, just like many educated families all over India those days. Well, our mami married, had children of her own and was happily settled in Madras where she volunteered time for social work at the local Lions’ Club.

One day, she was introduced at the club to a thin bright-eyed little boy in badly tattered clothes. Mami had just been re-reading how Sri Krishna got his name ‘Damodara’ (‘restrained by the waist’) in the episode from his childhood when Yashodhara ties him by the waist (udaram) to a big mortar, because she is so fed up with his naughtiness and wants to get some work done. Krishna, though just a little baby, crawls away dragging the heavy mortar behind him, to everyone’s shock and awe. So when this little boy was introduced to Mami as “Damodaran”, she kind of jumped, though his eyes alone were enough for her.

The boy was the son of a Kanchipuram weaver who had held a job as a linesman with Southern Railways but had been sacked when his eyesight failed. Damodaran came first always and now there was no money at home for school. Mami promised to think of something. That evening she told her husband who agreed at once to help, though they were salaried people with responsibilities of their own. The first thing to do was get him some clothes. They began paying his school fees every year and bought all his books. Damodaran kept topping steadily. They got him into a mechanical engineering diploma course for which he stayed in the Ramakrishna Mission orphanage hostel, where he was fed free. They carried on paying for clothes and books, plus extra pocket money for small expenses. This continued until Damodaran got a job. Every time his results were announced, he would come to pay his respects to Mami-Mama, be taken to the puja room and have kumkum put on his forehead by Mami. Along the way, Mami got his father’s eye operation done through the club’s eye camps.

Damodaran met and married a girl who worked in a bank. Mami-Mama gave them a set of wedding clothes. Now he’s built a little house and keeps his old father with him, who is glad to mind their two children while man and wife go out to work. When Damodaran bought a secondhand car, he insisted that Mami (he calls her “Amma”) come out with the kumkum and put some on his car in blessing. Then he sat Mami in the car and drove her around Mylapore, the first person he took on a drive.

Now here comes the super-nice part. Damodaran has begun to pay for another child’s education, the way Mama-Mami paid for his! And he gave a donation to one of the charities supported by the Lions Club where he first met Mami, as a gesture of thanks. “Damodaran is well-settled now,” says Mami delightedly.

I know this is just one story, of the many that happen silently in India. And here’s an idea for kainkaryam (small deeds that add up big time), taken from Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Madras: that a group of friends, classmates or colleagues should start putting away two rupees each in a hundi or piggybank daily. At the end of the month, give it all to a trusted seva organisation to help with a poor child’s school expenses. Someday, when that life happens, she or he will assuredly pass it on, for, as that wise old Indian, Thiruvalluvar, said way back, “The good remember through all seven births the friends who wiped their tears.”