Misplaced Priorities

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Pummy aunty spends a fortune on beauty parlours and luxury cosmetics and still looks ten years older. But milk, sugar, onions and tomatoes are very gracefully borrowed with no return placard held high in her wicked smile.

Mrs. Nair sponsors gold mine diggers. Trust me Kalyan, Alukkas, Malabar and the likes would not have thrived without her. But she’ll wrestle herself to death to bargain for that two rupees with the poor rickshaw-puller.

Radha Mami squeezes Ramalingam uncle even at the age of sixty-three to fulfill her dream of beating Amma Jayalalitha’s Kancheevaram records. But she’ll politely refuse newspapers on weekdays because that’s a useless expense. And Ramalingam uncle can of course borrow the newspapers from the neighbours.

Mehta ji’s paunch can comfortably accommodate a dinner table for four…because he uses fat-free desi ghee ONLY. Yet fifty rupees charged by the sewage worker for clearing his overflowing toilet drainage hurts his ego.

Dolly aunty’s gym bill runs into pages. But she’ll think ten times whether to replace her daughter’s worn out school bag.

Mr. Sarkar renovates his one bedroom flat almost thrice a year. But the concrete wastage, he expects MCD to clear.

Sweety bhabhi wears only designer stuff. But when it comes to renting an oxygen cylinder for her asthmatic son, it pinches her. She would be happier if she could spend that money decorating herself for the next kitty party.

Welcome to my part of the world!

People and their priorities. Something I can hardly understand. Trust me I am not judging anyone. After all, a party wear dress worth five thousand bucks may still sound expensive to me. I would rather wear hubby’s over-sized jacket to that party saying I am down with fever and put that money in a recurring deposit account. Saving penny by penny we were taught since childhood. Because in your rainy days only that saved amount can help you. Using or misusing others is a sin.

Amma is just about fluent in Hindi. But she remembers Kabir’s Dohas well. We were brought up single-handedly by her for ten odd years. And I remember her repeating many of the dohas to fit a particular situation. Her most frequently used one which has stayed with me forever is this one.

Mangan Maran Saman Hai, Mat Koi Mange Bheekh

Mangan Se Marna Bhala, Yeh Satguru Ki Seekh

Translation: Begging/Borrowing repeatedly is like perishing, none should do. It is better to die than beg/borrow, this is pure Guru’s teaching.

We had an old Weston Black and White television set at home, which would never start when we wanted it too. And those were the days of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharat. We would beg Amma to allow us to go to our neighbours and watch the serials on Sunday mornings, but she would keep repeating this and few other dohas. Though we disliked her for this then, we understand the value of her teachings now.

She would often say that if there’s a plate of food your neighbour is offering you, save it for another day. Something she was taught by her mom.

We have seen Acha bringing and distributing imported clothes, perfumes and other stuff to friends and relatives. They then ended up buying one dress each for both me and my sister from the local weekly market. As we grew up, we would keep complaining how everyone was taking advantage of him and not giving any gifts to us. All he would say is,

Do you have shortage of anything? God is providing you with all that is enough for you. Why should you malign your heart by bringing in anger and aggression for others?”

Slowly but surely we learnt to not expect anything from others and be content with whatever we have. If we do not have dhaniya (coriander) leaves at home, we should better eat the dish without the garnishing instead of conveniently walking over to the neighbour and asking for some. I would rather repeat a saree or suit on ten different occasions than wearing a new one every time and refusing the little requests from my girls.

It is very important to imbibe this message in your children that they should not expect everything in life and must learn to value whatever they have and be grateful for it. Teach them to work hard, aspire high, but expect less.

I remember fellow teachers teasing Amma for wearing mix-n-match sarees and blouses even though she was working and our Dad was working in a ‘foreign’ country. They would call her a kanjoos (miser). In most cases, she would just return a broad smile. Only we know why she could not wear matching clothes and expensive jewellery. My parents were both supporting their parents, repaying loans taken for purchasing the house, paying monthly installments and managing many other expenses like everyone else. Apart from all this, we always had two to three relatives staying with us all the time. Amma and Acha could have easily enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, but they chose to forego their wishes and prioritize their family’s needs. It’s a different story that most people they helped turned out to be thankless.

What did I learn from all of this?

I learnt that I would help others as much as I can but not at the cost of my family and their needs (not luxuries). Sorry! I am not all that selfless. I learnt that if I am helping someone I should do it without expecting anything in return. I learnt not to react to others’ opinion of me and live by what I believe because there’s no better judge than our own inner soul. I learnt what my priorities are.

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6 Replies to “Misplaced Priorities”

  1. Hello Rekha,

    Wonderful post I must say. A lot of values missing in society and in the younger generation especially because they are not taught the right way.

    I can relate to your mother and father’s life, I can relate to most of the things in this post. The last para was something I very much agree with you.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Couldn’t agree more, God has given us enough but we still mull over things we don’t have. That was very beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

    xoxo – Style.. A Pastiche – Visit me some time

  3. Great Post Rekha.

    Many things I can relate to. I guess people who think and act kindly are often mocked and crticised beacuse it is not the norm. I cringe every time so called ‘rich people’ try to bargain with fruit vendors, rickshaw pullers etc. Isnt it the irony that rich are poor enough to bargain for 2 rupees and poor are rich enough to let go those 2 rupees.

  4. Your post rings so true for me, Rekha! I love the lessons your parents taught you, they seem so much like the ones I learned from mine. However, like you, I’ve also learned that we must take care of own before reaching out to others.

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