I learned the importance of treating everyone equal and with respect from Amma. Not that Acha treats people differently; but I grew up with Amma and she has always been extra careful in this regard. From the time I can remember I have seen her putting in extra efforts to make sure that people from the lower rungs of society do not feel in any way inferior. And because of this trait of hers she has always been loved by those people too.
One of those people is Kumari chechi, a migrant worker from Tamil Nadu, who is now settled in our hometown. She belongs to a group of people who go from house to house, collecting waste materials and scrap. She has been coming to our home for almost a decade now, if not more. I have met her a few times even after I left home. In an age where people advise against talking to migrant workers because of security concerns, Amma would always take time out to sit and talk to her, maybe because she has known her for a long time. I remember the genuine interest on her face when chechi would talk about her life and things that have happened since their last meeting.
When I was home after Vedu was born I heard Kumari chechi outside one day. I was a little busy with something and did not go out right away to meet her. After a couple of minutes Amma asked me if I could come out with Vedu. I left whatever I was doing and went outside. Chechi beamed looking at Vedu, as if it was her own granddaughter and then extended a packet towards her saying, “It’s a small gift for the little one.” We were so taken aback by the fact that not only had she come to meet Vedu, she had also brought a gift for her – a beautiful dress. Even though I taunted her asking why she had to waste money on gifts, I am sure she understood how much we appreciated it. I have kept the dress with me for the time it would fit Vedu. And when she wears it I am going to click a picture of hers in it and send it to Amma so that she can show it to Kumari chechi. I don’t mean to say that any gift that Vedu has got is unimportant. But to think that this lady who earns a meager income did not think twice before spending a part of it only so that she could get something good for my baby fills my heart. And maybe because of that, her gift is extra special to us.
Last week it was chechi’s son’s wedding. Amma called the day before the wedding and told me that chechi had informed her of it. I asked her if she was going. She said, “I’m not sure. She seemed hesitant to actually invite me. So I don’t really know if she wants me to go or not. Maybe she didn’t want to offend me by inviting me as such, although I wouldn’t have taken it in a wrong sense.” All I said was “You should go.”
The next afternoon I got a very happy call from Amma. She wanted to tell me that she did go to the wedding and she was glad that she did. Apparently chechi had no clue Amma would even consider going. So when she reached the venue with her son and saw her in the crowd, she was stunned and couldn’t say a word. Even after the ceremony when Amma went to her, she was still speechless and had tears in her eyes. All she could manage to tell her was that she never thought she would be there and she couldn’t express how happy she was to see her. I was welling up too when Amma told me all this.
Going to this wedding was not really an obligation for us, but a genuine way of telling her how much we appreciate her love. For us, it was a rather simple act. For her, it meant the world. That got me thinking how easy it really is to make someone happy. All it takes is a wish to do so, nothing else. Time, money, opportunity – they all mean nothing when you really wish to make someone happy. Because when you have that wish, you will find a way. And most often, the simplest of ways turns out to be the best.