A Life Worth Living - Poem by premji premji
“You have a call, ” my wife woke me up early in the morning, mercilessly.
I wanted to throw that electronic beast towards the wall as I had been sleeping, so weightless like a feather, for many hours, that too on a lazy Sunday.
“Premji… Saraswati Amma is no more, ” Father Zachariah was on the end. A great sadness doomed his ever-pleasant voice.
Clad in white cloths, Saraswati Amma slept peacefully on the cold floor of Gandhi Bhavan orphanage. So peaceful and contended was her face.
Ajayan, her ‘little boy’ of twenty five years, sat next to her quite impatiently as his lower belly was burning with hunger. Little girls and aged women among the inmates were chanting hymns.
Father Zachariah stood beside her as if he was deep buried in a trance. My wife touched her feet and offered her respects. She looked into my eyes before keeping a couple of fresh flowers plucked from our home garden.
Who is this woman to me?
An year back…
“A poor woman came to meet me today, ” I told my wife while having a cup of coffee in the evening.
“Every woman you meet is a poor woman, ” she laughed. ‘except me! ’
“But… her life is the bitter most one that I had ever seen… I gave her a hundred rupees...”
“This is why I keep your purse almost empty every-time…” She was not ready to leave me. “House owner called me twice in the morning… We didn’t pay him the house rent so far… How come that’s possible for you haven’t claimed your salaries for the past two months…” she began firing cannonballs again and again to my tormented heart.
“But, she is no ordinary woman…”
“There are many people who even come to my college in search of some financial assistance from staff and students. But, most of them are frauds, ” she said.
“But, if are so sure, then I have no complaints for it is the duty of a human being to support his brother and sister, in what-so-ever possible ways.”
‘You are great! ” I hugged her tightly…
“Leave her… naughty old man! ” my younger son started shouting from somewhere…
“You… little idiot…”
I was sitting all alone in my office room, surfing through the latest issues posted in www.mygov.in – the crowd-sourcing portal of our honourable Prime Minister. He is a visionary to collect the opinion from people before deciding policy matters. Democracy is meaningless without the participation of people in governance.
“Good Morning Sir, may I come in? ”
A lean woman, in the fag-end of her fifties, showed her head through the half door. Some portion of her pale face was covered by the long end of her old Sari*
“Please come in, ” I showed her the seat in front of me.
“Thank you Sir, ” she sank into the chair carefully.
“What shall I do for you? ” I asked her calmly.
“Sir, I came in search of a boy who makes arrangements for fund-raising for poor folk like me. It seems, he is from your department.’
‘I think… yes…’
‘I am afraid, he is absent today…’
And the poor woman frowned like a water-plant transplanted into a desert….
‘Sir, then I will come some other day, ’ before getting up from the seat, she tried to rearrange the long end of her sari as a scarf.
‘Please follow me…’ I told her calmly and started walking towards the classroom.
*a five meter long traditional drape used by Indian women
Saraswati Amma stood before fifty students like an embodiment of pain. Most of them stared at her as if she was coming from the moon or so.
“You are free to talk with them, ” I told her.
“Sir, I haven’t faced even a single gathering in my life, ” she said. “You…please inform them about my problems…” She tried to avoid that situation.
“They are not a strange gathering… They are your children… Will any mother ever hesitate to talk with her children? ” I tried to impart her some courage.
“Dear children…, ” she looked into her eyes. “My name is Saraswati Amma. And I am a cancer patient. My husband is no more… All I have is a son… But, he is a delinquent…” Tears began to roll down from her eyes. “I have no relatives… We are staying in a rented house and I am not sure when will they kick us out, ” she took a deep breath. “I am incapable of doing anything… I visit educational institutions and ask them for some financial aid… I am not afraid of death… But, what shall I do with my son? ” she asked us. “All I can ask you is this… please help me as much as you can…”
Most of the students sat quite lazily as if nothing had happened. Poor woman lost the rest of hope in her life.
“Will you please explain, what really had happened in your life? ” I asked her.
“Sir… Earlier, we used to run a small vegetable shop. Whenever I was hungry, I used to eat a raw vegetable… something like a tomato which was about to ruin… or a raw cucumber… or a carrot… Since we were very poor, we couldn't even waste a piece of cabbage. Our daily food was made from all these leftovers. Later, we began to sell fresh fruits too…My son used to consume the leftovers… He is a delinquent now… and I am suffering from brain tumour.” She wiped her heavy eyes, unkissed by sleep for many years, while watching the painful faces of my students. Absolutely silent, they were listening to each and every word uttered by her.
“Whenever you eat a banana, remember that it contains ‘furidan’- the deadliest of all chemicals… Whenever you eat a grape, remember that it is coated with endosulpahan… Whenever you eat a mango bought from the open market, remember that it is coated with many pesticides and beyond all… it is quick-ripened by using carbide… a dangerous chemical… Whenever you eat a pineapple, remember that it is flowered with the aid of chemical hormones… You are what you eat… I can say this openly, because I am a living example…” She lifted the scarf a little and showed her head to all. Unfortunately, it was as bald as the baldest of all in the world.
“At least grow some curry leaves in your home garden… you know, they contain the maximum pesticide.”
The children shelled out even the last penny from their pockets, and handed over to her. Anuja, the one and only girl student in the class, approached her with a small packet.
“Please have it…” Anuja told the old woman. Her voice was writhing in pain.
“What is it, dear? ” asked the old woman.
“It’s my lunch… I have no money to share with you…”
“O! my little one, ” the old woman hugged her tightly and kissed her head.
I couldn't stand there as my lungs began to chock…. But, my legs didn't allow me…
“Sir… will you please upload this video in your youtube account? ” Sunil, one of my ‘violent’ students asked me. He was a ‘real nut’ in the entire college till he had developed a great friendship with me. Every student needs some recognition in this world… some sort of consideration… some sort of special care…
“You do it… Sunil… I will share it in facebook, ” I replied.
“Thank you Sir, ” he began to walk away. “I will send you the link.”
It was one the most touching videos I had ever seen in my life. Sunil shot the whole Saraswati Amma episode in the classroom in his mobile phone and edited it neatly. Millions of shares made her so popular all over the world and she was invited to many places for giving lectures. Many people helped her financially and her family was adopted finally by Gandhi Bhavan, an orphanage for poor and destitute.
“Sunil, what made you think so differently like this? I asked him one day.
“Every problem is associated with a possibility. If you are capable of finding out that possibility, you can get out of every problem. You taught me this simple concept during your classes on life-skills. And it was the only possibility left with her, ” Sunil smiled with confidence.
“You are simply great! ” I couldn't stop congratulating him.
I stood beside her dead-body like a burning wick… Many important personalities visited the orphanage to pay her last respects… Soon, I saw him getting out an old Maruti car… Swami Satynanda Giri Maharaj
Satynanda Giri Maharaj, a Sanyasin, noted orator, scholar and an Ayurvedic medicinal expert, was about to begin his daily evening discourse in his ashram. I was sitting there in the third row along with my wife. I like his discourses as he is capable of enlightening my soul even with a single word!
“Dear all, Greetings…” he began the spiritual discourse in his firm but kind voice. “Yesterday, I went to meet a great woman… You know, she is suffering from brain tumour… I know, that the disease can be cured easily… I capable of doing it by his grace… I had to prepare a special medicine using the brain of a black goat, ” he stopped for a moment. “Usually people come to me for medicines. But, I went to her as I felt she is so important to me. But, do you know, what did she say? ”
“What did she say? ” my wife asked me out of curiosity.
“Please listen to him, ” I pinched on her left thigh.
“She said… All my life, I had been a strict vegetarian, ” Satynanda Giri Maharaj began to speak again. “Why should you waste another precious life for a worthless life like me? ” He closed his eyes for some time.
“This is what is called true spirituality… It is a solitary journey form virtue through virtue to higher form of virtue… It is beyond the limits of religions…. It is beyond the limits dharma…”
To Mamta Ji @her 64th b'day.
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