ONCE IN A WHILE ONE HEARS SUCH UNFORGETTABLE TIDINGS
Once in a while one comes across a true life story that inspires, uplifts and restores one’s faith in the greatest qualities of man that otherwise seem to exist only in books and speeches.
I am privy to one such story and felt that I ought to share it with you my readers. This is the true yet unfolding story of my sister in law Sukanya and her ‘mother’ Muniamma.
I tell this story from Sukanya’s viewpoint with the words mine but sentiments her’s:
‘When my baby daughter was 3 years old I felt the need to hire a domestic help to assist me with the joyous but energy draining activities of looking after a bubbly and effervescent child and the usual tasks in any home. Muniamma was the woman who agreed to help me out. She worked with me for a few years at which point I received a request from a Singapore based friend of mine to send her a domestic help from India. I could see that not only would my friend pay the help well but more importantly treat the help with compassion. I suggested Muniamma as a candidate and thus it was that a month later my friend Muniamma — by now she was more like a friend — flew to Singapore.
Muniamma was happy and she told me so in her telephonic conversations with me from Singapore. About two years later a tumultuous set of events unfolded that many of you may not believe but I swear is true.
Muniamma rang me up one fine afternoon and asked me if she should return to India .
‘Why? I thought you were happy and were treated well and paid handsomely’
‘All that is true but I am coming back’
‘Is there something gone wrong?’
‘Yes. I think you are sick and need my help’
‘But I am very fine by the grace of God. Whatever made you think that I am unwell?”
‘My instincts tell me that you are very sick. Besides your late mother came in my dreams and told me that I ought to be by your side in your hour of great pain’
I was beginning to be apprehensive.
‘But I am perfectly fine’.
‘No I am coming back in two days.’
So saying she put the phone down.
Sure enough Muniamma was at my door step two days later. She moved in with me as usual.
On the 4th day after her return I felt a nagging pain in my chest and decided to see my doctor. What followed thereafter is a tale of horror to me and my family and to anyone who loved me. That little pain required several tests at the end of which the doctor looked somber as he announced — I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Muniamma was right after all!!
I remember feeling that my world had ended prematurely — I was in my 30’s with a young daughter. My husband was shattered and so were my many close relatives and friends, Ravi the writer of this piece, included.
‘Initial shock over, I accepted the realities and decided to go in for the best medical treatment possible in Bangalore. The usual heavy injections followed with the weekly chemo sessions leaving me exploding in rage at the unfairness of it all apart from the excruciating pain. I had no option but to restrict activity to the minimum and more or less stopped working with NGO’s whose causes were dear to me. I dreaded the weekly chemo session that were followed by days when I felt like just throwing in the proverbial towel but my love for life helped me overcome all such feelings.
‘Muniamma looked after me like few have looked after anyone else. Always by my side giving me medicines and nourishment every half an hour, escorting me to the bathroom at all times of the night, caring for my husband and daughter — she turned from domestic help to friend to mother .
‘It is a year since that traumatic day when the doctor made that terrible announcement. The last of my injections has been completed and I am fighting back — a cancer survivor. But this is not really a story of my fight against cancer. This is a story about Muniamma – her love for my family, her dedication going far behind the call of duty, her unfailing compassion for me, her smiling response to every one of my requests – this is the level of nobility that man is capable of. It is Muniamma’s story of a person exhibiting the highest love that all religions tell we are all capable of. It is a saga of ‘sacrifice’ with no gain expected. And this is important — Muniamma refuses to accept any remuneration.
‘Embarassed at her refusal to accept any payment I deposited money into her bank account but the matter did not end there. Muniamma deposited that amount into the hundi at the Tirupati temple as a thanksgiving to God for sparing my life!”
‘Do I need to visit any temple?
‘Muniamma has displayed qualities associated with godliness—love, sacrifice, devotion to duty and even going far beyond it without expecting any rewards, compassion — in short all that is noble in man.’
‘I see God in her.
NOTE FROM RAVI:
I am lucky that I come across quite a few people who do acts of greatness. There is this MBA from IIMB who spurned a $350000 a year job at Goldman Sachs at Walls Street, to set up a school for CARNATIC MUSIC AND INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCE IN BANGALORE. Then there is this young girl in her 20’s, a sales girl at Giri Traders in Chennai who works for a paltry salary so that she can bring up and feed her younger siblings, having lost her parents to disease. This girl’s thirst for knowledge and her dedication to serve customers has impressed everyone who visits that shop. And many more.