At times, Life comes with surprises. Life brings big lessons packed in tiny incidences. I had such an experience in my life, which compelled me to change my perspective. A tribal woman taught me an act of SELFLESS GIVING.
It was around a decade ago when I had just started working in a tribal community as a keen observer. I used to visit a Community Health Center with my dad, mostly out of curiosity to observe his work as a physician. At that time, I did not have the slightest intension of serving people. I would just go and help, more like a vendor machine, to the local pharmacist in dispensing medicines. Weeks after weeks and months followed by months would pass without offering any substantial change in me. Then on a particular day, I remember distinctly as 29th of June 2010, something happened which brought out a new person in me.
That day, I had accompanied my dad, early around 5 o’clock in the morning, to the local medical college hospital where a young community health worker, Rekha Rathwa, had lost her 2 years old son due to tragic accidental burns and we were accompanying the poor lady with her son’s dead body to her village in a remote locality for funeral. Her tribal village was about 100 miles away from my residential town. All throughout the journey, the poor mother was in deep grief barely uttering a word, nor even crying.
We attended the community gathering around the deceased child. Everyone was silently weeping. The final journey to the village crematorium took place around 3 o’clock. There, the funeral ceremony went on for about 3 hours. The child’s funeral pyre was decorated with all beautiful things that he loved in his living days; clothes, toys, rhyme books, school bag and every other thing he liked. Such was the community ritual. The proceedings were quite elaborate. The day was particularly hot and the sun was unkind in a barren tribal land, dry and open. My mouth was getting dry and stomach getting ravenous. I still couldn’t see any signs of the funeral rites getting over. The child’s parents were so shocked and grieved with this sudden death of their loved one. The pyre was still burning and I knew that nobody would leave before the pyre turned into ashes. Five in the morning to now nearly five in the evening and I was not only tired, but also hungry and thirsty. Neither water nor food was in sight. The entire village was in utter grief and one could hardly think of getting help from someone. Every bit of my body was crying for food. Now when I look back, I feel ashamed of myself that at such a traumatic moment, I had become so self-centered in an atmosphere of grief that I could see nothing but my discomfort. I was becoming agitated second after second, telling my dad that I was really unable to stand under that burning sun. And all of a sudden, I saw one tribal woman standing by my side, asking me to go to her hut and rest. We followed her to her small shack. And what I saw after reaching was heart melting. Her hut was nothing but a 10X10 feet structure made of bamboos, mud plastered. Her three little kids were playing around in half-naked condition. She soon welcomed us in and quickly spread two torn rugs for us to sit. Then she went to her kitchen, which was just at the corner of the hut and started preparing two clay dishes for us with maize rotla, salt-chilies-oil paste and curd, all she had for me to feed my urban stomach. I saw that she only had food enough for her children, which she brought for my dad and I. My dad tried to convince her not to give her kids’ food to us, but his efforts were in vain. The noble woman said that we as guests were God for her and she would never let God leave her house without eating. She said that she has infinite faith in God that He would never let her kids sleep on empty stomach. I was awestruck at her way of giving away the food cooked for her kids, which was such a rare gesture to me. As an urban girl, I had always experienced people not sharing food with guests or especially with unknown persons made for their dear ones. On the other side, I had this woman in front of me giving away everything she had for herself and her kids. She was so kind and emphatic that she was not ready to take the earthen plates back and at last we had no choice but to surrender to her loving gesture. I could only eat half of the rotla with tears constantly rolling down my eyes.
It was around 6:30 in the evening when we started our journey back home. But by this time, I had been completely metamorphosed. This incident was enough to teach me an act of unconditional giving, generosity and eternal faith in God…. all leading to happiness. It taught me an important lesson in my life that you shall get what you give away in love, and that one should not breed on self-centered monologues all the time, that villagers, though poor, are always kind hearted and innocent. Contemplating on the experience, I had already made some resolutions about my life. I was now all prepared to give out what I had received so far by way of my parental upbringing and academic training. I had realized that whatever I had in my life, I had owed to uncountable unknown hearts that had sweated for the luxuries in my life. I had resolved to actively participate in Community Welfare Activities after this experience without asking anything in return. I have since wanted to serve my people without knowing them or without receiving anything from them in return.
I work with Vibha as a volunteer for I feel thankful to the society I have grown up in or living in. I believe in BEING GRATEFUL FOR SMALL MERCIES. Volunteers across Vibha share their goals of serving their communities and those people who are not as fortunate as they are. We, Vibha volunteers, strongly reckon that when we donate our skills, time and efforts to the society without any expectation of getting anything back in return; it is a ‘win-win situation’, for we, even without asking, receive endless happiness and satiation.