Family First


 

E I G H T E E N

Family First


The first step in selflessness is to practise it with our family.

‘You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.’

—Desmond Tutu


Our journey of selflessness from an ice cream to a candle must start somewhere. Often, people can display selflessness outside their home. People may help out in their community, or at temples or schools, and some may even make sure that they get a selfie to announce to the world that they have helped. But at home, they may not express the same service mentality. I believe that selflessness starts at home; with the ones we love the most. Are we doing what we can to help them? Are we there for them to help them physically as well as emotionally? Relationships at home can work well only if all parties have low expectations of each other, but high expectations of themselves to help the other.

  At this moment, Harry was an example of serving the one you love. Another thought that came to my mind was of Lata Khare, whose story of sacrifice for her husband deeply touched my heart.

Running Marathons

Lata Bhagavan Khare was a sixty-five-year-old resident of a small village located in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra. Her life was simple. She and her husband would go daily to a landowner’s farm and make just enough to survive; their house was small, but the food they got from the farm filled their stomachs.

  The small amount of money they had saved throughout their lives was spent on getting their three daughters married. Now that their responsibilities were complete, they enjoyed the simple pleasures of life and each other’s company. They were inseparable and understood each other completely. Their relationship was a testament of the principle that you did not need luxury to be happy.

  One day after coming back from the farm, her husband told her that he did not feel so well. She tried all sorts of herbal medicines to help him, but he would not get better. The local government hospital diagnosed him with a serious infection, and they recommended that she go to a bigger hospital that had more facilities to do further tests. Lata was bewildered. They hardly had enough money for the fare to get a ride to the hospital, let alone the expensive tests prescribed by the doctors. With tears in her eyes, she told her husband the news and felt overwhelmed with helplessness. How could she let her husband die in her arms?

  Plucking up her courage and leaving her ego at the door, she then begged from her neighbours and relatives to gather money to go to the bigger hospital to save her husband’s life. With the help she had received, they got to the big hospital. This was not the sort of place that they were used to being in, so they felt very uncomfortable and out of place. Some people at the hospital gave them strange looks; others ignored them as if they were invisible. Undeterred, Lata fostered up more courage and asked to see a doctor. The people at the reception took an initial fee, nearly everything they had, and asked them to wait outside a doctor’s room until they were called. She sat there, as the important-looking people roamed the hallways speaking terms she didn’t understand. Her middle name was Bhagavan (‘God’ in Sanskrit), and that is whom she prayed to, hoping that he would save her husband and dearest friend.

  When the time came, her husband was called in. After an examination, the doctor handed her a list of further tests, prescribed medications and a recommendation to stay at the hospital. Lata sank back into her chair as her world suddenly turned dark. I have no money, I have nowhere to go, how will I afford this to help the love of my life? she thought. With tears flowing down her cheeks, she and her husband solemnly walked out of the hospital.

  They could not afford the commercial prices of the hospital canteen, so they stopped by a samosa–wallah at the bus stop. They bought two for the bus journey back to their village. All Lata could think about was that this could be her husband’s last meal. The samosa–wallah wrapped their snack up in a newspaper and handed it to her with a smile. As she ate her samosa and chutney from the newspaper pack, she saw the headline: ‘Baramati Marathon: Prize Money Available’. Her heart skipped a beat, but regained its rhythm fast. She would need it pumping for the race she was about to run.

  The next day as everyone lined up at the start of the race, in their running gear, Lata Khare stood there in her red-checked Maharashtrian-style sari. Barefoot, and with tears in her eyes, she argued with the organizers to allow her to run in the marathon, but they refused. She was sixty-five! In trying to save her husband, they did not want her to pass away. After an hour of begging and pleading, they finally agreed to let her run and pinned a number on her clothes. As she began running, people turned to look at her and laughed. Many of them had thought that she must have come with her daughter or son to have them participate in the race; they were shocked to see her running. She took no notice of the other sniggering competitors.

  It was a sight for sore eyes. Teenagers and young adults who had been practicing for months for this race lined up next to an old lady who had hitched her sari above her ankles. She had never run a race in her life, to say nothing of a marathon. Little did her competitors know that they were about to get schooled by someone who was old enough to be their grandmother. She could not think of anything else, but the love she had for her husband. This race was a matter of life and death. What were a few pebbles and rocks to stop her progress?

  Lata ran like the wind with one focus—the finish line. Her feet began to bleed, her sari became soaked with sweat, but she kept running. It would have been an achievement even if she could just finish the race. The people who witnessed this spectacle cheered her on; they were touched by her reason for running.

  It would be a pointless story if she did not win. There was no award for participation but she had done it! The organizers of the race could not believe that Lata Khare, a sixty-five-year-old Maharashtrian woman from a small village, had won the race. The crowds on the streets of Baramati clapped for her and celebrated her victory. She was a local hero, but she did not care for the attention.

  She collected her winnings, marched into the hospital and got her husband the best treatment. At the same time, she got a few bandages for her feet! Her only motive was to save her husband. As they say, the most powerful force in the world is love. Lata went on to win for the next two years consecutively, but that’s another story.

  I wanted to tell Harry this story, but it was not the right time. His situation was very similar to Lata’s. Just as she ran to help her love, Harry was doing everything he could at that moment to help his. Selflessness starts with our family, but it should not just end there. To expand our circle of selflessness, we should help those outside of our immediate care and affection too.

Summary:

  • On one level, we practise selflessness in helping our family. Our day-to-day sacrifices to maintain our family relations are acts of selflessness. We do not necessarily have to run marathons like Lata Khare to display our devotion to those we love.
  • Our circle of selflessness should not end with our family. We should help those outside of our immediate care and affection too.



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