By Saroj Jain January 2012 Creativity, quest and zest enable 80-year-old Saroj Jain to make her twilight years the richest and the happiest time of her life It is one of those soft warm winter afternoons in Delhi. As I sip my adrak chai, my eyes rest on a tall silver-haired lady sitting on a brown couch, absorbed in stitching together colourful fabric pieces. There is grace, colour, joy, and vitality on her face. She is my mother, Saron Jain, who at 80, is younger in spirit than I have ever known her. If this is my future, I am blessed… From the time she was in her early teens, needlecraft has been her passion, joy and gift to the world, particularly the art of creating with waste. Old detergent cartons, shoe boxes, old calendar cardboards, all are grist to her mill.A new journeyAt 50, instead of succumbing to the empty-nest syndrome, my mother began her new journey as a seeker. She traversed the length and breadth of India meeting Dada Vaswani, the Brahma Kumaris and several more before finally resting with Osho. It was around the same time that she started to create simple but practical utility items for the home. Wherever father, who retired as the Chairman of the Railway Board, got transferred, Mother would seek out girls and women to whom she could impart this skill. She called her social outfit, Shramika, and also compiled a book by the same title that contained jewels from her 70 years of myriad and vivid needlework. Like most women of her generation she grew up with needles. Later on, she discovered her passion and spiritual self in this medium. The intricacy of her work amazes one and all. When I ask my mother to comment on what her present life feels like, she says, “I think this is the best and most creative stage in my life, free from all responsibilities, and compulsions. I can choose to spend my time whichever way I like. An intricate and colourful woollen quilt Passions have reduced, so there is more peace and lightness. Creativity is like meditation to me. I can sit for hours experimenting with textures, colours and styles. My best work unfolds late at night when the household is asleep and I can create undisturbed. Having a hobby or activity is as much a spiritual practice as active meditation or turning the japa mala. It brings you that much closer to yourself and to God. It provides solace and peace of mind that is so necessary at this age.”My mother’s hobbies are endless. From needlecraft, reading, practising alternative healing, attending classical concerts, watching plays, to life and health management, she has had varied interests from very early on. At 70 she went for a river rafting trip by herself in Rishikesh.My own heritage of creativity, beauty, perfection in detail, will power, aesthetics, balance and continuous effort to raise one’s own bar are gifts I have received from her. She calls herself God’s mobile messenger. From the pantry car attendant in the train, to helpers and taxi drivers, she strikes a conversation with a view to sparking awakening in their lives. Even in the train she regales her fellow travellers with inspiring stories of transformation and challenges belief patterns. She doles out good thought leaflets /books as gifts of love and hope to many in her journey. Often, I receive random calls asking “Is Dadi home?” It is usually someone she has befriended in one of her journeys.Her friend Indu Narain, says, “When we met, my friend Saroj was in her 50s and the wife of the Chairman of the Railway Board. At her age and position all she had to do was attend some ladies’ functions and socialise in the evenings. But instead she started a boutique called Shramika in Delhi. I often saw her sitting under a tree during summer afternoons with little girls between 10 to 14 years and their mothers, patiently teaching them hand embroidery. She later used their skills to design and craft products and paid them for their services, making them financially stronger. She would then sell the products and donate the money to charity. They say you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. Saroj has done this all her life and even at 80, her creativity finds no limits. She travels by herself and listens to tapes of sages. I can truly say she is a great example and inspiration to women in their twilight years. She has an amazing quality of always appreciating others for the good they have in them.” Immaculate knicknacks rest on another beautiful quilt She still has the mental acuity of a teenager. This, combined with decades of experiential wisdom gathered as a housewife, a mother and grandmother and the wife of a top government officer, has honed her consciousness levels. This consciousness has been cultivated further through three decades of spiritual search. She goes on annual trips to a health farm for six weeks, attends 40-day Vipassana camps, and is also a member of Vanprastha Ashram in Rishikesh. Even at this age, she can sit still for days and weeks in meditation, and can do many yogic asanas. Maa was the initiator of my spiritual journey too, decades ago. To me she represents the willingness to live every moment in celebration. She is the embodiment of self-reliance, and joie de vivre. I have learnt from her to be grateful for all that has been bestowed on one, regardless of body challenges. As mother, as guru, as role model, she has been, and will always be, a living fount of inspiration.
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