By Roshan Shah
“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones—the ones at home” -Mother Teresa
One doesn’t have to do ‘enormous’ things for huge numbers of people in order to do or be good. As Mother Teresa so beautifully put it, “We can do no great things—only small things with great love”. And what better place to start this than one’s home? In fact, if it doesn’t start from there, it may not start anywhere!
That’s what I’ve learnt from Tinki.
Every morning, after she gets out of bed, has a wash and says her prayers, Tinki opens the front door of her house and places a handful of peanuts along the branches of a handsome tree that grows in the courtyard. She’s hardly done with her ‘peanuting’, as she calls it, when a family of squirrels comes racing down the tree, screeching excitingly, to munch on their breakfast! A pair of pigeons or the occasional crow may also join in the feast. And, if a band of rats that lives in the drain leading out of the house also appears on the scene, Tinki hurries inside to fetch some left-over bread, and sometimes, even a bit of cheese, for them!
After Tinki is over with ‘peanuting’, it’s time to turn to Crossy, an old ‘street’ dog. Crossy (so called because when she sits, she crosses her front paws, one neatly folded over the other) patiently waits for Tinki to emerge from the house with water and a few biscuits for her, or maybe last night’s chapattis.
While Tinki has sort of fixed timings for Crossy and the squirrels and rats, she’s available throughout the day—and night, too—for the numerous cats that wander around the residential complex where she lives. There’s almost nothing more that Tinki loves to chat or email about than the numerous cats that visit her every day. The last time I met her, the list included Fluffy, Fairy, Tiger, Cubby and Chimpu (all names given by her), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the list is longer now!
The cats can drop in at any time, and Tinki is almost always there for them. Luckily for them—and for Tinki, too—her job doesn’t require her to spend long hours at office, and so she’s generally at home when they come around meowing and asking for her attention. “When I hear them calling out, my heart just melts!” she says. “Tiger’s got such a sweet way of announcing his arrival. He climbs onto the ledge outside my bedroom window and peers inside, as if he’s some investigator on some secret mission, not making even a whisper. He stares at me, without blinking or moving, insisting that I come out at once! He can go on like that for almost half an hour!”
It could be well past midnight and Tinki could be fast asleep, but as soon as Tinki knows that a cat has arrived outside her window, she rushes to the fridge to fetch milk for it, and sometimes an additional treat, like a bit of fish. Till recently, she would buy a big chunk of chicken every two days for them. That, plus the auto fare for going to and coming back from the butcher’s shop, took up, I pointed out to her, more than a fifth of her monthly salary. But this hadn’t struck Tinki—she hadn’t thought in these terms at all. “Oh, is it?” she innocently asked when I mentioned this to her. “But, it’s fine, actually,” she continued after a short pause. “These children are so innocent, na!”
A few months ago, Tinki discovered a store near her house that stocks special cat food. ‘Kibbels’, they are called, little tasty treats shaped like stars that come in big bags. And so, these days if you drop in at Tinki’s home announced, it is quite likely that you’ll find her busy ‘kibbling’ and cuddling and chatting in ‘baby language’ with one of the many cats that drop in to visit her throughout the day! And there’s now no present that Tinki would love more than a big bag of kibbles!
“I feel really blissful seeing these fellow creatures of God so happy! They are so undemanding, so contended, so pure! They really live the life of total surrender to God that the religions talk of. There’s really so, so much humans can learn from them,”
Tinki will tell you. “When I peep out from my window and watch a squirrel hurriedly nibbling away at a peanut that it holds in its little paws, I feel totally overwhelmed! When I see a rat dragging a bit of bread into its hole, I marvel at God’s ways of providing for every creature! When I see that innocent smile spread across Crossy’s face and her eyes brighten up when I come out of the door, I am amazed at how little it takes to make her happy! When I spot Tiger glaring at me, I wish I could rush out and give him a tight hug! When I see all these beautiful creatures, all I can say is, ‘Thank You God, thank You ever so much for sending them to me to serve them! Thank You for all the joy You’ve given me through them!’”
Tinki’s charity—towards the animals and birds that live in her vicinity—may begin at home, but it doesn’t end there. Some months ago, when she learned that a kitten had come to stay with me (I was then staying in a city some 10 hours by road from where she lives), she sent me, by express post, an enormous parcel, containing I can’t remember how many bags of kibbels, a feeding bowl, a litter tray, a giant box of sand, several feeding bottles, a manual on how to look after kittens, a cradle and even a little bed designed specially for kittens! And when the kitten, who we named Baby Inosent, developed a running tummy that showed no sign of improvement, she did a google search, found out the best vet in the town where I lived, called him up and fixed an appointment. She even offered to come all the way—in a bus—to where I was to accompany Baby Inosent and me to the clinic to give us moral support!
Can you believe it!
Amazing, isn’t it?
As I’m learning from Tinki, opportunities to bring out our innate goodness abound all around us, and at every moment of our lives—even, or especially, in and around our own homes!
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