The value of values
Suma Varughese cherishes the values instilled in her (and her siblings) by her parents and their importance in standing her in good stead over the years
As one among six daughters of a father who worked for a public sector company, materially we never had too much. But what my parents had in abundance and which they passed on to all their children through their own example, was an intransigent value system.
I can never be sufficiently grateful to them for this priceless gift, for it has been a lifeline that has guided my sisters and me through life, teaching us to live in accordance with our conscience and to do the right thing in all areas.
The first of these values is never to hanker after money. None of us in our family is obsessed with money; of course, it has to be admitted that none of us has too much of it either. Money has never been the reason behind our livelihoods. My second sister is a doctor who took care of the indigent, even though she earned little or nothing for it. I myself quit the mainstream in order to devote myself to writing on spirituality. Most of my other sisters have been teachers, beloved of their students. None of us has ever coveted other people’s money or property either, and our lifestyles are simple and spare.
The second value is honesty. I still remember going grocery shopping with my mother in Vizag, where she lived alone after my father’s death, before she moved in with me. Halfway home in the broiling Vizag sun, my mother discovered that the shopkeeper had given her four annas extra. Back we trekked all the way to the shop and restored the money to the shopkeeper. As a consequence of their example, we have all led principled ethical lives and, therefore, our lives are uncomplicated and free of unnecessary drama.
The third value our parents taught us, again through example, is integrity. They were themselves in all circumstances and situations. There was no question of sucking up to superiors and those with wealth, or putting down the underprivileged. In fact, they had a huge affinity for the underprivileged. As children, the only way our birthdays were celebrated was by my mother giving a simple lunch of rice and sambar to beggars.
Another time, when my mother and I were buying a flat, we settled for a poky ground floor flat because that was the only one within our budget and close to my sister Susan’s house. Later, a friend suggested that I look around a little before finalising, but my mother refused to cancel the deal. “We have given our word,” she said firmly. Fortunately, the owners called off the deal, freeing me to later buy my dream house in the same building and wing as my sister.
Parents, there is nothing that can safeguard your children as they make their way through the pitfalls and snares of life than by investing them with a value system that they can use to determine their choices. This is your only guarantee that with temptation all around them, they will still stay steadfast in doing what is right.
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