By Suma Varughese January 2013 Discover the joy of giving, says Suma Varughese Dinner at the Sathes was a gay affair this Sunday night. Mom had just been given a rather impressive advance for her new children’s book and the family was in a mood to celebrate. Dad had bought a fancy chocolate cake from a five-star hotel and the kids had deliberately gone easy on dinner because they wanted to keep space for the cake. When Aji saw the zest on their faces, she took her piece of cake, divided it into three portions and beckoning each of her grandchildren to her, she fed them lovingly with her own hands. “You are spoiling them, Aai,” said her son with disapproval. Aji shook her head sagely, “It is not about spoiling them, Ashwin. It is about feeding them love.” “But Aai, we would have loved you to eat the cake yourself. Those greedy pigs have eaten plenty,” said Dad. Aai’s eyes softened, “To be frank, beta,” she said, “it makes me so much happier to see them enjoy it than to eat the cake myself.” Mom went across and spontaneously hugged her, “How lucky we all are to have you in our lives, Aai,” she said. “You teach us so much simply by being who you are.” “All mothers are exemplary teachers because they come from such a love space,” said Ajoba. “And when you love, giving is as natural as breathing.” “That is true of you also, Mom,” said Avijit. “I can’t remember the number of times you stayed awake during my exams to keep me company or to make me a snack. Or the zillion amazing things you do for all of us without us asking you!” “You are a mom in a million,” said Nisha fondly and Alka enthusiastically clapped. Mom looked delighted and a little shy, “I wasn’t expecting this but it feels so nice to get this acknowledgement! Thank you, darlings.” “Aji and Mom, how do you find it so easy to give?” asked Alka plaintively. “You make it seem so effortless, but I still can’t manage to give that easily. Just yesterday, Roshni did not bring lunch from home, and I offered to share my lunch but I was secretly very glad when she decided to order something instead. I kept feeling that there won’t be enough for me, and that I would have to stay hungry.” “That sense of self is what is called Ahamkara or ego,” said Ajoba. “All of us have this in us and it pits us against others all the time. It takes a lot of inner work to reduce this sense of self so don’t feel bad, little one. At least you offered.” “The thing to do is to keep practicing the giving muscle,” said Dad. “Each time we get the impulse to give, let us do it, even if it is hard to follow it up. And Alka, even at my age I find it hard to give. Yesterday, my friend Vinod asked me to give him the latest Deepak Chopra book, but I wanted to read it myself so I did not give it. But becoming aware of it and not holding it against yourself will help.” “The thing to remember,” said Mom, “is that giving also gives you a lot of joy. When you buy a starving boy a meal in the street, the joy you get will keep you full for days. Just recently at Diwali someone gifted me the most beautiful paper weight. It was a translucent depiction of Planet Earth. I so loved it. But then I remembered that your aunt Gita loves beauty just as much as I do. So I gave it to her and you know, the joy I got when I thought of the joy she would get from it really was more than the joy I would have got from using it myself. It is exactly as Aji said – there is a higher level of happiness when you give another than when you use it yourself.” “Tell you what, kids,” said Dad. “Let’s celebrate New Year in a different way. This year, let us all decide to stretch our giving muscles as a family by taking on a project.” The children looked excited. “What project, Dad?” asked Avijit, curiously. “You know, there is this family living on the pavement near the signal at Cinemax. Each time I go past them, my conscience pricks me, especially during the monsoon and winter. There are at least five kids there and I hate to think of the difficulties they must be shouldering. I vote we adopt them and see what we can do to make their lot better.” Everyone looked a little daunted. “Adopt them?” said Mom, her voice quavering as she thought of adding five more kids to her already troublesome brood. ”Not legally or in any formal way,” said Dad, “but simply to support that family however we can. I have had some dealings with them and I find them to be good people. The man had a shack which got torn down and now he does not have the money to get another. The family’s main job is to collect old clothes in exchange for vessels. Maybe there is not much money there.” “Before you take on any such project,” warned Ajoba, “Make sure that you do not make them less than they were. Whatever you do should make them more self-reliant and able to stand on their feet. If they start depending on you then you have made parasites out of them.” “Good point, Ajoba,” said Dad. “I am going to be really careful abut that. But I would like to work on this man a little and help him discover his hidden dynamism so he can take proper responsibility for the family.” “I don’t mind taking the wife in hand and teaching her a little about cleanliness and home management. If she turns out to be a good student, I am sure I can help her get a job as a maid in one of the houses here.” “Kids, you may want to help educate their children,” said Dad. “Sure, Dad,” said Avijit, and Nisha and Alka agreed as well. “Maybe, once in a while we can take some good food from home and even give them a bath, Mom,” said Nisha excitedly. “Wowee, this sounds such fun. I am already feeling good,” squealed Alka. “Good, then we are on,” said Dad, rubbing his hands with satisfaction. “Oh, Dad, while we are on the subject, do you think you might get more joy in watching me drive your car than in driving it yourself ?” said Avijit, casually. Dad snorted. “Nice try, son, but I haven’t evolved to such rarefied heights as yet,” reaching out to give him a mock punch. Avijit chuckled and ducked out of range. “Your evolution leaves a lot to be desired, Dad,” he said cheekily. Dad laughed. “I will leave it to you to teach it to me, son.”
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