Sometimes ordinary people have extraordinary stories to narrate. Here’s one of those few people I have come across, and she really inspired.
Bella was wheeling an elderly lady paralyzed by a stroke. As a volunteer at the healthcare organisation, this is part of her weekly job. As she looked at the lady, she thought of her own father, already in his seventies, his health was declining. She was overwhelmed by a sense of regret and shame, as she thought of her own ignorance and lack of understanding of her parent. She was unable to stem the flow of tears.
Bella grew up in a small town in Bihar, the only daughter in her family; she was never pampered. As the oldest daughter, she felt a duty to help pay back all the debts of her family. In sixth grade, she started to help her father by selling groceries in the market; she could not even rest on Diwali days, when she had to earn a little more money to help her family’s finances. Fortunately, her two brothers were top students in the school, which made the family very proud. With financial difficulties, the family of six lived in a small house; they were ‘happy’ together.
Bella recalled that summer day when she was 21… She had lost her mother in a workplace accident; she fell from broken scaffolding and died of hemorrhage. The sudden tragedy almost shattered the family; her grandmother cried for days. Seeing the lonely figure of her father, she vowed to herself: “I shall never get married, so that I can dedicate my life to this family.”
While she held strongly to this idea of celibacy, her grandmother and father were hoping that she would find a good husband. Her grandmother said: “I will not die in peace unless you are married.” This changed her mind. She vowed that she would only marry someone from her vicinity, so that she could stay close to her family, and that her husband must help her look after them.
As fate would have it, Bella met Raghav, a circus performer. They fell in love and got married. They could also afford a big house in a couple of years and had a daughter. But the happiness was not meant to last for long. Her husband left for a show and she was informed after a week that while on the circus show her husband crashed to the ground and died when the trapeze mechanism failed.
The burden of paying a mortgage and school fees for the children was so heavy that she no longer felt the joy of owning a house. Bella sank into a depression, her mind was full of anxieties: “How do we afford the next meal?”
As time passed, her perspective toward her family changed drastically. She thought: “Father is finally able to lead an easy life; one of my brothers is a doctor and another a teacher. Their wives also love and care for them. My father knows my predicament very well, but why doesn’t he ever call to ask after me?”
When she thought of all her dedication to her family, she was deeply disappointed by the coldness she received in return. “I only wanted a call to ask ‘how are you coping?’ someone to show that they cared — but it did not seem that way. My father never cared.” From that time, she started to bear resentment towards him.
This resentment also turned her against her two brothers. “If I had not sacrificed myself to work full time after junior school, how could they have accomplished all they have today?” she said to herself. Her brother who was a doctor wanted to raise money to help her with her mortgage: and her other brother wanted to help share the burden of her daughter’s school fees – but she refused. She was obsessed with how her father never showed that he cared about her. Anger burnt within her heart; she could not see the kindness of her brothers.
It was then that she chanced upon a middle-aged woman who heads a charitable healthcare institution. She started to reflect. It was a casual meeting which changed her life forever. Meghana Madam as she calls her, made her escape from this obsession. She learnt to see things in a different way.
“Hatred and obsession are shackles, one should liberate herself from the binds of the senses,” Meghana madam told her.
In the next three months, Bella found herself actively participating in voluntary work, helping medical officers and nurses and joining the local study groups. She almost never missed a session. She willingly took up a job to make paper packets for New Year gifts for the institutions supporters across the country. Life started becoming better.
As she thought of her father and made a call, her heart was filled with emotions. For nearly a decade, her father had been suffering from poor health; his speech problem due to a tongue infection had prevented him from expressing his love for his dear ones.
Although he could not speak, he made sure that the brothers cared for their sister when she was struggling financially. Just because of her own obsession over the lack of attention from her father, she had resented him for years. She finally decided to let go of this resentment and re-build her relationship with her father.
Tomorrow she will be promoted as assistant to the Chief Voluntary Officer – her hard work and dedication paid off. It’s a proud moment for Bella – her family who would come to the felicitation event to boost her spirit.
Bella’s ‘once upon a time’ story ended on a happy note.
“Loving our parents cannot wait – I’ve realised we should fulfill our obligations and repay parent’s love,” she said with tears of joy.