Brigadier Satyesh Nath Bhaduri
I was in the Army and during my Command in Fort William last year, I got a frantic call from a childhood friend of mine. We had not been in touch for a long time. He was with a private concern in Bangalore and due to certain compulsions requested me to visit his ailing mother, who was suffering from dementia. To be honest, I was quite averse to the idea of visiting and comforting someone I hardly knew, especially when I learnt that he had neither appointed a full time maid nor bore her medical expenses. My reluctance was further compounded when my materialistic instincts warned me of this being a fruitless engagement and I felt I had better things to do on holidays or my leisure time rather than attending to someone with whom I could hardly relate to.
Immersed in my personal, social and professional responsibilities, I had almost forgotten the issue till my wife’s repeated reminders compelled me to visit this lady on a gloomy rainy afternoon. Heavy torrential downpour was lashing the city and I had to walk 300 metres through a narrow, flooded lane. I was already in an irritable frame of mind by the time I reached the old lady’s house. So the sight of an old, frail lady sitting on a vintage wooden chair staring blankly ahead did little to lift my mood. She sat facing me for half an hour without any expression, recognition or emotion. While leaving I decided that that would be my first and last visit.
But as they say, man proposes, god disposes...hounded by my wife, I again visited the old lady after a month. Her reaction was the same as in our previous meeting, but I could feel a transformation within me on seeing the helpless lady. Thereafter I began to visit her more often. During one such visit, I felt that for a very brief moment she actually looked at me eagerly--as though she had been waiting for me. Looking around in her small room, I saw a dusty copy of the Mahabharata. I picked it up and started reading it aloud. Maybe it was my imagination but I thought I could sense her straining her ears and making a conscious effort to listen to what I was saying. For the first time, I was filled with remorse and regretted my earlier attitude and actions.
My visits became more regular. I would get sweets or fruits for her, though they usually remained untouched. Soon, during each visit she used to touch my fingers and feel them as if was trying to convey something. During one such meeting, I took her to a nearby park on a wheelchair, which I had procured for her. As I was taking the lady around, a small boy, slipping away from his mother, walked over to us. Placing his tiny hand on hers, he said, “I know how you feel, my mom makes me ride in the stroller too.” I was amazed to see a faint smile on the lady’s face. I can honestly say that no amount of money could have bought the satisfaction which I felt in the park that day.
During my last visit, when the old lady and I were offered tea and biscuits, I saw her dipping a biscuit in her tea and extending it in my direction as if she was offering it to me. I was awestruck by this miraculous change in her. It was a priceless moment. Unfortunately, I could not capture the scene as it happened so suddenly, but it is etched deeply in my mind. A deep realisation dawned on me: bringing about a change in someone’s life, who is in dire need to believe in himself/herself, is so much more satisfying than earning money or chasing an unrealistic, materialistic goal.
I believe change starts with you but it does not start until you do. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, your attention, your love and care.
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