I had a period moving with my husband from hospital to hospital. I had my own share of difficulties and ill health. During these stints of ill health and hospitalizations, I had seen people who were sick, with no means to treat themselves and no means to feed their family. I had even witnessed kids and dogs together looking for food in dust bins. I felt a need to help them. I had friends who shared similar feelings. We started helping sick and needy using our limited means. We were happy with what we were doing.
Twenty years back, I used to pay Rs 100 to an old lady on 2nd of every month. She and her son were living in a shack on the top of a hill. They were just alone there. They were isolated and had no neighbours. Back then, a healthy person had to climb for more than half an hour to reach their place.
Old lady was too old to work or even walk. But, I was very adamant that I will not pass the money to her grown up son, since I heard that he was a drug addict and was out of his mind most of the time. So, she had to come to my place every month with the assistance of her son to collect the money.
One day early morning, her son came to my place alone. It was the first day of the month. I got irritated as his mother was supposed to come and I had not got my salary for that month. Also, I never liked his mannerisms. I told him “Today is the first of this month, not the second. I do not have any money. Go and come tomorrow”. I could not hear any reply from him and he had no expressions. I slammed the door on his face and continued my daily chores. He lingered there for some more time and left.
Once he left, I started thinking about the old lady. “Probably, she is too sick to come to my place”. This thought was troubling me from then on. In a short while, I called up one of my friends, Mrs. Annamma Thomas, Elanjimattom (whose fervent support in all my endeavours was highly encouraging then) and discussed this incident. We decided to buy some food and start immediately to old lady’s house. It was an arduous climb for both of us to the top of the hill.
The shack was in a pretty bad shape – place was not cleaned for many of days; cloths were scattered and a tin box in the corner was left opened. The old lady was lying in a bed. She was only partially conscious. We could not find her son. But, even though there was not a single grain of edible stuff in the house, there was a vessel with water on the stove. We concluded that he deserted his mother and left.
We started speaking to her as we had to bring the old lady back to her senses. All of a sudden, her son ran in to the house with a visibly shaken expression. He slightly pushed me away from his mother’s side and started speaking to her. “Amma… Amma… get up… eat… I have brought food for you… eat… eat…” We were just mute spectators to an insane son feeding his sick and tired mother. Both mother and son are in their own world and they do not need us any more. We returned back leaving a 100 rupee note there.
On the way back, I re-created the incidents in my mind. Mother was sick and she could barely stand up. Son needed food for his mother. He searched for food and then for money. He could not find any. He knew that his mother used to get money from me every month. So, he left a vessel with water on the stove and came to me for money. He could buy rice or dal with the money I give; return back home and start cooking. He did not get money from me. It was not in his nature to beg and he could not express his need clearly. He could then think of getting assistance from his sister staying on the top of another hill. He walked all the way to her house; made her cook rice and hurried back to his mother’s side to fed her.
The charity savvy “I“ was judgmental about the noble intentions of the so called crazy, good for nothing man. My notions on duty, care, service and especially, charity shifted to a different plane. The sense of duty (Karma) shadowed our urge to patronize. Charity is our Karma, duty towards mankind.
Sosamma P Thomas, Managing Trustee, Navakarma.
Note. Few years back Old Lady passed away. I still pay her son a small amount, every month.