When I was a child, I used to accompany my parents to visit a family whom they had known for more than a decade. The couple had lost their elder daughter, then aged four, in a road traffic accident a couple of months before their second child was born. Both their present children, a boy and a girl, had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Even as a child, I could comprehend the graveness of the adversities faced by them. But no one in their family sulked about the apparent unfair and cruel blows life had dealt them. The whole house was a riot of laughter and activity. Sketchbooks, crayons, plastic trucks, glass marbles, frisbees, half-eaten packets of potato chips and a football were always strewn around the living room. Since the children were the biggest fans of Michael Jackson, they often used to rev up the music volume and give impromptu performances. They continued to quietly celebrate the birthday of their departed daughter, just the four of them, huddled around a chocolate cake baked at home, and the kids were oddly solemn in the remembrance of the elder sister they had never known.
There was none of the expected shadow of gloom hovering over their home; in fact often we could hear their laughter from the street as we turned into their home. But I was not convinced that not even a shred of anger, disappointment or sadness lingered in the lives of their parents; and was always on the lookout for hidden signs. But they were no more exasperated about their children than my parents were about my sister and I. I was suddenly disappointed about the hue and cry my parents raised about the glass of milk we refused to drink at bedtime or procrastinating on homework. I couldn’t contain my curiosity and bewilderment at their amazing coping mechanism and asked aunty how she managed to accept whatever life had brought her so uncomplainingly. Didn’t she ever get angry that this wasn’t exactly the life that she might have envisioned when she was young? Wasn’t she scared of what the future held?
They weren’t sticklers for religion, but they believed in the presence of a higher being who would look out for them, as they continued to make the best of whatever life brought them. She told me that the slightly detached overseer of our lives brought such obstacles into the lives of only those who had the strength to tackle them. She grew angry a thousand times every day but over the same causes that every parent frets about; untidiness, temper tantrums, excessive TV hours etc. And yes, she had found everything that she had always wanted in life; a loving husband, two happy children, a wonderful job, good health and lots of laughter. It is all about perspective. The journey was tough, and peppered with losses and obstacles; but the destination more than made up for that. She was content with what she had made of the sufferings life brought her. She was proud of it. As for the future, who can say what it held; it is useless worrying about the things we haven’t come to yet and giving up the pleasures of the present. She preferred to spend her days equipping her children with life skills, good education, ensuring they were healthy and happy rather than worrying about how they would cope in the world later.
These words had stayed with me and I still find them oddly consoling. Even now when I want to scream my lungs out, every time a cascade of new obstacles flow into my life and wonder if there will ever be any respite; I think of her words. I remind myself that I am resilient enough to handle this. Last night I had another health scare as the word cancer sprung up again, barely one and half months after I had lost my elder sister to it. I had lost three family members in quick succession in the past five years to cancer. And frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of people dropping dead, when they are young and full of dreams, leaving the rest of us to battle the loss. All I crave for is a life where all my near and dear ones are healthy and happy; and I can get to worry only about things like what to wear for an evening out, long hours at work, the bad food at cafeteria, and get adequate time to lament about and pine for a lost love.
Sometimes I feel envious of those people whose lives had run such smooth courses, but then I remind myself that I haven’t been singled out, every one has their own private sorrows; and into each life some rain must fall, some more than the others. It has taught me to treasure the apparently mundane, everydayish things where nothing much happens; and revel in the infrequent but real joys that come my way.