29 October 2017

What is my Legacy?

What is my legacy? I came across the word in some Whatsapp forward. It was the word I was looking for to encapsulate all the questions that floated in my mind regarding my life. What was I doing? Why am I alive? Was 40 years worth it? Did I do what life wanted me to?

Legacy – sounds perfect, sounds right. So what is my legacy going to be? What will it be that will make my being a burden on Mother Earth worth it? My two (one is on the way) children? Would they carry on my values and thoughts and sprinkle the Sujatha sawdust on the world and make my existence relevant? The people I taught and trained throughout a career that lasted a good 13 years, a fruitful decade - would they be the ones to lend meaning to my life? While teaching them the concepts that I had to as the equivalent for what I was paid for but also touching their lives in some small ways – would that be my redemption?

I have wandered along these lines for a long time. I guess being jobless, at home and carrying a child in you, one has all the time in the world for these inane thoughts. Otherwise, one would be too busy “living” life or “making a living” to care about what it will all mean at the end of the journey. Have I reached the end of my journey?

One afternoon, as I was cooking, I overheard my neighbour yelling at her maid. She keeps all her windows shut and drawn with heavy curtains. But her voice was so loud that it blasted through my kitchen door which leads to our utility area and is always open. Her words were not clear but the anger was evident. The maid was mumbling something in defence. She works for my neighbour for Rs 2500 for 3 hours of back breaking work. It’s a 5 member family. So imagine the clothes and utensils that the maid has to clean. The clothes are washed by hand. How do I know? Our backyards are adjacent to each other. I can see the 4-5 long rows of clothes including bed-sheets, curtains and floor mats being hung out to dry daily. The neighbor has, in less than 2 years, changed four maids – fighting with all of them, sometimes screaming for coming 10 minutes, sometimes shouting for doing the work 10 minutes early. Everyday there was some problem. At first, I thought the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law were at each other’s throats.

And then, I sat on the sofa, rested my head back and closed my eyes for a long time. I felt a strange sense of calm. I knew my life was indeed worth something. I was not a loud, abusive woman like my neighbour. I don’t say that all maids are nice. Some are nasty, some lazy, some downright greedy. I heaved a sigh of relief that I was not, never was, a monster. For a few 1000 rupees a month, working 2-3 hours daily, with no holidays or weekly Sunday off, no hike, most of them illiterate and hence not able to work anywhere else or at anything else, it’s definitely not easy being a maid. And if I have been civil and tolerant with them, this insignificant life hasn’t been so insignificant after all.

At an age where everyone mistreats everyone else, sometimes just to be human, is a big deal. It is easy today to consider someone even a wee bit below us as “low”. To not succumb to abuse of power, even if that is of a house lady over her maid who she hardly considers a human in the first place – is quite something. If nothing else at all, I’m glad I passed at least this test. I’ve never ever been mean to any of my maids. Even the ones I fired, I politely asked them not to come from next month telling them I’ll do the work myself.  It takes a great deal of effort for rich, educated people to not be rude to others. Empathy and decency are the first casualties in the pursuit of wealth and knowledge.

22 comments:

  1. “Empathy and decency are the first casualties in the pursuit of wealth and knowledge.”

    If that’s the case, we would be better off without wealth and knowledge.


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    1. Maybe we would be. Some of us surely behave so.

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  2. Interesting blog post. In USA, people don’t have the luxury of having a maid come daily to clean. Two years ago, we were in Chennai for 6 months on a work assignment. We were polite and respectful to our maid. When she first came for interview we even asked to sit on the sofa during the interview. But the problem was, with this particular maid, she thought we are naïve for being polite and respectful.

    One day, my wife asked the maid to clean the lower edges of the living room (hall) wall. Daily the maid will mop the floor but never the edges of the wall. So there gathered lot of dust. The maid replied: “This is not your own flat. You have only rented this. In addition, you are going to be here only for a short duration. So why are you so particular about keeping the flat clean?”

    My wife gave a big lecture how she always wanted to keep her home neat and clean. The maid reluctantly cleaned the edges.

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    1. Haha true. I can so relate to that. Most maids are so accustomed to being treated badly, that when someone talks to them politely and respectfully, they find it odd as if something is wrong with such people.

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  3. Hari OM
    You are so correct; it is a frame of mind adjustment which is required when dealing with those whom we employ. Certainly there can be many who will take advantage, but that does not mean we ought to lose our own civility. It seems your neighbour is the one with the issues though... yes; keep your own peace and all else will follow. YAM xx

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    1. Hari OM
      Yes, civility is at a premium these days. :)

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  4. I feel, some people employ others not to do the actual work, but so that they can vent their frustration/anger on them. But eventually their attitude (that they nurtured all the while - as it was easy) alienates them from everyone!

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Yeah maybe that is true. The actual work is not the issue

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  5. Empathy and decency would generally be lost when one becomes rich but not necessarily when knowledge is acquired.To be gentle in speech to subordinates and servants even under provocation is a mark of cultured person.But this does not preclude from being firm where warranted.

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    1. Yes even as I wrote the last word in the last line I realised it was not the right word. Instead of knowledge I should have written "pursuit of educational degrees". Knowledge and mere dgreee are two different things

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  6. Perhaps the sense of domination makes one forget that other is a human too! I still somehow believe that treating others with dignity is more important than display of knowledge or wealth

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    1. Hmmm...yes, maybe we do want to dominate someone, anyone and an easy one turns out to be our house help.

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  7. It works both ways, so many times i find the maids taking advantage of me being polite and considerate.Not that i condone bad behaviour, we must never strip someone of his/her dignity. Since there is no ideal situation available I prefer being kind to her and let do her calling.

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  8. ok..
    thats a few life changing questions..
    let the thought now amplify to deeds :)

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  9. You are very right. Courtesy and good manners are in such short supply.
    Forget being nice even in the face of provocation, many people are rude and insensitive for no reason.
    To be gentle and kind is the least we can do; and that spreads goodness all around too.

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    1. Yes sometimes some people are rude for no reason and I just don't get it

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  10. I am extraordinarily affected beside your writing talents, Thanks for this nice share.

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    1. sujatha, the life on Earth i think is an enigma which has and has not answers in all the areas.What you said I too agree.Who are we to look down others? have we brought any legacy to this earth.Whatever we have is we or our forefathers legally or illegally owned or snatched from here. Nice, it is a good topic for pondering over.

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    2. Thank you Sarala , yes nothing belongs to us, everything is borrowed, so why the arrogance!

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