I sometimes wonder what we want out of life. Is it health, wealth or happiness? Or a judicial mixture of all the three? I sometimes feel that while wealth cannot give health or happiness per se it could perhaps play the role of a facilitator. While wealth cannot ensure happiness, lack of it can definitely create problems which in turn can act as impediment to a healthy and happy life. It requires a highly seasoned mind to look for happiness in negative conditions. It is difficult but not impossible and once one gets the hang of it, believe me the experience is immensely enjoyable.
Let me give you an example. I have a good friend Prema. I met her on the very day that I arrived in Jamshedpur as a young bride of twenty -two. Her parents were good friends of the family, her father having gone to school with my father in law. The first thing I thought about her was ‘how cheerful this girl seems to be’. She had a high -spirited nature and her resounding laughter was infectious. I was later told that she had a job as a teacher in a semi government school and was practicing shorthand and typing hoping to take up the job of a stenographer in a good organization. She had an older brother, a qualified engineer who had to resign from his service with the Indian Railways due to his schizophrenic tendencies. The second brother was employed in Tata Steel and following an accident on duty he had lost an eye. She had a younger sister who was not a very good student and could not hope to have a career worth mentioning. She was actually studying at that time, but later took up a job as a poorly paid Hindi teacher in a private school. Prema had taken it on herself to support the family and put away all thoughts of marriage and family till at least the time when her younger sister would settle down in life. The family first got the youngest sister married after whom Prema was forced to marry a person who did not have a permanent job and she agreed to the proposal only because her brother wanted to marry and settle down and he would not consider marriage unless Prema settled down in life. Prema agreed, albeit half-heartedly, because the idea of marrying a man without a permanent job did not exactly appeal to her. She had by then taken up a job in Tata Robin Frasers and had a good career ahead. As luck would have it, her brother passed away within a month of his marriage. Her mother followed him within a year and her husband lost his job within six months of their marriage. He got in and out of jobs for the next ten years and Prema’s role as the breadwinner continued. She longed for a child of her own but fibroids in her uterus made sure that she did not. Then came the final blow. She suffered a massive stroke and went into a coma for 11 days and when she recovered her right hand was only partially functional and she had to drag her right leg to be able to walk. She had to attend to her ailing mother in law and humor her husband who still hadn’t landed a permanent job. She took medical separation from TRF and dreads the day when, upon her retirement, the paltry allowance that TRF pays her would also stop coming.
Another person in her place would have gone berserk but Prema continues to laugh and spread cheer. She is the perfect companion to her husband, maintains contact with all his relatives and takes up her responsibility as a homemaker without any grudge. She has a kind word of concern for my children and insists that I describe my trip to America in detail. I look at her with new respect and admiration each time I meet her.
What is it that keeps her going? She has neither health nor wealth. Yet she radiates a positive energy and spreads joy and hope in the hearts of all those who meet her. She may definitely have her moments of frustration but she definitely does not let it affect her interaction with others who are better off than her. Despite her handicap she takes her responsibilities seriously and is an asset to her husband who shows a better understanding now than when she had a job. Am I right in concluding that while health and wealth have a major role to play in life, they cannot have a lasting role in the joy or satisfaction that one feels from within?