Friday, January 12, 2007

Health,wealth or happiness?

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?

20 comments:

Srijith Unni said...

Prema`s life and story is seriously inspiring. But one thing is true. When you have trouble on all sides, you have by then learnt to take it in your stride. When we are used to a happy and healthy life, the smallest troubles gives us heartbreak, whereas when we are drowning with problems, we might get used to it, and finally learn to smile. Indeed a very thought provoking post, hip Grandma.

With Best Regards,
Srijith.

artnavy said...

Prema must be a truly never- give- up kind of person. I only hope she has someone to lean on as well.

starry nights said...

Such an inspiring story.I think happiness does not come from wealth or health but it comes from within. I have come across a few people like Prema and have wondered what makes them so unique.I think it has to do with the person.Thanks for sharing this story.We all can learn a thing or two from her life.

passerby55 said...

hi Preeta,

Such stories happened in that era which i think was black and white. With multi colours all around such would be rare.

Prema, definitely is lucky with a good family who appreciate and respect her. Her determination is worth praising.

The door of happiness often swings on hinges of obstacles, how we tackle such hinges with poor health or wealth is a miracle.

visithra said...

there are people who rejoice in giving - premas such a person - inspiring

NZ said...

very inspiring story, HGM. I sometimes envy such people and yes, we can definitely learn from them.

Gomathi Sarma said...

This is really true.. Some people bring that positive energy to you and you just become alright the moment you talk to them or see them.

I have one of my cousin sister. Any time, i am depressed or so, I will call her and talk to her. An dbelieve me, she just makes me feel alright in time.

More than classifying this as some people's capabilities. I will say this is relative. My sister is a positive energy to me; but she may not be to others. Its relative.

The Visitor said...

G'ma - Hello after a long time. :)
Your post reminded me of an article, in Miday dated Dec 21, 2006, on attitude. It carried a quote which I think is relevant to your post:

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.
-Hugh Down

@starry nights - yes it echoes your sentiment that "happiness comes from within"

:)

Usha said...

It requires a special kind of person not to wallow in their own problems ( god, anyone in Prema's consition is allowed to feel miserable!) and spread cheer around and feel genuinely happy for others.
I really wish she could see some happiness at least in the rest of her life!

Something to Say said...

people like prema make you realise - just how much blessed you are - and how much more you can do for those around you - atleast it made me realise that.
That and to 'not crib' at every lil thing

passerby55 said...

Hello,
You are tagged.
Write ten things that define your style.
:)

itchingtowrite said...

prema is so courageous / any one in her place wud have cracked up. why so many misortunes on a single person

itchingtowrite said...

hi.. long time no see on my blog

Mahadevan said...

Each one of us pursue only happiness and we believe we can find happiness in wealth, health, peace etc. Even spiritual leaders talk about lasting happiness.

Prema, being a matured woman, realised that she would be able to find happiness in whatever condition she is, and hence she shows no signs of misery.

I agree with Usha that we need her to find some happiness ( what we understand as happiness) in the rest of her life.

Sunita said...

Prema truly inspires. As all, even I hope she sees some happiness in the years to come.

Coffee said...

Thats some inspiration!!!!! What a strong personality. Anyone else would have lost hope long ago..... and to top it all, you mention that she is always cheerful and happy!!! Hats off to her!!!

Lovely post G'mom :)

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
Thanks for your responses.I'll take out a print and show it to prema and capture her reaction on camera so that I can show you the child like egstasy that she shows for simple pleasuresthat come her way/Thanks once again.

mommyof2 said...

God Bless Prema!

Just like that said...

Truly one of the givers. Prema made me feel ashamed of my little molehills that I make out to be mountains. God grant that she lives her life in peace, has someone in her time of need.

Vijaya said...

Dear Padma

My name is vijaya. I chanced to read your write up about the wonderful Prema, just now. Even though this is an entry pretty dated, in your interesting blog,I would consider fortunate if I can be of some financial assistance to this child,Prema. Is she still alive?
love,
vijaya