It's been more than a year now since my grandma passed away and the difficult memories of those last days have slowly begun to give way to the happier ones. She had eighty-four years on this earth to experience so much that life had to give her. But in those early days, life took away from her, much that most of us take for granted.
Growing up without a dad shaped my childhood in a different way but Amma grew up as an orphan raised by her own grandmother's sister. Married at 14, she was thrust into another life altogether. For my generation 14 would be the age when we have just begun to discover ourselves and forge our identities. Her subsequent years were all about child rearing and cooking for a family of five.
Amma was a very different personality from my rather strict grandfather. She was sent into this new life with no one to guide her on how to navigate its waters. Neither did she have any drive of her own. She did it all without complaints and accepted her fate as is. Which is opposed to the kind of life advice we get these days. Take control of your fate if you want to make the most of this life.
I sometimes wonder if this new notion about life is truly supposed to be the thing that makes it more fulfilling. Because Amma in my eyes was always a picture of content. She found the joy in every experience that her family provided for her. Financially dependent on everyone else in her family she really had no real desires of her own. Everywhere she went, everything she experienced was from the backseat. She just went along for the ride.
Amma’s superpower was her smile. The thing that endeared her and touched the lives of everyone who ever had the good fortune of knowing her. It was something we as family took for granted. But ask anyone from the family and they will tell you the warmth and genuineness of her smile could never be matched by us.
But there was also something else that the maids we employed over the years mentioned to me. They often said that she made them feel like family in a way that none of their employers ever did.
It’s so strange for me to think that all she could give to others was her love and care. She didn’t make material gestures or leave a mark on the world at large. Her legacy was her capacity to derive joy from the simple things and spread that joy with others, with nothing more than her kind words and a radiant smile.
There are many lessons we can learn from world’s greatest thinkers and philosophers. Our true lessons however come from those closest to us. Amma’s lesson for me was that you don’t go out seeking bliss. It is a state of mind that you only find within yourself. When you find it don’t horde. Happiness is real only when it is shared.