She woke up to the sounds of her alarm clock. It was 6:00 A:M. Time to begin another successful day! She sat on the edge her bed and said out aloud “Today is going to be a beautiful day!” This was her daily ritual.
Keerthi was a very successful woman. She had everything that one needed in life. From the time she could remember she had been given anything and everything that she wanted, that she demanded. She had never known one moment of sadness or deprivation. Consequently she never was sympathetic towards the lesser mortals and her words always took a mocking tone when she spoke about them. She just could not listen to their whining (as she called them). She never had any friends nor ever felt the need for one.
Keerthi got dressed and reached her office at the fashion magazine at 8:45 sharp and went straight into the board room for the morning conference.
One week later…..
She was sitting in the coffee shop with her coffee untouched. She was wondering where it had all gone wrong. Up until that fateful day a week ago she had been under the impression that she was an indispensible part of the magazine. She had given her heart and soul for the magazine and they had not even hesitated while firing her! She had been expendable after all!! Her eyes filled with tears… Yet again. To add insult to injury was the fact that none of her so called friends, her ex-colleagues, even bothered to condole. In fact that they looked quite relieved, even happy!
Sitting there all alone in the coffee shop, the loneliness came crushing up on her for the first time in her life. She felt her life no longer had any meaning to it. There seemed no hope. If she took another job after a while she would be kicked out of it too. In short she had nobody to lean on, no job, and no life. She decided there is no point in living any longer. Yes! She would end it all. And with that purpose in her mind she got up and left the coffee shop. She got into her car and decided on taking a long drive. She sat talking to herself ‘what is there to life now anyway, there seems to be no point in living any longer. If I continue to live what would happen? I would end up living till a ripe old age. But for what? Look at mum and pa. What have they achieved in life? They do nothing but fight all day long. They have nothing but pain. Or do I want to grow old and lonely like grandma? There are so many things that could go wrong. I could keep getting married and then divorced like Rekha….’ and so went on the dialogues in her mind…. she had never felt so depressed in her life. She now realized how it felt to be one of those lesser mortals. She thought may be this was life’s punishment to her for being so hard on them. For the first time in her life she felt a deep need for company.
And then she saw an old bent lady walking on the road slowly and with difficulty. She stopped the car both for her own need for company and also because that lady reminded her of her own grandma. And she said “where are you going ma’am? Can I be of any assistance?” The lady thankfully got in and said “I was on the way to the Asha jyothi centre for special children and my car broke down. Thank you very much for stopping your car. So many people went by, without stopping, and so I stopped asking for a lift and was thinking may be, I may have to walk all the way! Thank you again.” Keerthi was silent for sometime and then said something she never thought she would ever tell anybody “I am sorry it was an entirely selfish move…. I was lonely and needed company… and you were god sent!” and then continued driving. The lady sat silently looking at her and then after a while said “what’s the matter child? Seems like you have been crying for quite some time now, by the look of your eyes…. I know I might be intrusive but if you want to talk I am here to listen.”
It was too much for Keerthi….to think that a stranger could be so kind while her so called friends could be so callous…. she could no longer hold in her tears and she burst into fresh tears yet again. She parked her car off the road and told the entire story of her life and her present condition and her ultimate decision to the lady. The lady listened to it patiently without interrupting even once, only patting her for encouragement. Once Keerthi had said it all she started feeling foolish, what was she thinking?! As if the situation was not bad enough already, now, even this old lady, might end up thinking what a loser she was in life! She dried her tears and apologized to the lady for consuming so much of her time and started driving again. The lady’s silence made her ever the more uncomfortable.
After sometime the lady started speaking… “Few years back I was diagnosed with breast cancer, thankfully it was operable, and I underwent surgery twice. But as fate would have it both the times it was unsuccessful and the cancer has reoccurred. Now because of my age I have been advised to not go for anymore surgeries. I have been given less than a year to live.” Keerthi was stunned and ashamed “I am really sorry, and to think I troubled you with all my silly problems. Am really sorry.” the lady looked at her at smiled and said “I did not tell you this to make you feel ashamed or to have your sympathy…. I told you because I thought I could help you...”
Keerthi looked at her with confusion “help me? “. “Yes… help you… when I was told 8 months back that I have less than a year to live I was depressed. Not because I was going to die, or because the chance to live my full life was being snatched away from me, frankly I have lived my life and am ready to go; but for the reason that I was going to die without having learnt the real meaning of life and its importance. And then one day just for the lack of a better thing to do and also on the insistence of my friend I visited the Asha jyothi centre. What I saw there influenced me in such a way, that I felt that I had found the meaning of life that I had been searching for. I am not saying that the meaning of life is only in the service of the needy and the poor. What I actually saw there was the will of the children living there. Their strength, their passion towards achieving the ultimate goal they had set for themselves. It set me thinking that how, we, who have everything, lose hope so early in the fight and how such people in spite of their short comings achieve so much. I realized that the reason for their sheer strength was in the fact that they were totally and completely aware of their disadvantages and fully ready to face all the obstacles that fate might throw their way. Where as we, the so called superior examples of the species are so over confident that we completely overlook the fact that in the race to the finish we might fall down and be trampled by the mob, and that we might have to get up and start running again. And that might be the only reason that we, are always complaining about life. So you see why what I said might help you? You have never had any sadness in your life up until now and the only time life gives you a problem you give up! You might see no point in living but is dying the only way out? I suggest you take some time to go visit all those people you cited the examples of. Your perspective in life might change because you see, those people, in spite of the way their life is, have not decided in ending their life.”
Both of them sat silently for sometime deep in thoughts. Then the lady got down as they had arrived at her destination. She thanked Keerthi for the lift yet again and then as she was turning away Keerthi asked her name. “Mrs. Margaret” the lady said and walked away leaving Keerthi to her thoughts.
Few months later……..
Keerthi stood silently by the grave of Mrs. Margaret, the stranger who had become such an integral and precious part of her life. She stayed for a few more minutes and then left. On her way back she went back to the day when she had first met her. She had followed the lady’s advice and had visited her parents, her grandma and Rekha. Only then had she realized that how mistaken she was about their life and about life in general. Only after when she had visited and stayed with them for a few days did Keerthi realize that all of them were perfectly happy with their life and there was not even an ounce of regret in them towards how their life had turned out. The visits had changed her perspective on life completely. She felt reborn. She felt as if fate had given her another shot at life. And she was thankful of it.
On returning the first thing she had done was visit the Asha jyothi centre and gotten the contact information on Mrs. Margaret. And since then both of them had become inseparable. After spending 3 precious months together Mrs. Margaret had moved on. Leaving keerthi, with a new respect for life. A new attitude that surprised all those who had known her…. she smiled….
She was rudely awakened from her flash back by the sounds of blaring horns of the vehicles behind her. The light had turned green and she had not noticed. She smiled, accelerated, and turned on the music in her car to full volume and drove back to work.