I see her busy at her shop right across the road from our apartment building. She has a small outlet stocked with fresh flower and fruit. Somedays I see her attending customers, somedays she is polishing the fruit with a piece of cloth or arranging them in meticulous piles.
I pass by her shop some half a dozen times a day and she never fails to give me a smile. She knows I love flowers as do the kids. She also knows I prefer gerberas and roses for my vases as against the ones she keeps - marigolds, Indian roses and jasmines which are used more often for religious rituals. And yet when I am buying fruit and she has a specially pretty rose she hands it over to me with a 'take this for the kids'.
And so H and N here's a lesson for you - Take pleasure and pride in whatever you do, no matter how small your job, how tiny your business. You don't need to have a lot of 'things' to be generous. All you need is a big heart.
When most shop keepers take a siesta break (a ritual in my city), she doesn't go home. She sits quietly enjoying her break. Her hands keep busy as she picks out flowers from a basket on her lap and threads out colourful garlands, readying for the evening rush.
Somedays she talks to me. A lot of it is in Marathi but I nod along even though I don't understand all of it. I ask her why she doesn't shut shop for the siesta.
And she says,
"My husband passed away recently. When he was alive, he was always pestering me. 'Why are you always at the shop? I need you here at home to serve me lunch. I need you to sit with me while I eat,' he'd say.
I'd get annoyed and I'd tell him - the children are there to take care of you. How much can a woman do? I have the shop to look after.
But he would have none of it. We'd have arguments but I did go home each day."
I nod along, the feminist in me not quite happy with the story.
She continues, a trifle wistfully,
'Now he is gone and no one asks me to come home. I have children, son, daughter-in-law but they don't know if I've eaten or not. I'm happiest here at my shop.'
I don't know what to say. The feminist is a trifle confused and chooses to stay silent.
And here's lesson number 2. This one is for me: Relationships are complicated. No one relationship is quite like another. It is easy to pass judgement, to give advice but different things work for different people.
I cannot end the post without wishing everyone a very happy Independence Day. And I'm glad I wrote about this lady today. Isn't she a symbol of Independent India? Of doing her own thing and being at peace with herself?
Despite so much that is not quite right with our country, we do have things to be proud of, things that set us apart, make us special.
Today, I shall focus on all that IS right with my country and it is that which I shall be celebrating.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!