A few years ago, I visited a retired army officer at his home in Wellington (Nilgiris). There was a photograph of a pair of hands in his drawing room. Thinking that they may be the hands of some swamiji, I never asked him anything about the photograph.
Later, while riding with him in his car, I found a similar photograph in his car too. This time, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him whose hands they were.
He asked me to take the snap in my hands and closely examine it. When I looked closely, I could make out that the hands were that of an old lady. They were wrinkled with long fingers and neatly manicured nails. The nerves were prominent. The thought that the hands belonged to some learned or holy person, kept revolving round my head.
The officer sighed deeply and told me in a choking voice that the hands were those of his mother. I was a bit surprised and asked him why he had a snap of only his mother's hands.
"These were the hands that raised me. Her hands are always in my thoughts. More than her face, her hands make me miss her more than ever", he said. "I took this photograph a few hours before she died. These hands are no more in this world. But the man whom they brought up is sitting before you today. I have never known my mother to rest ever since I can remember".
"My father was very irresponsible. He had a drinking problem and drank away the family wealth before dying at the age of 32. Thereafter, it was my mother who raised her three children. My mother was illiterate and took up a job as a maid- servant at a doctor's house. She spent the whole day cleaning the doctor's house, washing the vessels, sweeping and cleaning the floors, washing clothes, tending to the dogs and so on.
In the evening she worked in two other houses with similiar chores. When I think of the thousands of vessels that she must have cleaned, my eyes tear up.
"When she returned at night, she would cook, feed us and put us to bed. Even then, she would work in darkness, drawing water from the well. She would sleep in the kitchen and even while asleep, her hands would be restless. We three would fight to hold her hand while she took us to drop us off at school,"he continued.
"We all of us felt a sense of closenesss and trust when we held her hand. When we were ill, her hands would constantly soothe our brow. I have never seen my mother eat at leisure. She overcame all her difficulties with her hands and never relented in bringing us up.
Once I saw her being slapped by the doctor's wife for having accidentally broken a pickle jar. The doctor's wife was salpping her repeatedly, yet my mother never shed a tear."
"But she saw us watching her beating and could not bear it. She immediately got out of the doctor's house and took us home, not speaking a word all the way. There were no hands to hug her or console her in her pain - I don't think she even took time out to pray or worship God. Work, work, work ....she believed that only work would enable her children to prosper in life and she tirelessly worked on."
"In my childhood, I never understood the importance of those hands. Many times, I have thrown away food that she cooked lovingly, saying that I did not like it. She got me into school with great difficulty and yet I have remained away from school, saying I did not like studies. I have felt that the pocket money she gave me was not enough and I have stolen from home without her knowing. I have cursed her when she refused to buy me a bicycle like my friends had. Even then, she has never once lost her temper with me. Even when I realized that she was struggling to run the home, I only felt that she need not work so hard."
"When I reached college going age, I have extracted money from her on many occasions, telling her lies and squandering the money away, roaming around and drinking with my friends. My elder brother and younger sister too have behaved similiarly. Yet, our mother has never been angry with us or scolded any of us."
"In my final year at college, she was admitted to hospital with jaundice. It was only then that I realized the great love and dedication with which she has raised us and protected us from the wicked world. I reformed myself thereafter and studied hard.
I joined the army and worked hard to get promoted. I kept my mother with me and even when I started earning, she has never once asked me for anything. I myself felt that I should buy her a pair of gold bangles and took her to a jewellery shop."
"In her old age, she said to me with great hesitation, 'Could you get me a watch? When I was young, I always wanted to go to work wearing one, but it never happened. Later, my own internal clock drove me all my life and I learnt to wake up without an alarm clock. Now I am old and sometimes I oversleep till six in the morning. I have my dinner at seven p.m., not knowing it is so early.. Would you buy me a watch?' "
"I bought her a watch, just as she wished. We were moved when she eagerly wore it everyday and proudly showed off her new watch to one and all like a schoolgirl. Later, she was with me when I got married and was posted to various places like Delhi, Bangalore, etc. When at Delhi, she was admitted to hospital with sudden chest pain and I was with her throughout."
"'Why did you not scold us when we deceived you?' I asked her. She linked her hands with mine and said, 'You have no idea how much I have cried after those incidents. But if I had lost my temper that day, my children would have left me!' "
"I noticed those aged hands only then. I then realized how hard they have worked, how much love they have shared and how purifying they have been all these years. I felt I should take a photograph of these hands. A few days later, I brought a camera and snapped a photo.
Today my mother is no longer with me but these hands still guide me through life. These hands remind me everyday, how I have been brought up. What else can I do except to worship these hands?" he said.
On hearing the story, I too touched and worshipped the hands of the faceless mother of an army officer. They did not seem to be the hands of a single person but represented the working hands of countless such mothers throughout the world. They have never been extended to ask for anything but only to give love comfort and support. Only we, in our ignorance, have rejected and ignored them and what they stand for.
In my journey through life, I have stayed with many people. I have dined on food cooked by unseen hands and got my clothes washed by them. I have never adequately thanked them for all that they have done for me, a stranger. Today, I mentally saluted all those helping hands and paid silent tribute and grateful thanks.
I have read somewhere that we have gaps between our fingers only so that we may link them with another hand. We do not realize this on many occasions. How are we to repay those hands that showered us with so much love ?
The decision is ours alone.
A Valuable Lesson in Life
This is what I am looking for to be in my manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life.
Life's Balance Sheet
What is your greatest asset? What is your most beautiful attire? What is your most prized possession? What is your most powerful channel of communication? What is the most important thing in life? You need to know them before you can determine your life's balance sheet. Learn more.
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