I am an Indian. My name, age, gender, religion, caste, economic status, educational background, profession, place of residence, etc. are not important. I am proud to be an Indian, but I’m aware there are many aspects of life in India that need improvement or correction. If these aspects of life are changed for the better, life in India will improve, not only for me, but also for my fellow-citizens, particularly those who are less privileged than I.  This is how my guest today, Proactive Indian, introduces himself/herself. I’m so happy to be hosting Proactive Indian here today. Over the last few months that I’ve been reading the blog, I’ve been inspired by the pertinent questions raised, the personal stories shared on the blog and the sincerity of this blogger.

Thank you for your post today, Proactive Indian – Kindness Begets Joy –  another one that challenges us to be better human beings!

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My flight landed at 11.00 am on Saturday. I was visiting the city during the Dussehra weekend to attend a function to celebrate the 75th birthday of my favourite professor. My classmates, Jaya and Suresh, had invited me to stay with them during my visit.

Jaya and Suresh live in an apartment in the centre of the city. On weekends and holidays, they move to their sprawling beach house on the outskirts of the city.

Suresh was waiting at the exit. We started the long drive to the beach house. Though we were meeting after 4 years, we had been in regular touch over phone, email, etc., so there was no ‘catching up’ to do. Suresh described the plans for the evening function as he drove.

When we reached the beach house an hour and a half later, we were met at the door by Jaya, 5-year-old Hema and 3-year-old Ravi. With a shy smile, Hema greeted me, “Good morning, uncle!” Ravi concentrated on the toy in his hand.

“Good mo…orni..ing, Mi..iss!” I replied. Hema burst into peals of laughter, and Ravi looked up and smiled. The ice had been broken!

As planned, we started with lunch, which was a leisurely affair. Ram, the 24/7 cook-cum-caretaker had prepared my favourite dishes, obviously on instructions from Jaya and Suresh. I was quite amused that Jaya, who had always been a ‘bindaas’ (devil-may-care) person was now so particular that Hema and Ravi ate well, not too little, not too much. Suresh’s parents, who were there on a short visit, and I were delighted to meet each other after many years.

Lunch was followed by a short stroll on the beach. At 3.00 pm, Jaya, Suresh and I left for our professor’s 75th birthday function. (More about this birthday function in another post.) When we returned at around 11.30 pm, everybody else had retired for the night.

During breakfast the next morning, Jaya asked Suresh’s mother when she would like to perform the Saraswati Puja. Suresh’s mother replied that she would perform the puja at 10.30 am, and Jaya’s and Suresh’s laptops and a couple of Hema’s school books would be needed. Jaya immediately requested Geeta (Ram’s wife) to have Hema and Ravi bathed and dressed by 10.00 am, and told Hema to bring 2 of her school books to the puja room for Saraswati Puja. “English reading book and English writing book,” she specified, adding with a smile, “You want to improve your English speaking and writing, don’t you?”

I could not attend the Saraswati Puja since I had to report for my return flight before noon. After breakfast, we took a few photographs. I bade farewell to all the members of the household individually, then Suresh and I left for the airport.

By now, all readers must be wondering why I’ve written this aimless post about an uneventful visit. Followers of Corinne’s blog must be wondering why she has hosted such a bland Guest Post. Well, here’s the twist in the tale: Hema and Ravi are not Jaya’s and Suresh’s children. (Their sons are both studying in residential colleges in other cities.) Hema and Ravi are the children of their domestic help, Geeta and Ram!

Just over 3 years back, Ram, then in his late twenties, had been employed as a 24/7 cook-cum-caretaker. He was provided furnished living quarters, consisting of 2 rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, located in one corner of the beach house. A few months later, he was joined by his wife and kids. Apart from his salary, medical treatment, whenever needed by Ram or his family, is provided at private clinics at his employers’ expense. Hema studies at the local English medium school, all expenses paid by the employers.

On the way back from the previous evening’s function, Jaya and Suresh explained to me that, when they were looking for a 24/7 cook-cum-caretaker, they were looking for an able-bodied, capable, well-groomed, well-behaved and trustworthy person. They employed Ram because he appeared to fulfill all these criteria and had excellent references from his ex-employers. While employing him, they had insisted that, in addition to doing an excellent job, he should ensure that he and his family maintained good personal hygiene, grooming and behaviour. They would be taken care of very generously. The arrangement had worked very well for both.

Hema and Ravi mingling easily with the family and guests had happened one day by accident, not by design. Initially, Ram and Geeta were apprehensive about this, but Jaya and Suresh overcame this by inviting the kids to eat with them. Jaya’s and Suresh’s is an inter-state marriage, but both belong to families that could be termed semi-orthodox. Both Jaya’s parents and Suresh’s parents were a bit uneasy about this to start with, but were soon totally at ease about it. When I asked them how their guests reacted, they said that most guests took little or no time to get used to it, started interacting with Hema and Ravi themselves and were totally comfortable with their own kids interacting with Hema and Ravi. Of course, some guests were uneasy about it, though they didn’t say so openly.

I was most impressed by the fact that Hema’s books were included in the family’s Saraswati Puja ceremony. To me, this was nothing short of revolutionary, particularly since this had been initiated by Suresh’s 75 years old mother!

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I sincerely hope that more and more people not only follow the example of Jaya and Suresh, but do much more.

I sent the draft of this post to Jaya and Suresh for approval. They approved it with the following comment:
“What you saw in our house is certainly unusual, but it’s no big deal. We treat Hema and Ravi just like we would treat our friends’ children. And it’s not just these two kids who gain, we also benefit. Having them around the house adds to our joy! For example, our Diwali celebration would have been a very sober affair. But, since these kids were around, we bought some fireworks and celebrated along with them. We enjoyed Diwali much more because of them!”

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Visit Proactive Indian’s blog for more such heartwarming and inspiring posts.