Paying Forward

Satya was a normal middle class person. He had lived to be 70 and had died recently of a kidney failure. He was survived by his wife and two kids.

When he had landed in Mumbai from Sholapur about 50 years back, it was only with a hungry stomach, a suitcase with broken handle which included his three pant-shirts and his 3 vests & briefs. Staying in a rundown chawl with an acquaintance who had migrated earlier, his first aim was to survive. Since he had a flair for keeping accounts and also being a graduate; he got a temporary job with a chemicals company that operated out of Sion.

One job led to another till the time he landed up at Dadobhai and Co, where he spent next 38 years handling their entire accounts and cash. Sethji was so sold on his integrity that Satya was the only person who was entrusted with the key to the locker, which at times contained lakhs in cash.

Retuning to Sholapur after his first 5 years in the metropolis he had married Savitri who had in due course borne him a daughter and a son. Living in a small two bedroom apartment in Nerul they had raised the family, balancing their limited finances delicately. If in a month some extra school expense came up, the monthly outing of movie and pop corns got cut or if in other month, the house needed repairs then Satya would give extra tuition in accounts and commerce.

The kids turned out well, got married and settled. Son picked up a job and contributed to the family income. So when Satya retired at 67, their lifestyle did not get disrupted too much. Soon thereafter though he was gone.

After about a year, a colleague from office came around carrying a letter. It had been in his safekeeping with the instruction to deliver it after a year of Satya’s death. The letter was addressed to both the children:

Dear Ones,

I have lived an ordinary life. What I call ordinary is that it was purely a functional existence.

When you distill life to its animal functions, you find it has only one purpose, survival; your own first, as a person, and then as a specie, of your next generation. That I have lived long enough and that you are reading this, tells me that I have been successful on that count.

Kids, however an extra-ordinary life is one, in which survival is not the central concern but making a positive change is. That change can be in the world around you or even in yourself. Thus I have found that accumulating power to effect a change in the world or gaining enough strength to make a change in yourself are the only two conditions of having an extra ordinary life. Symptoms of an extra-ordinary life, as I discovered late in my life are that it inspires others to dream more, achieve more in their own worlds or that it sets up an example for them to blindly emulate.

However I was so involved in my existential struggles that as I do accounts of my life today, I consider myself unsuccessful on that count. I could not bear conflict with others which is a part of the process of accumulating power or counter my own insecurities and fears, which is the process of harnessing your strength. I would run away from both: conflicts and fears; which given another chance I would now not. That second chance I think I have with both of you.

I believe that both of you have an option of living an extra ordinary life if you can muster up enough courage for doing so. I could not set up an example to others for what to do but I can now be an example to my own kids of what not to do. So learn from my life and take your life, way forward, then I ever could.

However do not for a moment think that I am sad or bitter, as I am not. I am quite content that I could bring our lives this far and as I look towards you; I am full of hope that you will build an extra-ordinary life on the base that I have provided. I am proud of both of you and will always, always love you.

With all my blessings,
Your Father.

Leave a comment