Both amma (she passed away three years ago) and appa seldom gave us sermons on life. But they lived as an example for us to follow;
To uphold high values in life. To lead a life of simple living and high thinking; to live a contented life and to take things in our stride as they occur; to be brave; to live independently without hurting anyone; to face the challenges of life with practical approach and not fall into the trap of self pity; to stay in tune with times; to be aware; to adapt to changes;
Honesty and modesty were not just lofty ideals for them. For them it was a way of life.
As a Leprologist working for Tamilnadu government’s Health service as Medical Officer, he pioneered many leprosy units in rural Tamilnadu, in the fifties and sixties. I remember the daily ritual of rural clinics conducted under trees. As a small girl I used to accompany him in the jeep visiting at least four villages everyday during holidays. What remains etched in my memory is the sense of gratitude and satisfaction in the village patients’ – many of them poor – faces. Leprosy was not an eradicated disease then. ( it is not totally even now). And it still had the social stigma. Most patients were grateful that here was someone who said that they didn’t have to shy away from society. That the disease was curable.
Even after his retirement from the government service, he joined a couple of voluntary European Leprosy organizations, the NGOs involved in eradication of leprosy, he has done pioneering work in villages around Chennai. When he finally took retirement at the age of 72, I suggested that he wrote his experiences as a book. He laughed it off saying, “ You have too high opinion about your father. I don’t think I have done anything great to write about my work”. There was no way I could have argued with him further.
Always earnest to live with the times, he wanted to grasp the art of computing and Internet browsing. But somehow the magic of the web remained a “too complicated” mystery for him. He had an amazing sense of direction. One visit was enough for him to remember every detail about the place. He could recall the exact specifications even decades later. Even when his outings, due to old age, were reduced to visits to doctor, close family and family occasions, his recall of the roads and streets were always current. He followed the changes from the newspaper reports and would notice them in his random “outings” and would give us clear directions – be it any city that he visited.
For a person who lived an absolute systematic life - he lead life by the clock – literally – for someone who did everything on the scheduled time on dot, and for someone, who was a stickler for maintaining things in their appropriate places – (“everything has got its place”) the lackadaisical approach of our generation was always a puzzle. But he had a way with his grand and great grand children. He was always proud of every one of them and closely followed the events in their lives.
Perhaps the best tribute I could pay to my parents today is to emulate their sterling qualities - appa’s orderliness in every aspect of life and amma’s warmth towards everyone including distant kith and kin and everyone she came across and her never waning enthusiasm and zest for life - and the will power both of them had, to carry on with life with positive outlook and to remain active and good hearted till end.