I just spent two traumatic weeks in Rajagiri hospital in Cochin. For a change, this time I was not the chief guest of the proceedings. It was my dad who was admitted there with a cardiac failure. He was brought there with a urinary tract infection; but on examining him, his doctor had immediately placed him in the ICU.
I am very very close to my parents. My father has been an inspiration for me all my life, having instilled in me love for science through many an experiment conducted at home and also having ignited my sense of humour by reading out and translating P G Wodehouse stories into Malayalam for me at a very young age. It was from him that I learned the importance of tenacity and people management through relationship building. I had learned the art of converting every downturn into a success by observing him. He was always a larger-than-life figure for me.
My mother, on the other hand, is the epitome of love. With her, I share an amazingly easy relationship. As a sickly child when I spent many nights struggling for breath, it was she who kept vigil all night, warming my chest with hot towels and cleaning me up – sometimes a dozen times in 24 hours- after bouts of vomiting.
Over the last few years, I realised that the best way to keep them happy is by calling them every single day and speaking to them at length, sharing in their daily lives. I would call them every day at around 8.30 and speak to them till 9.15. With my dad, I would discuss my Speaking Assignments, my science magazine, my plans for touching a million lives positively, about our startup company etc. With my mom, it is a completely different story. We would talk such inane stuff and end up laughing non-stop for about 20-25 minutes. Thus, through that call, I end up getting inspired, getting enveloped in love, getting my daily dose of advise and also lightening my heart.
So when dad went through a near fatal crisis, it was a huge shock. But I was lucky that the flexibility in all my different activities allowed me time to spend 12 days in the hospital along with mom, looking after dad – meeting him twice a day in the ICU for the first 5 days, and motivating him; and once he got into the room, feeding him, pushing him to start walking, helping take him to the bathroom, helping clean him etc.
I was incredibly lucky that during these 12 days, I spent so much time with my mom (Amma) and got a chance to observe her closely – maybe for the first time after I became an adult. And I was totally amazed.
To me, hitherto she had appeared to be fairly scatter brained and always dependant on my father for taking any decision and even for any day-to-day activity. For instance, she didn’t know how to operate a bank account, how to draw money from an ATM, how to use a credit card or even how to cross a road. So protected was she by her husband – well meaning and obviously from a different era and mind-set.
So I had expected Amma to be in pieces when dad was hospitalised. Especially on day 3 when the doctor informed us that dad had taken a turn for the worse and anything could happen. Over the years, going through many downturns myself, had taught me how to handle tough situations- by keeping the mind firmly on the solution and not on the problem. Even then, I couldn’t help but dwell on the worst possible outcome and almost ended up in tears. I thought Amma would break down completely.
But she completely surprised me. Even though she understood the full import of what was happening, she bounced back really fast. I realised that throughout the ordeal, she was tapping the biggest strength that she ever had – love and compassion.
Every single time she stepped out of the rom, she would make a bunch of friends – from the nurses who took care of our floor, to the sweepers and cleaners to the security guard to the lift operator to the cafeteria server, each and every person would be chatted up, creating an envelope of warmth everywhere she went. By day two, all of them would be, in turn, smiling at her and asking after her and dad’s health. She must have made about 25-30 friends in those 12 days. With her, it was not a superficial act. She felt deep compassion for each of them. I realised that she never felt alone in the world. She had a huge family everywhere she went.
For me, who deliver talks on creating positivity and happiness, this was not only an affirmation and proof of the efficacy of my messaging, it was also a lesson in how to take it to the next level. Thus, at the age of 73, my mother taught a valuable lesson in motivation to me, a 48 year old, successful motivational speaker and compulsive gyan-giver : the lesson that deep compassion and acts of kindness always keeps the giver happy and positive.
I guess it is never too late to learn, if you follow the time tested scientific method of observation, collection of data, hypothesis, experiment and proof. You can also learn from anyone and any incident if you keep your eyes and mind wide open.