The more I reflect on people that inspire me, the stronger my conviction that I am but an amalgam of all the perspectives that I have gained. Perspectives shape choices that we make which, in turn, are a large part of who we are. But there is a difference between inspiration and parroting. Given the richness and diversity of perspective that I have access to – thanks to people, books and yes, even films - my job is akin to that of a film director who is given a script by a scriptwriter. My job is to be alert, capture the essence of what I receive and distill it through my own sensibilities.
As I think deeper about the people that I look up to, a trifecta of traits come to mind – quiet assurance, decisive action and understated focus on people around them. I probably listed that in reverse. Because they never lose focus on their near and dear, they spring into action at the right times and do so with an understatement that merits much spotlight but invariably evades it. Let me now ensure that at least a few spotlights don’t miss their target! Without further ado, as directors holler at the beginning of a shot, “action!”
Episode #1 - My Chinna Paati (whom I affectionately call, CP; I have written about her husband in this blog) recently turned 80. As I was reminiscing about her and my childhood days, one memory stood out. I was in 8th grade when my grandpa passed away unexpectedly at the relatively young age of 61. The entire family was in a state of shock, a state from which recovery was not going to happen within a week. But within a week was when my final exams were going to begin. In order to earn a certificate called the Merit Card, we had to score at or above 60% in every test and exam and appear for every exam at the scheduled date and time. Up until then, I had had a decent academic year. And as my immediate family was reeling under the effects of the tragedy, my CP took it upon herself to coach me for the week leading up to and during the week of the exams. Amidst the wailing and the priests who were working with my family on the rituals, she would gently usher me into my study room and “revise” every subject. And when I did indeed get the certificate months later, I knew that I had no reason to gloat over it. Because the person that truly made it happen never made a fuss about it.
Episode #2 - 2006 is not a year of which I have many fond memories. The year ended quite well but I did experience considerable pain in the first half of it. I was in a rather depressed state following a setback. My paternal Aunt, who lived in the same area, unhesitatingly asked me to move in with them until I resolved my situation. I have always been very close to her and so, in a way, I should not be surprised at her generosity. But the fact that my Uncle too extended the same warmth, affection and courtesy without batting an eyelid, is something for which I am truly grateful. The fact that they had an infant to take care of, makes it even more remarkable. For the next three months, not only did they give me a secure roof to stay under but also nurtured me through my highs and lows. If not for them, there is a strong chance that I might have sunk into a depressive phase. Despite the timeliness of their gesture, in these fourteen years, I have not heard my Aunt or Uncle mention this period even once. And when I do, they just smile and dismiss it off as “not a big deal at all.” And on that rare occasion, I vehemently disagree with them!
Episode #3 - Another Aunt of mine did something for me back in 2018 that was seemingly intangible but priceless as far as I was concerned. My maternal grandma had suffered a major heart attack on New Year’s. She had been in a critical condition for weeks and returned home in a much-compromised state and remained bed-ridden for the next few months. My parents had been in India for the first few weeks following the hospitalization. And it was in March that I had planned a weeklong trip to India. During my trip to India, my Aunt told me that she had prayed everyday for my grandma’s health. No surprises there, knowing my Aunt. But what truly warmed my heart was her following line – “I would pray everyday that she should definitely survive until you come because I know you would have never gotten closure if something untoward had happened prior to your arrival.” The specificity and thoughtfulness of my Aunt’s prayer taught me that piety is enormously touching when it is personalized. I may not be a believer but I certainly believe in the divinity of genuine human emotion.
I can write about many more people whose actions have spoken volumes of their character and the abiding impact they have made on me as a person. For now, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I shall give my thanks to these people specifically. I do so with the knowledge that they represent the values for which many other inspirations of mine stand. On that note, as Directors like to say, “that’s a wrap!”