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Learning to live and be liked

Holding hands, interracial couple, friendship and support, empathy  

It is often believed that life’s lessons are learnt from scriptures and the enlightened. At times, however, interaction with people around us throws up nuggets of practical wisdom.

My granddaughter, at the age of four, was at the dining table, listening intently to her father admonishing her. When he took a long pause, the child asked politely, “Daddy, if you have finished, may I say something?” You can call it the indulgence of a grandmother, but one had to admire her poise and patient listening even while being scolded. I compared her response with those of many adults who butt in, defend, shout, cry and do everything but listening and waiting for an appropriate time to put their own points across.

Another day, a neighbour saw my daughter returning from work and soon after, running with her child who was learning to ride a bicycle. The lady asked with genuine concern, “Hey, you just returned from work. Why don’t you rest for a while?” My daughter’s prompt reply was, “Aunty, it’s not her fault that I am working.”

My neighbour, a former colleague of mine, and I wondered if we had prioritised the needs of our children over professional commitments. I remembered waiting for my daughter to come from school, laying out lunch for her and trying to give her company. But quite often, I would feel exhausted and tell her to clear the table while I would rush off to sleep before returning to work for the afternoon. When I narrated this with a pang of guilt, my daughter reassured, “Mom, you actually showed that mothers have to do other things.” She expressed genuine empathy.

Poise, patient listening, setting priorities and empathy may be inherent in some; if not, they can be developed through training and practice. But the ability to “forgive and forget” seems to be a rare trait and the lack of it leads to anger, revenge and ill feelings.

My mother, approaching 90, has been guided by the Thirukural. Her favourite couplet, “Inna seitharai oruvar avar naana nannayam seithu vidal”, means, “If anyone harms, you make him feel ashamed by doing a good deed in return.” The act of forgiveness enunciated by the Tamil sage Thiruvalluvar and non-violence practised by Mahatma Gandhi hold the key to control anger, revenge and frustration.

An ordinary person too can strive to lead a life of fewer conflicts and better peace by emulating worthy examples in real life. The recent demise of a former colleague and the fact that he was remembered by everyone who came into contact with him for his gracious behaviour at all times rekindled fond memories. During his life and in his death, he reiterated what Maya Angelou, an American poet, had said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Everyone would like to be liked, but fond feelings cannot be ordered. They need to be developed by taking a genuine interest in others and behaving in a caring, uncritical manner. It is good to remember that no one is perfect and everyone has some flaws. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the renowned Swiss-American psychiatrist has phrased it well, “I am not okay, you are not okay and that’s okay!”

Life’s lessons can be learnt from those around us — if only we observe, reflect upon, imbibe and evolve.

vijayacardio@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 10:52:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/learning-to-live-and-be-liked/article34288536.ece

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