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Of purposive love, acceptance

The spirit of womanhood shines the brightest here, taking care of a child with cerebral palsy

She was my best friend 30 years ago. We had shared silly secrets, swapped notes during classes, stifled giggles as we gossiped, and sworn eternal friendship. Then, circumstances changed, and in the pre-social-networking era we gradually drifted apart. When last I had heard from her, she was on a fast-track growth path in a bank and engaged to be married shortly. But after that, for almost 20 years, we completely lost touch.

When after a long break my friend resurfaced in my life, her having tracked me down through social networking sites, I looked forward to the day we would meet. The day arrived — and so did my friend, with a wide, beaming smile and words bubbling out. In an instant, the hands of the clock turned back, and it was with a heady feeling of being high on memories and floating on Cloud Nine that we dipped into our memory banks and swapped “remember when” stories.

It was while we were catching up on the years between then and now, updating each other on our lives and families, that she mentioned her 17-year-old son who had cerebral palsy, following complications at birth.

“So you can imagine how the last years have been — I am on 24/7 support,” she said with a gentle smile. “I haven’t had much time for socialising. This is the first time in a long period that I have set aside some time to catch up with friends and relatives. And my husband, mother and sister are taking care of my son, while I am taking this break.”

Long after she left, the “24/7 support” kept resonating in my mind. It compelled me to search for some information and understanding on cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that appears in infancy or early childhood owing to damage to the developing brain. It permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination, and is accompanied by some degree of mental retardation. Globally, over 17 million people have cerebral palsy and so it follows that we have over 17 million mothers and caregivers on service round the clock.

When we pause to consider the fact that this is merely one of the many debilitating disorders of this kind that can affect infants and children and continue into adulthood, it drives home the fact that there are many more mothers and caregivers who play this 24/7 support role, with limited or no time for themselves or their careers or interests. Sharing and understanding spouses and a support system in the form of health-care facilities, trained caregivers, schools, friends and relatives, may give some relief to these women who are stretched thin. But the fact remains that they shoulder the bulk of the responsibility, with no expectations or boundaries, driven by pure, selfless love.

As I stay in touch with my friend and learn more about her life, paradoxically I feel both proud and humbled — proud of the woman she has become and humbled by the qualities and values she lives by — the fortitude, the patience, perseverance and stoic acceptance, her ability to focus on the positive, her forbearance towards an unwittingly cruel society, her efforts towards increasing people’s awareness and her willingness to assist and guide others in a similar constant care-giving situation.

I truly believe that my friend, and women like her, epitomise this verse from the Bible: “And now, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The spirit of womanhood shines the brightest here, and it should so be acknowledged with regard and reverence.

vasanthi_suresh@yahoo.in

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:26:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/of-purposive-love-acceptance/article8268338.ece

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