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The golden rule of life

Caregiver, carer hand holding elder hand in hospice care. Philanthropy kindness to disabled concept.

Caregiver, carer hand holding elder hand in hospice care. Philanthropy kindness to disabled concept.  

In the autumn of 1969, British Asians were forced to leave Kenya, their home, because of new laws which excluded them from working there

In the autumn of 1969, British Asians were forced to leave Kenya, their home, because of new laws which excluded them from working there. Most of them came to Britain as refugees and some were put up in an old Air Force camp about an hour’s drive from our home. The TV visuals of women in saris, holding their children in one hand and little suitcases and small bags in the other, touched my mother deeply. One day after I returned from school, she had me rolling out pastry for her special mutton puffs. Over the next few days, we made a few hundreds and on Saturday morning, set off to the camp.

On seeing us on the other side of the fence, the caretakers of the camp stopped us. “You are not allowed to go outside the gates,” one of them scolded us. He thought we were immigrants from the camp who had wandered outside. Mum had a hard time telling them that we actually lived in England legally and that she was a teacher in a local school. Once this was established, she told them that we had come to visit with Indian food for the people in the camp.

“Well, why on earth would you do this?” was their first reaction. Mum’s golden rule of life was always, “Put yourself in someone else’s position. How would you feel? What would you want most? Then do it.” These immigrant people were generously and kindly given bland English food and she knew just what they would miss and want. So she set about doing it, roping me as her assistant.

We were welcomed by the immigrants warmly that first day and they ate the puffs with great relish. We came back every Saturday for weeks, bringing dhal, chicken, fish and vegetable curries, and more and more of the mutton and vegetable puffs.

Sitting beside my dying mother, I recalled and shared this memory with her. I wondered if anyone remembered the kindness of the Indian woman who visited every weekend with so much love and home-cooked food. “What did you learn from that time,” she asked me. “The golden rule of life,” I said, “and to make mutton puffs.”

ushajesudasan@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 7:59:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-golden-rule-of-life/article31765590.ece

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