Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What We Leave Behind - Remembering Mom

Today I went to the Vijayanagar Gas Company at Balkampet to get my cooking gas connection papers regularised. I stood in queue and watched as the LPG agencies small employee force tried to handle a growing crowd that presented them with varying degrees of complications with their gas connection papers - from change of name to change of address to not knowing their consumer number to not knowing their mobile phone number - the clerks were driven up the wall. The clerk I was to meet was having a tough time convincing the person ahead of me and when I finally got to him I could see that he was completely frustrated and angry. With a silent prayer I quietly placed my papers in front of him and waited for his action.

Surprisingly  his furrowed brow straightened when he saw the address. He flipped through the supporting documents - death certificates of my parents - and then stopped at my mother's certificate. 'She passed away in 2012 did she?; he observed softly. I nodded. When he looked up to him his face had a wistful smile, one that was playing a memory he kept through all this madness - a memory that seemed to serve him well.

'I remember her voice over the phone when she ordered a refill,' he said looking at me. 'Very strong voice even on the phone. And very polite, gentle and sophisticated. Plot no 35 right? I even came once to your house to replace a regulator. She had a very impressive and powerful personality.'

I nodded again, surprised mildly that my mother had left such a strong impression on a clerk in a gas company. Yes, she was an impressive personality no doubt and a strong one at that, a fifth class dropout who came from a village but one who commanded undying loyalty from friends who were far highly placed in education and stature. But this was a revelation. When I walked out I could feel some moistness in my eyes. Wow! So many years after - you still make a difference to a person you mostly dealt with on the phone.

And that is what we can all leave behind really. By being ourselves, by being gentle, strong and polite, she somehow connected to this man, who was probably only a twenty year old then. She left behind a memory that stayed with him, perhaps an aspirational or inspirational memory where he might have been inspired to be like her on the phone or when he met other people. A memory that made him smile wistfully after a long and frustrating customer interaction. Perhaps even a memory that makes him more gentler and more helpful when he deals with his many illiterate customers who do not understand these procedures. I loved his smile, the gentle manner in which his eyes softened, and knew my mother's memory was preserved here surely. Maybe in many other places too - I know the Binny shop, the Rajeshwari Stores, the jewellers, the cloth store in Eluru, the chicken shop guy - and a whole list where she would have left an impression of how to conduct oneself, of carrying a dignity that does not come from education but an innate power, of making magic by the way one carries oneself.

I knew that in more ways than one we all are probably doing the same to people around us right now. And if we can leave behind a memory that can make a difference to an overworked clerk, we can consider ourselves having lived lives that certainly made a difference.

1 comment:

Rajendra said...

Yes, that's can happen anytime, mostly without our knowledge.