Goodness, Unaffected

I grew up thinking that everyone who owns a car gives rides

For as long as I remember, my mother gave rides to strangers and acquaintances alike while from the back seat, I learnt how interesting new people can be. I particularly liked it when my mom came to pick me up from school with one of her cool class-mates from Medical School – I loved nothing more than sitting quietly, absorbing their sophisticated take on the world as it was unraveling to me.Therefore, it wasn\’t surprising that when I finally started driving in my early 30s, I would give rides – to mothers with babies on their backs who seem to be hurrying somewhere, to young women and sometimes even men, until my friends\’ scandalized alarm and the fact that I\’m rarely sans a baby in the back seat put a stop to that practice.

My mother doesn\’t just give rides, she spends most weekends visiting sick and elderly members of not just our but also her friends\’ extended families. Applying her profession in its noblest form, she offers free consultation and treatment to anyone who asks. When she did use to practice medicine in an official capacity, I used to spend hours playing under her government-issued desk in a busy hospital, observing her gentle tone put parents at ease while her special affinity with small children allowed her a special insight into their afflictions. When I wasn\’t under her desk, I was playing with the many orphans who, in less strict times, were more or less raised by the hospital. As if being a medical doctor and then a practicing pediatrician with two small children was not enough, my mother, for many years also volunteered weekly at a medical mission. As a related task, she used to give yearly presentations on reproductive health to girl students at a Catholic school. To this day, there are women who tell  how much her frank approach helped them navigate the pitfalls  of puberty – I often hear the phrase, \’\’Enatish Des Sillu!\’\’

Young mothers of my generation will relate to the current obsession of conscious child-raising; popular resources such as the What to Expect series act as parental bibles and offer directions not only in how we should interact with our children, but also in how we should BE so as to set good examples to our broods.

My mother\’s model was decidedly different. She wasn\’t and still isn\’t \’good\’ in a self-conscious way – she used to pick me up from elementary school and take me back to the hospital with her to finish work as that was the sensible thing to do – she was not trying to show anyone how \’cool\’ she was in enabling her kid to interact with kids from backgrounds vastly different from ours.

My mother\’s genuine concern and interest in everyone who passes through our lives extends to the women at the market-place who somehow decide to confide in her their life-issues. At any given time, she knows more about my house-help than I do – and asks about their family members by name.

There\’s value in such un-self conscious goodness. Often, when we make a big deal out of the favors we do for others, or, as I tend to be, we\’re overly aware of what we say when our children are around, we risk making goodness a chore, one more thing we need to do. But as I have learnt from my mother, goodness where regularly practiced is not showy or dramatic, it is an everyday affair. It doesn\’t call attention to itself but lights up paths by example. It spreads warmth around and makes others feel good about themselves. Now that I think about it – despite my friends\’ objections, I think I\’ll go back go giving rides in my car.