Inculcating values

Dusk was falling. It was the time of day that resembled a beautiful woman’s face hidden by a see-through veil behind which her dark, mysterious eyes shone. Ajji loved this part of the day. “Most of the sunshine is gone but a little bit of light remains, allowing birds, animals and people to return to their homes  before the curtain of darkness,” she used to say. “It is the time to light the lamp, thank god for the gift of the day,” she would say as the children returned after playing in the park. Matching action with words, she would add a little gingelly oil to the ‘kuthuvilakku’, trim the wick and light it. She would sit cross-legged on the floor before the altar, and say a short prayer. (The morning ‘puja’ would be more elaborate.)

Then she would call out to the children. “Wash your hands and feet and do ‘namaskaram’. Then go and study.” No one ever questioned her authority. Her word was law. She wasn’t an autocrat either. She just got everybody to do her bidding in the nicest way possible. I suppose she had what is called charisma.

If Ajji had heard it, she would have sniggered. It would never have occurred to her that she was being complimented. She was warm, wonderful woman who loved her family. She was just and generous, devout and disciplined. Though she came from a traditional, conservative background, she had been trained to think for herself.
She was independent, broad-minded. She set great store by education. She did not believe that the woman’s domain was limited only to the kitchen. Though she had no formal schooling, she was very knowledgeable. She read a great deal. It gave her the ability to reason how and why, form her own opinions and put forth her arguments with confidence.

After dinner, the children would often gather round Ajji. “Tell us a story,” they would request. Ajji would muse for a while and begin...

The children would listen with rapt attention. Ajji would ensure that the stories conveyed a message. It was through these stories that the kids learnt the right values. By the time the story came to an end, the little heads would begin to nod. Ajji would wind up her narrative. She would give each a hug and a kiss and pack them off to bed for a sound mind and body healing sleep.

How rare is this scenario now! Those were the days. Will they ever return?

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