Two decades ago, when I was least expecting, the landline rang. It was “Ratnakka”, as she was popularly known in social circles. “Are you willing to play a role in a drama on behalf of our Mahila Sangha?” she asked.
Having been a career lady with a day job in a bank, followed by domestic and children’s responsibilities, socialising had turned foreign to me. But a spark of excitement went through me as I recollected my teenage years wherein I had adorned the stage multiple times. Without much ado, I replied, "Yes!"
She explained that it was a doctor’s role and I was thrilled, as it had been my childhood dream to become a medical doctor. Then followed the rehearsals at a common friend’s house wherein I ventured to ask her as to why she had selected me for the protagonist’s role as I was almost non-existent in the social circle. She laughed and replied frankly, “Oh, this sangha is a political hub, and as the president, I chose you as you are the only non-political person that I know of”.
From then on, a mutually respectful relationship bloomed and I paid my obeisances to her whenever we met, as she was more than two decades older than me. We occasionally met at social or religious functions and she would at times reserve a seat for me at her side as I would invariably get lost trying to find a spot for lunch.
She became Ratnatte to me. She would discuss issues bothering her with me as she knew that it would not go beyond me. I remember her eyebrows raised in appreciation when I told her that I was teaching at a business school. She would patronise me at religious ceremonies teaching me one or two things and I would follow meekly, which pleased her to no end.
She had no children of her own but that did not bother her in any way. She motivated herself and became the central figure at all gatherings. She became the doyen of the “Lakshmi Shobhane” chanting culture which she relentlessly advocated every Friday at various people’s homes. A diminutive woman, not very literate, with a modest background, becoming a figure in demand is no mean task, but she accomplished this with the tool of self-motivation!
At our last meeting, she was worried about her husband’s health. So recently when I got to know about her illness it saddened me as to why such a thing happened to a God-fearing lady, but I got my answer when the eternal gates opened for her on the auspicious Ashadh Ekadashi. God does not forget those who do not forget him!