Masti’s 'balance sheet' of life

Words of wisdom by writer Masti Venkatesha Iyengar offer a balm to a father in his last days

Life lessons

Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, a renowned recipient of the Gnanpith award, a very close friend of my father, was a frequent visitor to our house. I fondly recollect the joy with which he and father carried on their animated discussions replete with profound analyses of the various facets of life. Among many of those edifying exchanges I singularly remember what Mastiji told a senior citizen relative of ours when the latter bitterly complained about being neglected in the sunset of his life by his only son, whose upbringing had been his life’s mission.

“My son seems to have forgotten the love my wife and I showered on him and the sacrifices we made to see that he was given the best of everything to make him what he is today. Now that he is married and is able to set up his own family his attitude towards us has changed and he is engrossed in his own world in which there seems to be no place for us!” he lamented tearfully.

“I do understand your anguish and disappointment, my good friend,” said Mastiji, beaming his characteristic reassuring smile. “Just think for a while from a different angle: when your son was born he brought light and immense joy to you and your wife. As he grew up, you rejoiced in every prank he played and, dressing him in the costumes of your choice as you would a doll, you filled your eyes and heart with the inexplicable charms only a growing infant could give to the parents. Your little world then was resplendent with all the hues of the rainbow. Can you quantify the extent of pride you experienced when he excelled in his studies and got well settled in life? If you total all these, don’t you think he has more than adequately settled the emotional account for all the efforts and sacrifices you claim to have made? This is the ‘balance sheet of life’, dear friend, so be satisfied that it is a fair one! If you get something more beyond this, consider it as an unexpected bonus.”

Priceless pearls of wisdom indeed! These timely assuaging words seemed to have had a lasting effect on the hurt soul of this senior citizen as evident from what followed during the course of next few years. As things turned out, his son settled down in the US with his wife and the soothing silken bond between them seemed to grow stronger by the year as the touch of down-to-earth magnanimity gradually replaced fond parental expectations.

In the course of time, the senior was bedridden with a dreaded ailment and on learning of his condition the boy visited him, stayed with him till his treatment was completed and left telling his father that he should have no hesitation in asking for his presence again should the situation warrant it.

Unfortunately, the old man’s health deteriorated within a month and the doctor gave him no hope of survival. Knowing well the problems that would be inevitably encountered by the young man in visiting again at such a short interval, especially at a time recession was causing anxiety in that particular sector there, he decided against giving him the real picture to the son’s daily telephonic enquiry.

“My dear boy, you have done everything that is expected of a dutiful son for which I am immensely happy and proud of you,” he said. “In case of any sudden and unforeseen adverse development regarding my health you are always with me in my heart and soul!” As if meticulously planned, the old man passed away within a few days, not carrying with him the guilt of causing painful dilemma to his son.

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