Gratitude

     As I was waking up this morning, I felt that I would be failing in my duty if I leave without making a statement of my feelings and obligations to people who mattered to me most. These are people who came to rescue difficult situations in my life. These are people who did make a difference in my predicaments in a positive way. I don’t want to delay this any further, because I may not get a chance to get it started, for various reasons. I may procrastinate and forget it or I may leave this place before I complete it.

     I have been very fortunate to be born into a family who brought me up as a very special person. I owe a great deal to my paternal grandparents for bestowing all their love and attention as much as any child can receive. I felt very important, rather special, thanks to their attitude. That special privilege I received (fair or unfair), created all the enthusiasm, optimism, confidence, self-assurance, loyalty, responsibility, and love which have been my hallmarks as I grew. The same principles carried me through life and I dearly uphold them as my guiding light during times of duress.
     I will eternally be obligated to my parents for everything I have become in my life. Without their profound sacrifice, unflinching confidence and eternal optimism, I would have been struggling as a human being. I forever remain grateful to my siblings for their generosity, affection, respect, intimacy and support through my life. I cannot emphasize enough how I would have survived without the strength, understanding, sacrifice and kindness of my partner in life who patiently put up with all my faults, imperfections and terrible personality. I thank for God’s mercy to have been blessed with my children, who have grown into splendid human beings, intelligent, caring individuals with impeccable principles.
     But what essentially prompted me to write this, are the multitude of instances where many, many individuals became instrumental in salvaging situations in my life. As I pause to reminisce those human beings, I cannot adequately express my gratitude or offer anything in return, except that I will eternally be grateful to each and every one of them. Some of them have departed this world; I cannot even remember the names of a few of them or where they are today. But all the same, they will all ever remain to be indelible impressions in my heart. I am positive that compiling names of these individuals, I am likely to omit many of them, because of failed memory and the corrosion with time.
     Mr. Sachidandan, ‘Sachi’ as we affectionately called him, has been my father’s cohort, ever since I can remember. With barely any school education he couldn’t go farther than being a club boy at Tata Oil Mills, where my father worked. Perhaps he was given kind attention- much more than the rare dose of sympathy he is used to as a club help- by my father, which drew them closer together for life. To this day, he has remained a loyal, sincere well-wisher of the family, in spite of all our differences. He worked very hard, saved money beyond expectation, and put all his children through good education, which he never had a chance to receive. Unfortunately, his life turned out to be a misery, with sore relationships, mental illness in the family and unfair treatment from trusted sources. My deep obligation to him was from the revelation that Sachi went out of his way, without even being asked, to financially and physically help my father who was struggling to make both ends meet with his limited income, putting me through medical school and my siblings through different levels of education. Sachi will remain on the top of my list of people I ‘owe’ to.
     Swami, Sri. Chandrasekharan Embranthiri was a close family friend. From the priestly class, he was our neighbor and turned out to be a good friend of my father. He has been always there for my father, for our family during times of need. He used to own a stationary store and I learned years later that he had helped us with credit for many essential things we needed at home; the accounts being settled only when my father could stand on his feet. I will always remember with gratitude our Swami, the man with a smiling face, kind manners and a shrill voice, who left this world over ten years ago.
     As I was growing up, perhaps the one person I wanted to emulate more than anyone else was my cousin, Gokulachettan. He was the only reason I decided to become a doctor, rather than choose Mathematics, my favorite subject in school. He was my guidance, my mentor in the medical college. He also shielded me from the rigors of ‘ragging’ and accommodated me in his tiny room, until I had my own. Later, I followed him to the United States, into Pediatrics and to private practice. Even though we may differ in some of our philosophies, and dealings with people, I adore him as one of the most brilliant individuals I have known and enjoy our periodic discussions on many subjects.
     It is universally accepted that intimate friends are the best source of relief, influence, understanding, dependence, and comfort for every human being. I have been blessed to have such an individual I can call my dearest friend. Balan and I began our friendship in our mothers’ wombs; our mothers being neighbors and pregnant at the same time. We grew up together, went to school and college together until our professions took us in different directions. As providence would have it, years later, our lives merged again in the United States. He has been for me ever since, even without my asking, and through all my trials and tribulations. He knows me more than anyone else in this world, more than I know myself. He knows exactly how the human mind works, how sorrow hurts and how to salvage people from misery. I am really, really blessed to have such a friend, who happens also to be the kindest, most caring, sincere, and intelligent human being. I will never be able to compensate for all the favors I received from Balan.
     Perhaps Balan taught me how precious it is to have good friends that I made a special effort to cultivate friends. I can honestly say that my biggest asset in this life is to have many, many friends; friends who care and friends whom I can depend on. Consequently, I have kept up contacts with many of them from my school days and continue to meet and correspond with them whenever I get a chance. During those times, I am taken back to those ‘good old days’, days that were simple, naïve and limited.
     And well into my eighth decade of living, I remain passionate about human relationships, and extremely fortunate to maintain a large number of acquaintances with whom I cultivate mutual affinity and adoration that I consider to be my treasure in life.
(November 25, 2006)

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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