You are probably too privileged to know that to be known by our names is also a privilege denied to many. How I learnt the bitter truth? Here’s my story:
If you were to visit my locality, you’d find nothing striking about it. It is like any other neighbourhood you have ever seen. Except for one exceptional feature — a woman whose beaming face would welcome you, if you were to visit my locality.
She would smile her beautiful smile at you for no reason, and without any expectations. No one knows who she is or where she came from or when. But everyone seemed to have an opinion on her mental state. The residents of our area would call her ‘pagli’ (a Hindi word the translates to mad woman), until very recently.
Everyone around, including my own family members, referred to her as pagli or the mad woman. That made me extremely uncomfortable. I hated it. There was no way that word was her name. Pagli is not a name, it’s a judgement of a fickle society. I decided to find out what her real name was.
I enquired around about it. I asked my mother and grandmother. Finally I discovered it — Paro, that was her real name. I started calling her by her name. I told my family to do so, too. Whoever I could, I did tell. Explained to them that there was no reason for them to not call her by her name. I kept reminding anyone who would relapse.
Now, everyone calls her Paro, and it makes me more happy than Paro herself.
She had been christened Pagli because we are a bunch of quick-to-judge creatures. Just because she worn clothes which were dirty or whatever was given to her, because she hardly seemed to have any money or even a house, the judgemental people that we are, we assumed that her mental and rational faculties were unfit. She was a mad woman because she was poor.
No one ever bothered to even ask her name. There is no dignity in being poor, such are the ways of human beings. Even when we are donating to the underprivileged, we give them the leftover food, the clothes we intend to discard. However, I had already decided to change that by helping Paro claim her name back. Isn’t it the most basic?
I also started sharing money with her whenever I met her. Then I started sharing food items, cooking oil, and medicines — whatever she or husband needed. She returned the favour with her contagious smile, saying, “Mera bhai hai ye (He is my brother).”
They say that to inhale and exhale is needed to live. I feel merely living is no living. If you can’t be compassionate, kind and can’t share what you have, what’s the point of just existing. Share with whoever you can and whatever you can. Don’t be so quick to judge others, divine resides in all. And thanks to Swamiji and Black Lotus for making such a wonderful community full of kind and loving people.
Love and light.