Warmth of selfless heart

Kajal Chatterjee
Since childhood we read about various humorous tales revolving around Mullah Naseeruddin or Birbal. Also we read about educative anecdotes about historical characters like Buddha Prophet Muhammad or Guru Nanak. Now often do we find that the same/almost similar story gets credited for different personalities! Or the main character might remain the same; the tale might differ a bit with the lesson being common. So instead of engaging in a hair-splitting debate revolving the authenticity of the exact protagonist and minute details within the story, it is better to take the spirit or lesson of the story which is common irrespective of the protagonist or sequence.
Let me recollect a tale revolving Lord Buddha. While roaming from one area to another, he reached the outskirts of a kingdom and settled under a tree. Hearing the news, the subjects as well as the Royals of the kingdom rushed there. Some gifted him precious clothes, some delicious food items. The wealthy merchants and even the King came up with diamonds and golden jewellery. But Buddha remained absolutely unmoved and didn't even touch or acknowledge the gifts.
At the end of the day an old poor woman called out to Buddha by partially hiding from a nearby bush. She expressed her inability to gift any item because of her stark poverty. So she is sacrificing the only thing in her possession -- the last piece of cloth to hide shame! Buddha humbly told her that this is the greatest gift anybody could give him. In some other book, the gift may be a half-eaten mango instead of  the last or only piece of cloth. Somewhere the protagonist might be some other person instead of Buddha. But the spirit of all varieties of the story is the same --- the worth of a gift is not dependent upon the price or glitter embedded in it, but upon the sincerity love respect emotion and selfless sacrifice  attached with it.
However often it gets witnessed how emotion  get measured through the yardstick of gifts or price of it! As if  persons who have showered me with gifts indeed love me; else not! And more precious the gift, more "well-wisher" of me the concerned giver is! Indeed nothing can be more ridiculous and heartless than this mindset! A wealthy relative obviously has more power to gift items of much more price than the poorer relative. Does it necessarily mean that the former loves me more than the latter! Or I might not even think of gifting anything while visiting somebody's house. But another person has brought  precious gifts for the host. Can it be concluded that my emotion towards the host is pale compared to those who come up with gifts, that too precious!
In this respect, I desire to recollect two incidents.
A decade ago, we went to Puri with my in-laws. The English and Bangla newspapers of Kolkata used to reach the Odisha pilgrimage centre in the evening. And right outside our Hotel, there was a vibrant market where those newspapers get sold like hot cakes. At that time, I used to subscribe the Bangla edition of the reputed English daily The Statesman. Now this daily, though of high quality, is far from popular compared to other Bangla dailies. Even in Kolkata, this daily gets sold in rare stalls. So how can it hold any chance in far-distant Puri! And the hawkers were all shouting the names of popular dailies only! But one evening, at first I got startled to find my father-in-law handing over a Bangla Statesman to me in the Hotel room! And then got indeed moved by his gesture! He knew that I like the daily very much. So he explored the Puri market to get access to this rare daily just for the sake of my fondness to it! The price of it might be Rs.2/- at that time, but that unexpected gift is a lifetime treasure for me because of the undiluted love and emotion embedded in it.
Or that visit of a senior citizen couple to our home. These distant relatives of us live in other part of the city whom we didn't meet in a decade. However to attend any function, they came to a place 5-6 km from our residence. After attending it, they were left with an hour to spare and took that opportunity to pay us a visit. No, they didn't come with a single piece of gift. Not a packet of sweets either. And they were a bit embarrassed for it as they were not sure whether they could succeed in visiting us after attending the function. Also as they were not locals, they couldn't locate any quality sweet shop in the area. But such formal gesture was the last thing in our minds. That the senior citizen couple have taken the trouble of visiting us by sparing time money energy(that too by making a reverse journey) is enough for us! Can any gift item or sweet be greater than such selfless move of heart!
Not commercialization of Valentine’s Day/Week based on precious gifts or dining outs in top-end restaurants, may love and emotion be judged through warmth of selfless heart throughout the year.
The writer is based in Kolkata