A Life Well Lived

One of my earliest memories were of sitting next to the grand old man and pressing the mole on his hand. It was a button, he said, that made him laugh. Every time I pressed it, he sent a shiver down his body and laughed. That is the kind of game that cannot ever tire a 4 or 5 year old child. I’d press the button at random times hoping to catch him off-guard. But the button always worked. It even worked last year when I showed the button to my little son as an adult. The great grand old man laughed.

He was known as Pattu-Mani, a loving nickname given to the bluish—gray-eyed handsome boy with a twinkling smile and pleasant personality.

He was the closest my mother had to a father. (How I Mother Saw Her Father)

Pattu-mani maama
My Mother Being Given in Marriage By Pattu-Mani Maama(Kanya Daanam – usually given away by the girl’s father)

I remember listening wide-eyed to the stories of my maamas (Pattu-mani and Ambi as they were popularly known) and how they raised and educated my mother, their little sister. (My mother was the last born in a family of seven. When she was 3 years old, her father passed away. A shock that left the family bereft, and sent their mother into a decline from which she never recovered. )

The one who regaled the story was often my father. He was the story-teller in the household. In his stentorian voice, he would go on to narrate how they educated their sisters making them the first graduates in their village, in a time and age that girls were married off before completing high school.

These people were the true heroes of the #HeForShe movement.

The same loving, doting aunts and uncles who bathed us in the warm glow of their smiles were heroes?

As a young girl, I cannot quite describe the impression it made on me.

Clad modestly in cotton dhotis with no fancy degrees or awards, living lives of modest means in normal houses with dignity and self-uplifted from poverty; the ideas of personality, achievement and greatness conflicted with the world’s idea of greatness. Was it not always associated with wealth and fame?

Confusing as it all was as a child, it helped me understand that greatness comes in so many shapes and forms. It helped me understand that life is unfair, but we have to fight fairly anyway. That there is no correlation between (wealth, fame), and (wisdom, greatness). Sometimes, the wealthy and famous are also wise and great, but not all wise and great people are wealthy and famous.

So, what constitutes a worthy life?


Is it in the fact that every one of us nieces, nephews, and grandchildren felt they were special to him?

Is it in the fact that the entire town showed up to say farewell to him when he died last week? The very town to which he came barefoot and penniless, looking for work as a teenager after his father’s sudden death.

Or is it in the sparkling affection behind the smiles he bestowed on those around him every time?

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts. William Shakespeare

Here is to a man who played every role well, who made the show enjoyable for all those who had the privilege of sharing the stage with him.

My heart aches, my eyes tear up as I hear things like ‘end of an era’, ‘great soul’ etc. Maybe his parting gift is the meditation on what constitutes a good life, and working towards the very qualities he embodied.

TED Talk on a Worthy Life: here

The past few days have been a glorious recollection of a life well-lived.

A life that shouldered responsibility with élan
A life that never questioned sacrifice and duty
A life that gave and accepted love
A life whose inner light lit the world around him
A life that showed us how extraordinary an ordinary life can be
A Life Well Lived.

I have a small birth-mark where he had a mole, I propose to make that my laugh button. My way to remember Maama and to remind me to laugh when life gets me down.


I love and miss you dear Maama. Thank you for your influence, your love and your beautiful presence in our lives.


8 thoughts on “A Life Well Lived”

  1. An honest, articulate tribute to a great man! He certainly has been and will continue to be an inspiration for all members of the family. Good job, Soumya.

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