‘Tis Christmas, and, for some, the season to do kind deeds in the true Christmas spirit. It’s also the time to recall deeds of kindness that leave the recipient with happy memories. My family has been recipients of many wonderful deeds for much of my childhood. The wonderful doers are individuals, church bodies and other well-meaning charity- minded souls who love to help people in need in all seasons. And the benefactors were not themselves necessarily well off economically. My story below will perhaps prove this point.
My family lived in a corner we chose to refer to as Red Cross Lane, which is a lane the branched off from Red Cross Road, leading to Salem Veng if you go straight and to Thengra Leirak if you turn right. Those days, thatched houses like ours were common. Living in a thatched house, we had to live through monsoon rains and storms in perpetual dread since any gale would lift off a part of the roof, exposing us to the elements. Father being out of station for weeks and even months, neighbours would come forward to repair the damage by re-thatching the open roof.
Living in such a house also meant that when rains came and often muddied the water source, the tap water became unfit for drinking. We could neither use the run-off from our thatched roof which was brown in colour, had unpleasant odour. In such situations, I would head to people living in houses with CGI sheet roofings around New Bazaar and would approach known people to kindly allow me fill up my two buckets(carried on the ends of a bamboo staff on my young shoulder). Generally, people would look at the water level in their rain-water containers before responding by saying YES or NO. My fortune depended on their stock of water. I do not blame them. In my mind, one Lusei-speaking family stood out. A frail, cheerful, widow headed this family of around 8 or 9 members -her own children and grandchildren. I recall they were living in a simple house, semi-pucca flooring, with CGI sheet roofing. Whenever everyone else turned me away, I would go to this house. And before I could even complete my plaintive request, the lady would simply tell me to go fill my buckets without checking the level in the only barrel they had for water storage. On some occasions, I could see that the family's own stock was half the barrel. But the lady never hesitated. This kind lady did wonders for a young lad and my family in showing what charity meant. It has been to my regret that I have never done anything to repay the lady's generosity. I hope she reads this piece from her heavenly home, for I believe that is where she has gone after she completed her life's journey a while back.
The second narrative also revolves around another widow living with her two children and perhaps, struggling to make both ends meet. I mentioned earlier that my father would be away on long outstation trips selling sundry stuff in the hills of Southern Manipur and Mizoram. If he happened to be home for a few weeks in between his trips, he looked for ways to supplement the meagre money he brought home. One way was harvesting bamboo shoots from the jungle. When he came home with the bamboo shoots, mother would help in cleaning, sorting and bunching them into saleable lots, mainly with bamboo laces. Me and my kid brother would carry the lots, went selling the fresh bamboo shoot house to house. This lady was one of those customers. But at times, she also turn us away because she had bought the bamboo shoot. Even then she would advise us to return if we had any stock unsold. Most occasions, we were lucky as people would buy them. But there were other occasions when we became desperate with left-overs. That's when we would remember this lady. We would then come to this lady's house and sheepishly tell her our predicament. She would then lift the last bunch, even when she had herself purchased the stuff from others earlier in the day, or the previous day. Today, people may not be able to appreciate the significance of selling a small bunch of bamboo shoots. Plainly speaking, let me say that it was between food and starvation. This kindly soul of a lady also has passed on and I can confidently say she is resting in God's bosom.
As I look back at this phase of our life, I praise God for people like them (and many others), who stood by us in bad times and taught me that one does not have to be a millionaire to do a good deed. It will be wonderful if somebody, somewhere in painful need could be a recipient of some good deed from us. Then, we can truly wish such people a Merry Christmas.