Love, like faith, is beyond logic or rationale. It is the very thing that propels us to grow, transform and make the impossible possible. I am not sure if faith can move mountains but I am certain that if the stream of love is gushing from your heart, you can move the entire universe. The tale of Nachiketa in Katha Upanishad or of Savitri in Mahabharata is indicative of, if not a testament to, such human potential. What is love, though? Does it simply begin or end with having intense feelings for someone you care about?
Recently, I read the touching story of a woman in Life’s Amazing Secrets by Gaur Gopal Das. Here it is in my own words because I found it too beautiful to just quote verbatim.
Lata Khare, a 65-year-old woman, and her husband practically lived below the poverty line in a small village in Maharashtra. After marrying off their three daughters, they worked as farmhands to survive on daily wages. One morning her husband felt uneasy on account of some infection he seemed to have developed. The medical professional in the village referred them to a hospital in the city. Let alone treatment, they had no money to even travel to the location or pay the doctor’s fee. Somehow managing to borrow just enough to scrape through, the worried couple travelled to Baramati to get Lata’s husband checked.
Several hours, some preliminary tests and a few hundred rupees later, finally when their turn came, the doctor examined the old man as Lata waited outside with abated breath hoping for a good news. Much to her dismay though, the doctor recommended a whole lot of new tests costing a few thousand rupees. There was no way they could arrange that sort of money. Teary-eyed, she pleaded for some way out but the hospital or the doctor couldn’t be of more help. It was already late afternoon by now and they had to get back to their village. Dejected and hopeless, they looked at each other, fearing that they might not be together for long. Following brief moments of denial and disbelief, they realized that they hadn’t eaten anything since morning nor had a glass of water.
While walking back to the bus stop, they stopped by a street vendor who was selling samosas. She pulled out a little handkerchief where she had tied some tens of rupees and ordered two samosas. The vendor handed her one on a piece of newspaper. Smeared with oil and sauce, the paper read “Baramati Marathon Tomorrow”. Apparently, a marathon was on the cards just the next day and it carried a prize money of Rs. 5000.
“I’m running this marathon,” she said to her husband.
“Have you gone crazy?” he retorted. “You want to die too?”
“I’m going for it.”
Against everyone’s advice in the village, including her husband’s and daughters’, Lata Khare showed up at the marathon the next day. She was not wearing any sports clothing, T-shirt or trackies, but the only type of dress she owned and had worn all her life — a saree. If this wasn’t a red flag for the organizers, she wasn’t even wearing shoes. She was barefoot. Citing great risk of injury and all, she was refused entry.
But, Lata Khare wasn’t having any of it. Ancient texts have pegged the willpower of a woman at the same level as a king’s, calling stri-hatha at par with raja-hatha, that is, when a woman decides to do something, no one can stop her. Lata Khare proved it that day. The organizers listening to her story and plea, finally gave in and allowed her participation just to keep her calm.
Many onlookers cheered for her, some out of sarcasm and others more genuinely. “Go, Aunty, go,” they chanted.
Lata Khare hitched her saree to her knees and, against all odds, ran like there was no tomorrow. For the record, 42 kilometers (26 miles) make a marathon and it’s not something you train yourself for overnight. Forget winning, without prior preparation and adequate nutrition, most people can’t even complete it. Besides, just finishing it wouldn’t be good enough, she had to win it to get any prize money. As far as she was concerned, this was the only way out to keep her husband alive. She wasn’t running for a trophy or fame, she was running for life, literally. If anything, it wasn’t she but her love for her husband that ran on that paved road with no shoes on, with her saree that obstructed her every step. Gravel, pebbles, potholes or just tarred road, onlookers claimed that Lata Khare ran as if she had been possessed.
Then again, that’s what love does. It does what only love can do — it makes you transcend your limitations.
The question is: did Lata Khare win? An elderly woman running barefoot, competing against those who were physically fitter and better fed and equipped. And does it matter whether she won? Or more importantly, would this be a story at all if she hadn’t won? I doubt her love could be deemed any less in the absence of a trophy.
You cannot imagine doing what Lata did for her husband without deep love that constantly runs through your veins faster than adrenaline does in fright. Love: a state where you equate your own well-being at par with that of the other person. Care: the only true measure of one’s love. After all, if a constant verbal expression of love was sufficient then perhaps all relationships would be full of love. Whether your actions show that you care about the preferences, honor, wellbeing of the other person (and they yours) is just about the only true indicator of love.
Yes, Lata Khare won. She had to. She did. See below.
I would have liked to end this post right here but Lata’s story doesn’t paint the complete picture. There’s another side, one more dimension of love that needs some reflection. Wouldn’t it be nice, or wouldn’t it be love, if one or many of the onlookers had stepped forward and offered her a meagre sum of 5000? Should an old woman have to run to save her husband? What would I do if it was my mother who had to run like this? Why didn’t the organizers or anyone else say to the old lady, “We are sorry for what you are going through, Ma’am. We’ll raise five grand for you.”
This world is full of generous people. I have not an iota of doubt that had the organizers announced it there, many people would have come forward and done much more than raising money for just tests. Even with all the social and economic challenges, billions of dollars are donated in India every year by millions of people. Therefore, when it comes to love, the question is not whether you can afford to care, it is: do you care at all to begin with? Because if you do, there’s no dearth of resources. If you do, it is love.
Next time, we see a Lata Khare, we will not cheer for her as a spectator but step into her problem and adopt it. Open your heart and hands. The one who spreads his palms for helping others is better prepared to receive benediction from the Universe for his hands are already stretched. Not a moment is wasted. Just like you may set aside something for your superannuation or retirement fund on a regular basis, take out a little bit, however little, for helping others. You will never regret it.
Live. Love. Laugh. Give.
This article first appeared on os.me.