Last Updated on by

Yesterday was Ugadi, a festival to herald the New Year, celebrated by two regions in South India- Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. As it turned out, it was also NavRoz for the Parsi community, Cheti Chand for the Sikhs, Gudi Padwa for the Maharashtrians and Sajibu Nongmapanba for Manipur.

One of the things I cherish about growing up here in India and bringing up my daughter here is the myriad festivals we are exposed to, at every turn. I sincerely appreciate our living in a gated community with a cosmopolitan population that celebrates every festival from Sankranthi in January right up to Christmas in December in a wonderful way, including children and adults alike in the festive mood. To me, this symbolises our unity at a very basic level. We may be different in our beliefs, our political leanings and our personal faiths, but we come together as a community in situations like these.

Photo copyright: Shailaja V

Our household helpers are equally delighted when it comes to these festivals, because they get the day or maybe the weekend off to celebrate it with their families. So, it was a bit of a surprise when my maid turned up for work yesterday and went about her duties as if it was an ordinary day. She had brought her daughter along ( whose story is another one of inspiration all by itself) and we gave the child cash as blessing on this auspicious day. Smiling shyly, she turned and handed it to her mother. Soon after, they left for home.

This morning when my maid came in to work, I asked her, ‘Wasn’t it Ugadi yesterday? Why were you not at home, celebrating it?’

A smile danced on her face, but her eyes betrayed her anguish. ‘We did not have enough money, Akka, to buy all the items for the puja. I could not even buy new clothes for the kids. With the money you gave yesterday, I bought the whole family four varieties of sweets and they were all very happy.’

Her answer struck me like a blow. ‘But, you could have asked me. I would have gladly given you the money for the items as well as the dresses for the kids,’ I replied in an ashamed tone.

She broke into a genuine smile and said, ‘No, no, Akka. I know you would have. That is exactly why I did not ask you.’

Now I was confused. ‘But why not?’

Then, in the comfort of my kitchen, a woman ten years younger than me, told me something I will never forget. ‘ Akka, it is not the money that is important, but how we get it. I can easily take the money and buy the items, but how will my children understand the value of hard work? When I explained this to them, they readily agreed and insisted that I should not get them new dresses this year. In fact, they have all decided, on their own, to take up a summer project in the biscuit factory close by. They will spend a few hours each day, packing biscuits and earning some pocket money. It is a good way for them to learn responsibility. Then, next year, we can celebrate Ugadi in a grand manner.’

With everything at our fingertips these days, we forget to look up and give thanks for the things and people in our lives. Right before my eyes, a woman I have come to respect for so many different reasons, showed me how it is not enough to simply live life, but to look up, celebrate and enjoy it with every breath of our being. Through it all, we must hold our heads high in self-respect, show concern for others and place an emphasis on the things that truly matter.


{Thank you to for giving me an opportunity to share her story with you all.}

NB: Akka: Elder sister( in Tamil)
Puja: Ritual

Shailaja V

Hi there! I'm Shailaja Vishwanath, a blogger with 12 years of blogging experience and a parent to a teen. I work as a digital marketing and social media consultant. From positive parenting tips to useful productivity hacks, social media advice to blogging advice, you'll find them all right here. Welcome to my blog.

Swathi Shenoy · March 22, 2015 at 10:30 am

What a great lesson she taught her children! More power to her because she didn't just preach but set an example by following what she taught her children.

Usha Menon · March 22, 2015 at 11:03 am

Shailaja, this is a very inspiring and thought provoking post. The maid's words reflect her integrity. Hats off to her.

Rachna · March 22, 2015 at 11:27 am

What a lovely post! I am overwhelmed by the honesty in her approach and how she is raising her kids. Thank you for sharing this with us.

swati bassi · March 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm

It's indeed heart touching. Thanks for sharing such inspiring story.
In such a simple way she is making her kids learn valuable lessons about life.

Ann Bennett · March 22, 2015 at 3:28 pm

She is a very wise woman. I have always heard that very strong souls are born in humble circumstances to help people navigate life.
Nonetheless, I have no problem with people accepting help. There is a time and place for everything.

tulika singh · March 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Wowo.. what a wonderful person to have around you and such a valuable lesson this one is. I love her positivity.

KParthasarathi · March 22, 2015 at 11:51 pm

An inspiring lesson from one whose circumstances were not great but self respect high. · March 23, 2015 at 2:13 am

Inspiring people are all around us, I guess. If we choose to look. Hats off to her. And you too, for taking the trouble to see her point of view.

elly stornebrink · March 23, 2015 at 3:28 am

Such a great lesson, not only for her daughter and family but also for you: a double win situation! I hope she gets to thoroughly enjoy the festival next year, in style! 🙂 <3

Nabanita · March 23, 2015 at 6:25 am

A lesson we must all learn…Thanks for sharing this Ell 🙂

Kathy Combs · March 23, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I love how you have so many opportunities for celebration and memory making.

Rajlakshmi · March 28, 2015 at 10:09 am

wow…that says a lot about character building in children … She is an inspiration.

Carol Cameleon · April 19, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I've always been intrigued about theses festivals and as a Westerner I feel that I have more and more opportunity to learn about them. As for the lesson, a humbling and wise one indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.