Story 11. The Gritty Lady.

“All of us are going around with an entire story of our lives, completely different from the story of our lives that anybody else would tell. So much of our lives never breaks the surface.” ~ Claire Messud in The Guardian.

“Heroes are never perfect, but they’re brave, they’re authentic, they’re courageous, determined, discreet, and they’ve got grit.”
~ Wade Davis

I have a special fondness for Pondicherry as it was the nearest place to Chennai where alcohol was freely available during the days of prohibition in Tamil Nadu. I used to visit Pondicherry often during those days over weekends.

This and the next story will revolve around two people who I have positioned as being from Pondicherry. They are not in Pondicherry, but the stories are about two real people who are vastly different from each other but have grit in common.

Tanya James lives now in Pondicherry in the South Of India. She deserves a better life and this is her story. To protect her identity, I have changed names and places. But exist she does.

Tanya comes from an old Pondicherry family, well known for having produced many respected professionals. Tanya was born in France to Dr and Mrs. James who were living there a few decades ago as Dr James was employed as a Medical Practitioner with the French Government there. Tanya is the younger of two sisters and the elder sister too lives in Pondicherry.

While in France, Tanya’s mother took ill and wanted to return to India as she was unable to cope with the climate there, being as she was used to warmer climes of South India. Dr. James resigned from his position and returned to India to set up practice which did not do very well as he was more focused in providing care for his ailing wife.

Tanya was a brilliant student and eventually became a highly respected and successful designer with her own studio in partnership with some other male designer friends. Since Pondicherry does not offer much scope for a designer’s career, Tanya shifted to Chennai which is a much larger metropolis teeming with commercial activity and offering great scope for her.

As time passed, Dr. James’s health deteriorated and Tanya had to keep shuttling between Chennai and Pondicherry. This led to the unsavoury spectacle of her partners ripping her off and she ended up losing a great deal of money and reputation. It became difficult for her to manage both establishments and she bid Chennai goodbye and moved permanently to Pondicherry. In the process, plans for romance, marriage etc also were postponed.

When she moved to Pondicherry, her life became one of a full time care giver to both her parents. She discovered that her father’s finances were in a mess and besides providing almost round the clock care to her parents, she was able to locate some documents that helped her to approach the French government and after much effort and regular follow up, secure a pension for her invalid father. That helped because she was by this time at the end of her own financial tethers.

Further investigations when her father eventually died revealed another shocking truth to this indomitable spirit. While she was busy with her career in Chennai, her elder sister’s husband had got a comprehensive power of attorney from her father, with which he had ensured that the elder sister got all the family properties leaving nothing to our heroine. Strangely enough, the sister is indifferent to Tanya’s plight and is of no help whatsoever in resolving the inheritance issue. Tanya has lined up additional income by working from home via the internet and has decided to take on her brother in law by taking him to court to seek justice, which in India is a time consuming and expensive proposition.

As I write this story, Tanya is busy caring for her bed ridden mother, toiling to make some money whenever she can, following up on the court case and coping with her own fairly debilitating illnesses. If you meet her in person however, you will see nothing of the problems reflected in her very cheerful personality.

I have known other women and men in somewhat similar situations collapse into sniveling pathetic specimens. Not my friend Tanya, who finds reservoirs of strength from deep within to tackle all the problems with amazing resolve and determination. In my book, that is Character spelt with a capital C.

18 thoughts on “Story 11. The Gritty Lady.”

  1. Not being emotionally involved with Tanya, and also of a practical bent, I hope you won’t mind pointing out some holes in the story: Where was her sister when their parents’ health deteriorated? You say in the same town. So where was her share of care? And please don’t tell me that the lot always falls onto the “unmarried” sister because she has no other ties.

    Also, unless laws in India are very different, “power of attorney” does not give anyone the power to write you out of your inheritance. But then, if I understand correctly, the father didn’t have much to leave anyway.

    There are people, and I am not taking anything away from the esteem in which you hold your friend, who do thrive on making themselves into a martyr. As someone once so poignantly pointed out to me, and I can’t say I liked it: Mother Theresa was not so much a saint as someone who quite selfishly – for whatever reason – did what she wanted to do.

    I wish your friend well. She is lucky to be of such a sunny disposition. Though I think it more healthy to ‘snivel’ occasionally – on the shoulder of a friend; rather than keeping it all in. Not least because, like in her case, the unspoken will manifest itself in bodily symptoms. Literally making you ill.

    It does you honour, Ramana, to honour a friend.

    Ursula recently posted..Who am I?

    1. The sister, like most traditional Indian girls was married off early and when the parents returned to India, she was coping with two young children. The two young children are still in school/college.

      With a General Power of Attorney, it is possible in India to do just about anything. What Tanya now is trying to do is to get justice, not settle a point of law.

      Yes, I know the martyr types well. When I took in my father, my siblings called me that too. Yes, I was selfish in that I wanted to do it for various reasons, the most important being the promise that I had made to my mother that when the day came, as she had foreseen and it eventually did, I would take him in.

      I raved and ranted while I went through the care giving process, but to the best of my recollection, never sniveled. I simply soldiered on as Tanya now does. There is a lot of identification there.

      Thank you. I am indeed honoured to have Tanya as a friend.

      1. Ramana, I remember that promise you made to your mother well. In many ways it defines you for me. It has also taught me to never ever make my son promise anything. Other than to phone me to let me know he has arrived, wherever, safely.

        Ursula recently posted..Who am I?

  2. wow.
    i would never have thought of mother Theresa as a martyr nor as a selfish person! a very unusual perception of her. and one i’m not inclined to share. but… to each his own.
    i have found it interesting that there is usually only ONE sibling in the family who steps up and does the ‘roll up your sleeves’ type of care for an ailing parent or parents. even when others live very near-by. i don’t know why that is. resentment? jealousy? guilt? who knows?
    but i hope she finds her own happiness again someday.
    and one thing i do agree with ursuala on… and that is your own very wonderful sense of honor. i’d say the last quote fits you very well!
    i love that quote of wade davis. thank you for sharing it here.
    tammyj recently posted..oh my gosh !!!

    1. “There is no truth. There is only perception.” (Gustave Flaubert)

      Let me explain. I will not do anything that I dislike, unless it is necessary to keep my body and soul together. We find that this is quite common nowadays with people in soul destroying employment. If however, one is secure in a safety net where basic necessities are taken care of, one can be altruistic if that gives that person a great deal of satisfaction, and that can be perceived by others as having a martyr complex.

      It is indeed quite common that one sibling takes over onerous responsibilities. In India at least, I find that siblings, particularly those who have emigrated to the West are willing to finance the care for their parents but are unwilling to provide the physical and psychological support that the parents need in their old age. I see elders devastated by such callous attitudes all the time.

      We also have many children ill treating their parents in their old age deliberately, to get rid of them into old peoples homes so that the urban accommodation can be usurped.

      Human beings are unfathomable Tammy and as you say, each to his own.

      1. Children providing care for aged parents is indeed admirable in the fast changing society in India. It is strange that as parents, we inculcate the need for children to excel in their professions and to fly away to distant lands in order to fulfill our own aspirations. Once these children have emigrated and have made a life and home in foreign lands, it is not an easy decision to return to roots to care for us as we age. I believe that they owe their spouses and children greater responsibility. Many adult children are saddled with emotional, financial and family commitments to pack up and return to “provide physical and psychological support that parents need”. Financial help is probably the easiest of choices thay can make. That, is not wrong. It is the most practical decision that an adult child with his/her own commitments can afford at that given time. They are not bad children……

        1. I did not intend to suggest that it is bad to offer only financial assistance. Coming as I do from a background of having given care to a parent as the only one of four siblings willing to do so, I fully understand the compulsions of the situation. I merely point out the changing norms and value systems in our society. I do not pass any judgement on that.

  3. Unfortunately her story about making the sacrifices and being cheated is not that unusual. I’ve heard too many similar ones. Good for her for not succumbing to bitterness and thank goodness for the internet! I’m afraid she’s probably wasting time, money and health taking her brother-in-law to court. If he had power of attorney he was operating legally (assuming your laws are like ours) even if unethically. She’d be better off focusing on re-establishing her career. How old is she?
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Inattentional Blindness

    1. No, it is not unusual. It is just that I know her well and am aware of some of the details. Within my own extended family we have some peculiar specimens about who the less said the better.

  4. Very interesting and thought provoking story Ramana. I admire the approach of Tanya doing what she thought needed doing. Sometimes ‘a woman has to do what a woman has to do’. I am sorry that she paid the price and I admire her for performing what she considered her duty in a gracious way. While she may not be successful in her attempts to get justice, in my opinion she needs to do something in her own interest not to feel a martyr. I more and more realise that we have responsibility for taking care of ourselves and our interests and wellbeing. How else could we be of use to others and be able to help them? The well known metaphor of an oxygen mask applies to all of us in so many situations.

    1. Well said Anna. The Bhagwat Geeta says, “It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma. But competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.”

  5. It takes guts, determination and inner strength to be as carer 24/7. I often wonder why the role is so trivialised. None of us know the day or hour we will need help with feeding, dressing or personal hygiene. For some that day does not wait for old age.
    Grannymar recently posted..Bubbles

    1. Yes indeed. It is when one has gone through that experience that one realises that one could well become the care receiver too. And in some ways, it is better that one undergoes the experience of care giving when young rather than when one is old. Toughens one for what is to come.

  6. Ramana, the more such stories shared, the more visible the caregiver. These are real people, many of us know people like this and some have been in similar situations. In writing this story, in honouring your friend, you also mark, acknowledge, the lives of many caregivers like or unlike her, who remain invisible. Thank you.
    Shikha Aleya recently posted..Overseas caregivers

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