Thirty Years Later (page 5)
Thirty Years Later
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5
Upon translating my request to her, Uma gave an animated response. I saw tears come to the eyes of Mrs. Roy, who had joined us, and even Mr. Roy seemed to collect himself before he spoke. “She says she has everything she needs, Mrs. Carey. She is just so happy you came to visit her.”
     I felt tears stinging my eyes as well. This was a meeting between two women — one of the richest in the world by most standards, and one of the poorest. Uma had spent the day welcoming us, feeding us, giving us gifts. This was now her opportunity to ask for anything in return and she knew I would try to give it to her. Yet short of bringing back her son, there was nothing that she really needed or wanted in life. She has strong emotional support with her adopted son, Sunil, her sister’s family, and her neighbors and friends. She has a roof over her head, plenty of food, and enough to wear. She has a job cleaning for the government making $700 per year, which combined with the incomes of the other adults in the household is enough to meet their daily needs. She even has an advantage over many Indians because she works for the government, which will mean she will get a pension in the amount of half her salary when she retires.
     I was touched. I was impressed. And I was very humbled. She really did have everything she needs. She doesn’t face loneliness, hunger, fear of danger, or lack of purpose. What could she possible need from me? It was quiet for a moment while the reality of her strength and position in life settled into us. The moment passed, but it will not soon be forgotten.
     After some discussion with Uma and Mr. Roy, we finally did discuss how I could send her some money on a regular basis, which she said she would accept. He cautioned me not to send more than $700 a year, the amount of her salary, as he felt it was important not to set her up as a target or alienate her in any way from the safe emotional and cultural environment that she currently enjoyed.
     The three of us parted from Mr. and Mrs. Roy, thanking them for their hospitality and gracious hosting of my reunion with my dear old friend. The fact that the Roys were of a high class, and had treated Uma and her family as guests in their home was not lost on me. As we left, Mr. Roy told me he would check on Uma periodically, making sure all was well. The man was a jewel.
     We climbed back into the car we had driven, bringing Uma along to return her to her home. Along the way she asked us to stop at several places, dragging us out of the car and bringing us in to meet her boss, her co-workers, other friends. She wore the big smile I knew so well as she showed us off to her friends, and I was happy for her. I was happy for myself. Just as when I was in the Peace Corps, I came to give, but received more than I gave. Once again, I was leaving with a full heart and a renewed appreciation of what matters in life. Thank you Uma. Thank you India. Thank you Peace Corps. I am a better person because of you.
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