An unexpected lesson in contentment

I had always been moved by the plight of a shabbily clad limping man who worked as a maali in my neibhourhood. Though not a trained gardener, he could be seen wielding his khurpi (trowel), working in lawns and tending to flower beds in the locality.

However; after lockdown was imposed, I did not see him for months together. It was only recently, when I was walking down to a park nearby that I saw him working in a neighbour’s lawn. I stopped to have a small talk with him and learnt that the poor fellow lost his livelihood during the lockdown and had to return to his village.


The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has been a big blow to everyone, but workers in the informal sector have been among the worst affected. Strict lockdown restrictions have gone but not the pandemic. Ordeal of the part-time workers continues as they have not been able to regain all their work.


With honest curiosity and pure intention to help the poor man, I asked him if his earning was sufficient to meet his expenses. His composure surprised me as he raised his five fingers to suggest he was able to make five thousand rupees. He looked content, but I felt distressed. I wondered how he was managing with his meager earnings. After all there was rent to pay, money to be transferred to his folks in the village. “What about your food expenses.” I asked with genuine concern.  His answer left me completely stumped. With a glee apparent on his face, he shared his secret: three food packets comprising chapattis, pickle and a seasonal vegetable to serve him for breakfast, lunch and dinner at Rs 10 per meal.


While I applauded the noble effort of Chandigarh Administration and Red Cross Society in providing hygienically cooked nutritious meals at affordable, subsidized rates to the poor and needy, I could not help being amazed at the contentment of the poor man. The satisfaction that I saw on the face of the man in getting just two (nay three) squares a meal, reminded me of a proverb from Judaism: all the days of poor person are wretched but contentment is a feast without end. And actually, I realized a simple meal was no less than a treat for the poor fellow.


Introspecting, I realized how we keep hankering after more and more riches and acquisitions yet remain disgruntled. And here was a man who had absolutely nothing, no possessions worth the name but for a rickety cycle, yet he was so content. Without any trace of envy, jealousy, ambition or greed, he was calmly confronting hardships of life.


Look at the irony: I stopped to extend help to the poor man; never knew I would be the one receiving from him- a lesson in contentment. The serenity on his face, despite his physical and economic challenges, was enough to remind me of the virtue of ‘santosh dhan’- contentment is wealth, an asset in itself.


What better way to end the piece than in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”


(Published in Hindustan Times, Sunday Read on March 28, 2021)



10 Replies to “An unexpected lesson in contentment”

  1. Madam,this is a very heart touching blog.A simple,physically challenged person , away from home but still satisfied and no complain.
    You expressed it so nicely,while reading it,I felt as if I was also present there.
    You are really very kind hearted, always ready to help others,madam,I know.

    1. Oh Garima! What can I say but state that what I described was actually I saw and felt. It is a fact that sometimes you get lessons from most unexpected quarters. All love and blessing to u.

  2. Hello Rama your each and every article leaves an immense impression on the mind . I appreciate your Style and and capability to deal with all kinds of subjects. Kudus to u

    1. Thank you such Mrs Luthra. It is your magnanimity that not only you read whatever I write but also make sure to motivate me.

  3. I was touched to read your article . Indeed during this pandemic the migrants suffered the most. Those who are living in shanties with meagre income are much more contented and satisfied than those who want to be amongst the 100 richest persons of the world. I personally feel every one should dream high and work hard to educate their children and not become too satisfied and complacent.

    1. I can’t agree more with me you Mrs Rahi .Absolutely there is nothing to glorify poverty.Only fools can romanticise deprivation and humiliation that poor have to suffer. This is about resilience and fortitude of the man despite the challenges. In fact, it is very very difficult time for the daily wage earners.

  4. How true! In contentment alone lies the key to happiness. Not only this, the virtue makes one self sufficient and proud by not hankering after unnecessary temptations. Well said:जब आवे संतोष धन सब धन धूरि समान

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