What is it really that people remember us as long after our bones have interred with terra firma, or immersed into water – depending upon your religious sensibilities. What is the legacy that we leave behind, for others to ponder, reflect or completely ignore? And why does it matter to us?
A young mother perhaps, pulling herself out of a morass of a past relationship, wanting to leave a legacy of courage and dignity for her infantile daughter is understandable, setting herself up as a role model for the child to emulate and be inspired by.
But for the vast majority of us, what is it that really matters – work, or family? No one is indispensable at their workplaces but does the same hold true for the home front? And yet, work becomes the all-encompassing raison d’être for us. The Bhagvad Gita exhorts a person to work regardless of the fruits of his labour – the theory of karma. That work is sacrosanct has been underlined repeatedly in various religious texts, and lived through example by the founders of those religions.
And yet, your co-workers are hardly going to skip a beat if your physical presence no longer haunts the workplace. Several editors must have passed through the portals of the newspaper where I work – heck, I wouldn’t even know their names, let alone remember them. I’m sure it’s pretty much the same with every office, every factory, every work space. So there’s no scope for leaving a legacy at the work-place.
What about the family then? Is there some legacy we would like to leave with our progeny – a thought that flashes in my mind almost every night as I tuck my son in after story-time. I have often sought refuge behind work to escape or run away from personal commitments – like the time my father wanted to spend his remaining days chronicling his thoughts, which he hoped I would give shape and form to. I was too busy, I reasoned with myself, to escape the guilt once he was gone. Was I?
I thought I will change myself, but I find myself doing the same thing over and over again – be it with my son, whom I try to meet near his sleeping time to spend as less a time as possible in his mother’s house, or with my own mother, who stays in another city alone in her twilight years. She wouldn’t be able to adjust to a new city, I reason in my mind. I will get her once I settle down here and find a reasonable living space for her, I argue to convince myself more than I try to convince others who ask when is she coming over.
It’s not that I’m any great shakes at work who’s out changing the world or crusading as the lone warrior – heck, that notion of journalism is laughable at best in today’s day and age. So my legacy, if at all it can be called that, is at best nebulous – an undefined collage of actions done without any clarity of thought. I wonder what my legacy to my son would be – a guy who tried hard but did not quite succeed? Or a guy who at least tried, as honestly as he possibly could? Or would I become a fading memory, like my father’s, only to be brought into sharp focus when one looks at a photograph?
I am not too hot and bothered about leaving any legacy at work – though I do confess that digging out stories still turns me on! The only time I might be bothered is around the time of annual increments, which mercifully, are still some months away!