By K. Manjula

Life is what you make it! – Octogenarian Kamala Iyer, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur, is an exemplar of the above mentioned quote. Having lost her eyesight during her third childbirth, at the age of 26, she is living her life to the fullest and nothing can deter the iron will of this lady whose story is full of adventures. Born in an affluent family in Kerala, she is a graduate in History and a trained carnatic singer who is also adept at swimming. She has a flair for languages and is well versed in Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, English, Thai, Portuguese and Malay.

Kamala married D.R. Iyer and moved to New Delhi and started her life in a joint family. When she realised that she has lost her eyesight due to macular degeneration, a phenomenon unheard of in those days, she was heartbroken. “I was depressed and even wanted to end my life. But the thought of my children kept me going. One fine day, I decided that I will not worry about my disability and be cheerful again. I started to dress well and started taking an initiative to lead a normal life. If I had given up then, my life would be different now,” shares Kamala.

Kamala left no stones unturned in her preparation towards leading a regular life. She did all her chores including shopping, cooking and teaching her children. She proudly claims that all 3 of her children were toppers in their school and college level examinations and said that she had even imparted home tuitions to other children. Kamala was also a member of the local ladies club and had involved herself actively in fundraising for the Leper Colony in Delhi. “If a person challenges my ability to do a task, I will boldly go and prove them wrong. I also make sure that if I participate in any competition, I certainly win a prize. For instance, I got back to singing after a long hiatus when my friends urged me to participate in a singing competition. There were 43 contestants and I emerged as the winner. Then I started giving music classes and supported my family economically too,” says Kamala.

Adventurous by nature, Kamala transformed herself into a striking personality who can never take defeat. Some of the episodes she quoted from her life are inspiring, like how she managed during an air-plane drop while travelling alone from Delhi to Chennai and the time she got anonymous calls from the Naxals threatening to kidnap her children during her stay in Kolkata. During all these ordeals, she had always believed that she can face any problem just the way a person with normal vision can. “Once my husband and I were swimming on the beach in Bangkok, he was on a float and I was pulling it. Both of us were over 60 years at that time. It was late in the evening and the wind pulled us farther inside and we were lost in the water. I was holding on to the float for more than 3 hours. While my husband gave up, I did not lose hope and eventually found the shore by feeling for the depth of the ocean bed,” laughs Kamala.

Kamala keeps herself busy by attending music concerts and spiritual discourses regularly. She hates cribbing and detests people who do not enjoy their life at the present. In spite of being visually challenged, she enjoys travelling and has been to many countries across the world. She even shared her plans to travel to the US soon to celebrate her son’s 60th birthday.

Kamala is a role model for all of us. For most of us today, happiness depends on what we have. We find happiness in upgrading our houses, TVs, cars even if they are functioning very well. We are anxious to keep up with the current fashion trends in colours and styles of the clothes we wear even if we have cupboards full of good clothes. Have we ever thought how immaterial all those would be if we do not have the eyesight to see? Even with all the five sense functioning well, we still have many excuses for not doing what we are supposed to be doing and complain profusely about the situations in life that are making us unhappy.

Kamala has gone way ahead with her approach to life and happiness. Real happiness, as she has pointed out is not pasted on the surface of things around us; it is deep inside us. It needs conscious effort to find it. Once found it will bring a meaning to our life.