What Does Not Get Old

“The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.” — Rumi
Ibu Dorkas or known dearly as Mama Tua

From garden to sky, how many metaphors are needed to describe how limitless our ability and dreams are? As many of them, as often times we believe the otherwise. But our oldest Mother of Light has literally imbibed this with her new solar lamp business.

She is known and dearly called Mama Tua (old mother) by her neighbors and family in a village in Lewa, Sumba, Indonesia. Despite being 67 years of age, her posture is sturdy and her steps are agile. A walk in the park for her is walking 30 minutes from her daughter’s house back and forth to attend Nusantara Development Initiatives’ (NDI) Mothers of Light program for seven days without a day off and always on time. Neither her focus nor enthusiasm was ever lost during the learning process. Although she is 20–30 years older than her fellow peers, her youthful spirit and intelligence are unmatched.

Going back to those days, we might be the one who imposed that the garden of the world does have a limit on her. On the day of the interview when we were selecting our Mother of Light participants, she attended in poor health. We were also aware that she was taking care of her sick husband at the time and felt it best that she considered taking care of her health more.

But then she said, “Mama Tua mau belajar (Mama Tua wants to learn).”

She spoke those words with so much conviction in her eyes, we could not possibly decline this wish. It made us reflect on our very first dream: to empower women. Mama Tua possessed her own “power” even before we were there to tell how to find one. While most of us are always trying to look for a rationale to learn something, Mama Tua simply wanted to learn for the sake of it. We unconsciously believed that she would be the one who empowers other women and us, with inspiration.

Worry not! Mama Tua had not broken her promise and her infinite reserve of hope took us all by surprise. She attended the first session immediately a day after getting discharged from hospital due to hypertension. She confidently showed us that determination could eliminate all barriers and limits.

With such determination, it is no wonder that now, Mama Tua is one of our best performing mothers of light in Sumba — the best in her village. Recently, she called to tell us that she plans to buy a motorbike for her grandson from her sales profit. We can only be jealous of the lucky boy, for his grandmother will surely gift him one in no time.

This is never a one-way process and we end up learning from our very own mothers of light. Mama Tua reminded us of a common old saying that often slips our mind — “there is no age limit in learning something”. Everyone has a chance and possesses a great potential inside of them, regardless of how old they are. And that spirit of learning itself will never get old.

We all have our garden of life that we plant with dreams, experiences and occurrences. Neglected and forgotten, those flowers slowly wither as time goes by. But in Mama Tua’s garden, flowers keep on blooming. Even with just one seed, it is a pleasure for us to help her water it and see how it will grow beautifully.

The author is Cut Intan, a Fellow and Trainer at NDI’s Mothers of Light Program in Indonesia.