I offer my obeisance to you Rev. Sri. Sri. Om Swamiji🙏🕉🌺🍃
An ode to my Baba🙏🕉
A little child of 6 years very simple in nature and thinking, was a quiet observer of day to day things that would occur in the surroundings of her sweet home 🏠 life was just perfect and smooth sailing with immense love and compassion in the family. Yes it was my home sweet home. The daily witnessing of experiences full of Grace was felt in this little home in the form of conversations and kind deeds. Life could not have got better than this.
Baba used to come everyday to collect garbage from our first floor, ( the building was massive with 5 floors ) each floor comprised of 45 flats with a long corridor. He used to drag a cylindrical tin drum that had a kind of make do thick rope handle to drag and pull and stop at every door step of individual flats for garbage collection. Initially it would be easy to drag but eventually when it used to get filled with the collection it would get really heavy to move. But Baba, with an ever smiling look would complete the task , tilt the drum, slide it in a rolling manner and place it in the corner space allotted next to the two lifts of our floor. That’s how every floor was maintained . Each floor had different cleaners assigned though.
The bigger job would start after that, he would then broom the entire first floor corridor ( it was massive ) and then wet mop to clean. After finishing his work around noon Baba would come to our flat to mop our flat and clean the bathroom. But before that my Mom used to make him wash his hands and feet, would give a clean sheet to sit down and ask him relax on one side of the kitchen space.
She would then serve him a glass of water and then a hot cup of chai and bun ( which was his favourite) and sometimes roti and vege. At times she would ask me to assist in holding his plate while offering him food, just to make me understand how important it was to feed and serve others. I would notice that Baba’s eyes would lit up when he used to see the food and chai. My eyes and my feelings used to make me visualise his hunger and I would get a happy feel that this food has now filled his shrunk tummy. Yes Baba was almost 65 years of age. Very tall , wheatish in complexion , wrinkled face, sunken cheeks, frail, bowed legs, surprisingly dark pitch black short hair with a cotton turban on his head, a safari brown thick cotton uniformed shirt and knee long loose military Bermuda shorts . That was the dress code of the helpers / cleaners of our society.
In those days a person who collects garbage was addressed as sweeper and considered shabby and dirty and above all as an untouchable and if anyone would accommodate such a person in their home, the others in the building would not consume anything from their house. Strange rules! But imagine he was hired by my Mom and Pa and they addressed him as Baba and we kids too addressed and respected him the same manner. Best bit is, my father was the General Secretary of the Society and most of the occupants respected him highly. But no one dared to question my father about Baba, for Pa was a man of high principles and thinking and that was enough for people to understand. It felt like we truly were the untouchables ☺️
Pa truly dared life.Above all, my Mom used to offer Baba a seat to rest and serve him food too. The little me was clueless of the big understandings and teachings but by witnessing such deeds my eyes, heart and mind would automatically get a happy feel. It also instilled in me to be daring.
I remember an incident, Baba came a bit late for work at our place and we were all having lunch. The table was as always laid well with lavish and tasty food. But the moment Baba entered, Mom excused herself went in the store room and offered him his white sheet . Though Baba kept saying he would come after we finish having our lunch, Mom insisted him to be seated. She then headed towards the kitchen took out his plate filled it with rajmah( beans) vege roti, rice and covering her head offered him the food. All this while I was noticing how humbly my Mom offered him the food and one look at Baba he quickly took the plate and blessed Mom with a big smile and started having his food. It seemed he was very hungry.
While leaving Baba stood and addressed my Mom, his eyes were wet and I felt sad to see tears in his eyes, Mom got a bit worried too. Baba said,” aaj moko bahut bhookh lagi thi , aapne roti khilaaye tau jee bhar gaya ( I was very hungry today and when you offered food to me it filled me and overwhelmed my heart ). That day I felt that I had a mother who understood all in the world. Actually Baba never used to ask for food , it was Mom who would insist he ate. Another lesson I learnt was to sense who needed more than me and to be humble enough to take the effort and serve come what may.
Baba used to speak very sweetly and narrate stories of his village with us while eating enjoying the cool breeze of the fan . Sometimes we ( my brother and sister) would laugh and I would ask him silly things, as to why his hair is still black, ( I think all the 6-7 years age group have such questions) for I noticed grey strands on my father’s hair who was way much younger and barely in his forty’s 😊Today I seriously wonder at my imaginative head which though tiny observed everything possible on this planet. The why’s and how’s were never ending.
Baba would smile and say” we have eaten lot of makkhan (pure cow’s butter ) desi ghee ( clarified butter) and pure milk since childhood so it nourished his whole system for a life time and that is why his hair is pitch black and at such an old age he is able to work. I believed every bit of what he used to narrate. He was a very simple soul.
Baba worked in our house for almost 10-11 years till the time we were in Calcutta. But never gave up his work. Time flew , Baba was almost 73 years now, had slowed down in his work, had gone weak and hunched and many times my father used to ask him to just rest and not come to work, promising him to continue to pay his monthly allowance .
But Baba did not want to quit, he needed money to survive though ( pay his rent and buy food, he only had one son who worked in some other city and hardly earned well) but he was not willing to take his allowance as a favour and insisted that he be allowed to do his work at our place. So my dear Pappaji kept him hired so that Baba’s self respect was not hurt and that he could come and do bare minimum work.
Mom now hired another person for proper cleaning as she knew Baba had gone weak and was not able to do much and just for Baba’s satisfaction and respect he was allowed to do little bit of work and made to rest mostly when he reported daily. The cook and other staff in the house were instructed to respect Baba at all times as family. Another lesson learnt by just observing is to be compassionate and never be disrespectful or rude just because someone is not able to serve or is no longer functional.
I was almost 17 years of age now, watching Baba since childhood as he was now part of our family and I would go out of the way doing sweet little things for him ( buying cookies, sweets etc) and just make him narrate stories, which he loved to. Each day he would come and sit for an hour have his lunch and Bless and leave.
I still remember my sister’s wedding day, Baba was part of the celebration. He looked really nice in his perfectly well creased new shirt and trousers. There was so much joy on his face. Mom had made sure he had enough good clothes for every function.Most of the guests and relatives had left for the venue. I was to accompany Mom towards the end , so before leaving the house my Mom made sure that Baba be served food and is allowed to rest. As she stepped out, she stood for few seconds and handed her heavy silver key ring bunch of her locker and home keys to Baba and said, “ apne ghar ka dhyaan rakna”. ( take care of your house) .Mom never parted with her beautiful silver keyring to anyone but that day when she handed it to Baba I felt how important his respect and role was in our family. A year later Baba breathed his last.
Another couple of years the loss of both my parents in a car accident , when I was barely 19 years made me realise how extremely sensitive they were to human emotions . The biggest and only Truth one needs is to understand life kindly and to just be humane and aware. So true, isn’t it! And yes, little sweet lessons of life are the most consistent.
I know today for sure Mom and Pa are watching me from above and smiling , for penning down Baba’s story to my OS family here😊
Immense respects to you Baba 🙏
Baba looked somewhat like the one in the pic. I shall surely make his painting one day.
This kind of Drum was used to collect garbage from door to door. Was not an easy job esp. for such an aged person .
This was the building ( society) we stayed in Calcutta ( Kolkata) . You can imagine the lengthy corridor of each floor.
Love you Maa and Pa🙏
Wishing everyone end no of sweet and simple moments.
And let me add some cozy words by Rev. Sri. Sri. Om Swamiji here…” Wear a gentle smile, keep a warm heart so that when you step inside the hall of one thousand mirrors, you baffle yourself with your own glory”😊🙏
Jai Sri Hari🙏🕉