When Medhaji asked in her Weekly Digest to share about that person who has had the most profound effect on us, it got me thinking. Many beautiful faces flashed in my mind, who have taught me varied invaluable lessons throughout the course of this life.
However, if I have to pick just one person who has had the most profound effect on me, every single time it would be the person I call papa. A person in whose hands I opened my eyes to see this world and later he opened my eyes to his world, which was way kinder, forgiving, accepting, and unconditionally loving.
Please excuse me for this anticlimax here, as they say, parents are our first Guru. Although it’s not only because of the length and proximity of my association with him that I can say with certain certainty that I know this person but also because of myriad trials and tribulations I have closely seen him go through and come out the other end more pristine than ever before.
Pretense can be put up only for a few days, weeks, or months at most, and it definitely doesn’t work in front of your kids who watch you like a hawk (now being a parent myself I know how unsettling that realisation is). And when you spend a continuous extended period with someone, truth invariably reveals itself… in this case, it stretched for 25 years before I left his side and went on to explore the world on my own.
And in those 25 years and beyond, I can say without an iota of doubt, that this is one of the most beautiful people I had the privilege of knowing so up close.
Teaching was his calling, profession, and passion. He had been my default Guru too. For one, I had easy access to him, and secondly, his teaching style had been pretty unorthodox. He doesn’t tell, rarely gives unsolicited advice, never raises his voice, judges or reprimands over mistakes. He is actually not even trying to teach per se, but you end up learning more than you could have ever imagined. Lessons that stick forever. The only thing is you have to observe, again… observe like a hawk.
He teaches through his own actions, from a place where words and actions sings in complete harmony and kindness rules the roost.
He is an erudite scholar and all his life I have seen him surrounded by books. One that I had seen hanging around his bedside was Patanjali Yogasutra , though he rarely talked about its contents and I wondered why!
When I browsed through it much later in life, I saw that the first thing Patanjali talks about in the eight limbs of Yoga is: Yama (moral imperatives), and Niyama (virtuous habits and observances). Going through the list, I could tick all of those for him and more. Those have been such an intricate part of his life that for me it’s difficult to imaging him ever being without them. It seems, apparently he had been teaching that text all along, silently, in his own unique way.
Now I am in quandary… how do you go about squeezing the essence of 86 years of someone’s life in one page? There is no way I, with my limited articulation, can do justice to that. Perhaps the time-tested way has been through stories. And so, I will share some snippets with the hope that it somehow helps someone, somewhere.
Now, I cannot in any way claim that my view might not have been clouded by the deep affection I hold towards him. So you make your own conclusion, see if something speaks to you, if you can squeeze anything useful out of it.
Keeping in mind that kindness is the main theme of this platform, this is what I should perhaps start with.
If I churn the milk of the life lessons he imparted through his actions, kindness, and compassion will be the cream on top. It was the GPS directing every moment of his life, be it reflected through compassion towards fellow living beings, generosity, being nonjudgmental, lacking any self -righteousness, forgiving to the fault or complete lack of anger and aggression.
I shared this short story some time back on Black Lotus and perhaps it’ll be a good point to start as it had a very profound effect on me.
So here it goes …
The Cycle of kindness:
Few small everyday incidents have a way of staying in your memory. Later in life, when you are lost in the darkness of dilemma, they pop up like LED lights to show you the way.
One such incident happened long ago. When I was a kid, the most common way to commute in a small town in India was either cycle-rickshaws or bicycles. Cars were rare, and there was a long waitlist for Bajaj scooters. My dad also had a bicycle that he used when running errands. We had employed a young gardener who used to come to a couple of days in the week to tend to our garden. One day my dad’s bicycle disappeared. The same week our gardener disappeared too. We inquired and looked around the neighborhood, but the bicycle was nowhere to be found.
A few months later, one afternoon, I was standing on the porch overlooking the main road and chatting with my father. Suddenly, I saw our previous gardener cycling past us, sitting on my dad’s bicycle! I yanked my father’s hand and shouted, “Look, Dad, that gardener stole your bicycle!” My father looked and slowly nodded his head. Seeing him not reacting, I continued incredulously, asking him if he wasn’t going to call the police and report the incident. He remained lost in thought, and after a while, he gently said, “You know, my place of work is within walking distance. He is a poor kid and comes from far away. He needs it way more than I do.”
That was it! We never talked about it ever again. But in the deep recesses of the mind that incidence stuck like superglue.
I can fill chapters on how I have seen him being kind to fellow human beings, but it had not been just limited to that. Though I haven’t seen him going around rescuing animals, or him being a pet person, he always held a deep affection for them. No dog or stray cow returned hungry from his door. He always kept food aside for them. Once, I remember him staying up all night to tend to an injured stray kitten who was attacked by a tomcat. The kitten did not survive the night.
Or another time when a heavily pregnant distressed cow wandered into our garden on Diwali night. We found him in the morning tending to her. The premature calf didn’t survive but the cow did. Somehow he located the owner of the cowherd by morning and we found him in the morning shaking his head and muttering,“Why don’t we ever think about how these loud crackers scare these poor animals?”
For the sake of missing brevity above, I’ll close here, leaving the rest for later 🙂