The best reward for me in life is the disproportionately large share of good people I collected around me at different times in life – class-mates, friends, colleagues at work-place and, of course, relatives; people with different strengths, exemplary in their own ways and inspirational to those who care to look; from many of whom I’ve benefited in ways with no capacity or ability to repay in equal kind or measure. I have in the past featured some of them here and there are more to be talked about before time runs out.
This man whom I had wanted to capture and present here for a long time wasn’t easy – the thoughts would not coalesce into a coherent narrative. I have been/am favored with so many acts of his kindness personally that it is easy for me to slip into singing his paeans. Like how he (and a dear cousin) stood by me at my mother’s funeral – it was his birthday, I learnt much later. But I did not want this glimpse of him to be one dimensional, vis-à-vis with me. It would be so unfair for he was/is much more.
While there’s much to be said and written about, I’ll settle for this one incident to reveal the man:
He recently retired from a very senior executive position from a company that owned, operated a chain of medical diagnostic centers that included expensive high-end equipment, a field he had spent all his career in. Post-retirement he took up his first consultancy assignment a month ago; not a son of some industrialist, he needs money like you and I. And yet, he shot this off on his own:
“Dear Dr M, as there is a directive for 65 plus citizens to practice social distancing, I am constrained by my family to travel for work and contribute only remotely. As a small gesture from my end I would like to forego my professional fees for this month of March during this time of crisis.”
Frankly it didn’t surprise me; for, with him, it couldn’t be anything but…
He goes to the temple almost daily and has his own private talk with the gods therein. Like me, not deep into pooja-paat, Gita and scriptures; wears no distinctive mark on his forehead. What does he do in the temple besides praying? Well, helps them in their banking issues using his contacts, gets them a plumber or a lock-smith they urgently need, brings immobile old folks to the temple in his car and drops them back home…When prasadams are freely distributed in goshti’s, only a small portion for him – anything more or a second turn meant some late-comer would go without, he believes.
It’s almost like he is actively on the lookout all the time to jump in and help in ways he can.
Not a preacher, a social-worker or a breast-beating, placard-holding, glory-hungry, funds-seeking, high-decibel activist. Just an ordinary family man like you and me who makes a difference to someone with a legendary attention to details not many of us are capable of.
One of these days, though it isn’t going to be easy, I intend to find out how did these high personal standards – the very goals of orthodoxy – come about. Parental attention? I doubt, though affection, yes, a lot of it. He grew up as the last child of a large family household that also served as a transit/temp camp for a good number of relatives passing thru or visiting Chennai, helping his mother in her chores. Fetching these guests to and fro railway stations at odd hours, yielding his place to a guest and going up to the terrace with the pillow for the night, waiting for an elder sibling to be done with a single-copy school text book before he could peruse, four years spent in the hostel away from home and not visited even once by his own…so were his younger days. And yet a very balanced and practical head screwed onto the shoulders, combining empathy with expediency, without a tinge of bitterness or self-sympathy…
I see him as a religion by himself, all in action, without the usual accouterments of a holy book, highfalutin theology…
Will certainly revert if and when I gain some insights on what has kept him going!
Presently signing off with prayers for his health and long life and a fervent wish he actively grooms many more youngsters in his ways and with deep gratitude for being blessed with his association.