Tag Archives: Faith

Faithful Or Faithless?

It is a practice started since last few months, of doing one’s bit in this lockdown period.

Of the many street vendors, there was this man selling flutes. The flutes were mounted on a central support which he hoisted on his shoulder.  As he went around, he would announce himself to the flat-dwellers by playing some popular tune on his flute. It was once a week or in ten days.

Times are tough. Buyers, mainly children, were not exactly flocking. Feeling sorry for him, it became my routine to go down hurriedly to catch him before he moved away and thrust the money into his hands. Initially I had to explain to him. Not anymore. He knows I’m not buying anything. We would exchange namaste with a smile and be done. With an act that might dent the self-respect even a wee-bit of a man who was putting in honest work to earn a living – wasn’t a alms seeker – it was embarrassing to prolong the interaction beyond the minimum. Also it couldn’t be more substantial than what it was.

So, it was a couple of days ago. I heard him – I mean his tune – and rushed down.  Finding the rupees from one of those half a dozen purses lying around, most of them empty, then putting on the face-mask and then carrying my bulk down the stairs, panting thru the mask, took a little while. By then, he had moved. It was not a problem without remedy – I could always call out to him. But this time from where I stood, I could see he was not my regular, but a new guy wearing a characteristic lungi.  I came away. I did not want to begin servicing a queue of new guys besides the regular. For, I had plans to spread out my meager resources over more regulars in the beat.

‘So what? You should have given him something, may be not as much as you give your regular,’ my wife said.

So, I grabbed a fifty and went down again. He had moved even farther down. A watchman of the building (apartment complex) opposite ours knew my routine – he let out a high-decibel shout, getting the flute-seller’s attention.

He turned around and slowly made his way to me. He was an old man, his teeth hopelessly paan-stained. I gave him the rupees I carried adding a short explanation. He recovered quickly and blessed me in the name of all-kind Allah. And, looking at me clad in southie-style dhoti and only a towel covering my upper torso – remember, I came down in a hurry? – he hastened to add ‘Jai Shri Ram.’

Given my strong leanings, I should have been thrilled. Somehow I was not. That he felt compelled to say left me strangely sad. Was I imagining? I was also kicking myself for not having carried the usual hundred. Hope he lets me make amends in the days ahead.

A voice in me said Shri Ram approves.

End

A One-Man Religion?

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 ownso 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.

End

Reading Between The Lines…

From ElangoVelurThiruturaipoondi Tiruvarur‎1.இயற்கை மற்றும் பசுமை

One day Devi Parvathi and Lord Shiva, moving around in the skies, happened to be above the city of Kashi.  The bathing ghats were crowded with pilgrims and devotees taking bath in the river Ganga.

Naatha, I’ve a question,’ Parvathi looked at her consort.

Shiva by his gaze asked, ‘What is it?’

‘It is said in the holy books and also widely believed people taking dips in Ganga attain moksha (salvation from the unending cycle of births and deaths). And look at the crowd here.’

‘So?’

‘If all these people attain moksha and with many more to come – the river is so easily accessible – won’t it get very crowded in the Heavens?’

Shiva smiled, ‘You know, strangely, none of this crowd is going to attain moksha. Except one here, one there. But most of them, no. Let me show you why. Do as I tell you and watch.’

**

Shiva came down to the bathing ghats with Parvathi assuming human forms. He jumped into Ganga and swam up to mid-stream where the currents were strong and waters deep and no one ventured. Putting his hands up, he began shouting frantically for help.

Parvathi in utter despair begged the people on the bank and those nearby in the waters to rush and help him. Many were ready to jump in. That’s when she had a word of caution for them: ‘Only those of you who have no paap (sin) to your account would be able to go across and rescue my husband.’

On hearing this the volunteers one by one dropped away; for none could honestly claim he was free of all paap’s.

With seconds ticking by, Shiva closer to being drowned, Parvathi was helplessly in panic. That’s when a young man came forward in a tearing hurry. Wasting no time, he jumped into the waters.

‘Young man, no use, you know you can help only if…’ shouted someone from the bank.

The young man broke his strokes in the waters long enough to say, turning his head towards the bank, ‘I know I’m not. But I know I’ll be by the time I reach him out there, all my sins washed away by the grace of Ganga Mata.’

**

Back in the skies, Shiva looked at his Devi seemingly to say: ‘Now you know why the Heavens don’t get crowded as you fear. Only those reading the lines and between them carefully of the holy books don’t miss out the essential ingredient for salvation – Faith.’

End

The Tiger And The Fox

A fox who lived in the deep forest of long ago had lost its front legs. No one knew how, perhaps escaping from a trap. A man who lived on the edge of the forest , seeing the fox from time to time, wondered how in the world it managed to get its food. One day when the fox was not far from him he had to hide himself quickly because a tiger was approaching. The tiger had fresh game in its claws. Lying down on the ground, it ate its fill, leaving the rest for the fox.

Again the next day the great Provider of this world sent provisions to the fox by this same tiger. The man began to think: “If this fox is taken care of in this mysterious way, its food sent by some unseen Higher Power, why don’t I just rest in a corner and have my daily meal provided for me?”

Because he had a lot of faith, he let the days pass, waiting for food. Nothing happened. He just went on losing weight and strength until he was nearly a skeleton. Close to losing consciousness, he heard a Voice which said:

“O you, who have mistaken the way, see now the Truth! Instead of imitating the disabled fox, you should have followed the example of that tiger .”

End

Source: Massud Farzan from spiritual-short-stories.com

His Sense Of Fair-Play

It was D-day – the boy had a test to give for earning a scholarship.

The grandma did what most grandma’s do – she taught him a simple Hayagreeva stotram (a mantra in praise of and seeking blessings from god of learning). It was sure to help him ace the test.

The boy quickly learnt the stotram.  To grandma’s delight he could recite the Sanskrit stotram with great spashtam (fidelity).

It was time for them to leave for the school-bus.

As he boarded the bus, she reminded him to recite the stotram without fail just before taking the test.

The boy was in good spirits when he returned from the school in the afternoon. The family mobbed him immediately to know how he fared in the test.

The boy confirmed what was already evident – he had done quite well, he thought. Much better than he had expected.

Amidst the excitement all around, ‘I knew all along,’ beamed the grandma. ‘It had to be so and nothing else with the blessings of Hayagreeva.’

‘But, Paatti (grandma)…’

‘Yes?’

‘Am sorry…I did not recite the stotram.’

‘What? You didn’t? You forgot the lines?’

‘No…’

‘Then?’

‘Wouldn’t be fair for me to benefit from the stotram. None of my friends has learnt it.’

Paatti’s explanations, arguments and theories that followed till-date have not won him over unreservedly.

End

 

 

PS: Based on a real-life story. The youngster is growing up in UK away from the traditional Hindu eco-system (though the household is) and its influence and edicts.

The Guru Has A Question

The Sishya (disciple) thought aloud: ‘The world is being torn apart by geography, race, gender, culture, religion, language, economic disparity, etc. etc. Strangely these forces unite people at one level and pit them against one another on a larger canvas. Of these religion intended to uplift the mankind seems to be most perniciously divisive.’

‘You’re right,’ concurred the Guru. ‘Religion – every one of them – claims god of its own. And the gods seem to be fighting a proxy war for supremacy through their overzealous faithful on this earth!’

‘That’s an awful thing to say about the gods…er…I mean about the god.’

‘You know what I think? It could well be that the gods already have a truce up there and for fun kept it from them down here.’

‘Watch what you say – you may get hauled up for profanity.’

I’ve just this to ask of the believers:  If you’re the children of a god, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, and just and loving, what about them? I mean the others, the multitude, whom you fiercely despise, coerce or even coax. A defective production batch off your god’s factory, to be mended?’

End

What Is Your Religion?

Guru-Shishya www.energyenhancement.orgIt was clear something bothered the man. The Guru called him to his side and asked.

‘You want to tell me something?’

‘Yes…I must confess, I’m not religious.’

‘That’s not unusual.’

‘So much disease, deprivation, hate, chicanery, crime, and wars… killing innocents all around.

‘True.’

Not sure if anyone is in charge here. This cannot be god’s – if there’s one – creation. I don’t believe in god, worship or prayer.’

‘You’ve a point.’

‘I don’t believe in karma and rebirth…and, in swarga (heaven), narak (hell) or moksha (eternal salvation). Life is here and now. Who has seen after-life?’

‘So much you don’t believe in. You believe in anything…anything at all?’

‘Not sure if I do. With so much suffering, inequities…’

‘Alright – is there anything you want to believe in?’

‘Well, if you put it that way…in goodness of man, perhaps, whatever is left.’

‘That’s here, not other-worldly and a good enough religion to go after, my friend.’

End

The Elusive Laddu And The Sardarji

A_view_of_Laddu Low

If this wasn’t coming from B, I would have bet my last buck this was a concoction from an ardent devotee. Read on to know why:

In the 1980’s I regularly visited Thirupati for darshan of Lord Venkatachalapathy, variously called as Srinivasa, Balaji…During one of those trips in late 1980’s I was accompanied by two of my office colleagues, one of them a sardarji, a very pious man.

This was the first visit for him. After standing in the queue for about two hours, we finally entered the main entrance in the temple complex at Thirumala (top of the hill at Thirupati) at about 9:00. As soon as we entered there, sardarji covered his head with a hand-kerchief and started chanting some prayer while we engaged ourselves in some idle chat. It took us another 20 to 30 minutes before we could stand in front of the Lord to have His darshan.

On our way out, we collected a small laddu given out as prasadam. We promptly partook the same and, as always, headed towards the prasadam counter located outside the temple entrance for buying additional laddus for our families. With huge demand and limited production in those days, up to three laddus were offered per head. It was already 9-45 and the queue was very long. Hard-pressed for time – the Bombay-bound train was due at 11-30 at the far-away Renigunta railway station, it was clear we would miss the train if we stood in the queue.

Sardarji’s disappointment was writ quite visibly on his face.

He pleaded with the people triumphantly exiting the prasadam counter with laddus in their hands to give him just one so that he didn’t return home empty handed. Unfortunately for him no one obliged.It was no surprise to us – the laddus were and are always a much prized prasadam to be shared with family, neighbors and friends back home. Not with a total stranger.

During our travel to Renugunta station sardarji without let-up bemoaned his drawing a blank and regretted he partook that small laddu at the temple itself instead of sharing it with his wife and daughter back home. We tried unsuccessfully to pacify him saying the good darshan he had had was a greater reward than the laddu. And he should be happy and thankful to the Lord for the same.

The Madras-to-Bombay train arrived  puffing and panting for a short halt at Renigunta. We had just the time to board the compartment and move to take our seats before the train pulled out slowly. As we looked around we observed a large Gujarati marriage party going from Madras to Bombay occupying almost the entire compartment. Before long, one of their group-members approached us tentatively with a request: If we could be kind enough to move to the adjoining compartment, three members separated from their group could take our place to be one with the group. Since we were not encumbered with any heavy luggage, we readily agreed to switch our seats.

At the next stop, the shift was effected without further ado.

Once we settled down at the new place,the usual getting-to-know chit-chat commenced among the co-passengers. One of them was an elderly Bengali lady looking calm, graceful and respectable. Our sardarji needed little encouragement to unwind his tale of woe: his first ever trip to Thirumala, the good Darshan he had, the prasadam he ate, and his utter disappointment and sorrow in not procuring even a single laddu for his family back home. The lady continued to listen intently until the end.

When the sardarji finally rested his story, she said: “Beta, Balaji kisi ko nirasha nahi karenge” <He never disappoints anyone>. While it sounded like one of those perfectly inane commiserating remarks, she retrieved a bag from under the seat and pulled out for him one big laddu, at least 4 to 5 times larger than the laddu sold at the prasadam counter.

He was speechless awash with excitement and apprehension – Was it for real? Was she playing some cruel prank on him?

She explained: She had arranged for some special Pooja at Thirumala which included at its conclusion a sizeable quantity of prasadam for her. She added she would be only too happy if she could, in a small way, redress his disappointment.

With folded hands, unbelievable surprise and tears in his eyes, he accepted it and readily shared the some of it with us.

…”

Was this all just happenstance or divine Grace or what was it?

What do you think?

For those of you who have not read my posts elsewhere, B was my neighbor for long years and Vidya Balan, the highly talented and widely  acclaimed actress of Bollywood is his daughter.

End