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.
This part of the town was clearly lived in by not-so-affluent class evidenced by the residential buildings and streets that had long left behind any claims to aesthetics, beauty and pride.
An area whose inhabitants forever needed to borrow funds. A need ably served by Ja and a few other smaller lenders, resident right in their midst; family gold, silver or any other valuable would be pawned with them in return for ready cash, at an interest rate far higher than banks.
In operation for years, Ja was comparatively reasonable with his interest rates. He played it by some simple rules giving away no quarter nor taking any – the debtor stood no chance of earning any remission under any circumstance. While compassion, mercy…did not find a place in his line of business, he saw himself, far from being a usurious demon, filling as he was a critical void in public services by helping out people in dire need who had nowhere to go. Funds were often needed for functions in the family that had to be celebrated in a certain style regardless of the means affordable. There were health issues, school/college fees and a zillion other reasons for needing money urgently. Not infrequently people even borrowed for helping out a relative or a friend too.
Looking at him doing well for himself and his family, it might seem here’s was a guy who did no work whatsoever, produced nothing, never sweated, yet earned a living and more sitting on his gaddhi. That wasn’t so. Ja too had his anxious moments and sleepless nights; some pawned clever fakes and, with some, the accumulated debt far exceeded the value of the pawned stuff. While his client-base and hence the business grew, repayment defaults were piling up, burrowing for the first time visible creases on his forehead.
Far from becoming an object of disdain generally reserved for his profession, he grew to be a respected member of his society. He was the community’s representative in dealing with the municipal offices over many day-to-day issues. And, even became the managing trustee of the local temple.
This time it was Navaratri – ten days of devotion and celebrations, including music programs, dance, drama and discourses. Ja’s young son recently inducted into the business undertook the task of arranging all these programs.
On the penultimate day, the discourse had attracted a reasonable attendance, Ja included, considering it was preachy, promising little by way of entertainment.
The pravachan was about: ‘There’s Hell To Pay – The Unforgiving Karma’.
Some excerpts from the pravachan to give a flavor of how it went:
“…When you wantonly kill an ant, not only you have committed the sin of killing a living being, but also the ant’s ledger book of punya and paap gets transferred to you…In our villages, they don’t kill creepies/crawlies. The generally immobilize them with a dollop of cow-dung. And then it is put away in the backyard…”
“…Bhishma Pitamah suffered his final moments lying on a bed of arrows. A karmic pay-back of his cruel act in a previous birth of piercing bodies of insects with needles…”
So it was an exposition at length on the theme of righteous living laced with illustrative and instructive anecdotes, to save oneself from inescapable karmic consequences.
The pravachan concluded with a mention of a few torments of Yama (God of Death) in Hell for sinners after their death, listed in Garuda Purana such as these:
“Tamisram (heavy flogging) – Those who rob/cheat others of their wealth are bound with ropes by Yama’s Servants and cast into the naraka (Hell) known as Tamisram. There, they are given a thrashing until they bleed and faint. When they recover their senses, the beating is repeated. This is done until their time is up.
Andhatamtrsam (flogging) – This Hell is reserved for the Husband or the Wife who only treats the spouse well for profit or pleasure. Those who forsake their wives and husbands for no apparent reasons are also sent here. The punishment is almost the same as Tamisram, but the excruciating pain, suffered by the victims on being tied fast, makes them fall down senseless.
Rauravam (torment with snakes) – This is the Hell for sinners who seize and enjoy another man’s property or resources. In this Hell, the cheated, assume the shape of “Ruru”, a dreadful serpent and torment the sinners severely until their time is up.
Avici (turned into dust) – This naraka (Hell) is for those who are guilty for false witness and false swearing. They are hurled from a great height to be utterly smashed into dust on reaching the ground. They are again restored to life and the punishment is repeated till the end of their time………”
Three days after the curtains were brought down on the festivities, Ja appeared unusually in good cheer. ‘Pink back on his cheeks, a spring in his stride, a song on his lips, his turban at a jaunty angle and all that sort of a thing…’ as PGW(odehouse) would have pictured him.
For, in those days, unexpectedly Ja received a slew of hopelessly overdue repayments, a great relief!!
Things turning out as he had intended and hoped was a matter of immense satisfaction to the son. After all, the discourse and its subject were his idea; especially closing with those slokha’s (verses) from Garuda Purana (a compendium of 19,000+ verses) designed to thoroughly chasten any hardened soul.
It also produced an unintended consequence: Ja dropped his interest rate by a couple of points with immediate effect! He also wrote off in deserving cases a good part of the unpaid interest burden. Recall, Ja too was in the audience.
Source: Images from Gyansagarji_Pravachan (Wiki), kismatconection.com and m.dailyhunt.in/
The hours of darshan were over, curtains drawn and place was getting readied for the discourse scheduled for the evening.
People, mostly middle aged and some old, were settling down on the huge blankets spread out on the floor.
The pravachankaar (speaker), a man of god, clad in ochre robes cleared his throat and got ready to begin. The mike was adjusted for his easy reach. The subject for the evening was ‘Laukeekam (worldly life) and Aanmeegam (spiritual life).’ A vexing subject if not handled right. Essentially a question of how to ride ‘two horses’ at once, with minds of their own?
Just then, a luxury car sailed in outside the temple. First, a lady got down, fussing around collecting from inside a big wicker-plate of fruits and flowers. Obviously for presenting it to the pravachankaar. A man, her husband, joined her. Aware they were holding up the proceedings, she hurried up to the make-shift dais at the far end. Coming up behind her was the man, walking slowly, head up and looking all around the pandal. Was there a hint of disdain on his visage?
Up at the dais, she paid her obeisance’s, placing the fruits and flowers before the speaker. Among them was also an envelope most likely to contain some cash contribution. Her man stood behind, unmoved.
The man of god blessed the couple. As she turned to move away, the man came up to the pravachankaar and politely inquired if he could do something good for the bhakta’s who had assembled to listen to the discourse. The speaker nodded his assent.
What he did next shocked his good lady wife and others on the dais.
He pulled out wads of currency notes from a pouch he carried and flung them up in the air – one here, one there, another there…
In a moment, there was complete chaos…everyone scrambling to get hold of as much as they could. And some were not above snatching from another’s hands.
That was not all – the crowning ‘glory’ was the sight of the speaker going gung-ho on all fours clutching lustily a few notes in his hand.
The man winked a ‘I told you so…all fakes’ at his wife. She went pale and stood transfixed.
After a few minutes, peace and order returned.
The smug look on everyone’s face said each got his fair share of the windfall– the man had somehow done a good job of covering them equitably.
And now they were ready for ‘Laukeekam and Aanmeegam.’
When they turned their attention to the dais, the speaker was not found to be at his station.
The lady followed by her man made haste to the waiting car saving herself further embarrassment. On the way out she caught the sight of the pravachankaar down on his haunches beside the few old people left sitting out on the action minutes ago, giving them his collection.
His audience was growing impatient over the delay.
None in the assembly including the speaker presently knew his act was by happenstance a teaser ‘show’ in real of what the discourse to follow was all about: Life for most of us, Laukeekam, is essentially one horse play, the horse guided and goaded in its ride by cries and calls of Aanmeegam.
Source: Image from Jagran.com