The birthday bash

By the time I woke up and even realized where we were, we had driven past the railway station. Had I hopped off the bus and got into a train there, it wouldn’t have taken me an hour to get home. I was groggy, and irritated, as I tend to be on most mornings and more so today for having missed the station. The bus was diverted into the road that bypasses the city and I rued to myself that it would be a good hour more to get home. Ten minutes later, we were inching ahead, with hundreds of other vehicles, all stuck in an ominous looking jam.

‘To me an entrepreneurial mind is something that takes an adventurous route’, said someone to me, recently. The thought had lodged itself in a corner of my head ever since. I wonder how I could ever stick with a job, knowing how much I am wary of institutions of any kind. Yet, to be an entrepreneur is perhaps beyond me – if nothing for the complete lack of drive.

In any case, as the thought came back to me, I wondered if I am an adventurous person. It seems I love my routine – cook, clean, work – and can go on endlessly with it.

Before realization, chopping wood, fetching water. After realization, chopping wood, fetching water. – Zen Koan

On impulse, I hopped off the bus, crossed the road and waited there for a while, watching the sunrise on a pleasant winter morning. Thne I decided to walk back in the direction we had driven from, in the hope of going back to the railway station. In a while, I approached a milestone. 15 km – and so I continued walking, turning back to try and hitch a hike every now and then. The new found highways in India present a picture in contrast to me – wide, well laid roads with big, fast, sophisticated cars zipping through the most idyllic villages.

It was no surprise then that a man on a moped was the one who finally stopped to give me a ride. As I was grateful to the kind soul in him, I couldn’t but help watch the cars zoom past me. “At this speed, they’ll probably cover the distance in 5 minutes”, he observed. The moped is a convenient mode of transport. It is small, light weight, easy on fuel and allows you to maneuver the traffic snarls typical of urban life in India. It also allows a ton of things to be loaded on in ways you’d hardly imagine. It is no wonder that my father still uses his moped when he goes shopping.

I noticed our man was carrying 2 mid- sized boxes placed in the front – placed delicately in the ‘step through’ area, so to speak, not to mention the bum seated at the rear. In order to make conversation, I enquired about the boxes. “Books and pictures of Sw. Vivekananda.”

The Swami was the man who deferred spiritual wisdom, seeing the the starving masses of the country and is said to have exclaimed “let the Ganges become gruel”.

“My brother-in-law sponsors for these to be distributed to kids of schools in his ancestral village, during the birth anniversary of the Swamiji every year. He is a grocer and is busy in running his shop. They were delivered in the wrong place and so he sought a favour from me”.

At the speed which the moped could afford us, I couldn’t help but think that it would be a good 30 minutes before I make it to the train. I marveled at the monkey mind – grateful on the one hand for having got a lift, and all the same wondering if I should have let the man on the moped pass, in favour of a faster vehicle.

“I don’t care much for this spiritual stuff. I like to help others when I can. And I don’t care whether the person deserves it or not, if someone seeks something and I can afford it, I do it for them. If these books don’t get there today, it may not make much sense”

As we rode on in silence, I admired the man for what he was doing, knowing he was riding in that moped of his, some 50 km up and down, just to drop off a bunch of books on a subject that he himself did not much believe in. As he dropped me off, I proffered my hand and introduced myself. He shook firmly, smiling resplendently in the warm morning sunshine and said “Anand”. I couldn’t help but smile at the aptness of his name.

As I walked into the railway station, I was struck by how the morning had dawned for me, and that too, on the very day when the world was celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the great wandering mendicant. And as I did so, I couldn’t help but recall the following words of his which I had read as a young lad, and which came to be with me, ever since.

“Feel, my children, feel; feel for the poor, the ignorant, the downtrodden; feel till the heart stops and the brain reels and you think you will go mad — then pour the soul out at the feet of the Lord, and then will come power, help, and indomitable energy.”

Happy birthday, Swami.

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6 thoughts on “The birthday bash

  1. What a lovely man, Anand, to give up so much of his time, and to pick you up too.

    I was in India last April for the first time in seven years and there were so many changes, some of them slight but all indicative of a different attitude, more general prosperity (all of it being invested, if that’s the word, in an enhanced lifestyle) and a lot of modernisation. One of the changes was that the old Ambassadors have all but disappeared and been replaced by imported faster cars.

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