I met Ganeshji not in the century that I was born but had to wait for the onset of the new millennium plus almost eight years for the planets to synchronise and be at the right position to create a favourable “grah dasha”.
I am sharing a very fond memory of that single major influence in every one’s life – “father”. This is an event that occurred about 13 years ago but is still vividly available in my memory as if it had happened just last evening!
As time passes by, the rapport between two generations also seems to undergo a change. For instance, my son, even when he was twenty plus, had no qualms telling me about his previous evening drinking session or about his gang of girls. But, I come from another generation when I could never have spoken to my father looking into his eyes .. it was always with a downward glance. It took me five years to let him know that I, a young man of about 23, was in love and that too required my mother as a prop!
The fact that my father (we called him KSR) was a disciplinarian and a workaholic compounded the problem. He had a built a reputation for himself as a senior banker at the RBI. His busy and stressed out schedule at the office, particularly when the Parliament was in session, kept the entire family sufficiently terrorized – the first chime of the door bell at 11 or 12 pm would normally be enough to send all of us (we were four) scurrying under the blankets in the fervent hope that we would not be caught! Though he was very kind and compassionate, KSR was also in retrospect a Hitler! Yet all of us admired him and were quite awed by his persona which unfortunately added to the distance between him and the children
I can clearly recall the punishments I received for not using just the right expression in spoken or written English. Commas and semi colons were always the cruel villains causing maximum damage to the young boy who had studied in Tamil medium till about the age of 13 and had to suddenly cope with a switch over to English medium. In as much as he was strict and a no-nonsense person, KSR was also a great guide and showed all the children the way forward. His value system is a great treasure that the entire family has happily inherited.
After his retirement from RBI, KSR worked as a close administrative aide of Swami Chinmayanandaji for about ten years and his senior position in the global organization of the Mission took its toll. When he was around 72 (and I was 46), KSR had the first stroke and his health started failing him.
The normally confident and self assured personality seemed to have suddenly become a mere shadow of what he was once upon a time. Restrictions on movement, medicines, frequenth imbalances in the body salts, etc.. were all compounding the problem.
He had started showing signs of Alzheimer’s and was losing his grip. Loss of self confidence was becoming evident.
Thus, one day I got a call in the office. It was KSR “Ganesh come immediately … my BP is rising and I need to see the doctor urgently..”
I rushed home .. put KSR in an auto and directed the auto to the clinic.
It was about twenty minutes to the clinic and, as the auto speeded, I saw that the frail old man sitting next to me was already looking pale. KSR was quite nervous and seemed to be suffering more from loss of confidence than just a high BP.
As I observed him, I started sensing a paradigm shift in me… I was facing the dilemma “Am I the duty bound disciplined son or a responsible son..?” As a disciplined son, I was discharging my duty by taking him to the doctor as KSR instructed and was doing all that my old man instructed me to do. But was that sufficient?
For a few minutes, I visualized my role as a “responsible” son and then all of a sudden, I was a different person. The nervousness in me had vanished and I started an unusual conversation with KSR- “Anna (that’s how we had got used to addressing him in the joint family) .. what’s bothering you? Are you scared of dying?”
I now had his attention and continued the conversation:
“After all every one has to die.. so why are you bothering yourself?
There is absolutely no reason for you to get worried .. we are all in good position in life .. a gift that you have given us..
I can assure you that I will take care of mother and the two sisters…”
He was now concentrating on what I was saying..
“In this circumstance, why should you get worried about dying? If I could put it bluntly, I would rather have you dying with that beautiful smile on your face rather than those lines of worry clouding your face!
I continued and could see he was regaining the colour on his face…
“you can choose to die right at this moment as a winner but not as a loser….all of us will remember your great smile ….any ways you have to go at some point and I suggest you face it bravely without having to worry about any thing”
That was a stunning statement and, even today, I shudder when I recall that ride in the auto!
KSR listened to all my blabber in rapt attention not uttering a word in response. His eyes showed that he had heard me.
We had by then reached the clinic. He was checked and the Doctor found KSR more cheerful than he had seen him recently. His BP was normal!
Was it that the conversation impacted him? I have no idea but my relations with him underwent a huge transformation thereafter for about three years that he was alive.
The stern father – the Hitler- had by then come very close to me and we bonded very well whether I was giving him his bath or took him to the barber for a hair cut. My sessions of feeding him, whenever I did, were of great fun and laughter. We would sing together and throw the ball at each other. We even had pillow fights and wrestling matches when I had to force him to go to sleep .. my old man had indeed become a child and I had assumed the role of the father!
When he died roughly three years after that conversation, I lost a friend!
- A story in search of an end; “A Bull Made of Steel”
- Shri R N Haldipur. Humility Unlimited
- Random Reminiscences of a forgetful old man 1968-1975 Manthan and Mani Bhuvan-3
- वसुधैव कुटुंबकम; वाक्यांश क्या केवल एक जुमला है ?
- Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam; Is it just a slogan being used these days?