Updated: Jan 15, 2019
When they grow up, young birds leave the nest. So in 1985 three years after we got married, Mohini and I moved out from my parent's home to make space for the families of my two younger brothers.
We decided to rent a small flat at Salunke Vihar on the outskirts of Pune.
Salunke Vihar was a relatively large government built township meant to provide affordable housing at relatively low interest rates and soft payment terms, to our soldiers and their families.
The township offered a large, open and safe space for families and children. In addition to retired people, the low rent attracted many young couples like us, starting out afresh.
However accessibility was a big challenge.
The nearest main road was 3 kilometres away and accessible only by a pot holed dirt road where auto rickshaw service was rare and the bus service pathetic. Therefore people often walked or depended upon the kindness of residents with vehicles.
Being a son of an industrialist albeit a small one, I was amongst the few people who owned a car in the society.
The air was fresh and the community of residents friendly and caring. Every time we travelled to and from the housing society, we would offer a ride to all who needed it.
If one is open and receptive every interaction provides an opportunity to learn and evolve. Some good and some not so good, but always interesting. One encounter was
It was about noon time on a hot May day where the summer peaks. It is never as hot in Pune as it is in other places like the Punjab or Delhi, but it was pretty uncomfortable.
I was driving to a meeting and in a hurry. I shot out of the main gate. Rounding the corner onto the dirt road, there I saw standing next to the road an elderly man, with a small bag by his side.
The elderly man was mopping his forehead and face. Though I was inclined, I debated for a second whether I had the time to stop and offer him a ride.
'Always trying to do good, I stopped to offer him a ride.'
The old man slowly shuffled up to and agonisingly slowly got into my car. He was taking so damn long, this old man was further delaying me. For a moment I regretted my decision to give him a ride.
The old gentleman sensed my irritation. Speaking in Hindi he said, “Forgive me for the trouble and thank you so much son. May God bless you and keep you happy.”
Now I felt ashamed at my insensitivity.
Blessing me and thanking me, blessing me and thanking me, he went on and on. When he thanked me for about the seventh time, I interrupted him and told him, "You do not have to apologise nor thank me, its not an inconvenience at all, we are both on the same route anyway." I added that at least he was appreciative of my assistance, unlike some people who did not acknowledge my kindness.
He smiled and nodded his head and said, "I understand what you mean. May I ask you a question?"
Of course I like nothing more than an interesting conversation and that is why I probably gave people rides in the first place. I replied "No problem. Please ask."
"Why did you give me a lift?" He asked.
" Did you see a man on the road and think that let me give him a ride and then he will feel obligated to me, or did your heart speak with your conscience and asked you to do a good deed to this old man and give him a much needed lift?" he added.
I told him that I felt compassion towards him and thought it would be nice to assist him.
He responded, “Does that not mean, you were only following your heart’s desire and did the good deed? So logically speaking, it should make no difference to you whether I thank you or am grateful to you or not?"
He continued “May I say that, your heart desired something and that you were able to accomplish it, that itself is your reward. If you have got your reward, it should matter not whether I thank you or not."
I was stunned by the realisation of a great truth that this wise old man just revealed.
He continued, "The poor of the world are not only those who do not have shelter or enough food, and other necessities. They are also those who cannot do what their heart desires. My son, you are blessed and truly wealthy for you are able to follow your heart’s desire."
We reached the main road in the few minutes we had this conversation, I was captivated and hungry for more of him. I wanted to hang on to this awesome man and never let him go. He however insisted that I drop him there at the bus stop.
I waited for a minute and then his bus arrived. He stepped onto the bus which slowly disappeared out of sight and physically out of my life. But the old gentleman, his presence and words will be with me for ever.
I contemplated what had just transpired. I felt foolish about my puny ego. In a matter of five minutes this seemingly insignificant yet great man shook me awake and transformed my life.
Unhappiness stems from unfilled expectations. If I had no expectations for the good that I did to others, I would give more, and yet be happier.
Life is made up of good times and not so good times. I was sometimes broke, but I was never poor.
I learnt that the the joy is in the doing and not in the expectation of the fruit. I would do what I had to and let the universe do the rest.
I realised, I will always be wealthy, because I follow my heart.