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My first experience with Righteousness

It was a hot, windy, dry late morning that year, 11:40 hours, June 26, 1973. As soon as my father parked our Lambretta scooter under a neem tree, another scooter standing ricketically on its lock-knee legs, fell down. I eagerly jumped down from backseat to see what has happened. My father simply placed it upright again, and along with my mother went inside the Punjab National Bank for money (the first bank I came to know after arriving into this world). I stayed back and investigated. The other scooter had a minor petrol spill too. I waited till its owner! A bespectacled man in his late-forties with a beard on his sweaty face, arrived and started his scooter. As soon he tried to fly away, I stopped him by telling him about the leak. He got down to see everything, and looked curiously in my eyes. I narrated him the whole incident and told him that my father is inside the bank, and I will take you along to make you meet him. Inside the bank I escorted and introduced him to my father and sat on a bench to see what happens. My father went out with him explained him something and gave him 2 rupees.

Happy that I was with myself; like a conqueror, I proudly took the front standing part of the scooter and we rode back home, as my mother and father took their seats. During the journey, they were grim and did not talk to each other. I only recollect one thing that my father blurted when we got home: “Saala Harishchandra! hamaare yahaan he paida hona tha” (King Harishchandra, historically known to reign in Treta Yuga is revered for his truthfulness and honesty as ‘King Sage’). Closely watching, I saw tears in his eyes (the only time that I saw them) as he looked at me, then. But he never uttered a word to me. Narrating this with a heavy heart and lot of tears, realizing….his silence actually grilled righteousness into me.

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My First Brush with Humility

I must have been 10 then. I was playing around my uncles’ motorcycle, while he was inside the bank for some work. Having been taken around the town on the glittering motorcycle for quite a few times, I had developed a certain possessiveness about it. Possibly that was the reason I got irritated to see a Sadhu – in the typical gerua attire and kamandal – sitting on the parked vehicle with an unparalleled élan. I did not say or do anything, but that was more out of a certain scare. I kept fuming inside, waiting for my uncle to emerge out of the bank and teach the sadhu a befitting lesson.

But to my frustrating surprise, my uncle greeted the Sadhu and asked respectfully if he could take away his motorcycle.

The Sadhu jumped off, smiled warmly, and complimented my uncle’s humility. “Keep up the goodness in you”, he said.

I was bewildered to the core.

It took me three decades to understand that moment and imbibe it in my persona.