Saturday, 24 July 2021

Gurupournima Series: Day 5: Considering Everything as Guru’s Property: Dhanurdaasa and Ponnachi

Gurupournima will be celebrated on July 24, 2021. This is the special day in the life of all saadhakaas to honour their Guru or Acharyar. To do this in the most effective way, it is critical to develop in ourselves the qualities of a shisya or disciple. As a buildup to that, by the Guru’s grace, I will be putting up one blog post everyday from today till July 24. I pray that the Guru tattva blesses us all to be able to understand, imbibe and practice these qualities in our life to be able to make maximum spiritual progress.

Quality 5: Considering Everything as Guru’s Property: Dhanurdaasa and Ponnachi

Dhanurdaasa was one of Swami Ramanujar’s dearest disciples so much so that the Guru would lean on him as he came out of the Kaveri river after finishing his bath. Some of the other disciples resented this because Dhanurdaasa who was a wrestler was not a Brahmin by birth. The Swami understood this and wanted to teach them what are the true merits that adorn a shishya and render him, dear, to the Guru.

Swami Ramanujar arranged for the clothes of these disciples to go missing from the clothesline during the night. The next morning, the shishyas were furious and soon got around to blaming one another for the robbery. The Guru called them and told them to go that night to the home of Dhanurdaasa and steal the jewelry worn by his wife Ponnachi to have the means to procure new clothes.

Swami Ramanujar summoned Dhanurdaasa and engaged him in a deep discussion through the night.



Image courtesy:  https://www.tamilibrary.com/ramanuja-comic/

The disciples carefully removed the ornaments on one side of her body. Suddenly Ponnachi moved in her sleep, turning over to the other side. Not wanting to be caught red-handed, the ‘robbers’ ran away from that house and back to the matham. Learning of their arrival, Swami Ramanujar then dismissed Dhanurdaasa for the night. He called the disciples and told them to follow him and watch the proceedings at Dhanurdaasa’s house.

Dhanurdaasa’s wife received him when he reached home.

“What is this strange way of dressing? Why do you have ornaments on only one side of your body? Where are the other side ornaments?” he asked.

“Oh, when I was fast asleep, some poor Srivaishnavaas came in and began removing my ornaments. I became awake but lay still and let them take the jewels because I thought that they must be in grave financial distress to do something like this. Then I thought that I should make it easy for them to take the jewels from the other side of my body too, so I turned, but they ran away.”

Dhanurdaasa was furious.

“Foolish woman! You lost a great opportunity to serve the Srivaishnavaas! Why did you have to move? If you had lain still, they would have found a way to remove the other ornaments, too!”

“But, I was only trying to help them take the rest of my jewels too!” cried Ponnachi.

“What a sense of ego you have! You thought the jewels were your’s! Isn’t everything we have belongs to the Guru? Did you forget that all things we have don’t belong to us, but have only been entrusted to us to take care of them as the Guru’s property?”

In tears, the couple ran to the matham of Swami Ramanujar and threw themselves upon his feet, begging forgiveness. The other disciples were stunned at the sight. The Guru lovingly raised Dhanurdaasa and his wife and asked them to explain what the problem was.

“Acharya! We both have committed a great sin! We are unfit to be your disciples! When you sent your disciples to take your things from our house, Ponnachi should have let them take whatever they wanted, without interfering in the process. But we have failed to do so. Please pronounce a curse on us for this grave offence!!”

Swami Ramanujar turned to the other disciples.

Image courtesy:  https://www.tamilibrary.com/ramanuja-comic/

“Do you now understand why I lean on this man after my morning bath in the river? Even River Kaveri cannot purify me as completely as the touch of this pure man Dhanurdaasa!”

Points to ponder

How complete was the surrender of Dhanurdaasa and Ponnachi that they had absolutely no attachment to their belongings! All they focused on was the desire to serve even those who resented them. Can we aspire to develop such a vairagya (detachment) and seva (service) that can accelerate our spiritual progress?

Let us pray for divine grace to develop such a spirit like Dhanurdaasa and Ponnachi!

To know more, read here:

https://guruparamparai.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/pillai-uranga-villi-dhasar/

https://kazhiyurvaradanblog.in/2017/01/04/pillai-urangavilli-dasar-the-disciple-of-swamy-ramanuja-whose-wisdom-was-blinded-with-deep-love-for-the-supreme-lord-a-divine-pastime/

https://vidsvur.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/dhanurdasa-the-ramanuja-series/





Friday, 23 July 2021

Gurupournima Series: Day 4: Patience and Openness to Correction: Jiva Goswami

Gurupournima will be celebrated on July 24, 2021. This is the special day in the life of all saadhakaas to honour their Guru or Acharyar. To do this in the most effective way, it is critical to develop in ourselves the qualities of a shisya or disciple. As a buildup to that, by the Guru’s grace, I will be putting up one blog post everyday from today till July 24. I pray that the Guru tattva blesses us all to be able to understand, imbibe and practice these qualities in our life to be able to make maximum spiritual progress.

Quality 4: Patience and Openness to Correction

Jiva was a loving disciple of Srila Rupa Goswami, one of the revered 6 goswamis of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaay (sect). Jiva was well versed in Samskrita, philosophy and logic and yet, served his Guru with humility and dedication and fierce loyalty.

Once, the senior Vaishnava Vallabhacharya visited Srila Rupa Goswami in Vrindaavan as he was writing the text called Bhakti Rasaamrita Sindhu. Jiva was fanning his Guru and therefore, privy to their conversation. Vallabhacharya pointed out what he considered as some errors in the writing, and Srila Rupa Goswami happily handed over his text to the senior Vaishnava, asking him to go through the entire writing and make all corrections as he saw fit.

When Vallabhacharya left for a dip in the Yamuna river, Jiva followed him and engaged in a discussion with the venerable Acharya, pointing out how the verses penned by his Guru were actually correct. For each flaw that Vallabhacharya pointed out, Jiva had the perfect answer to counter the objection and the senior Vaishnava was thoroughly impressed by the young shishya’s learning as well as his loyalty to his Guru.

Vallabhacharya returned to Srila Rupa Goswami, and handed back the text to him, recounting the entire episode. Hearing this, the Guru’s face turned dark, and with a cold voice, he turned to Jiva.

“You sought to correct the great senior Vaishnava? He was kind enough to edit the writing for my benefit, but you have hurt him! You have no control over your anger. If you must get angry, let it be on your own impatience instead of on others! There is no place for such an upstart in a holy place like Vrindaavan! Go away from here and go back to wherever you came from and return only when you have learned patience!”
Image courtesy: https://www.brajrasik.org/articles/588e423558f4ac271a08b951/when-roop-goswami-personally-graced-jiva-goswami-control-his-anger-and-to-be-more-patient

Jiva was in tears because it was to support the Guru that he had sought to correct what he believed to be the arrogant proposals of Vallabhacharya. Now, hearing the same Guru’s words, he felt shocked to realize that he had committed the great sin of interfering in a way that displeased his Guru! He realized that he had to yet develop the patience and willingness to listen that his Guru expected of him.

Jiva immediately went away from Srila Rupa Goswami’s ashram and took up residence in a crocodile hole in a place called Nanda Ghat. He would fast most of the time, and occasionally obtain wheat flour by bhiksha (begging alms), mix it with little water from the Yamuna, and drink the gruel. All his time was taken up in praying to Lord Krishna, singing bhajans, chanting the Lord’s name, and in crying out loud to his Guru Srila Rupa Goswami, begging for forgiveness for his mistakes.

One day, another of the 6 goswamis, Sanatan Goswami passed that way. He was Rupa Goswami’s elder brother. He brought Jiva back to Vrindaavan, negotiated on his behalf, and engineered the reunion of the repentant, now wiser shishya with his dear Guru. Srila Rupa Goswami forgave the errant Jiva and blessed him and the latter went on to become one of the future goswamis who himself authored several treatises of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaay.

Points to ponder

If we put ourselves into the shoes of Jiva as he was being banished from Vrindaavan by his Guru, we would probably think that the Guru’s action was extremely unjust. Reading this story, we are probably wondering if it was fair of the Guru to give such a harsh punishment to the disciple who was correct in principle regarding the philosophical points, more so when he was trying to support you!

However, in spiritual practice, being correct on a matter of philosophy is not as important as having the attitude of humility and being open to correction. Srila Rupa Goswami, the Guru himself, was willing to let his writing be scrutinized by his senior Vallabhacharya and it is exactly this spirit he wanted the young Jiva to cultivate. 

An egoistic seeker (saadhaka) and equally, an egoistic Guru, are probably the most dangerous type of oxymoron!

In his famous work, the Upadeshaamritaa, Srila Rupa Goswami writes:



Let us pray for divine grace to meet a Guru like Srila Rupa Goswami who will point out our faults and help us achieve perfection as a shishya!

To know more about the goswamis and this incident, read here:

https://gaudiyahistory.iskcondesiretree.com/sri-jiva-goswami/

https://www.vcm.org.in/blog/jivagosvami-a-brief-sketch/

https://www.brajrasik.org/articles/588e423558f4ac271a08b951/when-roop-goswami-personally-graced-jiva-goswami-control-his-anger-and-to-be-more-patient




Thursday, 22 July 2021

Gurupournima Series: Part 3: Willingness to Face Even Danger to Serve Guru: Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Gurupournima will be celebrated on July 24, 2021. This is the special day in the life of all saadhakaas to honour their Guru or Acharyar. To do this in the most effective way, it is critical to develop in ourselves the qualities of a shisya or disciple. As a buildup to that, by the Guru’s grace, I will be putting up one blog post everyday from today till July 24. I pray that the Guru tattva blesses us all to be able to understand, imbibe and practice these qualities in our life to be able to make maximum spiritual progress.

Quality 3: Willingness to Face Even Danger to Serve Guru

Samartha Ramdas Swami had several disciples, of whom the most prominent was Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great ruler of the Maratha Empire. One day, the Guru was traveling with his disciples through a forest when suddenly, he clutched his stomach and began to groan with pain. The disciples quickly took him into a cave to rest and asked him of the medicine that would help to get rid of his ailment. Samartha Ramdas Swami responded that it was too difficult to obtain the remedy and that they should not bother to obtain it.

In the meantime, Shivaji had come to the ashram to seek blessings from Samartha Ramdas and hearing that he was traveling, decided to meet him at whichever place he was. He arrived at the cave to find the Guru in great distress.

“Is there any medicine for this pain, Gurudev?” he questioned.

“No Shiva, there is no easy remedy for this rare illness. The only one medicine is too difficult to obtain, so it’s okay, please don’t worry about it,” replied Samartha Ramdas.

“Gurudev, please tell me what the remedy is. I cannot bear to see you suffer like this. I will try my very best to get the medicine for you,” insisted Shivaji.

“Only the fresh milk of a tigress can cure my pain,” said the Guru.

Shivaji Maharaj picked up a kamandalu (ascetic’s water pot) and bowed down to his Guru and left immediately. After going deep into the forest, he saw two tiger cubs and soon the tigress herself appeared, and began to growl seeing the intruder. Shivaji bowed down respectfully to the tigress and spoke softly to her, “Mother, I have not come to harm you or your cubs. I need your milk to cure the stomach ache of my Guru. Please grant it to me and after I have given it to my Guru, I will come back to you, and you can eat me if you wish.”

Sensing the kindness of his words, the mute tigress stood quietly purring, and let Shivaji milk her and fill his kamandalu. He returned to the cave and offered the milk to his Guru who blessed him, and then, threw a pointed look at all the other disciples standing there.

The entire episode of the stomach pain had been faked by the Guru! The other disciples thought that Samartha Ramdas doted on Shivaji because he was a king unlike them commoners. However, the Guru wished to show them that it was some particular qualities of Shivaji he held dear.


Points to ponder

Even when the task appeared to be impossible, Shivaji Maharaj did not quit. He was willing to go to any length – and to even sacrifice his very life – to render service to the Guru. This quality of being willing to face anything, even danger, to serve him, is what endears the shishya to the Guru.

In fact, a famous saint Shri Bhaktaraj Maharaj of Indore, has proclaimed that “Guru sets the question paper for the shishya, inspires and guides him to answer the questions, and then declares him as having passed the exam! Such is the grace of the everloving Guru!”

Let us pray for divine grace to develop a spirit of Guruseva like Shivaji Maharaj! May the Guru bless us to keep away from the jealous attitude of the other shishyas!

To know more about this incident, read here:

https://www.myculturestory.com/story/story-of-guru-and-disciple/story-of-chatrapati-shivajis-obedience

https://powerfulvlog.wordpress.com/2019/12/24/have-you-know-this-beautiful-story-the-tigress-allows-shivaji-milk-her/

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Gurupournima Series: Part 2: Caring for Guru's Welfare: Kidaambi Aachaan

Gurupournima will be celebrated on July 24, 2021. This is the special day in the life of all saadhakaas to honour their Guru or Acharyar. To do this in the most effective way, it is critical to develop in ourselves the qualities of a shisya or disciple. As a buildup to that, by the Guru’s grace, I will be putting up one blog post everyday from today till July 24. I pray that the Guru tattva blesses us all to be able to understand, imbibe and practice these qualities in our life to be able to make maximum spiritual progress.

Quality 2: Single-minded caring for the Guru’s welfare

Swami Ramanujar was a sanyasi and as ordained by varnashrama guidelines, every day, he would consume only that food which had been received by Unchavritti, or the act of begging for alms. A few people were unhappy with the order that Swami was trying to bring to the administration of the Srirangam temple. They decided to do away with him by poisoning the alms he received. The wife of the person who hatched this plan was a pious woman who revered Swami Ramanuja but she was threatened into compliance by the husband.

When Swami Ramanujar came that day, with trembling hands and tears streaming down her face, she offered him the bhiksha (alms) by covering the poisoned part with a leaf, indicating that it was not fit for consumption. He got the message and threw the bhiksha into the Kaveri river and decided not to go for Unchavritti from then on.

Hearing about this incident, Swami Ramanujar’s Acharyar Thirukoshtiyur Nambi rushed to meet him. In the scorching midday heat, Swami Ramanujar and his shishyas went to receive him, and seeing his Acharyar, Swami prostrated at once, heedless of the hot sand on the bank of the Kollidam river.

It is the norm for the shishya to offer prostrations until the Acharyar asks him to rise. To everyone’s shock, Thirukoshtiyur Nambi didn’t utter a word, and let Swami Ramanujar continue to lie on the buring sand.

Suddenly, a voice rang out, reprimanding the elderly Acharyar, “Your Holiness, is this the way to treat a shishya? Won’t you ask him to get up? If such a code devoid of humanity is your norm, I don’t care for such absurd rules.”

Before anyone could react, the speaker, a disciple of Swami Ramanujar, rushed to lift his Guru onto his back to cushion it from the hot sand, placing instead his own body on the ground.
Image courtesy: https://kazhiyurvaradanblog.in/2020/05/05/kidaambhi-acchaan-to-madappalli-acchaan/

This fearless disciple who had only his Guru’s welfare in mind to the oblivion of everything else was Pranathaarthiharan. Due to this incident, that showed his fatherly concern for Swami Ramanujar, he came to be called as Kidaambi Aachaan (aachaan means father).

Seeing the Guru nishtha (devotion) of the disciple, Thirokshtiyur Nambi smiled. He proclaimed, “I have found the right person who can take care of our Ramanujar with care and devotion! My son, I hereby appoint you as Ramanuja’s cook and bodyguard.” He then instructed Swami Ramanujar not to go for Unchavritti from that day.

Entrusted with this important task of cooking for his Guru, and being in charge of the kitchen, Kidaambi Aachaan also got the name of Madapalli Aachaan (madapalli means kitchen).

In those days, when anyone was having food in the matham, and wanted water, it would be poured directly into their mouth. Observing Kidaambi Aachaan serving water by standing at the side of the person, Swami Ramanujar ran there, and reprimanded Aachaan by saying, “Pour the water standing in front of the person, so that it is easier to control the water flow in a manner that makes it easy for the devotee to drink!” Kidaambi Aachaan immediately complied, and expressed his joy, saying, “I’m totally unqualified to serve the Srivaishnavaas and yet, Swami Ramanujar is engaging me in kainkaryam (seva) and correcting me. I’m most grateful to my Acharyar!”

Points to ponder

Kidaambi Aachaan was an ideal and obedient shishya and therefore, had great respect for the Guru of his Guru too. Yet, he did not let this respect stop him from questioning Thirukoshtiyur Nambi about what he saw as injustice to his Swami Ramanujar – such was his Guru bhakti!

Another aspect we need to understand is that Kidaambi Aachaan was the nephew of Swami Ramanujar’s maternal uncle’s wife. He was well versed in the scriptures and a great scholar. Yet, by the decree of Thirokoshtiyur Nambi, he spent his entire life after this incident cooking in the matham’s kitchen. A true shisya sees his highest good in caring for his Guru in any and all ways possible; all work done to achieve this goal is no longer a task, no longer high or low, it becomes seva (service) to be rendered with utmost zeal and joy. The water incident also shows his humility and willingness to be corrected.

Often in worldly life, when we show our capability, we get handed over a special responsibility that means extra work for us, or work that we don’t really like doing. Over and above that, when our mistakes in doing such work is pointed out, we feel disgruntled and even angry. Can we, in such situations, cultivate the attitude of seva and a willingness to accept our errors and bear all our responsibilities as an offering to the Guru?

Let us pray for divine grace to develop such a spirit like Kidaambi Aachan!

To know more about Kidaambi Aachaan, read here:

https://guruparamparai.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/kidambi-achan/

https://kazhiyurvaradanblog.in/2019/04/18/kidambi-achan-the-disciple-who-had-fatherly-affection-for-swamy-ramanujar/

https://kazhiyurvaradanblog.in/2020/05/05/kidaambhi-acchaan-to-madappalli-acchaan/

https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/religion/devotion-to-preceptors/article2880349.ece


Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Gurupournima Series: Part 1: Obedience to the Guru: Daasharathi

July 24, 2021 is the day of Gurupournima . This is the special day in the life of all saadhakaas (spiritual aspirants) to honor their Guru or Acharyar. To do this in the most effective way, it is critical to develop in ourselves the qualities of a shisya or disciple. As a buildup to that, by the Guru’s grace, I will be putting up one blog post every day from today till July 24. I pray that the Guru tattva blesses us all to be able to understand, imbibe and practice these qualities in our life to be able to make maximum spiritual progress.

Quality 1: Obedience to the Guru

Atthuzhai, a newly-wed young girl, came to her father Periya Nambi in tears. “My mother-in-law taunted me today because you did not send a servant maid as part of my dowry.”

The stoic Periya Nambi replied, “I have no solution for this. Ask your Acharyar.”

So Atthuzhai approached Swami Ramanujar. He instructed his shisya Daasharathi to accompany her to her home and to stay there as the bride’s maid, doing all the necessary tasks. Daasharathi dutifully followed his Guru’s instructions and performed all the work entrusted to him earnestly with sincerity.

One day, someone in Atthuzhai’s house was reciting the scriptural texts in an erroneous manner. With great humility, Daasharathi demonstrated the correct manner of recitation. Everyone who heard him was shocked to realize that he was such a learned person! Until that moment, everyone in that house had thought him to be just a nondescript person sent from Swami Ramanujar’s matham as Atthuzhai’s servant!

Atthuzhai’s mother-in-law was extremely repentant and went to Swami Ramanujar to apologize and requested him to call back Daasharathi to the matham.

Image courtesy: http://www.mudaliandan.com/images/dasarathi/Mudali%20Vaibhav%202014%20-%2023%20copy.jpg

Points to ponder

Daasharathi, was Swami Ramanujar’s nephew (sister’s son) and his first disciple (so he was also called Mudaliaandaan).

Against this background of Daasharathi, let us put ourselves into his shoes.

Can we try to imagine the feelings that may be invoked in a person who has to move from such a ‘prestigious’ position to working as a servant in someone’s house?

What was the quality that made Daasharathi able to happily render service in Atthuzhai’s house?

What was the quality that prevented him from indulging in a display of his actual calibre to Atthuzhai’s family?

When I heard this story first, it taught me how intense one’s Gurubhakti has to be to allow one to blindly obey the Guru’s instructions and to do it in the most effective way possible without letting one’s ego interfere in the process. Indeed, this is the definite pathway to destruction of our ahambhaav or sense of ego.

Image courtesy: http://www.mudaliandan.com/images/dasarathi/Mudali%20Vaibhav%202014%20-%2023%20copy.jpg

Reading this anecdote, it is not surprising that Mudaliaandaan was so dear to Swami Ramanujar. In the Srivaishnava Sampradaayam, the Acharyars carry a ‘Tridandam’ made up of three small wooden sticks to symbolize the Tattvatrayam (three components of the Vishistaadvaita philosophy) – chit (sentient beings), achit (insentient matter) and Eashwara (Brahman or the Supreme God). Swami Ramanujar always called Mudaliaandaan as his Tridandam!

So impeccable and blemish-less was the service of Mudaliaandaan to his Acharyar that he is considered as the paadukaa (lotus feet) of Swami Ramanuja’s paadukaas!

Here is what the humble Mudaliaandaan said about his Acharyar,

"Oru malaiyil ninru, oru malaiyil thaavum simha shareeraththil janthukkaL pole bhaashyakaarar samsaaralanganam paNNa avarOdundaana kudalthudakkaale naam udhdheerdaraavuthomenru muthaliyaandaruLi-ch-cheytha paasuram"

Rough translation: “When a lion leaps from a mountain to another, all the creatures that live on his body go with him. Even so, when Swami Ramanujacharyar transcended this world, all of us who are associated with him benefit from this as well.”

Let us pray for divine grace to develop such intense obedience and Gurubhakti like Mudaliaandaan!


To know more about Mudaliaandaan, read here:




Sunday, 6 June 2021

Saved By The Grace of Krishna

I chanced on a wonderful story narrated by AnuSatheesh on Twitter, and thought, “What better way to get back to blogging than by sharing this story with my readers?” So, here goes….

There was once a poor farmer who had somehow acquired a habit of chanting “Krishna, Krishna” at all times. He did not have particularly deep devotion, but just because he felt good chanting this, he continued to do so.

When a famine struck that place, the farmer found himself struggling with no work to do, and no food to eat. He visited an astrologer to find out what the stars had in store for him. Studying the farmer’s horoscope, the astrologer was confused and didn’t know what words of solace to offer the poor man. “Come back next week, and I’ll be able to tell you what to expect,” he said, bidding goodbye to the farmer.

The next week, the farmer was back, and the astrologer was shocked to see him there. “Tell me all that happened with you in the past week,” he demanded.

“On my way back from your house, I was caught in a downpour,” started the farmer. “To shelter from the rain, I stepped into the only structure there – an ancient, dilapidated Krishna temple. Seeing the sad condition of that place, I had the thought that when I get enough money, I’ll arrange for the renovation and Kumbhaabhishekam (consecration ceremony) of this temple. Suddenly, I heard a loud, angry, hissing sound, and as I desperately looked for the source, my eyes fell upon a huge snake in the temple roof. Scared for my life, I rushed out of the temple!”

“What happened after that?” the astrologer asked.

“No sooner had I run out of the temple, than the whole structure collapsed to the ground, and I was left shaking, wondering at my narrow escape!”

The next moment, the astrologer fell at the farmer’s feet.

“What are you doing, Swami?” cried the shocked farmer, hastily stepping back.

“Great indeed is the grace of Krishna, and blessed are you to have His anugraham!”

“How do you know that?” asked the farmer.

“When I saw your horoscope last week, I could make out that your death was near. Building a Krishna temple was the only parihaaram or remedy to avoid it. You were already struggling for your livelihood, how could I tell you this parihaaram? So, I simply told you to return after a week.”




Can we grasp what had happened here?

Krishna came as the snake to protect the farmer from dying in the temple collapse!

Krishna accepted the Kumbhaabhishekam that the farmer performed merely in his mind!


Even though he had no deep devotion, the farmer kept chanting Krishna’s name and this, along with his one moment’s desire to serve Krishna, is what protected him and averted disaster.

If doing something without much involvement can give such rewards, can we even imagine the fruits we can reap, when we chant Krishna’s name and pray to Him with love?

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Of Living and Dying and Continuing to Live in Others' Memory

Recently, a college mate shared the news of the demise of one of the lab assistants of the college where we studied. In passing, he mentioned about how this person was the one who never provided us with distilled water that we needed for our experiments; as a result, we always had to ‘steal’ it from the lab when he wasn’t around. Someone else remembered how he would always shout at us.

A third person then stepped in to say, “We ALL remember him….despite what my teenage thoughts may have made me say or feel, in retrospect, I’m thankful for the role he played, in giving me the life I live today.” This, I feel, is an amazing response, and quite the benchmark for how we ought to feel about all the unpleasant people we encounter through our life journey. Easy to say, but quite very difficult to practice.

But this discussion also set me thinking about something I read recently. Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” asks readers to visualize the event of their own death. He then asks you to imagine “What you would want people from your family, friend circle, workplace, and any community organization to say about you and your life? What character would you like them to have seen in you? What achievements would you want them to remember? What difference would you like to have made in their lives?”

Over the past couple of days, social media has been full of eulogies for the great singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam and what is astounding is that so many of them are from ordinary folk you and I know. SPB touched people through his music but unknown to many of us, he was also deeply involved with helping others – whether it was sponsoring chess champion Vishwanathan Anand’s team in the national team championship in 1983, or raising funds for charitable causes through his stage shows. Did you know, for example, that he set up the SPS Charitable Foundation in memory of his father? Through this platform, he was involved with providing financial help for a plethora of organizations involved with education, palliative care, serving the disabled, flood relief, cine musicians, orphanages, and on and on the list goes. 

Image courtesy: The New Indian Express

I watched a video clip on Twitter in which SPB is seen surprising a blind fan hailing from Sri Lanka. Another video showed me the legend’s humility as he touched the feet of the ‘doli’ bearers who were to carry him to the Sri Ayyappan shrine at Sabarimala. I read online about how, in August, when SPB’s health condition was steadily declining, the same temple did something it had never before done – it performed a musical puja to Sri Ayappan for SPB’s recovery, and after this, one of the temple musicians rendered the Naadaswaram to his award-winning “Shankaraaa….naadashareeraa…”

Well, if we had to correlate SPB’s life with Stephen Covey’s questions……you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

I haven’t told many of you this. On the night of 5th September this year, my nephew Shreeharsha passed away from issues that traced their origin to long-standing health problems. He used to write, too, and had even penned a piece of our visit to Haridwar and Rishikesh in 2015. (You can read that post here)

In his short journey of 31 years, he touched all our lives with his unique wit and humor and inspired us by his refusal to let his physical handicap limit his abilities to enjoy life and true to his name, spread joy. Harsha was a great fan of the Bengaluru Football Club, and a vociferous supporter, often traveling to different parts of the country to support his beloved team. Closer home, he was the inspiration for my son to get actively involved with football. 


After Harsha’s demise, we, his family, grieved his passing, reminiscing about the things he did and said and the way he lived. Quite surprising to us was the outpouring of grief from his larger circle of friends and even mere acquaintances. Twitter and Facebook were filled with posts from his friends, colleagues at all the places he worked and of course, hundreds of BFC fans. A common thread that ran through all their remembrances was his positive spirit and ability to make people feel comfortable after just a few minutes of interaction.

As I told my niece, Harsha’s sister Rajashree, about this phenomenon, she exclaimed, “I wonder where he found the time to do things to create such an impression on so many people!” As we pondered over this question, it struck me that impressions get formed by what one IS as a person – when that is impactful enough, there is never the need to DO something separately to create an impression.

Whether it was the lab assistant or SPB or Harsha or me or you whenever our time comes, it is the way we live our lives, the things we do and say as we pass through this life’s journey that will sustain in our wake.