It was lunch time, I was famished but I had had no time for lunch. I looked outside my office window; the sun was scorching my black Toyota Fortuner at 42 degrees. I sat there concerned for its 'well-being', sipping hot coffee in the comfort of my air conditioned office, as my mind was dealing with a thousand stresses, contemplating ways of increasing revenue and growth.
At a distance by the roadside, i saw some street hawkers selling afternoon lunch to a herd of poor souls who could not afford the luxury of a home cooked meal or even a meal in the relative comfort of a low-end restaurant. They seemed to bear the heat and their situation with a smile. Their laughter and over all enthusiasm made me wonder. Was it the chole bhature, aloo chat and paranthas? which I almost wanted to order for myself, or was I missing something? Anyway my realized self, advised me against the hazards of unhealthy food and made me wonder how they survived it all.
At that moment my thoughts were interrupted by a 1980s era Bajaj Chetak announcing its arrival, mounted by a 'fraying' old gentleman, making its way through a mesh of chaotically parked vehicles, barely avoiding hitting one, landing right in front of my office window adding to chaos in my line of sight. I turned my gaze away to the comfort of my immediate physical space. What a blessing I thought.
Just as I was getting back to my work, my peon entered announcing the arrival of an elderly man seeking permission to meet me. My first reaction was to turn him away as I had a lot of work to catch up on, but then something inside me said otherwise. 'Let him in' I said.
The door opened and he walked in. He must have been around 60, hair still intact, partly grey. He was lean and around 5 ft 7. He sat down and greeted me as I greeted back, a polite Namaste. I could not help but feel a strange vibrational peace around him. An aura that one seldom felt. He was already beginning to intrigue me. What can I do for you Sir?’, I asked.
‘I need a little help from you Sir’, he replied. ‘I want to get one of my girls admitted to your Institute’.
I looked at him and his scooter parked outside my window, Ah I thought, a parent wanting a discount or waiver of fees. I had always taken pride in teaching poor students for free. Giving into my presumption and pre-empting his next question I said, ‘Don’t worry sir we will do our best to offer the best possible discount or waiver’.
Without taking offense he replied calmly ‘No sir I am not here to ask for a discount, I have the money and want my students to work hard for what they get in life’.
I was a little taken aback ‘Students?’ I asked.
He then told me that he & his group of volunteers were running 20 schools in villages educating over 700 students. That they raised money from NGOs and other patrons to fund the education of the poor. Over years they had realized that some students had the caliber to study further and had decided that they would arrange for such students to be admitted to the best institutes in the city.
‘Sir I just wanted to meet you and to ask you a little favour'. I was beginning to contemplate what the favour could be, when he continued ‘Sir I just wanted to request you to pay a little extra attention to this girl who is from a poor background and has never been to a city’. He went on to tell me that he had also spoken to an English teacher to help her and was hopeful of a bright future for Pooja.
He then went on to explain that Pooja was the daughter of a small farmer living in a village a little over a 2 hours’ drive from the city. She was the eldest of 6 children and the brightest in her class and that it was her dream to be a Chartered Accountant.
I leaned back into my chair and just looked at him in awe. Looks can be deceptive, I thought. There he was oblivious of the impression he was having on me. I was overwhelmed by the modesty, the selfless commitment of this man to his chosen cause. I got up and hugged him. Life would never be the same for me as my intrinsic parameters of success had just undergone a paradigm shift.
This happened some 20 years ago and I remember it as if it happened today. I still strive hard to achieve what that man had back then. In a world that is so defined by uni dimensional parameters of success and happiness, here I had met one whose soul had found its purpose as mine continues its quest even today.