Sunday, March 15, 2015

Panditji : A Real Life Story

When I was a child, there used to be an extremely old Panditji from a nearby temple who frequently visited our home. He had been our family Pandit, much like family doctors. His was a tall and lanky figure who was fond of preaching young kids like me. His long lectures used to irritate me so much that I preferred to hide in the inner room to not confront him when he had come over for puja. Hailing from a very religious Brahman family, hardly a month went without there being a puja at home, which was presided none other by the Panditji. 

The never-ending religious chores and my evergrowing interest in science, logic and rationality had turned me averse to the every little process that was related to God. I became a skeptic first, followed by brief stints at being an atheist, an agnostic to my ultimate state (that I still carry) - indifference to God. My father encouraged me to question traditions, beliefs and he never took my curious questions and extreme opinions as blasphemy. Despite being moderately religious, he entertained my skepticism patiently with logic and had just one advice for me: I am allowed to keep my views as long as I was not hurting anyone's sentiments. I was too young to understand what exactly he meant with the word 'hurting sentiments', so I presumed it to refer to verbal/literal disregard of any religion or religious activity and I carefully avoided them in my conversation. By accepting my non-religious views, my father very had intelligently induced tolerance in me and made sure that I accepted his advice without any further questions. 

We lived in a big three-storeyed house of our great-grandfather in Patna, along with some other relatives. There was a big field around a kilometer away from my place, where I played football everyday. On my way to the field, I used to cross the temple where Panditji lived. I was just 9 at that time. It was summertime, when I was returning in the evening after two hours of my favorite sport, when Panditji called me from inside the temple. Being tired and disinterested, I pretended not to listen to him at first. But he summoned once again, louder. I turned and greeted him. 

'Harsh, everyday I see you crossing the temple, but you never bow in front of Lord of lords, Shiva. You are a Brahman! At least uphold some samskaras that your parents have failed to teach you.'

I was terribly annoyed. Who wants a lecture after an intense football match? I didn't reply.

'Now, bow in front of ...' his monologue was interrupted with his acute coughing, until he caught hold of his breath. I remained mute, exasperated with the ongoing preaching and looked at my maxima watch. 

'Bow to the great Shivling and say sorry to the Lord of the Lords,' he ordered and followed it up with his tender words, 'and take this prasad.'

I bowed with folded hands and a sly smile at the idol, went back to him. He handed me some anardanas with dried-rice(chooda), that I grabbed in my fist and ran away, saying irritably, 'Pranam Panditji.'

Next day, my ankles got sprained in the school and I was bedridden for one long week that implied no football. On the coming Sunday, much like our regular affairs, my mother hosted a puja at home. I went with my father on the car to seek the Panditji from the temple, the thought of his arrival had already vexed me. We were stunned to find that the temple was locked. When my father inquired from the neighbours, they informed us that Panditji was suffering from tuberculosis and had passed away one day ago, in the hospital. I still remember the tears that I saw in my father's eye upon hearing the bad news. He related to me about how Panditji had selflessly served our family for over two generations.

I didn't feel sad. Rather, I felt a little relieved that I was saved from boring lectures. I was too small to feel any remorse. The regular Sunday puja was postponed as my parents went to a bigger Shiva temple along with me to pray for Panditji's soul to rest in peace. I was thoughtless. I remained just a mute skeptical spectator to the proceedings. 

I observed no change in me and soon the much-awaited day arrived when my ankle got completely healed. While returning from the football field all alone in the dusk, that night, I was unconsciously drawn towards the temple and I did something that I could have never imagined myself doing. I entered the temple premises and sincerely bowed. But not to the lifeless Lord of the Lords that resided inside, but to the full-of-life God that resided inside the devoted new Panditji who had took over. When I came out of the temple premises and said, 'Pranam Panditji', my tone carried immense sincerity and for the first time in my life, heartfelt remorse. The dusk had given way to the night and I was glad that no one could have observed my wet cheeks as I strolled back to home.

15 years have passed since then. Even now, I never miss visiting small temples that come in my way. I like to pay my adieu to those who have given their entire lives serving the idols without life with just one firm belief that that little lifeless piece of stone had given them lives.

Written for housing.com, watch the embedded video and #StartANewLife like Panditji got me started with.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Believing in idols or not is just a matter of choice but believing in the belief of those who believes in you is the best feeling in the world. Can relate to this blog so well as the same happened with me... ��

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