THE FAMILY MAN
They watched him stand tall in every storm,
accepting the here and now.
There was no pageantry, no sermons to give,
he just lived and taught them how.
As a parent, Gurudev wasn’t overly demonstrative of his affection. His love for his children found expression in the wisdom he shared with them and the few moments of fatherly indulgence he allowed himself.
When a popular Indian actor suffered severe injuries on a film set, Gurudev’s daughter Renu ji and son Parvesh ji begged their father for assistance, confident that his intervention would save the actor’s life. On noticing the fan army of two in tears, he asked them to write their request on paper and leave it at the sthan with the actor’s photograph. As fate would have it, the actor survived the odds, and Gurudev’s young children got the moon on a stick.
Although he spent most of his free time in the service of others, he was always mindful of his fatherly duties. He served as a sounding board for his daughters when they needed advice. On Basant Panchami, he would make kites for his sons and teach them the nuances of kite running. His family would spend their summer vacations at one of his soil-survey camps. Knowing that his young children had short attention spans, he would meticulously plan these trips. He would bring a video cassette player and tens of videotapes with him so that they could spend their evenings watching movies. On occasion, he would prepare simple dishes, such as poha and upma. The food may have been a commoner’s fare, but neither the hands that prepared it nor the energy that passed through his eyes was ordinary.
Renu ji admitted that as a young girl, she wished her father would spend more time with his children and less time with the visitors who came to their home for help and healing. When she expressed her disappointment to her mother, Mataji said,”Beta, if a few minutes of your father’s time can bring relief to someone in pain, should we not prioritise that?”. Renu ji never complained about it again, and years later, her father’s compassion inspired her to feed the poor and tutor the children of migrant labourers who worked nearby.
Renu ji was also impressed by Gurudev’s organisational skills when he took large groups of people on trips with little planning or budgeting. She learned an invaluable lesson on their trip to Mussoorie, a picturesque hill station in Uttarakhand.
Gurudev told a disciple, Indu Sharma, to make sure everyone, including Mataji, ate lunch before going on an excursion. Indu ji, who oversaw the kitchen, prepared a potato and capsicum dish with rotis for the entourage. After everyone except her had eaten, she told Renu ji to ask Gurudev if she could serve him lunch. When Renu ji relayed the message to her father, he walked purposefully to the kitchen, catching Indu ji unawares. Despite multiple requests that Indu ji be allowed to serve him in his room, he insisted that he be served there and then. Hesitatingly, she removed the lid off the kadai to reveal only a small quantity of the remaining subzi. She placed the subzi and two rotis on a plate and handed it to him. In turn, he picked up another plate, divided the meal into two parts, and gave one plate to her, asking her to eat as well. Renu ji watched him eat his meal with a smile on his face. After finishing, he turned to her and said, “Putt, jennu khellaan che mazaa agaya na, khaane da mazaa nahin rehnda”. When translated from Punjabi, these words mean:
One who learns the pleasure of feeding others,
seldom cares about feeding oneself!
Gurudev was the perfect host, serving simple yet delicious meals to his guests. There was never a time when something special was prepared just for him. He ate every meal served to him, with gratitude and without fuss.
As a father, he never taught his children how to live. He lived and let them watch how he did it. He led by example, encouraged them to elevate their thinking, and counselled them to a life of empathy and compassion. His sons, Parvesh ji and Puneet ji, are involved in seva, while his three daughters, Renu ji, Ila ji, and Alka ji, are married and live in different parts of India. Their father’s wise counsel has served them well.
Gurudev was a father figure to his biological children and countless others who looked up to him. The four musketeers of the Gurgaon sthan – Nikku, Pappu, Bittu, and Gaggu – were among his non-biological offspring. This domestic caucus of four occupied an interesting and hard-to-box place in his life. They looked after his daily needs, oversaw the roster of visitors who came to the sthan and did the odd jobs that came with running such a large institution. They also lectured him when he didn’t eat his food on time or neglected his health because they were incorrigible bullies who adored him. It was strange to see him being dominated by the quartet. In their presence, he would put on an Oscar-worthy performance of submission, perfecting the role of a meek father.
Gurudev’s innate ability to transform into whatever the situation demanded, endeared him to all.
Showcasing an unfair Lungi Dance!
Bittu ji recalled a humorous incident that exemplified this aspect of Gurudev’s personality. Gurudev took part in a game of gully cricket with Bittu ji and his friends. He was batting at the crease when he missed a shot, and the cricket ball got lodged in his lungi. Confident that it was a case of leg before wicket, the bowler appealed vehemently. With a firm “Not Out!” and refusal to vacate the crease, Gurudev turned down the appeal against him. The unfair lungi dance made everyone laugh, and it demonstrated how he alternated between being a guru and playing whatever role was expected of him. Throughout his life, he wore many hats, including those of a guru, husband, father, son, brother, and friend, all while acting out emotions unemotionally.
Gurudev was no cricketer in the making. Fortunately, he neither had a square leg or deep fine leg nor spent his time bowling maidens over. Yet, he understood spiritual line and length. Many of his lessons were bouncers for his disciples. But being the spiritual offspring of a mahaguru, we learned to win the spiritual toss and our gamesmanship evolved with a ‘well played’