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 overtly demonstrative of his affection. His love for his children found expression in the wisdom he shared with them, and in the few moments of fatherly indulgence, he allowed himself.
When a popular Indian actor sustained grave injuries during a film shoot, Gurudev’s daughter Renu ji and son Parvesh ji asked their father to help, certain his intervention would save the actor’s life. Seeing the fan army of two in tears, Gurudev indulgently asked them to put their request on paper and place the note along with the actor’s photograph at the sthan. As fate would have it, the actor survived the odds, and Gurudev’s young children got a moon on a stick.
Even though most of his free time was spent in the service of others, Gurudev was always mindful of his fatherly duties. When his daughters sought advice on matters that troubled them, Gurudev became their sounding board. During the festival of Basant (spring), he would make kites for his sons and teach them the subtle nuances of mastering the kite-fight.
Every year, when school would break over the summer, Gurudev’s family would head to one of his soil-survey camps. Aware that his young children had short attention spans, Gurudev planned these trips meticulously. Since there wasn’t much to do at the camps at night, he would carry a VCR player with tens of videotapes, so that the family could spend their evenings watching movies. Some days, he would cook simple dishes like poha and upma for everyone. The food may have been a commoner’s meal but there was nothing common about the hands that cooked it or the energy that penetrated it through his eyes.
The aura (a bio-electric energy field that encompasses all life forms) is transmitted through the eyes and can affect the food you are cooking or looking at.
Even though Gurudev was the perfect host who treated his guests to simple yet delicious meals, there was never a time when something specific was cooked for him. He ate whatever was prepared with gratitude and without fuss.
Renu ji admitted that as a young girl she hoped Gurudev would spend less time with the visitors who flocked to their home for help and healing and more time with her and her siblings. When she expressed her disappointment to her mother, Mataji said, “Beta (child), 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 thereafter. In fact, Gurudev’s empathy inspired her to feed the poor and tutor the children of the migrant labourers who worked close to their home.
Renu ji also marvelled at Gurudev’s organizational skills when he set off on trips with large groups of people with hardly any preplanning or budgeting. It was on one such trip to Mussourie, a picturesque hill station in Uttarakhand, that she learned an invaluable lesson.
One day, Gurudev instructed a disciple named Indu Sharma to ensure everyone, including Mataji, ate lunch before heading out for an excursion. Since Indu ji was in charge of the kitchen, she prepared a potato and capsicum vegetable with rotis for approximately thirty-five people who were part of Gurudev’s entourage. After everyone had eaten barring Indu ji, she told Renu ji to ask Gurudev if he could be served lunch.
When Renu ji relayed the message to Gurudev, he walked purposefully to the kitchen catching Indu ji unawares. Despite multiple requests that Indu ji be allowed to serve him in his room, Gurudev insisted that he be served there and then. Hesitatingly, Indu ji removed the lid off the kadai (frying pan) to reveal that only a small quantity of vegetables remained. She placed the vegetable along with two rotis on a plate and handed it to Gurudev. In turn, he picked up another plate, divided the vegetable and rotis into two parts, and handed one plate to Indu ji with a request that she eats as well.
Renu ji watched Gurudev 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
As a father, Gurudev never told his children how to live. He lived and let them watch how he did it. He empowered them through example, encouraged them to elevate their thinking, and advised them to a life of empathy and compassion.
Gurudev’s sons, Parvesh ji and Puneet ji, are involved in seva, while his three daughters–Renu ji, Ila ji, and Alka ji–are married and settled in different parts of India. Their father’s sage advice has held them in good stead.
Gurudev was not only a father to his biological children but also to countless others who treated him as such. Among his non-biological offspring were the four musketeers of the Gurgaon sthan–Nikku, Pappu, Bittu, and Gaggu.
Gurudev’s domestic caucus of four occupied an interesting and often hard to box place in his life. They looked after his daily needs, oversaw the roster of patients who showed up at the sthan, and performed odd jobs required to run an institution of such magnitude.
Being incorrigible bullies who loved Gurudev dearly, they lectured him when he didn’t eat his food on time or neglected his health. It was a strange sight to see the Mahaguru domestically dominated by the quartet. Gurudev would put on an Oscar-worthy performance of submission in their presence, playing the role of a meek father to perfection. This innate ability to morph into whatever the situation demanded, endeared Gurudev to one and all. Bittu ji recalled an amusing incident that highlighted this aspect of Gurudev’s personality. Sometime in the late 70s, Gurudev joined Bittu ji and his friends for a game of street cricket. While batting at the crease, Gurudev attempted a shot and missed, and the cricket ball got lodged in his lungi (an Indian sarong). Certain that it was a case of leg before wicket, the bowler appealed vociferously. Gurudev turned down the appeal against him with a firm, “Not Out!” and refused to vacate the crease. The unfair lungi dance was the source of laughter for those present and an example of how Gurudev oscillated between Guru and whatever role was expected of him. In his lifetime, he donned many a hat – that of a guru, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend – acting out emotions, unemotionally.
Showcasing an unfair Lungi Dance!
Gurudev was no cricketer in the making. Fortunately, he neither had a square leg or deep fine leg, nor did he spend 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, they not only learned to win the spiritual toss but also won admiration for their gamesmanship with a ‘well played’!