THE FAMILY MAN
The little mischief maker, too quick footed for her,
Soon grew from a child to a man.
But he never forgot the sacrifices she made
Like only a mother can.
Gurudev always spoke of a human being having three gurus in his life – his parents, his teachers, and most importantly, his spiritual guide and mentor.
Aware of the enormous debt owed to one’s parents, Gurudev encouraged his followers, disciples, and devotees to care for them and accord them the respect they deserved.
Gurudev shared a very close bond with his parents, especially his mother. Her devotion may have triggered a deep sense of gratitude in Gurudev and the philosophy to supplement it.
When Gurudev was a child, his mother developed blisters on the soles of her feet chasing after him in the hope that he would stop scurrying around and focus on his studies. She may have honed her athletic skills but was unable to rein in her son’s naughty streak.
Gurudev’s interest in spiritualism intensified as he grew older. He would disappear for hours and sometimes days, gathering spiritual insights in the company of sadhus, fakirs, and mystics. In a world where mobile phones were an invention of the future, Gurudev’s fondness for spiritual adventurism caused his mother constant stress.
After graduating from school, Gurudev was selected for the Army. His mother was resistant to the idea of her eldest son joining a high-risk profession and, on her insistence, Gurudev opted out of a career in the Indian Armed Forces. Being an avid movie watcher, he then toyed with the idea of becoming an actor. Fortunately for the millions he would serve in the future, his application to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, was rejected.
Billu, a devotee of Gurudev, loved his liquor more than his liver. He and Gurudev shared a perplexing relationship.
Gurudev would ask Billu to quit alcohol.
Billu would promise that he would.
Billu would break his promise.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
One evening, as Gurudev sat in the cow-shed explaining spiritual concepts to me, Billu sauntered in reeking of alcohol and broken promises. I noticed Gurudev’s expression change upon seeing him. When Billu made a lame attempt to defend his inability to quit alcohol, Gurudev’s patience wore out. Billu was on the receiving end of the kind of anger I had never seen Gurudev express before. As he spat fire, Billu and I cowered, trembling with fear. After a harsh dressing-down, Billu left the shed with his tail between his legs. As soon as he was out of sight, Gurudev turned to me, smiled, and said, “Barkhurdar, kaisi lagi hamari acting? (Son, what did you think of my performance?)”. The cat got my tongue as my jaw met the floor.
Gurudev used role-play as an effective tool in Guruism. When he played the role of a father, he was strict or indulgent. As a friend, he had us rolling with laughter with his arsenal of wisecracks, but as a Mahaguru, he was intense and formal in his conduct, inspiring both awe and respect. Seeing the master role-player in action helped me and several others hone our own role-playing skills.
The premature end to Gurudev’s dream of becoming an actor was providence as he was destined to become a spiritual hero unlike any the world has ever seen.