By Jagdesh Singh | OPINION |
When his name appeared on my phone screen, I thought to myself, “How did he know I wanted to talk?” This wasn’t the first time that he somehow telepathically knew that it was time for a yarn and a laugh. I had wanted to call him for more than a few nights to complain about my anger and my impatient nature, waiting for some soothing advice at the end of the call.
In its true essence, it was the quintessential long distance relationship we had. And he would never fail to make me feel better, lift my spirits and look forward to the day ahead. Indeed, he would plant the seed, inception of the idea, that there is no other way than to live life but in full Chardee Kala.
Instead, it was his son, who was a few years younger than me, on the other side of the wireless line.
“Dad passed away this morning…”
There was a pause, and then a request to share the news. Suffice to say, and I don’t believe anybody else would react differently, I was drawing a huge blank and my reaction was pathetic. The call ended abruptly, preparations were to be done urgently on the other side.
We had met 18 years back in Punjab. I had appeared at an ashram straight from Delhi, with not an iota of any inkling on what I was about to encounter.
You see, I knew not a single word of Punjabi, and I was desperate to find my way to this ashram to seek answers to questions, a quest to experience something life changing. Yet here I was, where English is barely spoken, the astronomical roaming costs to call home from my Samsung cellphone (smartphones were non-existent) making it impossible to get interpretations from my Punjabi girlfriend. But he was the first who was introduced to me, and to my utmost relief, he spoke English immaculately.
He looked sagely, old and wise. His white beard flowing down, his eyes twinkled. When he spoke, I felt like the wise saints of the land were talking to me because he had a booming voice but it was soothing to me more than anything else.
And he had the immediate impact on me. He immediately quashed all nonsensical notions that I had preconceived coming to this spiritual ashraam, right in the middle of a field. Everything explained was in simple manner, mystical yet simple, everything made sense yet personally experienced for me to fully embrace.
I didn’t see any blinding light, nor float in the air from hours of meditation, neither did I fast for hours. I wasn’t disciplined into submission, nor forced to stay. Everything was the message of kindness and care. Nothing altered my life in any way when I finally left two weeks later, but something changed. I left the ashram with a new person in my life, whose advice I would seek whenever life posed me questions.
Throughout the years, phone calls were made every once in a while. Initially it was all about advice on spiritual matters. Then the advice would intertwine with family matters as my young family grew, spirituality and simple living being at the core of the advice. Trips were made to Delhi, his family’s home, first as a couple with the Punjabi girlfriend now my new bride, then with each of my three daughters as they joined the family one by one. The advices then evolved into chats and dialogues. Even when challenging me with notions, the calls always ended with a wonderful message of kindness and care.
It’s ironic, but our last trip to see him was in the same place I first met him as he had moved there a couple of years before. His heart had yearned for it. His health had deteriorated as his age caught up, yet his wit and his laughter never waned. We stayed in his beautiful home, he played host with his family, and we talked and talked before the nights became too cold from the winter. I would read him the articles that I’ve written over the years, almost each one inspired by our chats and dialogues. We would argue a little on some minor point, I would stand corrected, and promised him that I won’t stop writing them, so that I can read them to him over the phone.
As I write this homage to him, whose advice and inspiration have moulded my life, I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed to have known such a good teacher and friend.
If I could only pick up the phone and call him now, to talk about how saddened I am, to get his advice and maybe to read him this article I wrote about what a good friend and teacher I’ve had over the past 18 years.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Faith and Fear (Asia Samachar, 22 Nov 2018)