Saturday, March 31, 2012

The sands of time

I wrote this two years ago. It's rather special, and today is the right time to share it once again with all of you!
- - - - - - 

It was a call from my elder brother, a doctor himself, that alerted me to the possibility. It was a second call 10 minutes later that jolted me into action. I rushed to the hospital. And found my father on the ICU bed. He was no more.

On 31st of March 2002, I was on a routine visit to the Indore centre of Professional Tutorials. It was a Sunday, but an audit was overdue, and I was conducting it alongwith the entire team at the centre. Around 12:45pm, my mobile phone rang. Deep into the audit, it took me some rings before I took the call. "Come to the hospital, Dad is not well", said my brother from the other side. "Sure, I will", I said and continued with the audit, hoping to finish it in another 30 minutes. In just 10 minutes, the phone rang again and my brother, slightly more impatient this time round, said "Come NOW."

I rushed out of the office knowing fully well what that tone of voice could mean. And my worst fears were proven true when I entered the ICU of the hospital. My father was on the bed, and a doctor was desperately trying to arouse him from his sleep, pushing a big needle into his heart, with some medicine that's supposed to act as a life-safer in cardiac arrests. I realised that the time has come for me to realise what he had told me earlier on more than one occasions -"A day will come when you will have to realise that we all travel alone, and it is our duty to give happiness to as many as we can in this journey. We must give back to society much more than we take from it."

These were precisely the words I used while designing the obituary advt in next day's newspapers. I hope it gave him happiness that I remembered.

I also remembered that just 2 days ago, there was an advertisement of PT in local papers, and my father had called me up to congratulate me. That was his habit. Every time a news article or advt of PT would appear in media, he would make it a point to call on my mobile and talk to me. He liked to do that. In fact, those were the last words we had exchanged - "Sandeep, I liked today's advertisement. Nicely done. How are you doing, beta?" And I had sensed that he was unwell. His voice was low, and not upbeat. I had asked him about it, and he had brushed it aside saying it'll go. (In fact, when his obit advt was printed, I suspected he may call me from heaven congratulating me for a good design).

My father Dr Govind Shankar Manudhane had come from a very small village named Erandol (near Jalgaon in Maharashtra). He hailed from a very proud family of modest means. His father, my grandfather (a famous lawyer) wanted all his kids to have the best of education. And they did have the best of it. My father's medical education was completed in Pune, Mumbai and Britain, and then he returned to a city he had never been to before - Indore. Like a true entrepreneur, he started his career with almost zero capital, struggling to establish himself as a medical practitioner, and would go for days without a single patient walking in. My mother recalls those days and I can imagine what a struggle it must have been for both of them to manage the clinic with the modest means at their disposal. He got married after he had settled himself to some extent, in the new clinic at Indore, which he had rented at a princely (actually) sum of Rs 300 per month (in the 1960s that was a very big amount). My father always made it a point to publicly respect the first family that helped him settle in Indore - the Jajodias. I learnt a very big lesson - always be grateful for acts of kindness others show towards you.

The fact that my father came from a very small village always amazed me. I say this because he would speak (and write and understand) English extremely fluently and effortlessly. So much for those who crib about their rural backgrounds!

It was only after my father passed away, that the full impact of the depth of our relationship dawned upon me. Till that day, I had taken the relationship for granted. Here was this hugely successful ENT surgeon, a thorough gentleman, extremely fluent at three languages (so much so that he could easily be confused for being an Englishman, a Malwa native or a Marathi) - my father, who would always be available for advice. So it was a given. But when he suddenly was no more, a strong sense of vacuum hit me.

The first 72 hours after his death passed by in rituals, ceremonies and managing the nitty-gritty. It was strange to see a gentleman who would eternally keep smiling, remain still. Totally still. The body being brought home from the hospital, relatives and friends gathering at the home, the ice-slab and formaldehyde injections to keep the body problem-free, the string of visitors to pay their last respects, the final moments when the body leaves the home (that's really a painful one), the funeral, the post-funeral get-together to share emotions and remembrances, the 13 days.. and the final moment when we get on with our lives. It's all a set system. It's all pre-defined. Over thousands of years, the rituals have evolved so wonderfully, and they have been perfected so rigorously, there's hardly a scope for error. There are seniors who magically pop up and guide you at each step - it's truly unbelievable.

I distinctly remember a senior uncle telling me just before the funeral pyre was lit "Beta, chehre par ghee zor se lagao, aur khoob sara lagao." I was applying ghee very gently to Dad's face (just before the funeral pyre was lit) but that clearly does not work. They need lots of it. That's practicality for you. One may be emotionally distraught but the process has to be followed absolutely properly. And then the pyre was lit, and all physical contact was lost forever. It's so strange - we hold our dear ones in our hearts, but feel it through physical touch, and when that medium is lost, one really has to dig deep inside one's heart (or mind) and feel it from there. And that can be very painful! In fact, when we went the next morning for asthi sanchay (collecting the bones that remain after the funeral), I felt strange. These were my father's bones!! The asthi visarjan was equally painful. One realises the stupidity of clinging to material things only when one passes through this experience. It all ends, one day. We return to where we came from. Dust. Or call it Mother Earth.

With some maturity, I can see the wisdom in Lord Shiva's nivritti marg which hints at a detachment from worldly realities, as what we see as material truth is nothing more than a play of Maya with our limited senses, to trap us forever, as long as we are not ready to see through it, like Shiva, or if we choose to engage with it wholeheartedly, then we better do it the Lord Vishnu way.

The meaning of human relationships became clearer to me, as days passed by. I remembered who all had come to pay their last respects. They say that the measure of a man's success is not seen by the way he lived, but the way he died. I was stunned to see the huge number of very respectable people who kept coming in for several days to our home, sharing their feelings about how Doctorsaab had magically cured them of their maladies, how his gentle touch and smile was still fresh in their memories, and how his diligence has cast an indelible impression on their minds. You really can't see all this when your father is alive. Unfortunately, the deepest of emotions in people's hearts emerge only when someone passes away.

As days passed by, I was realising ever more deeply the various incidents that had shaped my relationship with him. I remember vividly how angry he was when I did not perform well in my 5th standard six-monthly exams. He was so upset, in fact, that from the next day (till the final board exams day - we used to have board exams for 5th standard also in those times) he spent 2/3 hours every day with me sitting in the small family garden, teaching me step by step. All those sessions helped me score 95% in the final exams, and to become the school topper, and also one of the state's toppers, winning scholarships. He clapped his heart out in that function. Oh, what love! I doubt if I would have the same commitment towards my children. I might lose patience midway. He did not.

I failed to learn from my experiences of the 5th standard, and he had to repeatedly remind me that I could do well only if I really wanted to. And he ensured that his strictness led to really good results all through my schooling. I cracked all exams, including the NTSE exam in standard X, which helped me win a lifelong scholarship (till I would choose to study). The government was lucky, as I stopped studying after my graduation (much to Dad's chagrin)!

I remember to this day the name of each newspaper and magazine that he ensured was subscribed to, for the 3 of us (2 brothers, and a sister). All our growing-up years we read tonnes of books, magazines and newspapers. The Times of India, Naidunia, Chandamama, Nandan, Champak, Tinkle, Tintin, Archies, Bal Bharti, The Illustrated Weekly of India, Dharmayug, Indrajaal comics, Amar Chitra Katha... you name it, and we had it coming to our home. Year after year. Today when I look back, I realise that most of what I am is because of that exposure. He would always say "Padho, khoob padho. I'll never let you face any shortage of funds for books and studies."

Like a silly fool, once I confronted my Dad with a simple question - "Daddy, all other doctors invest so much in land and property. Why don't you do that?" His simple reply was - "My entire investment is in my three children. I do not intend to leave behind anything but three good citizens." The full importance of what he said was lost on me that day. Today, it hits me hard everytime I recall this! It was perhaps the most profound thing he ever said to me.

Every single birthday in my home used to be a true celebration. The mood used to be joyous from the morning, with songs played in high volume (we had an LP record with songs like "hum bhi agar bachhey hote..") almost all day through. Then in the afternoon, everybody would gather for cake-cutting ceremony and a really sumptuous meal, with badaam ka halwa for sure! My Dad ensured that every birthday of each one of the five family members was celebrated with enthusiasm. And yes, he was a photography enthusiast. We still have albums preserved from over decades of every possible event that happened! I have carried that habit with me!

I remember my siblings often complaining to my father - "Daddy (and Mummy), you love him more than you love us!" And he would always tell them - "Come on, I love you equally!" And there was a naughty smile on his face. I guess he did love me a bit more ;-) In the very early days (when I was perhaps 3 years old), he would often put me on top of the dining table and say "Naach beta!" and I would dance, and he would sing a nice little rhyme (family copyrighted!), and everyone would have a jolly good time. I tried that with my kids also, but was not too successful!

All my life, I never heard him utter a single abuse, a single foul word. The only one was perhaps "rascal" which he would sometimes use when angry. Other than that, he was a total embodiment of everything civil, genteel, and polished. Always well-dressed, clean-shaven and soft-spoken, his company was much sought after by his friends. His daily work routine was one of high discipline - getting up at 4am, reaching the OT (operation theatre) by 5am, coming home by 9am, reaching clinic by 10:20 am, coming home for lunch by 1:45pm, reaching clinic by 4pm, and coming home by 8:15pm. Six days a week at least. I saw him do this for 30 years. Imagine - thirty years! He was that dedicated to his profession, and to the well-being of all of us.

Diwali was always a very very special occasion. At his clinic, there would be an elaborate Laxmi-poojan, and the entire family would reach in time, especially me. Although my motives were different. More than the poojan, I was interested in the special samosas we used to get from the corner-wali shop after the poojan got over. Till this day, I remember every poojan, every samosa I ate, every cracker we burst on the first floor of the clinic (in the middle of a very very busy street). Then we would reach home, and prepare for the evening bash. Daddy was very fond of bursting crackers (not the very loud ones) and he would give my brother and me a lot of money to splurge on this! I have continued the habit till date. And yes, one more thing - he loved Sachin Tendulkar!

The day I made it to IIT was extremely special. In the summers of 1989, the IITJEE results were delayed by several months (due to teachers' strike) and we were on tenterhooks till July. Then came the results and bingo! I had earned JEEAIR 647 and made it to IIT Delhi. He was ecstatic as his dream had literally come true. I remember him prodding me since early childhood that "Tujhe toh beta IIT mey hi jaana hai". I did not even understand what IIT meant, but he made sure I realised it was something really worth aspiring for. It is important for parents to keep reinforcing the goals worth-pursuing in the minds of their kids, in their early years. Throughout my IIT preparation days, he was there by my side, at times making tea for me at 2 am in the night. Each one of those moments light up vividly in my mind today, though when I lived through them, they were just another day!

And then I passed out of IIT Delhi, and made it to all the IIMs. Again, he was ecstatic. I still remember him telling everyone this with tremendous pride! My mother would often remind him not to praise my achievements so much - "dimaag ghoom jayea iska, zyada taarif mat kiya karo!!"

But destiny had to strike its wonderful stroke of a seemingly irrational plunge. Like his true son, I went straight to the garage and started an education enterprise. I started Professional Tutorials (PT) in my family garage on 10th of July 1993, and all hell broke loose.

Dad was totally upset with my choice of a career. He thought I had gone mad, or that his misdeeds of past lives were catching up with him (the Bhagwad Gita philosophy). The mood at home was extremely tense for many months in 1993/94. But strangely, I was sure that I could create something meaningful in a teaching career, and maybe create even an enterprise out of it. I was ziddy, totally ziddy (after all, I was his son!). Slowly, in a few years, everyone saw clearly that there was no point in trying to convince me otherwise, and they all started praying for my success (hee, hee!). Ultimately, I did become successful to some extent, and Dad was very happy to see that I had purchased an office, and then even constructed a proper building (in the year 2000). That really made him very proud of me, and I was very relieved (I was scared that if I were to fail, he might feel truly bad about investing so much of emotions in me all through my early years, and it was imperative for me to succeed.) He even came to attend some conferences at PT, where he spoke. It was such a proud moment for ME! Finally, he had realised that I was not all that silly and wrong, and that I could actually do solid things.

In all this, I distinctly remember the tremendously inspiring incident of a senior Professor who came to our residence in 1994, called me for a counselling (by him, to me) looked into my eyes with a dead-serious face (that almost killed me) and said - "Young man, you really think you can make a career out of all this stuff you are doing?"  I swore to myself "Boss, kar ke dikhaoonga!" Ever since then, in my career as a mentor, I have never told any young man/woman such a thing :-)

My Dad kept advising me on money matters, which kept irking my mother always! But he would not stop - his advice would flow constantly. Children, after all, remain children always, for their parents. And that's how it should always be. I can totally relate with this sentiment, when I look at my own kids. There is no way I am going to stop advising them ever!!

I have realised a very deep truth about parents. The good deeds of our parents add to the social bank balance of children, that we keep encashing later. As I started working independently as an entrepreneur, I faced several challenges. On many occasions I came across people who went out of the way to help me because they knew and resepected my father. I realised that I had a very rich bank balance that my father left me - the bank balance of invisible blessings, good deeds, & solid karma. Trust me reader, there is nothing more powerful in this life than genuine positive karma. It leaves its indelible traces in the sands of time. Decades after my father helped someone in need, that 'someone' is always around to help me today. Awesome!

Another thing he told me on more than one occasion was "This human society is being run only by 10 - 20% of the good people. If they also turn corrupt, it'll all fall apart!" That really scared me.

In just another two years, two more of the most senior friends of my father also passed away. One of them, Shri H C Singh, was very close to me and had helped me through the initial years of PT through his strategic advice on various matters. A whole era had come to an end for me.

Given his strong sense of humour, on the 01st of April 2002, it was almost as if my father was smiling at all of us saying "April Fool everyone! I am going! Now you are on your own. You better behave well as I am no longer there to take care of you." I was badly upset on many occasions for several days after my father died. Of course, I kept it hidden from everyone (how could I show my weak face!!).

It's been a decade now, and with some more maturity I can now truly begin to understand the pillars of wisdom enshrining the Hindu philosophy - that the best we can do is to submit to the play of
Maya fully understanding its nature, and to submit also to the fact that generation and destruction is a continuous cycle, not to be interrupted by any force imaginable, except the human mind.

On the sands of time
Your love and blessings made me what I am
Gratitude would be too small an emotion
To repay and express what I feel
For we are not separate
For we are not spaced apart in time and existence
We are one, together
Our deeds, intent and goals make us one
The only way I can repay what you did for me
Is to do even better for others with all my emotions!


Antariksh Singh Rathore said...

Respected Sir,

‘The sands of time’ is the purest expression of something which can't be regarded as just a bond of love between a father and a son OR a son's emotions for his beloved late. father, rather I feel its something entirely beyond my scope and ability to give it a proper term or expression. I gradually sailed through it until in the end, it made me understand the actual meaning and real significance of a father and his fatherhood, upbringing, childhood, love, affection, the way a father treats his innocent kids and moreover, and the realizations post to his demise.

Sir, I've always possessed a high degree of respect for you for your work (as an educationist) and its incredible quality. I don’t just read, rather I always try to carefully examine your analysis’s on several social, economical, political subjects. But tonight, after having felt your journey from a child to a ‘ziddy ’ but successful entrepreneur through ‘The Sands of Time’, the degree of respect has increased manifolds from today. What circumstances could one day teach me in future, you’ve done it in the present itself.

Today I have realized that I have many more hugs not given yet, many words of kindness unspoken and love that is still not shown in its full blow that I owe to my father. Also I’ve clearly understood that there are no limits to the love, respect, gratitude and many more good gestures that I must perform for my father. And for all my realizations today, the whole credit goes to Late. Shri. Dr. Govind Shankar Manudhane Sir who bestowed upon the world a gift like you as his son, who has made his life so worthwhile. You’re actually a true citizen, a true educationist and moreover a wonderful human being altogether. You’ve genuinely implemented your father’s great philosophy of life- “We must give back to society much more than we take from it."

Thank you so much sir !!!

I wish you a lot of success and prosperity. Keep enlightening us :-)

‘The sands of time’ will always remain a realization of lifetime for me.

God Bless you Sir. :-)

Avani said...

Thank you so much, Sir. Every word made an influence, and serves as an eye opener.

Unknown said...

Such experiences makes us realise the ephemeral nature of life and how these relations are important to us. We tend to forget our parents as we come off age but they are indeed the persons who not only brought us into the world but also made us walk on our own feet. Times, no matter good or bad, they will always support us.