Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Memories

I am an inveterate hypochondriac the smallest ache, pain or swelling makes my go into paroxysms of panic. And I remember that when I went to the shooting of a film in Rajasthan a few years ago two things, as usual, were on my mind  – the condition of my health and the condition of my finances. 


My cholesterol had hit the 400 mark and I came to the immediate conclusion that the end was near. I was worried sick. I thought the Rajasthan countryside would be parched and arid. Instead, it was green and verdant. It had been raining incessantly in the region for the past month, something that had not happened here for as long as people could remember. The surroundings were beautiful. But I had no eyes for the landscape or the balmy weather. My thoughts were gloomy, my mood somber, my soul depressed.



I decided to go for a jog early one morning in order to get the cholesterol levels down and be fit for the shooting. The doctor had recommended that. I had run barely half a furlong through the countryside when, finding myself out of breath, I switched to a walk. Just then I saw an old man, grey haired, lean, barefoot, running towards me from the opposite direction at breakneck speed. He was carrying a long staff on one shoulder and had a bundle of clothes slung on the other. He gave me a toothless smile as he passed me by. 

Intrigued, I started ran and caught up with him. 

“Take it easy! What’s the hurry, Grandpa?” I said to him, barely able to speak.
“I am off to Dwarka!” he grinned.
“You are going to run all the way?”
“Yes!”
“And where have you come from?”
“Kathiawar!” 

That, I calculated, was a distance of not less than four or five hundred kilometres. Noticing that I was pooped he slowed down to a walk. He wasn’t even out of breath. 





“Why are you doing this?” I asked him, astonished.
“It is a pilgrimage! It something that has to be done! Ancient tradition! Peace of mind! After Dwarka I will go to Hardwar!”
“On foot?”
“Of course!” 

I was stumped. Running barefoot from Kathiawar to Dwarka was astonishing enough, but then to run from there to Hardwar was unbelievable. 

“Where do you eat? Where do you sleep at night?” I asked. 
“People feed me on the way! There are good souls everywhere! No problem!” he smiled. 

I had never seen such a carefree man in my life. 

“How much money are you carrying with you?”
“Nothing! What do I need money for? The less baggage one carries in life the better, Sahib! Gives one peace of mind!” he laughed, baring a lone canine.
“How old are you, Sir?”
He laughed out loud again. 
“God knows! But three of my grandchildren are married and have children of their own! So I must be pretty old!”
“Won’t this wear you out?”
“I will be worn out if I don’t run, sahib! One has to have a goal, a target, and a destination in life! As long as I have a destination, I will not be worn out!” Saying this he laughed again and resumed his run. 

I stopped in my tracks and looked at him disappear down the road. It was then, for the first time since my arrival, that I noticed the beautiful countryside, the dew on the grass, the wild flowers, the verdant, heavenly landscape. I was not worried anymore. The toothless, uneducated, gray haired, barefoot old man had taught me the greatest lesson of my life.

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