Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Man With The Placard

Those with a historical bent of mind will agree that India has from times immemorial been targeted by invaders – Parthians, Scythians, the Greeks, the Mongols, Muslims and finally the British.

As someone has said:

“Indian civilisation is distinctive for its antiquity and continuity. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia have not survived. But in India today, Indians seek inspiration from concepts similar to those originally advanced by their ancestors”.

I understood the reason for this the other day.

If you are driving down the road leading to the Saurashtra Circle from the Andheri, you will come across a T-junction at the Link Road leading to Versova. And at the junction, standing on the tall divider directly below the traffic light, you will often, in the late afternoon and early evening, see an old man standing (with one leg wrapped around the other) with a broad smile on his face wearing nothing but a white bedsheet, holding up a placard above his head reading: “APNE DHARM PE CHALO; SAB SE PYAR KARO!” (“Walk on your own religious path but love everybody!”).

I thought he was a dignified beggar but when I offered him some money, he refused it with a chuckle. I wondered what he was getting out of standing in the heat for hours with his hands raised above his head holding a placard.

And then, one late afternoon, as I was strolling on the beach trying to sort out some knotty and disturbing problems in my head, I saw him striding along briskly some distance away with the placard under his arm. When I caught up with him, at first, he did not recognise me.
“Are you the fellow who offered me the money?” he asked.
“Yes” I answered.
“I recognize you now! The one in the white car!”

For a while he was silent as he scrutinised my face.
“You look worried!”
“Yes, I am! There are a lot of things to worry about” I replied.
 “Like what?”
“Well, one’s family, one’s finances, one’s work, the state of one’s health, the state of the world! There is so much to worry about! Don’t tell me you don’t ever get worried!”
He laughed.
“No, I don’t! I never worry.”
“Not about your family?”
“I have no family!”
“About money?”
“I don’t have any money and I don’t need it!!”
“And what about the future? Aren’t you worried about the future?”
“There is no future! There is only this day -- this hour, this moment!”
“So where do you live, sleep, eat? Where is your family?”
“I live and sleep here on the beach, under the starry sky! I cover myself with this bed
sheet at night! I bathe in the sea. People come and feed me! My friend Krishna looks after me”.
“Who is he? Where is he?”

“He is everywhere! He looks after me day and night!”
“That’s great! You are lucky to have a friend like that!”
 “He is your friend also!”
“I have no friend by that name.”
He raised his finger towards the sky and said:
“Of course, you have! Lord Krishna! As long as I serve Him, He provides everything!”
“Ah! A religious bigot!” I thought. “A Hare Krishna guy”.
“So how do you serve him? You have nothing to give him!” I asked him.
“I give people His message!” he said, pointing to the placard. “Follow your own religion; but love everyone irrespective of his religion, caste, creed or color! Love is the operative word! Be intoxicated with His love like the Gopis were!”
“Sorry, I am not a Hari Krishna guy!”
“Love any Deity that you believe in – Allah, or Christ or Brahman or Vishnu! Love them and serve them! They are all the same -- different names of the one God!”

He suddenly shaded his eyes and looked at the sun.
“It must be about four O’clock” he said. I looked at my watch. It was nearing that time.  

“Sorry”, he said moving off. Time for me to go and stand at the crossing!”

Seeing him striding away energetically I suddenly understood the reason for the uncanny continuity of Indian culture. India has been invaded, enslaved, maltreated, and abused mercilessly. But it has never been broken. It has always emerged like the Phoenix from the ashes. If there is one quality that India has shown throughout the ages it is resilience. And this man was the living proof of it…


  1. There is a story of a team of Russians sent to India to study the people and report on what makes them tick. After living there for several months, among all classes of people, they submitted their one line report - God lives in India.

  2. In my opinion the man with the placard was Lord Krishna, Who came through this MAN and wanted to solve your problems or convey you a very important and simple message from Lord.

    1. True. He appears when we need Him most - in forms that we can relate to. 🕉🕎✡️☮️✝️☪️