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Sunday, March 25, 2012

THE RED BOOK & THE ART OF GIVING

When I started writing my blogs my intent was to share my personal thoughts and what I have learnt from life and my upbringing. I have been sharing many of my experiences with all my readers and those who follow me on my blog. Today I want to touch on a subject that has been very close to my heart at the same time I want to share how my early childhood shaped my thinking on this subject.

As I have said in my earlier blogs I was born in a small village in UP. Life in the village in my early years was good by what we knew as children. My family owned most of the land in the village and most of the other residents of the village were dependent on our land for livelihood. Most of them belonged to the lower castes (I don’t like this term but I don’t know how I can explain to my readers) and our family was the only source of financial and material support to them. My grandfather was a man who was respected by all in the village. He was always available to all for any help they needed and he never bothered if there is any return for what he did in his life. He was a man at peace with himself and I am yet to see a man who was so giving in his daily life. Sometimes I felt that he believed in the concept of trusteeship, where everything was owned by the community. My grandmother on the other hand was a very God fearing person; she was uneducated but had managed to learn to read with the help of the younger educated lot in the family. Her desire to learn to read was driven her curiosity to read the Holy book “The Geeta”. She spent two to three hours every day in the devotion of the all mighty. Some times when I used to ask her why do you spend so much time in this, she would reply that since you all don’t have time for God I have do it for everyone in the family. I learnt the art of giving from grandparents and it has made a great difference in my life today.

My grandparents, by the standards of the Village during those days, were well-to-do and they were financially supported by their three earning sons. However most of the money they had went into helping others in the village. I remember very clearly how even at the age of 65 plus he used to take the sick of the village to the hospital in the city. He even paid for the expenses for the treatment and would keep writing in his read book which was known as the “Bahi”. (The bahi was a red register which documented the amount of money given to people and the record of any money received from those who had taken it from him). Most of the entries were debit entries in his red book, there were very few credit entries in it. But this trend never bothered him and he continued his mission of giving and standing by those in need. As I grew up and was at Allahabad University, I had more opportunities to spend time with him. I would often take a break and go to the village and spend time with my grandparents for a few days. Every visit was an experience of a life time. Every morning and evening he would be with people who had come to see him. It was clear that all of them needed his help and he never turned down anyone. He would ask his trusted housekeeper (who is still alive) to give them what they wanted. Some on would come to ask for 40 kg of wheat for the wedding in the family. Someone would ask for 35 kg of rice for the festival season. There were others who wanted money to meet the expenditures of the family. He never let anyone go empty hand.

Everyone in the family was unable to understand what he was doing but he knew his mission and it was very clear to him. He was so giving that he had handed over his entire business in Mumbai before he returned to village to a person who had been working with him as an employee since the time he started his business. He used to say he has been with me throughout my life and I need to take care of him besides you all don’t need this. None of his children ever objected to this decision and the business was given away.

During his later years of life he still continued writing the red book and the attitude of giving never changed in fact it increased with his age. Someone in the family once asked him; so many people from the village come and take things from you but they never return it and you still keep giving them over and over again. He would say “so what can I do”, I can’t let the families be hungry after all some part of it is theirs. He once told me that anyone who has a share in my wealth will get it whether I like it or not. I guess they were getting their share. The best part of all this was that no one in the family ever objected to what he was doing. He had full support on everything.

He passed away and very happy and satisfied man and his RED BOOK still had the entries of all those people who had taken loans from him with the understanding that it will be returned. No one ever came forward to return what they had taken but we felt that he had never given anything to be returned in this life. May be he was collecting credits for his next life. The RED BOOK is a family story and I hope that all of us in our life will have a RED BOOK which will tell the tale of so many families who you have helped and made a difference in their life. I have started writing my RED BOOK but I don’t know if I will ever reach the heights of what my grandfather was able to achieve. I have never seen a man so honest, so pure and so giving in my life.

Grandfather..Thank you for showing me the right path..


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