Hari tried to wrap up his work for the day sooner than usual. “My grandmother is visiting us…”, he said to inquiring looks from his colleagues, “…she is already home and will be staying with us for the next two months”, he told his colleagues.
“And we could see the grand kid in you spring up since morning…”, they replied with a smile, “…don’t see you getting so excited often, you must love her very much”.
“Very much, can’t wait to meet her”, said Hari as he hit the shutdown button on his laptop and hurled a quick, “have a nice weekend folks”, before he rushed out of the office.
There was a bustle in the house as grandma took charge of the proceedings, as was customary, wherever she went. “Grandmothers have a global authority over everyone and everything in the household”, Hari’s dad almost choked with laughter at the confused and almost angry expression of Hari’s mom, “…now for the next few months you are not the final authority dear, your mom is home!”, he savored the freshly prepared idlee (a south Indian dish) with peanut chutney and waved at Hari, “join the race, I am still batting strong, fresh idlees flying from the kitchen”. Hari went straight to kitchen to meet his grandmother and joined the party.
“How is your new job nani”, Granny asked addressing Hari with his pet name. “He gets upset when any of us call him that”, came a taunt from the drawing room from Hari’s mother. “Yes, grandma has the unique patent on my pet name”, Hari winked at granny.
“It is great grandma, this is my second year in office, so many great people at work, and so many weird ones too. One day I feel that I have figured it out, and the next day I feel clueless. I see the same with some of my colleagues too. Some days they have great clarity, and on other days I see them not being so clear and contradicting what they said previously. But may be I don’t understand everything…”, he spoke in between gulping down the snacks that granny brought from her town.
“Your generation is in a hurry to find answers, and more often than not, you end up with opinions nani”, she said lovingly as she handed another coconut laddu (a sweet) to him. “This is the fifth one he is getting momma”, shouted Hari’s sister. “Shush shush! it’s okay, let him have it, you come and have too”, replied Granny.
“But I must tell you grandma, I have a great mentor. I mean she is so knowledgeable, she is so good at what she does. But also others say that she is too serious, doesn’t mingle with all, keeps to herself, doesn’t join parties at work…yeah, we have them sometimes… and then you know what, our manager, oh grandma, I think he is from another planet. Never see him getting upset at anything. Always so calm and kind and no I don’t want more laddus, I am full”, finished Hari and led Granny to his room.
Hari continued talking about various colleagues at work and what he thinks about them. Granny listened with total attention as-if his narrative meant the world for her. “This is what I like about you grandma, you give me your full attention, now I told you about my last two years at work, what do you think”, Hari downed a glass of water still glancing at Granny.
She let out a deep breath and smiled. “You are getting started in a life long journey nani. So far your education has come from school and college where you were exactly told what to learn and how to prove your learning. From here on, it will be on you to both learn and prove to yourself more than others that you are learning. But it doesn’t mean you should not have fun. It just means that you take yourself a bit more seriously and take accountability of what you do”, she said.
“I know, right! Seems so tough, and dad and mom don’t understand my field of work, and my friends, they are as confused as I am, if not more. Sometimes I don’t know if I should listen to them, as I feel…I get more depressed. Everybody has their own…”, he got distracted by his sister sneaking in to the room where they were both sitting. “…has their own opinion?”, added Granny. “Yes! and I am not sure if it is good or bad for me”, said Hari.
“Well, why don’t you start with those that you admire? There must be something about them that makes it appealing for you to admire them. Or something they said or did for you. For instance your mentor or your manager or that other guy that you said has good attitude even though he doesn’t seem so smart. Do you interact with them regularly?”, she asked.
“Ya, I do. I mean my mentor invited us to her home a few times. She made good food for us, and we spoke about movies and stuff like that, had a good time. We also meet our manager at least once a month, and sometimes he takes us out, or has a one to one meeting. That other guy, his name is Rajesh, he is one cool dude. I mean nothing disturbs him. He has great attitude, even under pressure. I feel sometimes that he has a great moral background, he is not afraid to speak the truth in front of anyone. I see others hesitating, but he does not. May be that’s why my manager looks at him for project status reporting”, said Hari.
“Ma it is getting late, you have just arrived today, why don’t you get to bed. Hari let her get some rest!”, Hari’s mother came in to give a quick glance and left without waiting for their reply. “Not without a story ma, I told all my friends at work that I will get a great bed time story today along with other snacks and sweets from town…”, Hari pleaded loudly.
“Well, in fact, I have a story that I remember hearing from my grandfather and I told this to you when you were a kid, but let me tell again”, Granny said. Hari’s sister also snuggled beside Granny, “I am sure there is a quest involved”, she announced.
“Oh yes! no fun without a quest, no answers without a question”, Granny replied and started narrating the following story.
Legend has it that in an ancient kingdom called Prajnapura, the King suddenly developed a rare disease and was heading towards a slow and painful death. The court physician tried all medicines of the land and finally announced, “only the miraculous flower of Chakra that grows on the mountain top of Sadhanagiri can cure him”. But everyone knew that conquering that mountain was impossible. There was no evidence of anyone even attempting the climb through the treacherous forests and some of the deadliest creatures living undisturbed. Prajnapura had a valiant prince in Manav who had just finished his education and returned to the palace.
“Is it true that no one can make it to the top?”, Manav enquired his teacher. But before his teacher could respond, “…no one who did claimed it, and no one in their sane mind would attempt such a feat”, replied the chief minister.
“That is true, we do not have proof, no one claimed it. But it is not true that no one conquered it. In fact, I had a chance encounter with a brilliant looking man once who mentioned that ‘Conquering Sadhanagiri was not his biggest achievement in life…'”, the teacher replied.
“But what does it mean master, he has climbed the mountain? If I find him, can he help me get to the top?”, asked Manav.
“Not him, he was just a disciple, you need to find the one that can teach you to climb and also chart the safest path to the top. Your real quest is not climbing the mountain, it is finding the one that can help you get there!“, said the teacher.
“Indeed! there are several villages scattered all across the base, and several more less known dwellers – hermits, village folk and tribal people. Can I do this master?”, exclaimed the prince. “I have taught you well Manav, use your learning appropriately, all you need is 3 questions to solve the problem, and choosing wisely on who you would ask which question”, the teacher smiled. “Pray tell me what they are master”, Manav bowed as he waited for a response from his teacher.
“The first questions is – What is your goal? What are you living for? What is your purpose? the way you ask may depend on who you are asking. The second question is – What do you practice? What is your method? How are you moving forward? and the third question is – Who is your master? Who is your teacher? who is your guide or what is guiding you?“, said the teacher.
“I don’t understand master! where do I start! Who do I ask?”, asked Manav. “Obviously the people you seek are the ones with a goal of climbing. So you cannot start with those that are far away from the mountain or those in the valley villages. You will have to make at least the initial climb to meet those who have made their living slightly above the base”, the teacher smiled.
Manav started his quest with blessings from his teacher. As he made the climb of this huge mountain, he found several small dwellings on the slopes. Most of these dwellers had one thing in common, they knew how to climb to some degree.
“Why have you chosen to stay so far away from the base and on the mountain slopes?”, Manav asked.
“The resources here are plentiful, we have everything that we need and collectively we make the rest, but they say that as you go up, the bounty gets better and better, some extraordinary forests and exquisite waterfalls, some say even the fountain of life might be up there somewhere”, the dwellers said.
“What is your goal?”, Manav asked naively.
“What!? we told you, to be here, happily, no more climbing”, they said. “But you know how to climb well, you have come this far, can you teach me, how did you practice climbing? Who taught you?”, he asked. “Some of us were born here, but there are few elders who made the climb a long time ago, they might help”. So Manav learnt a few lessons from the elders of this community and climbed on further.
He met several dwellings on his way up, and in some of the dwellings he found that the people were either without a goal or without the right methods or the right guide. And he found a connection too. Those who did not have a goal usually did not remember any methods too. ‘If you do not practice and pass it on to your next generation, how will you remember any methods’, he told himself, ‘…and you will not remember who taught you to get here in the first place‘. He swiftly moved on from such dwellings and took a circular route in view of finding the next dwelling that might help him take the next level on the mountain.
After much persistent efforts, he finally started to find dwellings where he saw that the dwellers had one aim in their life, “to move their dwelling to the next level of the mountain and give a better life to their progeny”, they said. “Not that we are not happy here, but our life’s fulfillment comes from taking on this mountain, and the mountain pays us back with so much bounty. If we don’t succeed, our children at least will, we know there are dwellers further up, assisted by able teachers”, their words encouraged Manav. He learnt their methods quickly and moved on and eventually succeeded with his quest. He found the teacher that would teach him how to climb and what path to take to make it to the top safely and get to the Chakra flower.
Hari’s sister dozed off by the time granny finished the story. “I think I kind of get it grandma, but now the moral of the story in your words please”, Hari pleaded.
“First moral of the story is to have a goal in life nani or look for those with goals in life to learn from. Usually the ones who you tend to appreciate would have some goals that they have achieved, haven’t they?”, she asked.
“…I get it, they are at some altitude as per that mountain analogy, right grandma?”, Hari added.
“Yes, you haven’t understood a person fully unless you have understood their goal/purpose in life. But that is not enough. The second question is even more important and is of even higher relevance to you for your learning. What do they practice – day to day – often – or even once a while – is there a practice or a method or a means that they stick to or is it that they just have a goal that they left midway as they are too contended or bored to move further!”, granny said. “Without practice, you tend to forget the practices, wouldn’t you“, she smiled.
“Usually you will notice that those who have bold and noble goals in life tend to be more serious about their time and their day to day practices. And they choose their company wisely. Working together is fine, but who you choose to connect with in life eventually defines you. That is why may be your mentor is careful about what ‘parties’ she attends to”, smiled granny. “hmmm…sounds quite heavy to me, but I believe you, I always do. So you say that I should ask and learn about the practices of those that I appreciate around me. Just feeling good about them or praising them behind their back is not enough!”, he said innocently.
“That’s my smart nani. Yes! And the third question – who is your guide/master/teacher. It is essential to know the roots and who is guiding them, if there is someone. This introduces to you their belief system, and orientation in life. You look puzzled?”, she asked.
“You didn’t tell me such deep stories before, they were more adventurous, I mean like in action and killing and stuff, this is deep”, said Hari. “You have grown up nani, haven’t you now?”, smiled granny.
“But what if there is no guide, and they are doing it all by themselves?”, he asked.
“It is possible. Usually there is always a root for a practice or a belief system and those that are serious about their goals usually understand this well. It is okay otherwise. Also note that those that have and practice towards highest goals may not be necessarily so popular. So don’t be afraid to believe in daunting goals or those who seem to aim at such”, she said. “Yeah! the minister didn’t know that some people have indeed conquered that mountain, because they didn’t come back seeking glory”, said Hari.
“Yes. Remember! those three questions are the best source of learning for you in any field. Without these conversations, if you attend parties and have dinners talking about movies and stuff, you are not making the best use of your opportunity to interact with those that you appreciate nani. You need to extract the best from those who you admire, while you have the opportunity, not just have fun for the day and leave”, she said.
“Yes grandma, I will first ask Rajesh what is his goal and what gives him so much courage. Also what he practices and who/what is his guiding principle”, said Hari.
“But what if they don’t answer grandma? I mean why will they just tell you all that serious stuff, it must be so personal to them, right?”, he was unrelenting.
“Very good question nani. It takes a lot of effort from your side. Gratitude and appreciation help. You will need to prove to them how much you genuinely appreciate them, what about their attitude you appreciate, and give them a sense that you want to conquer your peaks too. That is another thing with people with right goals. They usually tend to help others overcome their peaks as well. They just need to be convinced that you are genuine and are willing to listen and try.
Now it is really late and I don’t want your mom to get angry with you nani”, said granny. “Tomorrow grandma, I will ask those 3 questions to you first. There are so many things about you that I appreciate. I don’t want to let you go with just idlees and coconut laddus this time grandma”, Hari said intently and went to bed.