Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Monday, February 14, 2011

120. ‘Watch’ Man

Some experiences seem very trivial when they begin; but they generate many learning’s in the process. When I entered a Watch Show Room, I did not know that I was going to learn few lessons from a salesman on the counter. Because of the history associated with my wristwatch, I could look at the whole experience with a detached perspective and still enjoyed it.

In my childhood I was fascinated by wristwatch, simply because I did not have one. Sometime in the college days, I could purchase one with my own money (i.e. scholarship money) but I was forced to purchase a piece which I did not like. So, I hardly used it. And this experience took away all my temptation of wrist watches. I could always do without one.

Later, in Mumbai all my colleagues in the organization were concerned that I did not have a simple thing like a wristwatch! I was working as a Full Time Worker then and someone appealed (without my knowledge) to the General Secretary of the organization to arrange for a wristwatch for me! The General Secretary was very kind; he wrote me to purchase a wristwatch and added that I should not bother about the cost of the watch. Whatever was the cost; he ensured that no one would question me about that. He must have been sure that I won’t purchase a costly wristwatch. I smiled at that letter and chose to be without wristwatch. Actually, so many people around me had watches, and all the railway stations in Mumbai had big watches displaying time all the while, that I decided wristwatch was an unnecessary luxury in life.

One colleague gave me a wristwatch used by her late father. She told me that it was a sort of family treasure, and she was sharing with me because she treated me as part of her family. I have never been comfortable about this talk of ‘being part of someone’s family’ when one actually is not their family member. Moreover, using someone’s article without knowing him and after his death was something I was not comfortable with. So I kept the wristwatch in my bag. Fortunately this colleague was placed thousands of kilometers away from me. During those days phone calls and emails were not common – letters was the only way of communication. We used to meet once or twice in the semi annual meetings of the organization. Then she found that I was not using the watch but I could calm her down by saying ‘in the hurry of catching the train, I forgot it in the office and it was safe’. It was a lie – but I did it with the intention of not hurting her.

Then four of my friends – who were local volunteers of the organization I was working with – brought a Titan wristwatch for me. That was costly item in 1985s. None of them were rich – they were all middle class people. To respect their love for me, I started using that wristwatch. It always reminded me that there are many people in my life who love me selflessly – to accept their love was the least I could do, if not return their love.

This wristwatch was a good piece. For almost 15 years I used this. Then suddenly the wristwatch started acting in a funny way. It was running no doubt; but it was running the other way round –in an anti clock direction. After five, the clock went to four and then to three thirty etc. I thought the watch has worn out and there was no point in making it work further. It had served me enough and it deserved a well earned rest. So I went to a showroom, showed the earlier piece and told the salesman that I wanted to purchase ‘the same’(similar) piece anew.

Sunil said, “I will repair this watch. Why do you want to purchase a new one?”

I told him that the piece was very old and it had done its job and purchasing a new one was the right decision. Still he insisted on trying to repair the old piece. I was very surprised. I asked, “You will earn more benefit by selling a new piece rather than repairing this old one. Then why are you insisting on the latter?”

Sunil smiled. He said, “To sell watches is my job. However, that is not the only purpose of my being here. The number of watches sold does not make a sense unless the watches work well. Customer satisfaction and watch quality are also important. This piece should work alright; I am concerned why it is not working. If you wanted to purchase new piece, I would have sold you one. But you are purchasing new one because this is not working, is a matter of concern for me.”

As promised, Sunil repaired this watch. It worked well for almost six months. One morning it fell down from the table and stopped working.

I went to the same shop and met Sunil again. “Now, this time I need to purchase a new watch”, I told Sunil smilingly. However Sunil was concerned. He said, “I had repaired that watch with utmost care. It should not stop working just because it fell down from the table. Let me see, what I can do”. I was not ready for repair. I was ready to keep that piece as souvenir –as fond memory of my friends’ love. Sunil said, “You have one year warrantee on the watch repair you did last time. You don’t have to pay anything this time for the repairs. Trust me; don’t hurry in for new purchase.” By this time, I had shared the watch story with Sunil and so he naturally wanted me to use the same watch as long as I could.

Sunil repaired that wristwatch again. It worked well for another year. Then there was theft in my home and the wristwatch was also stolen. One of those four friends who had given me this watch, passed away in the mean time.

I lost the wristwatch .. alright! But I learnt a lot from Sunil. Here is a ‘watchman’ who believes that his work should be perfect. He is a kind of person who does not compromise with quality while achieving his target. Here is a man who takes responsibility of faults and takes corrective actions proactively. Here is a man who values work for the beauty of work and cares that the person at the other end should be satisfied.

There are so many simple people around who have such a grand work ethics that I feel like saluting them. They are the ones who make this world worth living.

Watching Sunil and watching my responses to his action was fun. Though I do not use wristwatch today, I am sure that I would like to have one to meet Sunil again! Maybe, during my next trip to Pune, would just go and meet Sunil .. I am sure; he would "allow" me to purchase a new piece this time! Though I am not yet convinced that I need a wristwatch!!


Friday, February 4, 2011

119. Being a Hindu

“Are you Hindu?” he asked me.
I was bending down to tie up shoe lace. Still I managed to look at him in an instant (without breaking my neck, that is.)
No, he was not mischievous. Nor was he teasing me. He looked very serious.

Actually, just a nod from me would have settled the matter.
But as it always happens with me, it triggered a chain of long hidden thoughts.

I was with a group of total strangers. We all had joined together one Sunday afternoon with a group named ‘Delhi Metro Walks’. The idea was to explore Old Delhi that evening and taste typical Delhi food. We were walking, eating, chatting for last few hours. We were a group of just 9, and more than half of them were obviously non Indians.

On the way, we came across a Jain temple. Some were not interested but I went in. It was not an ancient temple as such and I was disappointed with it.

While coming out, I was thinking about ‘Role of Temples’ and suddenly this question was thrown at me.
And this young man, non Hindu, non Indian asked me this particular question.

I am rather stubborn about certain things. One of that is ‘not allowing people to recognize my religion from any external signs’. For long, strangers have assumed me to be anything but Hindu. So, when this man asked me this question, I was really surprised.

“I was born and brought up in a Hindu family”, I answered honestly.
Now it was his (and others’) turn to be amazed.

“What do you mean? Have you changed your religion?” he asked.

“Oh, no, that is not the case,” I said, though my ideas about Religion are still evolving.

From casual conversation, the discussion was fast turning to be very personal.

“Being Hindu is very easy”, I was thinking aloud.

What is the essence of Hinduism?
For that matter, what is the essence of any religion?
Philosophy, Ritual and Social Rules are the three major aspects of religion.

Now the social code has been replaced by Law. So, no question of following religious rules.
Ritual I have hardly ever followed. That has not stopped me from being a Hindu.
And Philosophies – there are so many, I like many of those. I like Charvaka and Shankaracharya, Gautama the Buddha and Ramanujacharya, Kapila and Patanjali; Shrikrishna and Ramkrishna Paramhamsa, Tukaram and Kabir, Aurobindo and J Krishnmurty .. the list is unending. I can criticise any one of them and every one of them and still I can be a Hindu.

Hindu philosophy in a way is a big 'HoldAll' and I like it that way!

Some say: Rebirth, Law of Karma, Liberation are the basic tenets of Hinduism. I don’t think I believe in any of those seriously. Intellectually I can argue about it and write articles .. but they do not constitute my core values of life.

Still I am 'a' Hindu – because I am born and brought up in a Hindu family and I have not converted to any other religion.

You can do anything, you can do nothing, you can criticise, you can rebel....but still the Hinduness remains intact.
That is the beauty of ‘Being a Hindu’.