The Legacy of a Gentle Man
sleep is a disconnect
from the illusion that is your life
what is death, but
an awareness that you are asleep
It has been 9 months since our beloved father passed away. The void is still hard to come to terms with. Unbelievable how time just moves on, life passes by leaving you simply wondering.
During the memorial service, we attempted to convey the legacy of this gentle man. Sharing here some of what was said that evening about Papa.
All of us grandchildren remember the sleepovers where Dada would teach us to play carom and checkers and he would make chips for us some days. They were so much fun. We will all miss him a lot.
Our beloved Nana was more than just my grandfather, he was one of my best friends. We had so many sleepovers at his house. He always reserved my special pillow for me. When we played games he laughed like a child. He made the best baked potatoes.
Nana’s sister Pushpa Nani told us how he was like a father to all his sisters. He single-handedly looked after them and educated them. Always calm and with a smile.
We love you Nana.
I’m Alya: the first grandchild. Some may say the favourite.
I really love my grandfather. And that is why this is such a loss.
What makes this a little easier is knowing I got a chance to say the last words that I was meant to say. But it got me thinking, what were his last words to me? And…I don’t remember. I actually don’t.
But you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m not worried because I have absolute certainty that they were good. His words were always good. He was a really good person – the kind of person who would go out of his way to make sure everyone got what they needed, whether it was making baked potatoes for us grandchildren or sitting by my mother’s side while my sister was admitted to the hospital.
Perhaps this is why when he was in the hospital, it seemed like the world had stopped just for him.
It’s just like my Nanima’s favourite nursery rhyme from when I was in kindergarten: “love is something when you give it away, you end up having more.”
Not every hero is celebrated
Over the past few days, a lot of people have told us that Papa has gone to a better place. But I believe the place he is at is better because he is there.
Papa made it all better for us
And not just family…
….actually I should say he made it better only for his family.
Everyone he came across or met, of all ages and backgrounds, he treated them just like family.
Papa has truly touched many, many lives.
I have told my daughters that their Nana is a rich and successful man. No, he had no mansions or big cars, but he had relationships. Building relationships, maintaining them, he went a step further…Papa had the skill, patience and grace to also mend relationships.
Papa is a successful man because he cut through the seriousness of life with humour, cheerfulness and composure.
To me he has won in the game of life because he has managed to take with him the only form of wealth and success that we can carry beyond this life.
Out of all the relationships there was one in particular that he nurtured so lovingly and with tenderness. To describe this relationship I will borrow some words that will be familiar to a lot of you. Please do help me sing along and celebrate this relationship
Jab koi baat bigad jaaye
Jab koi mushkil pad jaaye
Tum dena saath mera
Nai ki hai na koi tha
Zindagi mein tumhare siva
Tum dena saath mera
Here’s a poem I had written on Papa’s 80th birthday
The 2nd last verse reads
“Like the first flight of a bird
Wings though separate, working as one”
This refers to both Papa and Mummy
They are synchronised like wings on a bird.
[Mummy, the bird still flies.]
Papa, the absence of you will be ever present in us.
We will fill up the void with memories as gentle, colourful and fragrant as the rose petals that adorned you as we bid you farewell.
Allow me to share a few closing thoughts about Narendra Rajani, my father-in-law.
Last week when I was walking up that large staircase towards the Intensive Care Unit where he was later to breathe his last, I had to stop halfway up the stairs to allow a trolley to pass. From that vantage point, I could see the ICU above me; and below me was the hospital’s maternity unit.
And I thought to myself: there it is. The cycle of life. We come into this world, we depart. The door of life opens once to admit us to this earth; and then it closes behind us when we leave. But it is not the doors that matter; it is what is done between the two openings. It is what we do between the two floors that marks out a life.
I have studied and taught and written about many lives in my time, and I want to tell you today that Narendra Rajani’s life was a remarkable one. Not remarkable in any way in which we humans, with our superficial ways, might appreciate. He was not materially rich, not famous, not powerful. But boy, was he prosperous.
Let me paint the picture of his life for you, with a few examples.
He was an instinctively generous man. He gave of himself not only to his immediate and extended family, to whom he gave beyond measure. He gave also to everyone in his ambit. I saw this when I watched his house servant and driver break down in immense grief upon hearing of his passing. They had to be consoled by us. I saw it when I went to the apartment next to his to thank the neighbours for offering to store our sofas for us during the funeral prayers. The lady of the house, different religion and ethnicity, said to me: “But he was our grandfather too.”
Please note, however: this generosity was not for public consumption. I could never have said these words in his presence, for he would never have wanted to be praised. I have the cheek to say them now for he is not here to stop me, and because I feel they should be heard.
My father-in-law was a man of impeccable temperament. So many have said to me: we never saw him upset about anything, even though he had been through plenty that was upsetting. We never saw him lose his temper. We never saw him despondent. He was strong and steady, and made other people feel safe. He tried to accommodate everyone and never perturb anyone. During his treatment at the hospital, he would not want to disturb the nurses or the doctors or his visitors unduly. I have never seen anyone in ICU, in distress himself, ask the nurse to come and then whisper this: “Have you had your tea?”
He was a gentleman – one word. More importantly, he was a gentle man. Two words.
When we all went to say our final words to him, my son chose these as his words: thank you for the manners you have taught me; I will try to have the same manners in my life. And I thought, yes. It is incredibly powerful to have good manners, in the true sense: of not being here to disturb or demand or distract, but to do things in peace, and with minimum commotion.
He was also a man of great humour. He and I would share many comic reflections on life, and when I came home with other family members after spending hours at the hospital following our Papa’s departure, I wished I could walk into his house and share the funny story with him: that it takes just a few seconds to die, but a very long time after that to do all the paperwork! He would have laughed with me at human folly. I hope he is laughing now.
I will say no more, for words alone cannot honour anyone. If we truly miss someone, the only real honour we can give is to continue their mission for them. Narendra Rajani’s mission was simple: to be there for others. Not for applause or to get anything back, but because that’s all that matters. Live a gentle life with humility, with good grace, with humour. A life that matters is a life that is bigger than itself. My wish is that this one sentence be understood and lived up to by many more of us.
As we leave this world, what can we take with us? Not any of our possessions, not our money, not any person, no matter how dear they are to us. No, not even our own body …
The wise say there are only two accounts that will really matter at the end of our lives. And these are not our current and fixed deposit accounts!
They are our answers to two questions …
- How much knowledge have you gained?
- How much love have you given?
And our Papa’s life is a shining example of how to live so that we have a healthy balance in both these accounts at the end of our lives.
Papa was a living expression of the Bhagawad Gita through the teachings of Poojya Dadaji. He rarely missed a Sunday at Swadhyaya in over 30 years, Mummy always with him. And if on that odd Sunday when he did not make it, his presence was dearly missed by the Swadhyaya Parivar. And Papa was a natural giver. He was always available to anyone who needed his help and he would give selflessly and silently. I know that amongst you, there are many unheard stories on how Papa has helped you without expecting anything back, not even recognition.
My deepest bond with Papa was that we were both seekers of Truth. Often this would happen when we would listen to a discourse and have a discussion, again Mummy would be a part of this. But my favourite way of connecting to the Truth was when we would sit together, play our special heart-touching music, close our eyes and go into a deep silence within …
And one of his favourites was Bhavanyastakam. This great sthothra by Adi Sankara could move anyone who listens to it to tears. Bhavanyastakam was what Papa was listening to as he took his last breath just moments after the last stanza.
I’d like to play Bhavanyastakam and I’d like us all to close our eyes, listen and feel the deep connection to the Truth that I felt when I would do this with Papa …
Let’s take a deep breath in… and let go … now let’s close our eyes, listen and dissolve …
Slowly gently, you may open your eyes …
I will miss Papa’s physical presence, but whenever I put on my headphones and play our favourites, I know I will feel his presence …
Monday 20th August 2018 2:25 pm, it was the day before Eid ul Adha, the Day of Arafah. I got to know that evening what an auspicious day it is on the Islamic calendar. In the Hindu calendar, it was the Shravan, the month of Shiva and it was a Monday the day dedicated to Shiva.
We all said our goodbyes, but they were never enough. He left listening to his favorite mantra, respectful enough to wait until it ended. Then seamlessly he flowed away, in a fraction of a moment. May the final peaceful vibrations provide Papa with well-deserved eternal ease.
asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
om shanti shanti shanti.
Lead me from the untruth to the truth
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from death to immortality
(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.iii.28)
We found an old letter Papa had typed out and sent to our sister when she started studying History and Philosophy of Psychology. Here is the post A Letter About Success
If you would like to red more about Papa, here is an excellent article What Marks Out The Life Well Lived
Lyrics and Translation of Bhavani Ashtakam
Lyrics and Translation of Jab Koi Baat
I am an entrepreneur and find that a creative mind really helps out in my business. It was much later in my life that I started writing, mostly poetry. I live in Nairobi, Kenya blessed with 2 beautiful daughters Alya and Samia and an amazing cat Kabira. My blog Follow Your Shadow https://followyourshadow.me/ just turned 7 years old last week.
Written for the From Darkness to Light event. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Sonya know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Follow Your Shadow when you’re done.