Cicero, the Roman statesman and scholar, has said – “Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.”
And I believe that memory of people is made up of moments spent with them; the impressions they leave on us, the lessons – good or bad – they consciously or unconsciously teach us. And most importantly, whether our soul feels uplifted in their company or dragged down energetically. The former we would love to remember all our lives and the latter, we struggle to shake off.
The list of people that I would never want to forget is quite long. To begin with – My father and my mother. And both my younger brothers. Many other wonderful people who have touched my life in a splendid way. Dozens of play mates, cousins and friends. A few negative ones as well who made me learn important life lessons. Karmic relationships.
Mentioning just 5 feels like wronging the memory of all others.
But I guess I have no choice but to pick my way. So here goes –
1. My grandfather –
Born and brought up in a tiny village of Punjab, my dada ji was an only child of a deeply religious, affluent Brahmin family consisting of six brothers and their six respective wives. While the other five brothers failed to produce an off-spring, my great-grandfather was blessed by a visiting saint of the village, that he would have an illustrious son whose name would spread all over the world. And true to the saint’s blessing, my grandfather, the world renowned, Pandit Desh Raj, Bhrigu Shastri, grew up not only as one of the city’s richest men, but also as a spiritually abundant human being. From him, I received the most precious gift of all – love for The Divine in me.
I believe, my grandfather still guides me from beyond the veil and I still bask in his love, blessings and guidance.
2. My English language teacher in school –
How would I describe myself as an adolescent child? – Intelligent but fearful, imaginative but timid, athletic but totally under-confident, self-conscious and miserable inside.
And then came along Mrs.Inderjeet Gill. ‘Gill ma’am’ for us all. And ‘ray of sunshine’ specially for me – our 9th grade English language teacher.
While I was totally awe-struck with her beauty, grace, sense of style and her brilliant smile, it was her ever-encouraging, empathetic nature which felt like a mother’s warm embrace to me. In all my schooling, I had not found even one teacher like her.
I loved the way she showered praise on me – my writing style and my unique ideas in English essays. Under her loving care, I blossomed. A little butterfly daring to peep out of her cocoon.
To this day, I attribute my love for writing to Gill ma’am.
Years later, on meeting her, I learnt that exactly at this time, she was going through an intensely painful period of her life. And to think that despite her personal pain, she chose to spread light and joy all around, every day, was a profound lesson in life for me.
Today, Gill ma’am teaches mentally challenged kids in Canada.
Forever God’s angel, she continues to spread love and light.
3. My home tutor –
Tilak Raj Sahni – ‘Sahni sir’ – was a tall, albeit a rotund, ruddy-complexioned home tutor that I had for eight long years. Every day, for eight years, (yes, even on Sundays!- imagine my level of frustration!) he cycled several kilometres through the city, to my home, in order to teach me mathematics.
Sahni Sir will always be an inseparable part of my childhood. Usually kind, my work-shirking attitude towards studies often riled him enough to want to slap me. But I was always faster. Always more agile. Sometimes the entire family would witness the funny sight of Sahni Sir huffing and puffing after this skinny little girl who jumped from furniture to furniture, refusing to be caught. After all, getting caught meant, a sound beating by Sahni Sir. Finally, tired after all the exertion, Sahni Sir would implore me to come and sit by him so that he may resume the teaching. It was only after he promised not to hit me that I would come back to study.
Why will I never forget him?
Because till date his dear voice resounds in my ears as he would often complain to my father – “She’s very intelligent. But what to do! – she doesn’t want to work hard. And without that, all her intelligence is wasted.”
“You must practise more, Mukta. Practise. Practise. Practise. That’s all there is to learning anything” he would say.
Yes, Sahni Sir. You were right. If only you were alive today for me to admit that to you in person!
4. A family friend –
Prem aunty was married to a doctor. So, by default, she was ‘doctor aunty’ for everyone. She wasn’t my real aunt but was close enough to be one. Doctor aunty considered my father to be like her younger brother.
She lived in Ludhiana and would often visit us. More so after my father’s untimely demise.
Why would I never forget her?
If kindness and caring nature were to marry oodles of home management skills and talents like cooking and knitting and boundless love for The Divine, Doctor aunty would be the off-spring.
In her, I witnessed the virtues of love and commitment. At a time when everyone else turned back to their respective busy lives, after my father’s death; at a time when my mother and her three small children desperately required mental strength, she stayed with us for months on end – leaving her family behind in Ludhiana – giving us her unconditional love, her gentle talk, cajoling us, relating funny anecdotes about her life, knitting sweaters for us, lovingly cooking food for us.
And yes, through all this, sharing our grief and often crying with us. Till she saw it fit to go back home. And until then, she stood for our small family – a pillar of love and support. Like none other.
Several years later, like a proud aunt, she oversaw the marriages of all three of us – I and my 2 younger brothers. And rejoiced in the births of our respective children; never once forgetting my father – her ‘younger brother’.
She passed on to the other side many years ago, at the ripe age of 90. I wasn’t with her in her last hour. People said, she was speaking till her last breath and told everyone not to worry. She was going Home, she said.
I have no doubt about that.
Where else will the angels of Light go, if not Home?
5. My Spiritual Master –
When the disciple is ready, the Master appears – they say.
And oh how my Master appeared to me! Ever so silently. Quietly. But profoundly.
Sant Kabir says about Guru that like a master potter, Guru appears to be tapping hard outside, shaping the raw clay pot. But no one sees the supportive hand he has lent inside the pot. So with one hand he pats while with the other, he supports – thus shaping a mound of clay into a beautiful earthen pot.
No other analogy fits my life more than this.
In one of his other couplets, Sant Kabir also says – Even though I may write on reams of paper made out of the entire world’s trees; ink being all the oceans of the earth; even then I will not be able to write all the qualities of my Guru.
I couldn’t agree with Sant Kabir more.