Thursday, December 18, 2008
LIFE - AN AMERICAN'S DILEMMA!!!
I finally said good bye to the Indian Air Force, and hung up my uniform, on 31 Dec 1999 - a career which I would love to re-visit in any future births, if any. I was immigrating to Canada and wanted to do a course that would help me with a second career in Canada. 'e-business' was the in thing at the time, and I decided to do an IBM certificated e-business course in Delhi. I met my co-students on the first day - they were all in their early 20s. One of the student, Vince, was an American, who had flown down to India to do this course as it was much cheaper to do it in India. He generally kept aloof, like most Americans. However, over a period of time he got friendly with me and started to share his ideas, thoughts and views with me. Asking an American about his personal life is a total taboo, unless of course he knows you well enough and is willing to share stuff with you. In keeping with this I never asked him anything personal.
I did notice though that Vince would vanish on Friday evening's and would appear back in class on Monday's. This happened every weekend. After about three months into the course, I was close enough to invite Vince to my place for a meal over the weekend. When invited, he told me that his weekends were all booked. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why he could not even spare one weekend for visiting my home and family. He replied that he went to Rishikesh on every weekend. He had rented a room there for the weekends. The room cost him Rs. 300 per day and was located on the banks of the Ganges, as it emerged from the hills. He told me that the view was very beautiful, and that he always enjoyed his stay at Rishikesh.
One weekend when he returned from his trip, he was all excited and showed me some photographs that he had clicked at Rishikesh. These were photographs that Vince had taken with a sadhu with long matted hair wearing only 'bhasm' (ash) and a loin cloth. The sadhu had built a small hut with his own hands, and was living in that. Vince told me that the sadhu could speak fluent English and had been a professor in a college who had retired to Rishikesh to go through his 'vanprasth' (going to the jungle) ashram. He had renounced everything worldly, and had finally settled for good on the banks of the Ganges. Vince had many conversations with this sadhu, and many others like him, during his numerous visits to Rishikesh during the four and half months that we were together doing the course. Of course like a true American, he had taken a number of photographs of monkeys, elephants, snakes and the likes in close human contact. He also had some with a python around his neck holding the snake with both hands - even I would have felt creepy about doing this pose.
At the end of our time together, Vince one day confided in me about his dream, and dilemma, in life. He said that he had always wanted to start a software company, earn a lot of money, and when he had earned a million dollars, he wanted to buy a cottage on the beach in Virginia (his home town), put an easy chair out in the sand on his own private beach and relax, doing nothing. This was an understandable dream of an average American, but what he said after that shocked even me. He said that "I want to go through all this just to relax on the beach and here is this sadhu who has nothing except a loin cloth and a few other bare minimum belongings doing exactly what I want to do after all this struggle, and after earning a million dollars". We both looked at each other. We ran out of words after this for an appreciably long time. We were too busy trying to comprehend the enormity of this realisation. I still wonder at times about this incident. Is life actually that simple? I know it is, but my senses force me to think otherwise.