Being a good person

Buddha exhorted : Be a good person, but don’t waste time to prove it.

If you think about it, this is great wisdom indeed. More popular poster art puts it a trifle differently : There is no limit to the amount of good that you can do : if you don’t mind who gets the credit.

Nobody stops you from being good, doing the right things, leaving the world a better place than we found it. However, today unfortunately we want to play to the gallery. We will do good if others will acknowledge me. We want to be admired and recognized. And get the same approbation that little Jack Horner wanted in his corner: he wanted it to end as ” What a good boy am I” . But when there is no credit, no public applause, no labels and stickers and bands for celebration : less people are ready to come forward to do good. Sad but true!

Of course there are exceptions, and those we must recognize and celebrate. Stories of an old Gujrati couple who donated their lifelong saving of over a crore of rupees for soldiers’ welfare. A rickshaw puller in Tamil Nadu who donates enough to start a library in the college in his village. Such examples gladden the cockles of one’s heart. And I want to write about some even more simple examples.

My father had a transferable job and during his 40 years’ career we must have changed 10 to 12 locations/houses. Shifting house did not have the support which today’s moves have. There were no packers and movers whom you could call. We had to ask the local grocery shop and offices for cartons. Each plate and piece of crockery was individually wrapped in newspaper by family members themselves. Shifting were great days, as for a week your kitchen was closed and you were being invited for breakfast, lunch and dinner at friends’ and neighbors’ houses. On the last day, the truckers came with some unskilled help and moved all the packages you had packed into the truck and took off.

On all these occasions, I remember my mother used to ensure that one broom was not packed. It was kept separately. And after all packages and furniture was removed, she would personally sweep the empty house. Idea was the empty house should appear clean and fresh for the new incumbent. What an attitude! What a learning that left on our impressionable minds!! Clean behind you. Do not ever leave a mess. Think of the next person who is yet to appear. What if we all practiced this simple learning in all that we do in our lives. I am sure the world would be a far far better place to live in.

Sometimes, in some locations, our frugal furniture would be supplemented with office furniture. God help anyone of us who did not treat it with respect and deference that office furniture deserved. Cupboards had to be closed carefully. If there was a loud banging sound of the door closing, immediately we would be reprimanded; “Arre office ka hai. Thik se use karo” ” Don’t put your feet on the center table. Office ka hai.” “Apna nahi ki ki tum kaise bhi use karo”. Office ka hai, careful, careful, careful.

The very day our goods were transported, we ourselves would get on a train to go to our new destination. We would reach and stay in the Guest House as our stuff was still enroute. A new series of “dawats” and invitations would start. It was getting to know new colleagues and their families. And when the truck finally reached, the reverse process of unpacking would start. New school, new friends, new neighbors, new colleagues, new equations, new adjustments. One more cycle completed one more cycle begun. As soon as the house was set, it was a practice that my parents would invite all new colleagues and their families for lunches and dinners. It was not only the people who were moving, but also the people who were staying on, as now they are your new friends and family, your new support system.

It took a couple of cycles for us children to understand that what my parents were practicing is what is called “feed forward” in today’s management parlance. They intuitively knew and understood that all the lunches and dinners they had enjoyed before leaving say Kolhapur; had to “given back” in say Amravati. So when they left Amravati and went to Pune, the feed forward mechanism ensured that they were welcomed and made at home in Pune. Their reputation as nice human beings always preceded them. They did good and moved on. A la Buddha they did not waste any time in publicity or propagation. That happened automatically.

My father took it to an extreme. He believed that his hard earned money would never be lost or misappropriated. ” I have never done anything bad to anyone. So why will anyone do anything bad to me” was his life’s philosophy. And he had the courage to live that. Doing good without any expectation of returns, he only got good in return.

29th May was his birthday. If he was alive he would be 89 years old today. But whether we feel his physical presence around us or not, we can never be far from all that he taught us. We all try and practice as much as possible his basic teaching : Do good and leave the rest. Life will repay you.

Thank you Baba for helping us understand the power of being good: vikas