"I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be 'happy'. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."

- Leo C. Rosten

Saturday, April 30, 2011

16th January, 2006

I heard something on this day that made it a day to remember.

It was my graduation days. One day in hostel there was a much talked about exciting issue among us. And the subject was a beautiful fancy case – looking exactly likely a red rose – that was seen on the table of our superintendent. It was a big issue for students as we were in a missionary institution and a rose-like fancy gift on a monk’s desk was the least we ever expected. The case was, no doubt, a gift. And most certainly, it was not from a girl, because, he was a monk. In an hour, the news had spread like hot cake. Some boys started having fun with him about the gift; asking him again and again of the name of the girl who had given it to him. And he kept smiling at our childishness. But there are always some people who take things beyond limits. When he was not in his room, someone had gone in, played fool with the rose, and broke it. We came to know this when he said this in the prayer hall. But what he said after that is something which I would never forget.

After the prayer was over, in his usual low voice he advised us not to go in his room in his absence and touch anything we liked. “There are certain things that you boys must learn,” he said. “One should never go in someone’s room in his absence. I have to tell you something which I had never wanted to tell. But I think I have to, in order to stop you from committing the same blunder again.

“Have all of you read the short story ‘kabuliwallah’ written by Tagore? There is a small girl in the story. Her name is Mini. Isn’t it?

“My brother has a daughter, whose name too is Mini. The day I left home to become a Monk, it was her birthday. I remember her to be a very small girl then. I can still remember her so clearly. She was such a cute, little girl. But I had to go that day. I was determined to be a monk. Many years have passed, about nine years. But I still remember that beautiful day. I do not know how she looks now, how tall she has grown up to, and how well she is. She is surely a big girl by now. It had been a long time. But every year, I make it a point to send her a letter on her birthday. It had been years since I saw her. But I still send her a letter every year, wishing her a happy birthday. And sometimes, she too sends me a letter. This time my brother came to meet me. And he gave me a gift sent by her. She had sent me that rose case. And someone among you had broken it.”

These words had rendered the entire prayer hall silent, and had sent a powerful current of pain running down our hearts.

He seemed to be hardly moved to emotion, though he was surely, as most humans are, deeply moved in his heart. And then he said, “The rose is immaterial. What I wanted to say was that you should not touch anything in my room without my permission. Now you may all disperse. Go and study.”

I do not know whether he had a tear drop or two falling from his eyes or not when he had found the rose-like case to be broken. Had I been in his place, I would probably had pain spikes in my heart. We learnt an important lesson that day. We realized the value of privacy.

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