Lakshmanji – one of the forgotten heroes

…contd from the earlier article ‘Trip to Kanyakumari’

Lakshmanji – one of the forgotten heroes

I reached Vivekanandapuram and saw a picture exhibition of Swami Vivekananda. How much ever I had read about him would not fill my stomach. So I went inside to see the exhibition. It was a good one which gave a brief history of Indian Culture and Civilisation as well. After I saw the exhibition, I asked a worker of Vivekanandapuram where Lakshmanji stayed. I had heard from my father and one of the earlier Pracharaks of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS) about Lakshmanji and that he had a major role in the initial days of struggle for building the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The worker showed me Lakshmanji’s room.

The door was open. It was a small room, with a smaller space inside (supposed to be another room). “Lakshmanji?”, I called out. An old man came out coughing and looked at me. “Come in”, he said. “Sit down. I’m sorry, I cannot recollect who you are”, he said. I introduced myself giving the reference of Gopi Chettan (Chettan – elder brother in Malayalam) who was a Vibhag Pracharak of RSS in Kerala many years ago. I told Lakshmanji that I have heard about him and wanted to meet him in person. He asked me where I am from, what I do for my living, about my family, etc. After talking to him for some time, I could see a smile on his face. A smile that we could see on a lonely person’s face when somebody has come to meet him after a very long time. I asked him about his role in the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. And the words that will be flowing next are what I heard from the horse’s mouth. For the next 30 minutes or so, different kinds of emotions gushed through me – of pain, anger, sympathy, sorrow, patriotism, and what not.

It was in 1962. There was no Vivekananda Rock Memorial at that time. People knew about the rock but it was just another part of the history. One day, Christian Missionaries who were very active in Kanyakumari, fixed a Cross on the rock. This news spread out to the RSS. A senior Pracharak of RSS, Shri Madhavji, who was one of the earlier dedicated workers of RSS in Kerala came to know about this. He met Lakshmanji (who was just 23 years old then) and explained that there is a situation we are facing. Since the Missionaries have kept a Cross on the rock, very soon they are going to come up with a church there. But it is a place where the great Swami Vivekananda had sat for three days continuous and contemplated on the agony he had seen throughout the country. It was there that he got the idea of going to the West and asking their help for our country. “We need to build a National Monument there, not a religious one”, he told Lakshmanji. “Can you go to Kanyakumari and work for this cause?” he asked. Without any hesitation, Lakshmanji gave an affirmative reply. “Good. Let me go and talk to some more people and seek assistance. But let me warn you, when you are going for this cause, keep in mind that you may have to sacrifice your life in this process. Are you ready for that?” Lakshmanji replied, “I am”.

Very soon, 12 – 13 dedicated workers (more like warriors) came forward from Calicut district (northern Kerala) for this Mission. Four of them went to Kanyakumari and stayed there for a couple of months. They studied the situation. They moved secretly in the town but still the Christian Missionaries came to know about this. They Missionaries even warned them. These guys knew that they were no match in number for the Missionaries so they kept mum and didn’t argue with them. After two months they came back with their team of 12 – 13 members. Soon, the Missionaries again came to know about the plan and were on constant vigil. One night, as the other members kept watch on the shore, four of them swam across the sea to the rock. They couldn’t use a boat lest they would be noticed by the Christian workers. They reached the rock and tried to remove the Cross. But it was deeply rooted on to the rock. They could break its upper part but could not take out the base out of the rock. They realized that they needed some heavy tools to do it and hence swam back to the shore the same night. Next night, they swam to the rock with heavy tools in their hands. (When I heard this, I was imagining, how on earth could anyone swim across the sea that was filled with big rocks, in the darkness of the night and that too with heavy tools in their hands? What must have been their dedication towards their Mission? What a great source of inspiration they must have had that gave them so much of strength? Of what material those fearless lions must have been made of?) They reached the rock and successfully removed the whole Cross. Next day, the Missionaries came to know about this. They started planning their next move. The Svayamsevaks were also alert. They expected attack on them at any moment. And they did face an attack by a mob at night. But lions, they were. How could some weak-hearted cowards try to kill them by a surprise attack? These men were so dedicated for their work that they breathed patriotism every moment. For them, every breath was for the nation. The Svayamsevaks drove those foxes away.

Within a few days, the Missionaries planned that they would fix up a Cross again on the rock on one night and the next day they would bring the Police to the rock at 7 am, show the Cross and once the Cross is there on the rock, the matter would go to the Court to decide whether the Missionaries can get a permission to build a Church (which they normally do get with this modus operandi). If the Svayamsevaks were spotted there, the Police would arrest them under Section 144 of the Indian Constitution. The Missionaries had sought the help of the present Police Commissioner who also happened to be a Christian. Somehow; their plan was leaked by a senior Govt. official to the Svayamsevaks. The Svayamsevaks knew that it was the final call. The day had come for them to fulfill their purpose. That night they went to the beach and were about to go to the rock. But suddenly they saw some white clothes in the sea. They understood that people were guarding the rock in boats. They waited till early morning on the shore. When it was 6 am, Lakshmanji said, “We should not wait any longer. It’s a do or die situation. I’m going in. Those who wish to join me can come with me”. Three others went with him on a boat towards the rock. The others waited on the shore for giving them signals.

They reached the rock at 6:30 am. To their luck, when they reached the rock, the guards went to the nearby waters for fishing (since most of them were fishermen by occupation) thinking that they guys will not turn up since they didn’t come all night. Lakshmanji’s task was to remove the Cross as soon as possible and the others’ duty was to protect him from anybody who would prevent him from doing so. It was 6:45 am and the comrades on the shore signaled them about the time. Lakshmanji took the name of the Lord and swung a heavy tool with full force. In one shot the Cross came out. They threw it into the sea and shouted with joy on top of their volume, “Bharat Mata ki Jai!”. Together they sang one of the patriotic songs of RSS, in Malayalam. The fisherman realized their stupidity and turned their boats towards the rock. Around one thousand supporters of Christian Missionaries arrived on the shore and came towards the rock in boats. Now, these guys were only four in number. Surrounded by water on all sides, there is nowhere to go. The sight before them is of a huge angry army coming towards them with weapons in their hands. Lakshmanji gave the command, “Svayameva Mrugendrata! We all stay together like lions. We will not run away. If we are attacked, we will kill as many as possible and die”. They had their danda (big bamboo stick used for self defense) in their hands and stood still – Fearlessly. The boat reached the rock. Seeing these four youngsters, standing in such a way that they have not known what fear is, scared the army. They all stood at a distance of fifteen feet. Nobody had the courage and go forward. They stood in the same posture for a few minutes and it was as if time stood still. By that time, the police arrived and gave a call using the speaker to avoid violence and return back. But the Father who was on the rock said, “No, we will not go back unless we kill these people. Kill them!” Still nobody moved. After a few moments, the attackers decided to throw stones Lakshmanji and others. The warning from the police came out again, “If you don’t start returning in 10 seconds, we will open fire.” They knew that nothing could be done now and they started getting back to their boats. Lakshmanji’s and his comrades’ faces were shined with smiles, smiles of having won a war, of having achieved their aim, of having done a great thing for their Motherland, of a great sense of fulfillment.

For many days to come ahead, they stayed in Kanyakumari under the risk of attacks. Very soon, the great Visionary – Shri Eknathji Ranade, came up with the plan of building a National Memorial on the rock and the work began. The rest is history. How he collected one rupee from every individual to build the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, how he fought against but finally got the Govt. support in building the Memorial is known to us. Eknathji had requested Lakshmanji, Balanji (another comrade) and others not to leave Kanyakumari till they die and to safeguard it all the time. For he knew, these were a few lions amongst the ones who are getting extinct. And it is only these few people who could lay down their life happily, who knew no fear, who were inspired from their role models – Guruji and Doctorji of RSS, they are the ones who could protect the Memorial. All of them agreed to Eknathji’s request and stayed there till their last breath. Some of them took seva work in the Rock Memorial and some worked in the boats that ferried people across the sea to the rock. Lakshmanji took up the job of driving the boat taking people across the sea to the Great Rock. And he is still doing that job at the age of 72. He has appealed for retirement and pension so that he can take rest now, for his health is failing. However, his appeal has fallen on deaf ears and he still has to work for a living. With his meager salary, he got his daughter married off and his son is doing a small job. Since he couldn’t make a good amount of savings from his small income, he still has to work from 7:30 am to 6:30 or 6:45 pm six days a week. He is the last one in the batch of those 12 – 13 men who served the cause.

For reasons unknown, in the pages of history, Lakshmanji’s and his companions’ names got disappeared. How many Lakshmans and how many Balans must have fought for such noble causes? This is one of the stories that luckily we came to know. How many stories like these disappeared without getting any notice? With such questions in my mind, I went to bed.

Next day morning he asked me for my name and number again saying that he might forget it due to his old age. I gave him my card. He put me on to a bus and bid me farewell with a silent smile. I could read a lot of feelings in that smile. With tears in my eyes, I left.

The purpose of this article is not to show any dislike or hatred towards Christian Missionaries. What is said herein above is a fact and even Christian Missionaries know about it. So, there is no need to be mute about it. The intention of this article is to inspire the readers with stories of such men who lived their lives like Lions, who created History, who didn’t wish for any recognition or fame, who loved their Motherland like their own Mother. All our country needs is a few men like these, who can make a big difference. The question is – “Are you one of them?”


Trip to Kanyakumari

18th June 2011

Finally I was going to a place where I have always yearned to go…Alone. I was really excited about my trip which was totally unplanned and also because I was going alone as I wished. I managed to reach to the nearest bus stop from Tirunelveli Chinmaya Mission Ashram where I was staying on account of my Vedic Maths classes in town. Buses in Tamil Nadu write their destination names in Tamil only. My illiteracy in Tamil made me depend on others to ask for directions. I asked a couple of people in my broken Tamil, “Does this bus go to Tirunelveli Junction?” They gave their replies which sounded like the sound of a musical rocket (‘music’ because of the tune and ‘rocket’ is the attribute I can give to the speed of the language). One of the bystanders understanding my challenge in speaking Tamil told me that the bus that was coming this way would be going to Tirunelveli Town and I can get down at Tirunelveli Junction. I thanked him and waited for the bus to come near the stop. For the next 30 minutes, I felt as if I was inside a Tamil movie.

The bus driver, a dark lean fellow, with his shirt’s three buttons open, a lighted cigarette on his lips, stopped the bus after drawing a perfect arc. I hopped in. In a couple of minutes, the bus started off. They had put on some Tamil music. Thanks to the deck quality, I could hear only the drum beats and nothing else. Tirunelveli being a town, everybody around me were typical villagers. Many of them even didn’t wear any footwear. I got myself settled down in my new environment and asked my fellow passenger to let me know when Tirunelveli Junction arrives. He nodded his head. I assumed that he understood what I said. The bus got fully crowded in no time. I was lucky to get a seat since I boarded the bus from the first stop. At the main stops, the driver stopped for 3-5 minutes waiting for more passengers to get in. Nobody in the bus seemed to be in a hurry. After some time, I could see a line of buses on the right side of the road inside a parking lot. Even my bus stopped there for a while. I guessed that to be my stop. I asked my fellow passenger if it was Tirunelveli Junction? He once again nodded his head. I thought, “Why this guy didn’t tell me?” Immediately I managed to get down from the bus and crossed the road. I asked a shopkeeper where the Junction bus stand is. He said, “You have to go a long way. Do one thing. Get into that bus (pointing at the bus from which I got down) and you can reach there.” You can guess what I might have thought of at the moment. It is better that I don’t write down my feelings of that moment. Once again I crossed the road, and luckily for me, the bus was still waiting. I got into the jam packed bus. I travelled standing till I reached my stop. I got down at Tirunelveli Junction from where, I was told (by a newly met friend), that I could get a bus for Kanyakumari or Nagercoil. To my surprise, I came to dawn upon the knowledge that, I had taken a wrong bus. I should have boarded a bus for ‘The New Bus Stand’ to get a bus to Kanyakumari. Trying to maintain my peace of mind, I boarded another bus that would go to ‘The New Bus Stand’. This time I was lucky. Nothing went wrong. By the time I reached ‘The New Bus Stand’, it was 10 am and I had left my place at 8 am. Two hours gone and I was still in Tirunelveli. My excitement started deteriorating. However, I kept convincing myself that this was part and parcel of such kind of travels and it’s fun to be on the road sometimes like this. The forced fake self-motivation helped to some extent.

From the new bus stand, I took a bus to Nagercoil (from where I would take another bus to Kanyakumari). I was welcomed again into a Tamil movie. This time, the bus was showing a Tamil movie. Each and every passenger (even the 80+ year olds) was looking at the action sequences with their jaws dropping. I got myself a seat and closed my eyes trying to get some sleep. To my surprise, I saw myself engrossed in the movie after some time.

Within 90 minutes I reached Nagercoil where I struggled only for a few minutes to get the right bus to Kanyakumari. Yeah! I was once more happy to have gotten on to the ‘final’ bus to my destination. In my high spirits I said in my mind, “Vivekananda…here I come”.

I rightly got down at Vivekanandapuram (a 100 acre land with cheap accommodation facilities provided by the Vivekananda Kendra). I booked myself a room, the cheapest one, which was a three-bedded room with common bathroom at Rs.45/- per night. Since I was alone, the whole room would be allotted to me. It was around 1:30 pm. I quickly had my lunch from Vivekanandapuram itself and left for Vivekananda Rock Memorial at 2 pm. There were other luxurious hotels on the way, but I had decided to keep luxury aside and travel in the cheapest possible ways.

At 2:20 pm, I reached the ticket counter for the ferry that takes one across to Vivekananda Rock Memorial. Since it was the afternoon time, there wasn’t much of a rush and I got into the ferry in no time. My mind was constantly thinking about Swami Vivekananda since I reached Kanyakumari. I had read his biography, his inspirational talks to the youth and on Vedanta. The impact it had on me was massive. If the printed pages itself were enough to inspire a person to thrive for a noble cause, what impact must have been left Swamiji himself on to his listeners? I was feeling as if I’m going to meet him personally this time.

As the ferry neared the Rock, my heart throbbed with joy. In a few minutes I was on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial – the rock that attracted Swami Vivekananda like a magnet. It fascinated Swamiji so much, on that 25th day of December 1892 when he reached the tip of our motherland after travelling the whole length of the Indian sub-continent, that he wanted to go there immediately. He didn’t have money to pay to the boat man. He didn’t wait for a second to think twice. He jumped immediately into the sea. Swimming across almost half a kilometer in the water that was then infested by sharks, he reached the huge rock which covered an area of around 4 acres. There he spent 3 days in continuous contemplation on his journey completed after an extensive travel throughout India. He reflected on the poverty he had seen in his country, the misery and hardships the common man was going through, the awakening that was required among the masses, animalistic life people led in utter ignorance, etc. After deep thoughts on these issues, he came out with a solution of going to America and taking their financial help for the upliftment of the masses in India. He was clear with his thought that, India was the spiritual center for the whole world. Elevating India means helping themselves – this is what Swamiji had thought of conveying to the Americans. At this point one should not forget the fact that how Swamiji longed to get dissolved in Self-Realisation amongst the magnificent peaks in the Himalayas, and only reason he sacrificed his was for his country and country-men. On this sacrifice, these were his words, “I do not care of liberation, I would rather go to a hundred thousand hells, doing good to others (silently) like the spring. This is my religion.”

The rock has a Mandap (structure) which houses a statue of the Great Master. It also has many book stalls set up by Vivekananda Kendra. They have the best of books, at the cheapest rates, on Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Eknathji Ranade (the visionary behind Vivekananda Rock Memorial), etc. I bought a few books that I could gift to my students and also the book – Life of Swami Vivekananda (by Advaita Ashrama). I had a very old print (printed somewhere in 1940s) of this book at my home but its pages used to come apart every time I turned a page. Now my baggage had become heavy. I already had a set of dress, few books and water bottle, on one of my shoulder. This new bag was heavier than that. Unlike the normal times, this time, I didn’t feel tired because of the weight. I felt as if I was carrying Vivekanada with me (and he is supposed to be heavy). So I carried my bag with pleasure.

There was also a meditation hall on the rock. I spent very few minutes in there and came out. I couldn’t help myself from enjoying the strong winds of the sea and the sight of water all around me. The scene of waves hitting the rock was a sight to see. The water came in full force trying to get on to the rock in utter joy. Please don’t take this as a poetic imagination when I say about the water. The sea literally looked so happy to be around the rock. There was a smaller rock nearby. Sometimes the waves ran over the rock and the froth that went back to the sea gave a picture of milk being poured onto the rock. Every now and then my mind would go wondering as in how on earth anyone would even think of doing such an act of swimming across such a sea that was full of strong currents, rocks, sharks and what not. It is then that I really thanked the people who came up with the idea of building a National Monument for a National Hero like Swami Vivekananda who believed in a Universal Religion and strived for the upliftment of his countrymen irrespective of caste, creed or religion. It is for the same reason that Swamiji had followers from all the religions. Building this monument was very necessary. How many people get inspired just by coming to such a place? How many lives get changed after hearing stories about this man who had the courage to stand up against the whole world if required, this man who lived a life only for his love for others, this man who knew no fear, this man who could be called as a synonym for firmness! If we would not have built this monument, it’s very sure that a few generations later, people will find it hard to believe that such a man existed. Many would say, “The stories of Swami Vivekananda are just exaggerated tales or else how could anyone swim across the sea for hundreds of metres? It’s just impossible.” They might even turn these stories to legendary tales or make him a mythological character. When people could label Rama and Krishna as mythological characters even with geographical scientific evidences & proofs that match with the stories of Ramayana and Krishna, it wouldn’t be a surprise if people of the future would not make an exception to Vivekananda. And how easily they could kill an ideal, kill an inspiration, and kill history, by just labeling it as legend or mythology?
With these thoughts I ponder stood on the rock watching the sea and waves hitting the rock. After a couple of hours, I had to force myself to leave the rock. I literally came back a couple of times after walking a few steps towards the ferry boat. Such was the strong pull of the rock. No wonder, the pull of Vivekananda had to be strong. There was no other way!

After convincing myself to leave the rock, I got on to the ferry to the next rock where the statue of the great Tamil Philosopher ‘Thiruvallur’ is built. The statue is so tall that if we look up by standing at the foot of the statue, it will look as if the top will touch the sky. I climbed on the steps that took to the top floor of the statue. Within 15-20 minutes I boarded my boat to get back to the shore.

It was 5:30 pm. I was strolling along the different shops. I also bought a few shells for my family and friends. Suddenly I saw an exhibition to my right side which read “Wandering Monk Exhibition”. When I realized it was of Swami Vivekananda, the speed of my footsteps fastened. There was an Rs.2/- entry ticket for the exhibition which exhibited the pictures and stories of Swami Vivekananda’s life as a Parivrajaka (wandering monk) that he led before his travel to America. There were hardly one or two visitors inside the beautiful place. I sat down leisurely before every picture and read the write ups that explained the story behind the picture. It took me around 2 ½ hours to complete reading all of them. Before leaving the premises, I bought myself a copy of the book which included all these write ups, with pictures along with few of Swamiji’s letters that he had written during that period.

With nothing other than Swami Vivekananda in my mind, I walked on the road to Vivekanandapuram. Not feeling the weight of my shoulder bags, nor the tiring legs that held me on for more than six hours, I kept walking with a feeling that I cannot express.

My stay in Kanyakumari would end the next day morning where I would leave the place for Suchindram temple (after watching the sun-rise and chasing some peacocks in the peacock sanctuary at Vivekanandapuram) which was a huge temple with tall stone pillars (as many as 34 pillars on either side of one of the many passages with an average of 6 feet distance between two pillars), ceilings around 25 – 30 feet above the ground and painted with beautiful natural colours, stone inscriptions in Tamil and which had Shiva and different forms and names of Shiva.

However, this travelogue would be incomplete if I miss out to write my meeting with one of the living fighters of our country, the result of whose courage, fight and dedication is what we see in the form of Vivekananda Rock Memorial, but whose name got lost in history. The story of Lakshmanji, whose life changed at the age of 23 and who changed the course of history at such a tender age.

….to be continued under the Post – ‘Lakshmanji – a forgotten hero’.

My Mind says, “I’m Innocent”

My Mind says, “I’m Innocent”

In 1931, New York witnessed the capture of one of the most dangerous gangster – Two Gun Crowley – as he was called. In his last fight with the cops, he was hit by many bullets and he thought he would die. So he wrote a note which read, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm.” But he didnt die. He was sentenced to death. And this is what he said in the court, “This is what I get for defending myself?”

When we hear this, we might think that he was crazy. Being a very dangerous gangster, how can he claim to be innocent? But the truth is, we all think in the same way.

Whenever we do something and get a negative result, we blame the circumstances or others who made our lives miserable. What really happens is, our Mind always tries to console us by saying, “Its not your fault. The circumstances were like that. What can you do about it?” And it develops self-pity towards ourselves. May be our family and friends tell us that it was a wrong act or wrong decision that you took, but still we will reply, “I had no choice.” It is not just the case of Two Gun Crowley, but the case of every human being. The Mind will always justify even our greatest mistake, and what happens is…we keep on leading the wrong path without realising our mistake and correcting our course of thinking.

One may say that being human, we can’t help, but think like that. However, it is not that case, is what Hindu scriptures teach us. At any given situation, four personalities in us gives four different opinions about the same thing. And this is how, we face an internal confusion.

e.g.A sweet is presented to a seeker of Truth. His Body will think of grabbing it fast. His Mind will tempt him about the sweetness. His Intellect will tell him that he is diabetic. His Atman or the Soul will say that this is temporary and that this is just a hinderance in his spiritual study that he is doing at the moment, hence ignore it.
These clashes of the Body, Mind, Intellect & Soul is the reason for our Sorrow.

So, how can we overcome this situation? Satsang (company of the good), Study of the scriptures, Following the spiritual path….all these help to align our four different thoughts into one. And that One thought will be what the Atman really needs.

The trick played by the Mind is that, whenever it sends out any opinion or thought, it makes us feel that this is what WE actually need. But the reality is, this is what the MIND needs to satisfy its sense organs.

The wise say…Go beyond the Mind, there is Intellect. Go beyond the Intellect, there is Atman – the Supreme Conscience.

How I came into Chinmaya Mission?

How I came into Chinmaya Mission?
– an experience by Vinay Nair

It was the 14th of February 2002, a Valentine’s Day. I had a fight with my girlfriend few days back and we weren’t talking to each other. Seeing my other friends going out and having fun added to my grief. I was just recovering from a severe attack of Jaundice and hospitalization of 28 days. My father had strictly told me not to go out of the house for many more days. It was more than two weeks that I was at home. No friends. No fun. I was bored to death. My craving for nicotine was killing me on one side. Never earlier was I grounded.

That afternoon, my dad got a call from one of his friends who said that there is a ‘Geeta Jnana Yagna’ starting that day evening at a nearby school. There is a Malayalee Swami from Chinmaya Mission in Kerala who would be giving discourse in Malayalam on Bhagawad Geeta in the evening talks and Upanishads during the morning talks. Dad was very social and was active in a lot of social organizations. He immediately called up a lot of his friends and spread the news. While he was talking to his friends, he was stressing that we (Malayalees) should be present in a good number during the talk. Or else, what will the Swami think of the Malayalees in our town (Dombivli, a town in the Mumbai suburbs). I was thinking what my old man is upto. We had hardly heard of Chinmaya Mission and here he is, inviting everybody for a program of Chinmaya Mission. My dad asked my mom who readily agreed. That was nothing unusual. She was a typical Indian wife who would be in for anything her husband wishes for. But my surprise was turned into a shock when he invited me while they were about to leave for the talk. I thought, “WHAT???? Geeta? Upanishad? ME? What on earth made him feel that I would come for such a thing? I couldn’t even stay awake for 90 minutes during such a talk. And that too, when I’m totally sad and dejected on this Valentine’s Day”. I didn’t express this much. I simply replied, “No”. He persuaded me with the dialogues he gave to his friends about presenting a good crowd in front of the Swami. I still said, “No”. Then he said, “OK! If you want to go out of the house, this is your chance. Or else, we go, you stay”. TONG! The bell rang in my mind. That was a good deal to strike. With no second thoughts, I said, “Yes. I changed my mind. You guys go ahead. I’ll be there in no time”.

My folks left for the school and I got dressed up quickly, took my scooter, and went directly to my Paan-beediwala (cigarette vendor). Bought a cigarette and enjoyed my smoke. Ah Ha! It was after one and a half months time that I was having a cigarette. At that time, I was a total believer that Happiness lies in the objects and never in the subject. I enjoyed my smoke and went to visit a couple of my friends and came back home at night. On my arrival, my dad asked where I was. I told him that I didn’t go to the school. I was expecting a half an hour argument after I said that. To my astonishment, he didn’t shout at me. He was in a totally different mood. I was taken aback. This never happened earlier in my life.

I asked my mom what the Swami taught from Bhagawad Geeta. She told me that he didn’t teach anything. Instead, he posed questions which were quite logical. Since I had a questioning mind, I enjoyed listening to the questions that he asked about our life, what is the quality of the life that we are leading, who’s leading a better life – man or animal, etc. And the answers he said were also quite logical. He didn’t say anything much from the Geeta. My mom explained everything very beautifully. She said, from the next day morning he was going to talk on Kenopanishad and that if I wished I could join her.

I always enjoyed arguments and debates based on logic. And since I never gave up until I was convinced, I usually won the arguments I used to have with my friends and family. I had concluded myself as an ‘intellectual’. With this notion in my mind, I thought, why not go to the talk and see what’s going on?

Next morning I found myself as the youngest among all the people who had either grey hair, dyed hair or no hair. I went and sat in the front. Swamiji started the class right on time with the chanting – something that was always boredom to me. But I enjoyed this small chanting of Shanti Mantra and few more slokas. He immediately started off with the topic of Upanishads. What were Upanishads…Number of Upanishads…how Vedas was structured, etc. I just sat in awe and admiration when he spoke with so much on conviction about the scriptures. I noted down everything in my mind. The proud intellectual I was, I never felt that I should carry a notebook to remember things.

Kenopanishad abducted my mind. It was full of questions that the student asks to his Teacher and the Teacher explains everything logically. Logic & Proofs was something I always enjoyed. May be it was the love for Math that made me fall in love with Logic. I was totally lost in the talk and never realized how quickly one hour passed. At the end of the talk, I felt the time was too short. I saw everybody going and prostrating to the Swami. I just stood there, looked at him and smiled. He looked at me and smiled back. He was different than the other Swamis I had seen earlier. He seemed to be one of us, yet different than us. To be very honest, he didn’t have any Godly look. But his eyes were sharp and one could feel his sense of conviction in what he spoke. He asked me my name and we started off our conversation. I asked him a few doubts I had from the talk that he gave. He gave me good explanations that satisfied my mind. The solutions to problems that he spoke were very practical. He was very analytical & logical in explanations. He didn’t give any room for rituals or blind beliefs. People following any religion, even an atheist could, agree to him. Anybody could follow it and be a happier person. I thanked him and left. I could see my mind firing a lot of questions to myself. I went home and didn’t do anything except discussing on the talk with my mom and thinking on the subject all alone. Probably it was for the first time in my life that I would have sat alone and thought on some subject. There was not a chance that I would miss the evening talk.

That evening too, I left home after my parents left. Went to the cigarette vendor, had a puff and went to the Yagnashala. Once again, I got lost in the talk. After the talk, people prostrated Swamiji and few asked him questions. I didn’t feel the need for prostrating but a strong urge to shower a dozen of doubts. Swamiji patiently listened to my questions and answered them. I found that an answer to one question gave rise to another question. This morning and evening class schedule continued for a week. Every day mom & I used to sit and read and discuss on various topics till late nights. In the coming weeks, we would sit and discuss till midnight and I would wake up at 3am to go for the morning Upanishad class in the nearby town. Never had I felt so much energy in me despite such less sleep. Nothing was missed (not even the evening puffs). But what was changing was my outlook towards life. All my ideologies were slowly shattering after every talk. At the end of the week, I could see what a stupid life I had led for the last 21 years? I felt, as if I hadn’t lived life at all. 21 years was just a waste of time. I hope you can understand the feeling that one will have after he realizes that all he did for 1/3rd or 1/4th of his life was – NOTHING! Did some stupid things and got some small amount of happiness in it and mistook those small sparks for ‘Real Happiness’. I had become a slave to habits, to friends. I could not see anything productive I did in my life. I was totally away from my friends, T.V., telephone, everything, during that week. It was for the first time I thought for ‘Myself’. I had decided, “I want to lead a better life. When I’m privileged to lead a better life how stupid would I be not to choose the better path of life?”

After that week I didn’t feel the ‘need’ to smoke. I felt as a stronger individual who would not be a slave to any object. I quit butt or the butt quit me, I don’t know. Something that I was trying hard since quite some time happened effortlessly. I was a happy man. I felt as if I achieved the first thing in my life.

Swamiji had another week discourse followed by the one in our town. That one was in another suburb in Mumbai – Mulund. I started attending those talks from Day 1. I started going around with Swamiji for bhikshas in different homes and had good Satsang with him for a few days. There was one more week talk after Mulund. I attended that too. I couldn’t think of anything except Vedanta. That was it! That was my entry to this great organization – Chinmaya Mission.

I can never forget that evening of the Valentine’s Day of 2002 where I made up my mind to go for the talk. That was one evening where for the first time in my life, I started falling in love with myself!