By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
A story from the WhatsApp: A monk of the Ramakrishna Mission was being interviewed by a journalist from New York. The journalist started interviewing the monk as planned earlier.
Journalist: Sir, in your last lecture, you told us about jogajog [contact] and sanjog [connection]. It is really confusing. Can you explain ?
The monk smiled, and apparently deviating from the question, asked the journalist: Are you from New York? Journalist said, yeah.
Monk: “Who are there at home?” The journalist felt that the monk was trying to avoid his question. Since this was a very personal and unwarranted question yet the journalist said, “Mother has expired. Father is there. Three brothers and one sister. All married.”
The monk with a smile on his face asked again, “Do you talk to your father often ?”
By now the journalist was annoyed.
The monk persisted, “When did you talk to your father last ?”
The journalist, suppressing his annoyance said, “May be a month ago.”
The monk: “Do you brothers and sisters meet often? When did you meet last as a family gathering?”
At this point, a sweat appeared on the forehead of the journalist. Now who was conducting the interview, the monk or the journalist? It seemed that the monk was doing the interview.
With a sigh, the journalist said, “We met last at Christmas two years ago.”
The monk said, “How many days did you stay together?”
The journalist, wiping his sweat on his brow said, “Three days.”
How much time did you spend with your father sitting beside him? asked the monk.
The journalist looked perplexed and embarrassed and started to scribble something on his pad.
The monk asked, “Did you have breakfast, lunch or dinner together with your father? Did you ask how he was coping with his life after the death of your mother?”
Drops of tears started coming out from the eyes of the journalist.
The monk held the hand of the journalist and said, “Don’t be embarrassed, upset or sad. I am sorry if I have hurt you unknowingly. But this is basically the answer to your question about “contact” and “connection.” You have contact with your father but you don’t have connection with him. You are not connected to him. Connection is between heart and heart. Sitting together, sharing meals and caring for each other. Touching, having eye contact, shaking hands, spending sometime together. You and your brothers and sister have contact but you have no connection with each other. Now did I answer your question?
The journalist wiped his tears and said, “Thank you for teaching me an invaluable lesson of life.”
By now you must have guessed the name of the monk. Who else but the great Swami Vivekananda.
The above reminded me of an incident when I was posted at Delhi. I had a close friend, a businessman. He was getting his son married to a working girl. An inter-caste marriage. He was staying in a huge mansion but two days after marriage, he called his son and daughter-in-law to his study, handed over a cheque for Rs. 2 lakh and a house key. The girl was perplexed. He said, “Beta, just one block away I have purchased a two bedroom flat and I have semi-furnished it. With the money I have given you, please get it furnished as per your wishes. I have two requests. Every Sunday I want you to come over with my son and we will have a meal together. All festivals and occasions like birthdays should be celebrated in this house. The daughter-in-law was, of course, overjoyed.
I asked him as to why this decision when he had a palatial home. His answer, “Ballal saab, Dooratho parvotho ramya” [A mountain looks pretty from far]. My wife is very orthodox. She does not enter the kitchen without taking her bath. I cannot expect my modern age bahu to follow that practice. This small tiffs will grow into a full-fledged war in coming days and spoil the relationships. Let me give them their space, when I can afford it. Now I am connected with my bahu by heart. We will not be just in contact, but stay connected.
How prophetic. Since he had cleverly purchased a flat nearby, his son came everyday to meet his mother. My friend had a small accident and the bahu took one month leave and nursed him back to health !
In olden days, I remember my grandfather used to order that all the members of the house should have at least one meal together. He used to have his meal in a silver thali and rest in stainless steel. There was one more silver thali and my grandfather used to ask each of us by turn to sit next to him to have the meal in that thali. Such a proud moment for all of us to sit next to him. The reason was simple. The elders wanted all the members of the house to stay connected !
A reality check. Presently whether at home or in the society everybody has lots of contacts but there is no connection. No communication. Everybody is in his or her own world. Let us not just maintain “contacts” but remain “connected” — caring, sharing and spending quality time with all our dear and near ones. Do you agree ?