‘Seva’ is an ancient Indian philosophy alive in every religious text and preached to almost every person born into the cycle of birth and death. The Hindu belief in rebirth propagates the idea of seva or helping others, much towards attaining access to the path of moksha or enlightenment. Seva is also treated as a way of penance and duty to God. But besides having any religious or spiritual significance, ‘helping’ is also basic human nature. We live in communities, within families, villages and towns, and are fairly dependent on others around us. We feel like being useful to others and also need others to extend themselves to us. The Indian society stands on the structures of community and family living and many social events aim to bring people together. Children here are socialized into a culture of togetherness.
At an individual level, existing within a community, there is always the struggle to prove oneself and become an identity that one is comfortable with. I too, as a young lad, was trying to find myself. And there were people who ‘helped me’ get here.
I was in my early thirties and worked in a newspaper on the edit desk. That meant I had to work on day and night shifts. And as things turned out, I worked mostly night shifts because back then, I could do some moonlighting and work on other freelance editing jobs in order to earn the extra money. In the midst of all this, I did find some time to pen down some short stories, some of which got published in the good magazines of the time.
I had known all of my teen and young adult life that I would be a writer. I tried my best to produce some work that would help set me up as a successful writer. But there were lots of pressures in terms of time commitments, and money was always scarce as I also had to look after my parents and siblings. Very often, the creative juices just seemed to get all blocked up. I considered many times to give up and just do my job and forget about the writing till life gave me a better deal.
I used to visit a yoga teacher and a spiritually minded man named Bhagatji in those days. I met him first while on a reporting assignment and had met him often after that. He was young - probably in his forties, but his words carried wisdom and I found them comforting.
One day, in one of my depressed moods, I went to Bhagatji and told him that I would give up the effort of writing and just take life as it comes. I said I would only start writing when I did not have all my problems. He looked at me, and slowly started speaking, “Have you seen how they draw water with a Persian wheel?” he asked. “The camel has to go round and round, there are bells on its neck, and the farmer keeps shouting at the camel to keep it moving. If the camel stops, the wheel stops and will not pull up the water. Even if the camel wants to drink water, it must keep moving amid the noise and the shouting so that the water is drawn up for it to drink”, Bhagatji explained.
Having said this, he smiled at me and said, “If you want to drink the water, you have to drink it despite all the noise and disturbances. Whatever you want to accomplish has to be done in spite of the problems.”
Those words were spoken more than thirty years ago, but I have never forgotten them. The man who spoke them has passed away, but I cannot forget that he helped me then to hold on to something that was part of my nature and my very being. He gave direction to my energies and gave me the courage to overcome obstacles that I was giving into. He also taught me another lesson in philosophy, that of doing one’s Karma. I was perhaps born to write but I had to exercise my will and work towards this end. That is what karma is. It is what you do.
So I worked, took care of my family and responsibilities and also made sure I write! May be I could have written more, may be I could have written better but the important thing is that I wrote in good time. I shall probably write to the very last day of my life.