Raghuram, Raghu in short, was a class mate of mine in seventh standard in my younger days. I have forgotten most of the other boys but I still remember distinctly his face for the prominent beak shaped nose. He was slightly built and had a constant puckered smile on his soft face. He never talked unless spoken to and rarely mingled with others. He did not participate in sports. He was happy to be left alone to his devices. He wore his caste mark prominently on his face. He was not distinguished in his studies. Except in Sanskrit, history and moral sciences, he had no interest in other subjects. He just scraped through, I think.
I remember one incident when the class teacher asked us to write in one page of what we wished to be when we grew old. Some of us wrote about our wish to be engineers, while some wanted to be teachers and some others business men or lawyers and such like callings. When the boys were discussing excitedly among themselves, Raghu stood aside alone without showing any interest.
We did not know that Raghu was different from us till the afternoon. We came to know when the teacher called him softly by his side and asked him to tell the class on what he wished to be. He kept quiet feeling embarrassed. The teacher goaded him telling that there was nothing to feel shy about and that he was proud to be his teacher.
Thus prompted, the boy said, “I wish to be a monk and recede to forest to meditate on my God and do Tapasya till I have His darshan.” There was a disbelief and stunned silence even as the boys saw the teacher wiping his tears from his eyes.
The teacher wondered at the serendipitous discovery and felt that this deep devotion and serene detachment from worldly ways of the boy’s age were not common possessions. Least of all are they to be found in a teen aged school boy. Later after the class was over, the teacher patted Raghu gently on his shoulder and told him “Will you take me along with you to meet your parents this evening. I wish to pay my obeisance to the fortunate couple.”
Raghu immediately implored “Sir, please do not mention about this essay of mine to them. They are already unhappy with me about my poor marks and my ways.”
“Why are you not studying well? You score well in Sanskrit and a few other subjects but seem to neglect important subjects. What is it that you do to displease your parents? Should you not listen to them?” he gently asked.
Raghu said, “Excuse me if I am in the wrong. I am a great devotee of Sri Ramachandra and Sri Anjaneya swami. I have their idols and do puja both mornings and evenings. I do not know why but I wish to do nothing else except thinking of my Lord. My father is against all these as he considers them a waste of time to the detriment of my studies and future. He wants me to stop all this and go out to play with other boys. He beats me if he sees me sitting before my darling idols. So I have hidden them in the terrace and do the puja unknown to him. My mom knows but she does not dissuade me.”
The teacher kept silent and later learnt from his parents that what all he had stated was true. Both the parents were dejected and had given up hopes of ‘reforming’ the boy. He did not mingle with his siblings except a little with mom and spent all the waking hours before the idols and deriving pleasure in dressing them and singing bhajans praising their glories.
The teacher knew that the great Acharya Sankara himself pleaded with his mother at the age of seven to allow him to renounce the world. Coming to our own time, a twelve-year-old Ramana felt a spiritual tug in his heart strings that set him forth on his spiritual journey. In the instant case too, the teacher perceived an uncommon boy who had a rare spiritual hunger and deep devotion to Lord Ram and who gave all his unwavering attention and time praying to Him in the hope of having His darisan. The teacher kept quiet as he knew that it was best not to interfere with the boy’s ‘spiritual progress’ only to safeguard his parental wishes.
Years had gone by. I lost touch with Raghu after I came out of the school but the essay incident in the school remained etched in my mind. It was some decades later I accidentally met his younger brother who was also then studying in the same school.
I learnt that Raghu did his graduation in Sanskrit and did not marry. He became a Sanskrit pundit in a school. He had not changed a bit except that his devotion grew intense. He did not become a sanyasin or wore ochre robes. After his parents died, he stayed alone and had his food brought from a nearby temple on payment. He spent all his leisure hours in a religious Mutt, assisting them in their activities and tending to the sick and needy persons. No one knew what puja he did and when. He lived a life of recluse and did not participate in family functions. He gave away his share of the property to charitable institutions. The last the brother heard about Raghu was that he lived in a temple town spending his remaining days in the temple. He preferred solitude and discouraged any contact with him. He had obviously discovered his real identity, knew his true nature and felt the presence of Supreme spirit in everything and everywhere.
I chose to visit the same temple soon hoping to see him. Yes, I could see him sitting in a corner near Anjaneya shrine and went near him with folded hands. He had grown a beard, looked emaciated but the puckered smile was intact. I could see his penetrating eyes that seemed at once far away and distant as he saw me. When I introduced myself, there was no display of emotion or flicker of eyes but total silence with no hint of recognition. I wondered whether he was in a state of trance, Samadhi. I was convinced that he is no ordinary soul. He has turned an evolved person who belonged to this world and yet not part of it. Life for him was a voyage that he had to undertake to liquidate his past karmic debts. Involuntarily I fell at his feet before leaving with my eyes moist and throat choked with emotions. That was the last I saw him.
Fully conscious that such divine grace does not come by to all, I could only proudly tell my children and grandchildren that I had the privilege of studying together with a karma yogi who had realised himself.
”The winds of grace are always blowing; it is for us to raise our sails.”