Friday, August 29, 2008

The two-rupee miracle that kicked my smoking forever

NOTE: This is an inspirational true story. It happened during the author(Ashis Kumar Gupta) visit to a temple in India. Well, it was not the diety in the temple who did it, but who knows ? Who has seen a diety to recognise one? Read on...

SOME years ago, on the last leg of the Rajasthan tour, we were headed towards Pushkar.Pushkar is famous for its Brahma temple. Pushkar is the only city in India(and the world) with a Brahma temple.

As we neared the desolate area, sandy landscape made way for people dressed in a riot of colours.Typical of rajasthani villagers.

We reached the Brahma temple, where a serpentine queue awaited the darshan. While some from our group of friends went looking for a ‘quick’ way to get entry, others tried to use the opportunity for a cup of tea, a cigarette or paan(something like chewing tobacco). Like other temple cities, we were chased by beggars for alms on every street.

As my friend and I lit a cigarette standing at a nearby paan shop, a grey-haired, spectacled and wrinkled old beggar woman approached us, leaning on a long stick. She wanted one rupee to help her buy lunch. We looked at her in distaste and refused to oblige. At that moment, a friend called to ask us to hurry up for darshan. We crushed the cigarette with our shoes, I took my son in my arms and asking my wife to follow, left for the temple gates.

Behind me,I could overhear the woman say that, “these young men will burn more than a rupee for their bad habit, but will never give a rupee to a hungry person.” I left the place nonchalantly. However, during the darshan, her remarks resounded in my ears. I began wondering if there was some truth to what she had said.

On our return, I found the old woman standing near a shop. I beckoned to her and she came promptly. I asked her who would give her lunch for a rupee. She replied, “At an alms house. It's virtually free, but they have stipulated this token amount for each meal. We have to deposit the amount before lunch.” I gave my son two rupees to give it to her. Before accepting the money, she promptly took my son's hand in her own and embraced him in her emaciated arms with love and affection, ran her fingers through his hair and prayed to the Almighty for his well being and prosperity. Tears of happiness rolled down her cheeks.

I had never witnessed such heartfelt blessings and could never have believed that two rupees(about 5 US cents) could reflect such unbounded joy in a person's eyes.

About an hour later, as we were returning to the hotel after lunch, we found the old woman having her lunch sitting on a stone under the shade of a tree. A little girl in a dirty, torn dress sat beside her, who also she was feeding. I went up to her and asked, “Amma(Mother), who is that girl?”. She replied, “Sir, this poor girl is new in the city and yet to learn how to beg a rupee from the tourists. She couldn't manage a rupee today. So, I have brought lunch for her out of the money you gave for dinner. Don’t worry, God will arrange for my dinner.”

I was astonished at her generosity and could not utter a single word. It was a true lesson. The woman who was not sure whether she would be able to arrange a rupee for her dinner did not hesitate to feed a hungry girl. Her remarks were correct and the proof of how the cost of two cigarettes could feed two hungry people was before me.

For the last time, I tossed the half-burnt cigarette and crushed it under my shoes. I got the strength to quit the habit at that moment. No ‘statutory warning’ on the cigarette packet could teach me the lesson that the beggar woman did that day.

- Ashis Kumar Gupta-

Thanks to Sushanta for forwarding this article.

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