Rati Ram talks of his life (III)

Rati Ram talks of his life

Rati Ram is alive and well. I meet him almost every morning. But he seems to have abandoned his earlier spot outside the temple. As I do my rounds walking the circular road around the park Rati emerges from one or another lane lead to the circle. I am sure he smells me and comes happily waving his tail. This makes me very glad and I meet him with both my hands going to his back feeling his condition. I get back more love from him than I give, every time.

I asked: Rati, why have you changed your place?

Rati: Oh, I still go to the temple in the morning and get my prasad (consecrated food) from the lady priest. She is kind but she does things as a set routine. She is gentle and devout to her divine symbols. I do not blame her for anything. Like most other humans she does things by the book. I do not feel attracted either to the temple or to her. So I change my spot without much thought. This is the right thing to do. It is nature’s own way: for when a leaf falls from the branch, air blows it away. After ions of time they reunite when both have disintegrated and returned to the elements.

I: Why do you keep hinting that we humans are a strange species? It sounds as if you think there is something wrong with us.

Rati: Not at all, I do not mean to judge any beings. But strangely you feel different. Most other animals and we dogs follow our instincts. Faced with new situations we use the intelligence of our minds. But you humans seem to live only by the mind and dead past. Even that would not have been so bad had you not closed the window to the living, refreshing, and moment-to-moment changing present.

Remember, the mind has limited reach. It labels chunks of experience. It sees them as separate. It divides and enumerates. Unchecked, it finally drowns us in numbers. On the other hand the Great Spirit sees everything as interrelated and one. It is okay to see divisions in our day-to-day world but we get into trouble when we shut the window to the truth of relatedness of things. As a consequence most of your inventions clash with environment. You seem already in deep trouble.

I: Philosopher, Rati! I am very impressed. How did you learn all this?

Rati: I appreciate your compliment, but all living beings are born with the wisdom of the Spirit. I have nothing special. It comes easily to my mind because I have been constantly pondering since I was thrown out of my human family.

I: I think you are being too modest, brother Rati. But thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Rati: My brother Partapji, I too thank you for talking with me.

Partap, February 28, 2009

Sadhu Ram and Most of Us

Some months ago I noticed a handsome young man of about thirty intently searching in the pile of garbage on the side of the main entrance to our Whitefield Park. I was curious. I watched him to see what he was looking for; in a moment it became clear it was food. He found small plastic bags in which people throw away breadcrumbs or cooked rice and vegetables. He picked them up, opened them and ate the food that appealed to him. His method of work was fast and efficient. His eye focused on food bags and his hand expertly picked them. It seemed he was aware of curious watchers but it was of no concern to him for he paid no attention. Very likely their glare made him uncomfortable but he did not show it and avoided eye contact. I later understood that his reason for working early in the morning was to avoid watchers.

I do not know his name, but I began calling him Sadhu Ram. I imagined him as a lovely baby and his parents lovingly giving him a nice Kannada name. The name I have given him is north Indian but it’s meaning is quite befitting and nice. Sadhu means a simple quiet social rebel and Ram is the Great Spirit in all of us as the animator. His real name probably ends with Appa as usual in Karnataka.

I began to be on the lookout for him and saw him every morning and some days more than once at different spots. He wears a shirt and pants, both at least two sizes too big. His shirt has about half its buttons gone and the pants have none. To hold the pants up he ties a string around his waist. His pants’ fly has neither zipper nor buttons, but since the pants are over sized one side overlaps the other and adequately covers his genitals. He seems concerned not to appear indecent even though he is unwashed and his long jet-black hair is beginning to become matted. His small beard is quite handsome but unkempt. It’s his habit to avoid eye contact with the strangers on the street.

I notice that he has settled down on the side of one of our main roads. The ground is loose mud and behind him is a row of small rarely opened warehouses. The winter here was quite chilly this year. Some kind person must have noticed that Sadhu had no bedding and must be cold. He would have given him a couple of blankets and a heavy sheet. He seems to be comfortable. To relieve himself he goes to a vacant plot near our house. It is overgrown with tall bushes to provide adequate privacy. I also notice that some people are bringing him food so that he does not have to scrounge garbage heaps.

I learned that one of his benefactors is a young lady who lives in our housing complex. She told me that she not only gives him food but also sometimes sits with him to give company. He seems to appreciate genuine friendly companionship but does not reveal anything about himself. One day this lady was coming back from her work about midnight on a motorcycle. Some street dogs started chasing her. They stopped her and started barking threateningly. She was scared out of her wits and did not know what to do.

Sadhu Ram was watching. He rushed to the scene and shooed the dogs away. The lady was relieved. She thanked Sadhu Ram and came home.

On three occasions I walked quietly behind Sadhu Ram. He was babbling. I did not understand because I do not know the Kannada language. But it was obvious he was talking out loud the thoughts that were coming to his mind. I do not have any idea how much of the time Sadhu babbles but the thought came to my mind ‘Oh, how like most of us!’ We do it quietly in our minds and some of us do it all the time. Sadhu Ram does it loudly and perhaps just a few hours daily.

February 21, 2009

Street Dog Rati Ram II

Last Sunday afternoon I went looking for Rati Ram. My eye sighted his back but I was not sure. I called. He turned around and came to me. I petted him on the back of his neck; he wagged his tail and was happy as usual. But I had questions for him so I led him to a bench and sat down.

I said: what happened Rati. I have not seen you for 4 days. Where were you? I was worried.

Rati: I missed you too but I imagined that you had followed a different path to come to the park. Once I went looking for you in the park. You had probably not come that day. I thought you had something more urgent and important to do. But what was there to worry? Friends sometimes have to walk their own diverse paths and fail to meet. This is quite normal.

I: But one can have an accident, get badly hurt, and even die.

Rati laughed: Indeed so, but it is foolish to worry over imagined accidents and hurts. When accidents happen we do the best we can. This is what our intelligence for, isn’t it?

I: Can you tell me the things you would do in case you had an accident? I, as you know, would call an ambulance and go to a hospital. Perhaps you can teach me an alternative.

Rati: If I got miner bruised and cuts I would find a cozy place, lie down and fast. I would heal enough in two or three days and go back to my normal routine. If I broke a bone I would also find a hiding place and try to set my bone if I could. After a few days of fasting and rest either my bone would be properly set or set in a wrong place. I would get up and hobble. I’d manage the best I could. But if my whole body were badly crushed I would lie down and welcome death. This in what I can imagine. You see, most animals and we dogs are not afraid of death. We prefer to die rather than to live as a cripple. Death offers deliverance from pain and suffering.

Accidents happen and Life teaches us to cope with them. I am sure I would not worry at any stage

I: So you do not fear pain and death.

Rati: No, I don’t. These are risks of life. Fear cannot prevent them. Worrying brings suffering even before the accident happens. I try to observe caution the best I can while I go about my business. That is all I can do I think.

I: Do you not make prior arrangements?

Rati: No, because every accident is unique and it is impossible to predict what it is going to bring. My immune system and the divine wisdom permeating my body are my protection. I will know what to do when the time comes. This is my experience all my life.

In fact Rati bhai (brother) our method has worked for us much better than what I have heard of your hospitals. Some people say that your hospitals give a lot of additional pain and suffering besides emptying your pockets. In our natural habitat we enjoyed robust health by depending only on our immune system and inborn wisdom. It is true even today. You might have noticed in some National Geographic programs how the skins of my wild brothers shine. They are full of vigor and confidence. I am a miserable wretch in comparison.

I: Thanks, brother Rati. Talking with you was very enlightening.

Partap Aggarwal
February 14, 2009

Street Dog Rati Ram

I meet him every morning outside a small temple as I go for my daily morning walk. The lady priest of the temple feeds and cares for him but apparently he is not allowed to enter the temple compound. During cold winter nights he sleeps huddled close to the temple wall on dry grass. But sometimes when it is not so cold he sits in the middle of the road. On seeing me, sometimes, he gets up and comes near. I pet him for a few minutes. He wags his tail to show happiness and goes back to his favorite warm spot. Sometimes he does not get up and enjoys my petting in sitting position.

Occasionally he comes walking beside me for some distance and then veers off. He is quite detached and does not try to cling or beg for more petting. Not even once has he asked me to adopt him. He has the wisdom to know not to attach to anyone too closely. A local person told me that Rati Ram belonged to a family for many years. For some reason they suddenly moved away leaving him behind. Rati Ram was mortally crushed by this betrayal. He learned a new fact of life that one must never assume that attachments of this world will last forever.

On rare days when I do not see him in his usual place I miss my friend and wonder where he might be. But I just follow my usual path. Suddenly I sense his presence, look back, and find Rati Ram trailing close behind me. We sit down to greet each other with more warmth than usual. It is quite clear that when I do not appear at my usual time Rati looks for me.

I have not seen my friend for several days and I miss him badly. I hope he is not injured or dead, and if he is dead I hope he left his body peacefully without pain. I must go to the lady priest and ask her. If she does not know I must look around for Rati.

I named my friend Rati Ram for I feel it suits his character. Rati is a tiny tree seed used by jewelers as their smallest weight for gold, and Ram is one of the names of the divine animator who enlivens our bodies. This of course is the same Great Spirit that permeates every atom and tiniest living cell. My street dog friend reflected the highest and the littlest in a beautiful blend. For he had the humility of a tiny Rati seed and was filled with love and patience like Ram, the Great Spirit.

February 07, 2009