By Jamuna Rangachari November 2009 An act of compassion is worth a thousand sermons I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see,I sought my God, but he eluded me,I sought my brother, and I found all three – Author unknown I met Ashirwadam after a long time that day. “How is everyone at home?” I asked him.“All well,” he said with a shy smile.“Is everything all right in your village after the tsunami?” I continued, recollecting that he was from the coastal side of Tamil Nadu. “By God’s grace, all are well,” he replied and quickly changed the topic, “Do you wish to be dropped near Colaba? I am going that way.”Though usually reticent, his reluctance to converse on this subject surely indicated something more, I realised.Ashirwadam’s family lived in Tamil Nadu, while he lived in the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai. He had been our friend’s driver for such a long time that he too had blended into our circle. I knew he had two school-going children and that they were doing quite well in their studies. Had his family faced a calamity Ashirwadam did not wish to disclose?Perhaps I had touched a nerve. Why did I not think of Ashirwadam when the tsunami struck? I reprimanded myself. Wasn’t it highly insensitive of me to ask about such a grave matter so casually? Well, better late than never, I thought and immediately called my friend to ask if something was amiss.“Well, his life has been affected by the tsunami,” she replied, “though not in the way you think.”Ashirwadam had adopted an eight-year-old boy who had been orphaned in the tsunami. A boy who was not related to him and whom he never knew earlier. It was a joint decision with his children, a son aged twelve and a daughter, aged six, and of course, his wife, warmly welcoming the new arrival into their family with an open heart.The only ‘request’ he had made from my friend was that when she gave new clothes for his children during festivals as per her normal practice, she should keep in mind that he now had three children, and not just two. That day, I remembered the many lessons I have often known, but never seen practised so clearly.“If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion,” says the Dalai Lama.“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution,” said Khalil Gibran.“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble,” said Helen Keller I could see all of them smiling at him.His name means God’s blessings in Tamil.Truly, he couldn’t have been better named, I reflected as I thanked him for the ‘ashirwadam’ I received of an indelible glimpse of the Divine that day. As for me, viewing the practice of compassion in such a powerful way was more effective in raising my consciousness than any number of sermons.
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