By Radhika Nagrath October 2007 When you give without expecting returns, you acquire the true wealth of contentment The pilgrimage town of Haridwar has always beguiled the thoughtful observer by its capacity to retain unimpaired, ancient ideas and institutions. Sauntering through its streets savouring the aroma of street food, and tempted by the display of precious stones in Moti Bazaar, my mother and I came across an old inn called Topiwalon ki dharamshala. Intrigued, we entered. A middle-aged person bereft of head gear greeted us. But on the wall were portraits of old men wearing round ‘topis’. The room was bare. A cot was placed in the middle of a vast open space which forked out all around into a linear row of rooms for the visitors. There were some medicines in the room. Impulsively, I told him about my mother’s arthritic problem. He gave me two packets of medicines, and to my dismay, refused to take its price. When I pestered him to accept some amount, he responded, ‘It’s a service to the people and if I would take anything in return, the effect of the medicine would be diminished.’ He further added ‘Even asking you to fetch me a glass of water from the tap would be taking services against this medicine’. Overwhelmed, we came down offering our gratitude. Coming out of the inn, I was attracted towards a humbly dressed lady who was busy rolling cotton into long rolls to make into wicks. Her thin fingers worked ceaselessly to produce the sleek rolls. I asked her for some wicks, and she handed me a big pack. When I asked the price she told me that she didn’t charge a penny as it was meant to be used for offering oblations to the holy Ganges at the evening aarti. Evening aarti is a sight to see at the river banks when hundreds of leaf boats with burning earthen lamps and flower petals are floated on the dancing waves of the river. On my insistence, she said ‘You may buy a hair clip’, and showed me a few boxes to choose from. I bought two of them for Rs.5/- each, out of which, I am sure her profit margin would have been a rupee or so. To a materialist like me, it was incredible that people could work and ask for nothing in return. The ‘topi wala’ who refused payment for the medicine had actually gained much in the bargain. His contentment could not be purchased even if we had millions to offer. Whosoever visited him must have returned after having wished for his health and happiness from the bottom of his heart. And is it still doubtful that the Almighty, the All-Giver would ever keep him in want? I had learnt from these two persons that one must not desire credit for the works done and never work with the sole motive of getting appraisals or rewards. ‘Seek no praise, no reward, for anything you do’, says the scripture, as it is going to come back by nature”s law. If one can invariably take the position of a giver, in which everything given by us is a free offering to the world, without any thought of return, then will our work bring us non–attachment and non-attachment ultimately leads to liberation. Attachment comes only when we expect a return. We must learn to give without expecting immediate results. The river never exhausts itself nor does the ocean dry up despite giving endlessly. The sun takes up water from the ocean to return it in showers. In life we find that the generous get more and more and their works are never held up, but misers live hand-to-mouth all their lives. No one ever went bankrupt helping others, while those who pursue money are empty-handed up to the last stage of their lives. For me now, there was something more in life than gaining returns. I had learnt that poor people could be much richer with the wealth of contentment, having fewer wants and desires to accumulate than those living in abundance. The real wealth was with the poor rather than the affluent who were forever discontent and in pursuit of more.
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