Ramnarayan, a country philosopher

(“Bura Na Mano, Holi Hai” Humor)

A Greek philosopher, who spent his youth rubbing shoulders with the best of his times, retired to a little island in his old age. Someone asked him: How could you- you of all people- settle down in a small place like this? His answer became quite famous and inspiration for many latter day philosophers: I am a small man, but had I not lived here, this place would have been even smaller..

That is what Ramnarayan also says, when a village urchin asks him a similar question: When are you going to join that job in Dehradun?

What will happen to Eden Bagh, if I am not around?” Ramnarayan says, with more probity than politicians.

Well, Ramnarayan is a country philosopher and he lives in my small village, Eden Bagh, 35 km from Dehradun. And that is where the similarity ends. Because Ramnarayan never rubbed shoulders with anyone except the budding cricketers in the neighborhood. And he has not crossed 30 yet. But, yes, he has read a little bit of Bhrigu Puran and the “Red book” of astrology (Kashmir branch). And no one can match him when it comes to smoking a bidi, sipping tea and philosophizing no end in the local tea shop.

When some one asks him about doing anything “fruitful”, his answer is inspirational and based on scriptures: Why? I have finished all my karma in past births. I dont want to accrue any fresh Karma. I like to do only that karma which does not bind you, which liberates: I preach unto all..

His audience is mostly teenagers. I am the only exception- at 55! Yes, I love to listen to Ramnarayan. My presence never bothers him. He remains true to his style and purpose. He does not compromise his message to humanity whether, school drop outs are among the audience or experienced social workers like me. His methods of teaching are direct and intuitive, unencumbered by the dictates of dialectics or compulsions of diplomacy.

For example, sometime back, a young chap got a job of the packer in a Selaqui company. He came to Ramnarayan for career counseling. His question was: How do I excel at my job?

Like a Zen master, Ramnarayan quipped : Do an excellent job! (claps! claps! claps!)

Another seeker asked: How do I deal with competition? How do I belittle other’s line?

Ramnarayan stopped and smiled. He realized that it was a loaded question,; “Akbar-Birbal” type of question. But he was not going to be trapped in the hackneyed wisdom of yore. He blew the bidi smoke out and said:

Drawing a bigger line was the old teaching. Dont bother. Just step on his line…

I cleared my throat, hinting that some explanation was needed.

Yes, move ahead, as if to draw something on the ground- but just step on that line and rub it out as I rub this bidi on the ground now..see!

He gave a live demo and then asked:

Where is the line now? What are you talking about competition, boy?

Another young man who had his first break in a local shop as an assistant salesman, asked him what should he do the first thing after joining. Ramnarayan again was light years ahead of management gurus: Take on your boss! Dis-credit him! That is the surest way of getting attention to whatever little you may be doing..

Another fellow asked him about “Communication in workplace”. Ramnarayan took a proper class this time (His lines are italicized):

What is communication?

It is what you say.

What does it take?

Lot of breath?

What does breathing takes?

Lot of oxygen.

No, Fool! Think hard!

It takes power. You need power to breathe.

NO! NO! Think harder! It starts with what you are drinking right now.. (Ramnarayan offered a hint, since he could see that this school drop out, who was also village Goliath and a stammerer, was having tough time thinking it through.)

Aha- yes, it takes time! It takes time to breathe and also to speak- and to me it takes too much time to speak..

OK. What is time?

Time is clock? (The Goliath showed him his digital watch..)

No – no. What s time? It is in your pocket right now.. (another hint; the Goliath dives into his pocket. His hand comes out with a fifty rupee note.)

You see? time is money. And…

Ramnarayan took the note from the hands of the questioner and passed it on to the chai walla for all the cups he has been sipping since morning. Then, he carried on again:

Communication is time and time is money. Dont share it. Keep it in your pocket. For a rainy day. And believe me, there will be plenty of rainy days when these little coins will come handy..Hang on to it.

Last time, when the census team came to our village, they had a huge discussion with Ramnarayan. The surveyors, were not willing to put down “teaching” as an occupation for someone who had not cleared class eighth. There was a big argument. Ramnarayan, got all his school drop out disciples by his side. A shouting match began. The street looked like parliament. Fortunately, no one was hurt. But I remember, the village Goliath shouting at the top of his voice:

Questioning Ramnarayan’s a-authority to teach is like asking the Sun to state its right to shine.. He may not have done B Ed. B-But many B Eds have come to him to understand Child Psychology.. This country will not progress till it learns to respect and celebrate the local knowledge, local talent..

Last time when I went to coursera website, I got a shock. That is an understatement. I actually fell out of my chair: Coursera had started a new management course: “What managers can learn from old philosophers (like Bhrigu and Charvak)?” and this four week course is being taught by whom? Ramnarayan of course! The thing is: Foreigners will come, scout and recruit the local talent, while our own government will gag on – how can a non B Ed teach?

God bless, Ramnarayan! I am happy for him. My village would have certainly been a smaller place had he not been around all these years. He is not going anywhere. He is just investing in a broad band connection and skype, so that he can teach from home!

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