Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Inspiring moments

This is the story of someone who influenced us a bit during our growing up years. Raghavan or Kichanna Chittappa was what he was known as. The image I have of him is in a white dhoti, a towel on top, smeared with ashes and a big kumkum on his forehead. His manner of speaking was full of irreverence. Nothing was sacred. And this, from a priest, who venerated
traditional beliefs but injected a dose of modernity into all of his ideas. Another enduring image I have of him is that during a strike and he decided he would walk from Bhandup where he stayed to Chembur where he had to come to do a pooja.

He started life working as a labourer in a road building contractor for Sabarimala. He impressed his boss enough to be promoted to supervisor soon. The story goes that he was asked to blast a side of the mountain so that the road could pass. He was given some time to do it. He took a look at the explosives he had and the mountain and decided that he could
take a shot of all of it at one go. He cleared the area in no time and was promoted to supervisor.

From then on, he did a variety of jobs. He was a cook briefly, then took to driving BEST buses in Bombay, drove a taxi post retirement - all throughout his knowledge of mantras intact. In both the taxi driver phase and the bus driver he was known as Swamiji - he drove in full regalia. And post this he became a full time priest.

His favourite activity was to challenge people who do rituals without any meaning or do it as a cargo cult science. And he did this often.

A lot of people often fell at his feet - since he looked like a swami with white flowing beard and staff and spatika necklace and forehead smeared with ashes. And he would not allow people to do that - because of his belief that humans cannot be god. A lot of people often treat other people - as god. And his point was to keep people at a guru/teacher level - respect them, admire them, be inspired by them, but do not put a picture of them and worship - because ultimately they are human. And no human being can ever be elevated to god level...And of course, not too many who he met liked his thoughts and beliefs - but his arguments were crystal clear so not too many challenged him. They just avoided him and getting into an argument with him.

He is no more, having left for his heavenly abode a few years back while in his seventies. Apart from his flexibility in multiple roles, ability to have a passion all through what he did, he inspired me to think about beliefs that are entrenched into peoples minds and why we do what without a thought about the reason...

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