This question was asked to me by a foreigner in India and it will be stuck in my head for a long time to come. Why? Here is the full story:
Recently, I was on a business trip to Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. It’s a small, charming, and nice little city – famous for its temples. Heading back home after my official duties, I decided to have a cup of tea from a small tea stall, opposite Bhubaneswar airport. Little did I know that I was up for one of the most thought provoking 5-minute conversations of my life!
Standing at the stall was this foreigner clad in Swami-like attire – a white dhoti, sandalwood paste smeared on his forehead, complete with paduka. Savoring the Samosa that he was eating, he looked at me from head to toe; I could tell he was checking out my business suit. All I could do was smile back. And this initiated the conversation, as mentioned below:
Him: Europe जायेगा? (Do you wish to go to Europe?)
Me: Excuse me?
Him: Europe जायेगा?
Me: Who knows, some day I might…
Him: नहीं. Europe नहीं जायेगा (No. Do not go to Europe)
Me: (chuckles) अभी तो मैं Delhi जाऊंगा. (I’m headed to Delhi from here) I was here on a business trip.
Him: But why are you dressed like a penguin?
Me: (laughs, not quite sure how to answer that)
Me: Well, I do not like dressing in a suit as such. But since this is an official visit, I have to.
Him: You don’t have to. ये सब कुछ नहीं (All these things don’t matter). Life is about so much more than business suits.
Me: True. Where are you from?
Him: (hinting) Sonia Gandhi
Me: Oh, Italy! Nice. How long have you been here?
Him: तीन साल (3 years)
Me: तुम्हारा हिंदी बोहोत अच्छा है (your Hindi is really good), considering you have been here only for 3 years.
He looks at some youngsters smoking cigarettes.
Him: Cigarette अच्छा लगता? (Do you smoke?)
Me: नहीं. I quit.
Him: Good. Cigarette bad for health. Yoga good for health.
I sat down beside him, and spoke to him for some more time, while I finished drinking my tea. This man evidently had done it all in the modern world, and he was seeking something meaningful and spiritual. Here he was, thousands of miles away from where he spent 51 years of his life – hitch hiking from place to place, eating street food that even the middle class Indian is cautious about, and singing religious Hindu songs in Sanskrit. He had embraced Yoga some years back and he spoke about how agile he felt at his age. He told me about the benefits, and emphasized on the fact that we don’t spend much time on ourselves, our body, our mind, and most importantly our soul. He was basically talking about my country, its heritage, and the culture that is slowly being forgotten by the new generation. This man, was soul searching, and he had found his way to be spiritual – here in India. I walked away soon after as I had a flight to catch. We did not even ask each other our names. But this conversation is something that got me thinking…
It took him 51 years and a travel across seven seas to find spirituality so that he could spend time on himself, on his body, mind, and soul. In our seemingly busy lives, how much time do we make for ourselves, in a true sense – to reflect upon life as we are living it? According to him, even if you can make 5 minutes for such a reflection – it’ll go a long way. Maybe, he is making some sense. What do you think?