Dev had a morning dream. In his dream, his grandpa visited his house and had breakfast with them. Soon after the breakfast, he bid good bye. Dev and his sister repeatedly pleaded him to stay back and tell them stories. But, grandpa seemed to be in a hurry. He told them, “Some other time, children, grandpa need to go”. And he left abruptly. Dev and his sister were crying when he was waving them good bye with a smile from his car. Later, he heard his father telling his mother, “He has moved on”. Grandpa has died. How can he die? How can he go so abruptly without more stories, hugs, kisses and cuddles? Dev cried and cried at the thought that he will never hear the loud laughter and enchanting stories of Grandpa. His sister, much smaller than him did not seem to be so affected and was immersed in waking up her dolls and preparing them for school.
The disturbed Dev got up from his bed and walked downstairs. When the 13 year old Dev came to the breakfast table his father was busy reading the news paper. He gently uttered “good morning”. His father looked at him, hugged him with one hand, while holding the news paper with the other, and with a light kiss, whispered in his ears with overwhelming love “Good Morning. Shine Bright Dev. A beautiful day is waiting for you”. Papa is always optimistic and sunny in his disposition. When he saw that his eyes had a tear drop about to fall, he asked with curiosity. “Which of your super hero friends died last night? Did you have a bad night?” He said “No Papa. Grandpa came and left us in a hurry to die”. His father looked at Dev with curiosity. “Did grandpa die in your dream?” Dev nodded. Papa thought for a while, holding Dev in his arms. Then he said loudly – partially to his mother and partially to him and his sister “Get ready. We are going to see grandpa and grandma. We need to make sure he is OK”. Dev jumped with joy. After all, he is not dead. He was relieved that it was only a dream. Papa seemed to be in an exceptionally light and jovial mood. He was always full of enthusiasm and child-like. His mother always used to urge him to take life more seriously. He would laugh it off and always made the atmosphere light in the house with his laughter and enthusiasm. The greatest recipient of his fun loving nature was his sister, who adored him beyond comparisons.
Dev’s grandparents lived an hour and a half away from where they lived, in the suburbs of the city. On the way, they stopped at a vegan shop for a quick take away. Dev’s father was a staunch vegan and always insisted on vegan diet at home and outside. He always made it a point to explain to his children why we should not support or pay for the death of animals even indirectly. He also insisted on having no seed sprouts at home because “They are foetus of plants. Eating sprouts is equal to eating foetus”.
Since it was Saturday, the traffic on the road was much lesser than usual. They moved quite fast. When they pulled their car to the driveway, Grandpa was sitting in his usual chair at the portico with a news paper in hand. Dev was relieved to see him. He is alive and well! Nothing has changed. He got up when he saw the car of his son. Even though he was surprised at their unexpected arrival, he was delighted to see them at his doorstep as a morning surprise. He called his wife “Kamla, look here, we have loads of joy delivered with the morning newspaper for a change”. He laughed his usual loud laughter. It was time for hugs, kisses and cuddles. Dev’s father told him “Papa, Dev had a dream that you died. That is the reason for our quick trip to see you”. Grandpa looked at Dev. “Oh, Did I? Dev, Then who is hugging you now?”. Dev became shy as if his secret has been unceremoniously spilled by his father. Grandpa hugged him and said “I will surely die, but, not yet – some other day!” He laughed and winked at Dev. Dev had a tear in his eyes. When his mother and sister went with grandma into the house, and his father went inside to use the toilet, he hugged grandpa and said “I cannot leave you grandpa – I don’t want you to die”. Grandpa soothed his hair and said “Nobody leaves anybody my child. We have to leave this body and this role someday. We are always together. Remember, your grandpa will always live in your heart”. Grandpa sat down on his favourite easy chair and drew Dev close to him. A few years ago, Dev would be on grandpa’s lap. Now, he is a bit too big for that. He sat on the floor and rested his head on grandpa’s lap. Grandpa leaned forward and caressed his hair. They spoke for a while. While they were talking, Dev steadily drifted away and slipped off into a peaceful sleep.
He slept for a while, peaceful and dreamless with a lot of relief in his heart that his grandpa is well and he is in his arms. When he woke up, it was well past lunch time. He saw his father and grandfather seated at the first floor balcony and sharing jokes and laughing. After he had slept, someone had moved him to a bed.
He walked towards his Papa and Grandpa. Grandpa saw him and beckoned him to come near him. “Did you sleep well?” He nodded. “Did you dream that grandpa died again?”. He became shy and nodded “no”. He laughed aloud. Grandpa called grandma “Kamla, give this little big boy some delicious food” and winked at him. He walked towards the dining room, as his grandpa got back into the conversation with his father.
His father was very senior officer at the city administration board and perhaps the rare and only non-corrupt officer in the whole office. He always supported poor vendors, abandoned old and sick people, animals, and also the poor farmers.
When he returned back from lunch, grandpa told his papa, “now, leave us alone. I need to speak to this young man”. Papa smiled and left with a pat on Dev’s shoulder.
Grandpa said “Let us walk, Dev. Come with me. I shall show you the little buds and tiny leaves of the spring gardens. I shall show you how the mother birds feed their children and how the breeze distributes sunshine. Come with me.”
Dev and Grandpa started walking through the abundant paddy fields and the mild forests at the border of the village. Except a few joggers, the whole space was empty. Dev was still mildly stuck with his morning dream. He asked his grandpa “Grandpa, may I ask you a question?” He said “Sure, my child”. “Will you die like all the old people one day? Will my father and mother also die? Will I die when I am old like you? Why does everyone die? Why can’t we all just live with happiness together?” Grandpa stopped. He bent down and kissed the forehead of his grandson and said “You are waking up, my child. You have the right questions.”
Grandpa said “My boy, everything that is born must die.” They walked towards a small tree which had many nests. Grandpa showed Dev a nest which had three tiny chicks with their beaks open, waiting for their mother. Grandpa said “Look at those tiny chicks. See how fragile they are! This is their helpless times of dependency my boy. The chicks are helpless without their mother. The mother knows it and she cares for them. Soon, the mother will bring them food from somewhere.” As he was uttering these words, the mother bird came back with a beak full of food and distributed it amongst her waiting children. They gobbled up everything that they received and cried for more. The mother left to fetch more for herself and her children. Grandpa said “See, from sunrise to sunset, this is what the mother bird will do. She is fully depended on grace of the nature. She has not stored anything anywhere. Everyday is a different day for them. Everyday is totally unpredictable. When there is hot sun or heavy rains, she may not get any food at all. They accept that reality too, without complaints. Now see, the mother is wandering in search of food for her children. She may or may not get more food. You know, this is why I keep food for birds in our garden – to feed the unknown bird friends. This is the least we can do to this nice little mother, right Dev?” He smiled and patted Dev on his shoulder.
“Her children will slowly grow up and become strong. Their wings will grow larger. They will be ready to fly. Then they will leave their mother and fly away. A task well completed, their mother also will allow them to soar in the sky and find their own life in the vast horizons of this earth. One cycle is completed. The children will mature and do exactly what their mother did. Same way, life repeats itself. Every animal, every bird, every creature on earth including human beings are living this cycle.”
Suddenly, he saw a snake crawling up the tree. Dev became terribly frightened. He hugged his grandpa. He shouted “Grandpa, help them. The snake will eat them”. Grandpa said “I shall save them, if their mother cannot. Let us see what happens.” Dev became impatient. In a short time, before the snake could reach the branch where the nest was, the mother and a few of her friends came shouting and started pecking and distracting the snake. Mother and her friends attacked together to defend the children. Soon, the snake gave up and withdrew. The birds went back to their work. Grandpa smiled “See, nature takes care of itself. It needs no human intervention or interference. If we leave them alone, they will survive on their own”.
Holding grandpa’s hand, Dev walked through the walking path of the village. few yards ahead, grandpa asked him to slow down and pointed at the direction of a forest clearing. A school of birds were shouting and flying around something. When they took a closer look, it was a bird that was dying. The birds flew around the dying bird as if they are observing a ritual or a kind of prayer. They waited and watched. Soon, the dying bird became still and lifeless. The birds came and sat around the dead bird for some time as if praying for the departed soul, and one by one they flew away. Grandpa said “Dev, you saw the children waiting to fly out a short while ago. Here you saw the soul waiting to fly out from the body of the bird alone. This is life and death, my boy. In between the definition called birth and death is the experience that we call life. The first was baby birds, where the soul was settling in and expressing itself, making them experience all aspects of life and the second was after all the experiences of life, the soul was leaving the vehicle that it used for that experience. This body is just a vehicle for experiencing life, my child. We are experiencing everything using this body. This is all. Whatever is born, will die. So, why do you worry, my child?”
Dev became confused. “But, grandpa, I do not want you to die”. Grandpa laughed “My boy, all of us will die, including you. All of us! Your grandpa had a grandpa too. He also had his grandpa. He had his as well. We had so many people in our family through centuries. They all have died. We will also die. When you will have your grandchild, you will also be like me, explaining to your grandchild what life is and what death is. Nothing in this world is ours, my child. Nothing in this world is permanently ours. We are fools, if we feel we own anything. We can own nothing. You saw how the bird died. It just died. Likewise, I will just die, leaving this body to earth. They will burn this body that you once called your grandpa. Once the body is burned, there will only be some memories of grandpa. Same with your grandma, papa, mama and everybody else. Everybody will leave at some point in time. Nobody will be here forever.”
Dev became silent. Grandpa sat down, hugged him and kissed his cheeks. “My child, I shall always live in your heart, as sweet memories. That way, I live much longer. Memories live longer than bodies. Keep me in your heart just the way I keep you in mine. We shall never part.”
Dev began to realise the truth in grandpa’s words. He said “Grandpa, will my love reach you even when you are gone?”
Grandpa said “Yes, my child. Think of me with love and I shall rejoice. Do not cry and make me sad. Do good things in life and let the living people tell good things about you. That will make me happy. That will make all our ancestors happy. They will be proud of having a great grandchild such as you in our family. Never hurt anyone. Love everyone. Do whatever good you can for everyone. Pardon those who harm you and hurt you. Do not harm, hurt or judge anybody. Give unconditionally, whatever you can share. Experience your life without hurting other beings. If you happened to hurt any being unknowingly, do not hesitate to apologize and correct your action. Nobody is perfect, everyone commits mistakes, and life has no rehearsals. Always be good and do good. This will make your lineage proud of you. Their blessings and mine will flow to you.”
Dev said “I promise you grandpa. I shall do everything possible to make this world a better place, for your sake”.
Grandpa kissed his forehead and said “Not for my sake, my boy. Let it be for the sake of nobody. Make it your outlook of life. If you count your good acts, it loses its divinity and grace. Do not count. Just do it always, naturally, without compulsion or even a thought. Through your positive action, inspire your nation. And do not be affected by abuse or criticism. Nothing should stop you from your honest expressions. Remember, all life is valuable. As you saw, the mother bird was so protective and loving towards her children. The adult birds took time to mourn the loss of their companion. Every living being has their families and feelings. Always respect it and leave them alone. Never interrupt, let alone murder any beings of earth.”
“Do you know, Dev, those birds do not know that they are called birds and they are different from other beings. They just exist as they are born, as complete beings. We humans know that we are humans and they are birds. A dog has no reason or interest to know that he is called a dog. It is fully immersed, as those birds, in its life as a dog. All the beings of nature are immersed in their own life without disturbing one another. A tiger hunts only when it is hungry and a deer knows that. Human hunts for pleasure and waste lives indiscriminately. An animal eats only when it is hungry and fasts when it is sick. They heal themselves. The nature heals them. They all have intelligence. Humans are a different species. We are intelligent to cunning. We use our intelligence to reign over other beings. But, what is the use? We also die. Earth swallows our body too. What do we gain? We can own nothing from this earth, my boy. Hence, we must truly make human existence far superior than any other bodies of earth by displaying our supremacy in our ability to be kind and compassionate.”
On a side of the village road that they walked, there was a huge old fallen tree being sawed to pieces by a few people. Grandpa stopped walking. He held the hand of Dev and kept staring at the fallen tree, in a kind of mournful way. The wood workers paused for a moment to look at their spectators. Grandfather nodded his head to continue with their work. As they went back to their work, Dev and Grandpa started walking away from the sound of machines cutting trees into pieces. Grandpa said “The body of this old fallen tree is just like ours, Dev. I had stopped to feel if the tree was still alive inside. All young trees which had not completed its time of existence will still be alive when men cut them to pieces just like humans do with animals. When they suffer unnatural death, they suffer pain and agony. They die in pain. The trees that had their life on earth are old and are ready to move on, will leave their body for use as their ultimate sacrifice. They would have prepared themselves for the exit. Such trees are happy to exit. And they welcome other beings using their body for their purpose. We will be happy to move on if we lived a life of service and have no regrets. The tree which we saw had been a blessing to many generations. Many weary travelers as well as budding lovers has sought its shade. It has given fruits to many beings, fresh oxygen, shelter and shade to so many beings as well as seeds which eventually became similar trees. It took nothing from anybody. Nobody spent time to nurture it. It was giving and giving all the time. At the time of its death also, it was giving away its body for human use. A total selfless existence! We have lots to learn from it Dev. That tree is also a grandpa. We should treat big trees like old people, with love, gratitude and respect. They truly deserve it.
All young trees which had not completed its time of existence will still be alive when men cut them to pieces just like humans do with animals. When they suffer unnatural death, they suffer pain and agony. They die in pain.
Grandpa continued “Do you know Dev, what it is to be human?” Dev looked at grandpa. Grandpa said “Being human means being compassion. Being human means inherent ability to express kindness and unconditional love. Human life is invaluable. It should never be wasted by indiscriminate selfish pleasures which disturbs and destroys nature and its beings. If we have superior ability on earth, we must use it to protect and nurture the children of mother earth. Life has its own way of survival. We should never interfere. Always live as an inspiration for compassion, my child. Life and death will come and go, you will be able to die peacefully after a life well lived without regrets.”
“Today, we are walking on this path, you and your grandpa. Soon, your father will become a grandpa and will walk the same road with your child. And someday, you will walk this earth with your grandchild. Life is a continuous flow, my child. All that came will go too. So, love everyone while you can, and be impartially kind. Never hurt even a fly. Live and let live. Live with a clear understanding that you cannot take anything from here except the memories of a life well lived with grace and love.”
Dev was not upset anymore. Something had changed in him. He felt complete. His grandpa had changed his mindset through his wise words. He had converted his insecurity to clear purpose of life. That was the biggest gift he ever received in his life. The purpose of Life! That is all it takes. That is all we need. Let it be filled with compassion, kindness and love without expectations and complaints.
Sun was setting. As they were walking towards the house of grandpa, they saw Dev’s father walking towards them, perhaps searching for them. Grandpa looked at his son and said “Finished the book entry of your mother’s complaints?” They both laughed. Grandpa told his son. “Dev is a sensitive boy. Take good care that he remains natural.” Papa nodded. He said “I did not want him to keep his fears and brood over it. That is why we made this quick trip.” Grandpa said “That was good. I could explain to Dev a bit about life and death as lessons from nature. He will get everything he needs from the nature. All he needs to do is to look and recognize the answers. Nature has all the answers.”
Grandpa addressed Papa “Madhav, as long as human compassion quotient is ignored, there will be no peace on earth. If kindness, selflessness and compassion is made the criteria of education and social status, if governments give importance to this aspect as the key aspect for everything, earth will become paradise. Otherwise, as we discussed in the morning, we are all against something each day, each moment. This is giving us worries, anxieties and suffering. We should be against nothing, let alone ourselves. Violence should never be tolerated; and should be controlled by strict laws. So is corruption or any kind of selfishness. Deny social support for such people. Isolate them and make compassion compulsory. That is the only way life can be redeemed from its current frequency of mad competition, selfishness and bitterness.”
Papa answered “Yes, Papa. This is what I am trying to establish within my jurisdiction. But, I am constantly facing obstacles. All my attempts get slapped by the selfish bureaucracy. The cancer called corruption has destroyed human sensitivity. Modern education has made men mediocre and selfish. Books are not teaching sensitivity, love and compassion. It is teaching competition and insecurity. It is not making a confident generation rooted in compassion and love. It is making an insecure generation, rooted in greed and selfishness. Looking at this makes me tired.”
“That is why you should not give up. You are young. You have a vision. Move on with it.”
“How do I handle the constant hurdles?”
Grandpa explained “Selfless service is our purpose. The purpose will handle it, my son. Intensify the purpose and conceive it in its utmost purity. Even if you fall down, or your hand gets dirty as you travel the path, if the purpose remains pure, it will take you to your destination.”
“Tall order, Papa”
“But inevitable and important, my son. Someone must lead by example, if not a few. The one who is against the tide may get crucified. But, setting example with own life has no substitution or comparison and I believe that dying for a good cause is much better than living the life of a mediocre conformist. Purpose is cleaning the system. Un-cluttering and weeding out the cancer eating away on our inherent compassion. This is all that matters.”
“On another subject, Grandpa continued; keep this house and space as it is, for the next generations. Do not sell it away after we are gone. Let them have something of the past to lean back on, when they are tired of chasing the world.” Papa agreed. Grandpa hugged Papa and said “I am proud of you my son. I am a happy father and grandfather. I can leave in peace with the firm appreciation that my children and grandchildren will only serve the world as light in the darkness and will not lead a selfish and self centred existence on earth like the majority.” Both had tears in their eyes.
One month later.
Dev woke up and came down to the living room. He saw his parents getting ready to leave. Papa seemed serious and silent. He seemed busy and felt as if he was hiding something. There was no warning last night of any impending journey. He came close to his Papa and touched his hand. Madhav looked at Dev, held him close to his chest and whispered in his ears “Your grandpa has gone. He left early this morning. It was a heart attack. He died peacefully in his sleep. We have to go immediately”. Madhav’s eyes welled with salt water as he uttered these words. “Grandpa has gone!” Dev did not cry. He had witnessed birth, death and the story called life in the middle through the eyes and words of his grandpa.
Nothing STAYS here for EVER except the residue of our action on earth. And we own NOTHING.