Both my parents were selfless social workers. If anyone was ill in any part of our village, my Father invariably went there and rendered all the help he could.
He was well versed in the art of diagnosing diseases by feeling the pulse. He had no stock of medicines with him. But he was an expert in treating ailments, using herbs. With indigenous materials, he prepared highly efficacious potions, powders, and collyria. The patients got well, but he never accepted payment for the treatment he gave.
My father was truthful to a fault. Never once did he stretch the truth in all his life. Nor did he ever hurt people’s Feelings. Using harsh words was foreign to the way he was made. To the very end, he remained a model of perfection with regard to the qualities of head and heart, purity of conduct, and geniality.He lived like this right up to sixty-three.
Mother was his exact counterpart. She mothered the village as a whole. There was no wedding or childbirth or other occasions in any house there, in which she did not play a most beneficent role. She was famous for her deftness as a midwife, and for her success in treating sick children. Her services too were always rendered free.
Both my parents were tireless workers. I am proud it was given to me to be born as the son of people inspired
by the loftiest ideals of service and sacrifice. I cannot keep back the tears of joy that well up at once of their own back the tears of joy that well up at once of their own accord if I think of them.
I am afraid I cannot fully express in words the extent of their affection for me. At that tender age, I did not even
know that it was affection that made them behave as they did. They were never tired of gazing at me. Seeing their faces wreathed in smiles, I too would smile in return. That served as a signal for them to seep me off my feet, and give me a hug. These little incidents have remained etched in my memory.
Until the age of five, my mother insisted on feeding me herself. She would carry me about, divert my attention, pointing to a cock or crow or lizard, and put food into my mouth with her free hand. Other animals, like an elephant, monkey, bear or tiger she would conjure up by means of stories.
One of these, the story of Gajendra Moksham, or Deliverance of the Elephant King, was an undisputed favourite with me. It held a special fascination for me. Listening to it, I was always sure to overeat.
“There is a lake. A crocodile lies in wait, with its mouth agape. A big elephant is on his way there, for a drink. The crocodile grips him by the leg with powerful jaws. The Elephant trumpets in pain and despair, calling on God the Almighty to save him. Lord Vishnu comes rushing. He is seen there, in the sky, bearing His conch and His all-conquering Disc. His gesture is eloquent of His deep compassion.”
Could I forget at that tender age such graphically imagined scenes as these?
I kept asking questions because I was besieged by doubts. As between these two creatures, all my pity and tenderness were only for the elephant. “Why did the elephant come to this particular lake, mummy?” I ask. “Why did not people hit the crocodile and drive it away? Was there no other watering place for the poor elephant to go to” Had he no father or mother to care for him at all?” And so on.
Each tiny morsel of food was well timed. It accompanied each answer to my questions, which helped to send the food down. Mother always had a specific quantity of food in view. Once I had finished that, the stories and the dramatic scenes would cease. As for me, this particular drama by the side of the lake kept re-enacting itself endlessly!
I was to arrive at my own conclusion regarding this story when I was seven. That I shall relate in due course.