By Raju Mandhyan
IT is also said that the meek shall inherit the earth. By meek they don’t mean small and scared but someone who is kind, forgiving and most of all humble. I respect this value and one incident in my life has made it a permanent part of my life.
It was 1969 and I was in my shorts. Yes please, you may take a moment to visualize me in my shorts. Spider legs! I used to study in a Zoroastrian school, in India, called the Sardar Dastur Hoshang Boy’s High School. In those days, hardly twenty years after British rule, it still carried the Khaki culture. Kids wore Khaki uniforms and several teachers would dress in starched suits with safari-type, hard hats to go. The school campus was the size of ten football fields, had wooden buildings like military barracks. In summer the winds blew strong and dusty while in winter the skies were misty till noon.
Several teachers were of the Zoroastrian faith, some Hindus and only one of them was a Christian. Mr. Arpootharaj was stout, dark-skinned with Dravidian features. He used to pat his curly, black hair down with pomade and his most outstanding feature was a smile that could be seen a mile away. He taught us Science, English and Maths. He was kind, funny and always forgiving. And because of his nature, he was always at the receiving end of jokes and pranks. Being a Christian teacher who taught Science, he’d often be seen marching the corridors of the school with the Bible, Darwin’s The Origin of Species, a blackboard eraser and a box of chalks by his side. The moment he’d enter a class, he’d demand the windows be thrown open to let in fresh air. He used to pronounce fresh air with flair…fresh aaiyr! And, because of this the boys nicknamed him “Sir, Fresh Aiyr!”
One summer day, Sir, Fresh Air, walked into class sans his brilliant smile but with a look that was distant and pensive. With the eraser, he wiped the big blackboard clean once, twice and until it was black, shiny. With his chalk, he then placed a dot, plumb in the center of the blackboard. Slowly, he turned to the class and stated that we’d be studying Astronomy today and eased himself silently in a chair and stared straight ahead, still pensive and distant.
The boys went wild. “What’s that, Sir?,” “Is that Astronomy, Sir?,” “Is that fresh air, Sir?” He did not react nor respond. The boys continued heckling but he stayed silent and distant. The boys didn’t know how to carry on. You cannot continue teasing a person who does not respond. The room turned silent and the silence grew such that a pin, if dropped, would be heard miles away.
After what seemed like a millennium, Sir Fresh Air stood up and began to speak. “Imagine!” he said. “Imagine that the blackboard and all the space beyond is the universe. Recognize that the universe has thousands of galaxies and that little dot in the center is the galaxy that we live in, our Milky Way.” “Imagine,” he continued ”that within that dot, which is our galaxy, lays our Solar System and within that Solar System is our Sun, the Planets with their moons and our Earth. Within our planet Earth is our country, our hometown and this school room with all of us inside it.” “All of that,” he went on “is within the dot and more. Yet, we live a life that is filled with pride, distrust and hate.” With a long sigh and still pensive, Sir Fresh Air, slowly sat down.
The silence in the room took over again. Outside the wind still howled and the dust still blew. The boys in the class didn’t know what struck them. A while ago they were top of the heap and now they felt puny and negligible in their own minds. With a stroke of his chalk, the Bible-toting, funny little brown man with a dazzling smile shattered our worlds and left us with a lesson in humility that would last us a lifetime.
Today, decades later, the story is alive and kicking in my heart and on my mind. I believe that for us to be successful and lead a life of significance we must juggle with two things. One of them is faith and the other is humility. Faith not just of the structured kind but faith in self, faith in what we create and faith in the fact that all we need and want is ours to have with a lit effort and a little dedicated focus. Once we achieve what we need and want then humility is the key to enjoying and sustaining that success, that significance.
Raju Mandhyan is an author, coach and speaker.