In life we come across persons who have rare combinations of all fine qualities. They are living monuments of virtue and they inspire others. One such gem was my bosom friend Mr CLR with whom I had forty-eight years of association. I learnt many good things from him.
CLR was a man from a poor family whose only strength was character and integrity. He got a job as a clerk in a government institution, set up under the constitution. He worked hard sitting even for twenty-five hours at a stretch on certain days and won the admiration of his bosses. Within two years he was promoted to a post two places above the one he held. This was the only case where such promotion was given.
He impressed every one with his erudition, honesty, humility, hard work and mastery of the laws. He had the unique quality of disarming any opposition by his wit, wisdom and cheerful disposition. I never saw him ruffled even against the worst provocations and circumstances. In the official hierarchy he rose to the Secretary level. Even when he was at a lower level the top boss used to direct ministers and dignitaries to him for discussion before coming to them. Such was the standing of this great man.
His humility was proverbial. He bought lot of sweets and other consumable items when he went home to be distributed to poor children in his village. This practice continued for decades.
He was utterly unselfish. In spite of his financial constraints he helped others out of the way. Any one coming form his native place for business or job in the capital city was accommodated in his suite and looked after.
He had a high sense of humor. Once he displayed half a dozen pairs of shoes outside his room. When asked why he had so many, he answered. “Look, this pair is for going to office. This one is worn while attending VIP conferences. This one is for use when I travel by car. The last pair is used while attending wedding, football matches and circus. If it is lost during a wedding I should feel happy for I can buy another pair. If it is worn during circus or football invariably someone stamps my shoes. Then I say, ‘Thank You’. This is because the polish from the guest shoe will enter my shoes through the process of rubbing. Thus I save effort and expense on polishing”.
He visited patients in the hospital and invariably took fruits for them. His boss had tremendous confidence in his capacity and dealings. When there was the most difficult and controversial case he was sent as the special envoy to sort out the issue. He solved the problem.
Once he was traveling by train with his colleagues. There were five other passengers who were part of a family, in the coach. They thought CLR and his colleagues were intruders from some other region and did not speak the language in which they were conversing. They talked in the local language having a dig at them and talking low of them. After listening for thirty minutes CLR politely asked one of the ladies in the local language. “Madam, will you please lend the magazine for a while”. The lady and her relatives were stunned. They felt very bad that they were talking in the presence of a man about him who knew the local language better. They apologized and became very friendly.
He was in charge of the task of delimiting constituencies. His recommendations were accepted for they were done after thorough study. Once a friend asked him jocularly. “CLR, can you realign the constituency in my territory”. CLR replied, “why not. Tell me what you want. I will do. I can do anything except merging Antarctica with Australia.”
One day after lunch, which he hosted, his friend attempted to throw away the surplus food outside .CLR stopped him and said, “Don’t throw it away. The Municipality staff will come and charge you for an offence”.
His guest asked,” What is the offence?”
CLR:” The offence is that your food poisons street dogs and they risk death.”
Just before one election his friend was posted as Presiding Officer. He had to collect ballot boxes and other equipments from a central area. It took lot of time and in the night for reasons of security the authorities sent him in a truck. On his arrival CLR asked him” My dear friend. Some one told me you were taken in the garbage van of the municipality.”
The most interesting and surprising incident took place. One day he went to a busy shopping area to purchase shirts. On seeing him he saw the shop owner murmuring something into the ears of his staff. This message was circulated. Soon the relatives of the shop owner residing in the adjacent building came.
One of them passed a remark,” I have a strong doubt. This man looks like a thief. He must have stolen our goods yesterday.”
CLR asked them why they had strange looks and talk. He wanted to pay the bill and leave. Then he found the police entering the shop preventing his exit. CLR was stunned. When asked he said it was a case of mistaken identity. CLR had not come to this shop for the last four months. Luckily for him some of his friends walked in and they certified that CLR was a gentleman and told the shop owner that he had erred. Finally CLR was released. Even while talking leave of the shop owner, CLR said,
” Thank you for providing all of us some good entertainment, though it caused some tension for me”. Such was the great man.
CLR died last year. For two years he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He faced it patiently. This was not initially revealed even to his wife who came to know about it only after a year. At the last stage he was admitted to hospital and to prevent bedsore his wife purchased a waterbed. When he knew he was having his last few hours, he called his wife and said, “You donate this bed to the hospital”.
It was done. A noble soul and an inspiring god’s own man passed away.
Such a great man in flesh and blood moved right in front of us. There are many others like him. We owe a duty to them. Are we to learn from them? Yes. We must. The lamp that is lit will never lose its brightness. Let us hold on the torch and pass it on to posterity.