Walk the Talk
In a village, there was a middle aged Sadhu (sage) residing in a hut. He was very pious. Villagers respected him and sought spiritual guidance from him regularly. Many would help him and offer their services to seek his blessings. People would gather near his hut under the tree to listen to his discourses and ask about many things that were bothering them. The Sadhu would share his wisdom with complete humility that would guide people.
In the same locality there also lived a young and beautiful Nartaki (dancer). She was quite infamous for the way she earned her living. No one, including her neighbours, would openly have any communication or relation with her.
As a routine, Sadhu would go across the village from door to door and ask for “Bhiksha” (to seek alms) and that’s how he would manage his livelihood. Whenever this Sadhu would come to her doorstep seeking bhiksha, she would promptly offer some food. But before offering she would always ask a pointed question. “ Baapji, aap jaise bahar ho, kya waise hi bheetar ho?” (Sir, are you the same from within as you seem from the outside?) The Sadhu would smile but not give any answer and move on.
This became a routine for years….the Sadhu would invariably come to her doorstep, she would offer food but not without asking — “Baapji, aap jaise bahar ho, kya waise hi bheetar ho?” and again Sadhu would smile and walk away.
Time passed by and both the Sadhu and the Nartaki became old….
One afternoon, a little girl from the neighbourhood came running to this old lady and screamed — “Ammaaa, wo tera Baapji marane pada hai.” (Amma, your Sadhu is on his death bed)…the old lady was combing her hair, she dropped everything and ran to Sadhu’s hut where he was lying surrounded by his well-wishers and devotees. She sat next to the Sadhu and woke him up from his slumber. She bent near his ears and shouted….Baapji, you can’t die without answering the question I have been asking for years, are you the same from within as you seem from the outside??
Sadhu opened his eyes, looked at this old lady…his wrinkled face brightened up. He smiled, and in his feeble voice, with tears rolling from his eyes, said — Yes Amma, I am the same from within as I am from the outside.
Amma started crying, she touched Baba’s feet and asked,“then why did you not say that for these many years? The answer was so simple….why baapji why did you make me wait my whole life?” To this the dying old saint said, “Amma, when you were asking me this question, I was young and hopefully had a lot of time with me. I couldn’t trust myself, my mind and my thoughts…they could have changed…hence I was unable to say with surety that I was the same inside-out…but now as I see that I am dying, I have limited time and breaths left, I am quite sure that with my lifelong dedication and service in God’s name, I will not get corrupted, and hence could now say with confidence that I am the same from within as I am from the outside…..he closed his eyes forever….with a smile and content on his face.
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Abhijit Atre, my friend from Pune for many years, sent me a WhatsApp after reading my previous blog ‘Speak your Character’ and asked if I had any thoughts on how leaders should practice what they preach . ”Walk the Talk”. I told him that I will try, as I did not have any specific thoughts on the subject at that time. Like Grandmaster Oogway says in Kung Fu Panda, I do believe that there are no coincidences. I was reminded of the above story the very next morning and thought of penning it down.
In the above story, for the sadhu to remain quiet his entire life and speak up just before dying as to whether he walked the talk, was easy for him. Life was more linear and less complicated. But today in the real world, situations resemble more like Mahabharat or Game of Thrones…full of complexity and uncertainty. Multiple forces working for and against you. There cannot be one thought or one approach that would last for life.
When a person is climbing a mountain for the first time, the plans and strategies that he would make sitting at the base camp may not always work as he starts climbing. The situation may change, weather may become unfriendly, unexpected complications may arise, more problems may appear and the climber reviews and corrects his next step on the go…step by step…he has to quickly adapt to and improvise his strategies and approaches in order to surmount these challenges. He cannot make the mountain complement him but he has to make himself complement the mountain.
Is it not the same with life…the real world?
When a person considers one situation, one challenge or one obstacle as the central issue or purpose of his life, he restricts the flow of his life. Then he cannot be successful, happy or peaceful. That means rather than making life adjust to our needs, we should align and adjust with life to succeed and achieve our goals.
Hence, Improvement begins with ‘I’ and it cannot be static. Continuous improvement is the key to success. The Leaders of today, also have to innovate themselves to suit the circumstances. Mind you, this does not mean that one would or one could change the rules of the game often. Leaders are expected to have their basic values and ethos in place. Then based on the changing demands of the problem, they should improvise their walk and the talk. In our scriptures, we see that what was relevant in Satyug, was not necessarily accepted in Dwaparyug or Tretayug….now we are in the extreme of Kaliyug and hence the demands on our value judgement will be very high.
Let’s be open and sensitive to the fact that as we grow older / wiser, as time change, situations change, demands change — even people, their problems and thinking would change. Article #377 and the recent judgement could be a good example of that. Our “Walk” and our “Talk” also could change. If we appreciate this, internalize this to ensure that our decisions and actions are honest, relevant and responsible, I’m sure we will meaningfully be able to Walk the Talk.
कोई तो हैं मेरे अंदर मुझको सम्भाले हुए…
कि बेकरार हो कर भी, बरक़रार हूं मैं…..
Koi to hai mere andar mujhko sambhale huwe
ki bekaraar ho kar bhi, barkaraar hun mein.
There is someone within me who is holding me…
though disturbed, I’m still viable.