It was one of those days, I was a Entrepreneur and also had founded a school, which was only three years old. I was getting ready to go to work. My father was also leaving for his work. He asked me if I would like to accompany him as he was gong to meet Dr. Siddharthachary, who lived in the neighbourhood. I had heard so much about him, decided to accompany my father to meet him.
All knew about him was he was a highly accomplished person. Was Indian Ambassador in Russia, China, US, before he retired. He was known to be very scholarly, and proficient in many languages.
We entered his house, and he was waiting for us, and we sat down in his balcony. He was tall, erect and a sprightly man. Dresses in simple attire, a Dhothi and a Kurtha – All sparkling White, and tidy.
My father introduced me, and I was quietly listening to their conversation. An then he turned to me and said: Young man what have you been doing? He had heard of our school, and did not knew little about my Edutech business.
He then went onto talk about his life and all the interesting experiences. A few things he said was so significant, and I am sure I did not grasp the deeper insights at that time. I have spent the last two weeks in Quarantine, which gave me an opportunity to reflect on many great Individuals who I had the good fortune of meeting. Here is my first one about Dr. Chary as he was popularly known.
He talked about a school he had started in Mysore, the ethos behind it, the unique setting of the Ancient Gurukula system, from the buildings, to open spaces, to the curriculum and the teaching-learning processes. While his English language abilities were impeccable, he believed and implemented sanskrit, as a key language to learn, and drew inspiration from ancient Indian tradition, science, and the value system. While he was himself Oxford educated and had a lot of experience of having lived in western countries, the emphasis and the spirit of his school was steeped in Indian traditions.
He was all of 92 years old when I met him, and he went on to be 101 before he passed away. When I met him I had asked him what was the secret to his health and zeal for life. Here is a summary of what he said:
Frugal living, keep your needs to the essential minimum, Indulge in learning all the time. At 92 and even a few years into his mid 90’s he used to teach at his school every single day.
He also said one has to be fully independent, if you have to be resilient. He washed his clothes himself, He would clean his room, bathroom himself, washed vessels, would drive himself.
He had no fuss about traveling. He said he had three sets of his clothes. And if he had to travel all he needed was a small bag and some money. His eating habits and his life was highly disciplined, and he enjoyed being that way.
Much later, I now realise and understand the deeper meaning of his life. Most of us, working professionals and families in India have these ambitions – build your own house, buy a car, educate your children in the most expensive schools.
I now realise many of us get dragged into this thought process. You build a house that is bigger than you need. There can be many excuses for that. Buy the best car there is, and in fact many urban homes today have two or more cars.
Particularly after the pandemic hit, there s a realisation of tempering our “wants” and greed with “essential”, “minimum and sufficient” living spaces. More functional and convenient than grandeur and wasted space, that comes with all its overheads of maintenance, staffing, all of which is challenging.
Multiple cars, some fancy and expensive cars that takes you nowhere. To travel from Point A to Point B, will pretty much take the same amount of time anyway. Given the “lockdowns”, and the fear of traveling long distances, does it really matter what car you drive?
Dr. Chary practiced frugal living, setup an education system that imbibed his core beliefs and the value system that he stood for. I so very much hope we can practice at least some these values. I was greatly inspired every time I met with him, but I should admit that I have realised that there is huge gap between being “inspired” to actually living it.
I wonder if it is wishful thinking to expect our education systems to help children of today understand some of these values? I don’t really know.