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Fallen Comrades.

Rosh took his family over to Anand’s place the next Sunday evening.

Anand had been running a spiritual discussion group from his huge garage, which was starting to get regular in their weekly get-togethers.

Each weekend, Anand spoke in Hindi on a different topic from Hindu scriptures for about an hour.

The meet was usually preceded and followed by a couple of Bhajans, which Vishnu sang in his soulful voice.

Members of a Fijian Indian Ramayan Mandali provided the sound system and orchestra.

Rosh was designated to summarize the talk in the end, and give a vote of thanks to the contributors and audience, whenever he was present in the meets.

Tea and snacks, prepared by Anand’s wife, were then served to the guests. Anand believed in serving food for the belly along with providing food for thought.

Sometimes, members of the audience also brought light snacks for distribution at the gathering, when they wanted to celebrate a personal event like a birthday or a personal milestone like getting a job. It was a happy social gathering and numbers were steadily growing.

Rosh was not a devout temple-goer, but the idea of taking his family to regular religious education sessions where his kids could get acquainted with the Indian Culture, scriptures as well as with other ethnic Indian diaspora from all over the world appealed to him greatly.

He was usually too busy working, so attendance in these meetings forced him to take a break from work, gave the whole family some quality time together in the car while travelling to and from Anand’s place, and fulfilled an important need he felt for his kids to be connected with his own language and roots.

Although Anand generally spoke on topics related with Sanatan Hindu Dharm for the benefit of his wider Orthodox Hindu audience, he also did a lot of research and was quite well read.

Consequently, he tried to be open in his understanding and interpretation of Hindu Thought. Although Rosh was his usual self, asking questions and making light-hearted comments during his serious spiritual monologues, other members of Anand’s audience never spoke up during the talks.

Anand actually enjoyed Rosh’s interactiveness, mostly because he was funny while being insightful, and never disrespectful. He welcomed his curiosity because it made him think and research more. Rosh also made sure he never crossed the line.

Although Josh was too young to sit quietly and listen to anything said there, Hosh did. Consequently, he had lots of questions, and Rosh did his best to answer them when they drove 30 km back to their home from Mangere after each attendance.

It was this chance to explain to his captive audience, his views on life and religion in his own words, and the opportunity to retell the Indian mythical stories more as moral and ethical tales of the ancients, rather than as the sacrosanct religious and spiritual histories of Indian Gods, as they are normally told in India, which enticed Rosh to these meetings and kept him coming back week after week.

Anand noticed, along with the rest of the congregation, that the usually interactive Rosh was very quiet today. After the meeting was over, and most of the group members had departed after having their tea, Anand came to sit beside Rosh. He asked Rosh what the matter was.

“He feels he’s not helping his father enough,” said Isha, who was sitting beside Rosh.

“But he is well-off,” said Anand. “Isn’t he? Does he need help from you? Isn’t he happy that you are supporting your own family after migrating to Auckland, and not asking him for further help to support you guys?”

“It’s not about the money,” Rosh replied. “There are other things a grown up son should be doing for his father. I have been able to do none of those for him.”

“Where there is a will,” Anand said, “there is a way. You are a good son. You will find a way.”

“What can I do from here!” Rosh said morosely. “I am so far away from him.”

He told Anand what had been disturbing him, and how he felt about his inability to do much because of the distance between them.

“दूरियाँ दिलों से होती हैं (dooriyan dilon se hoti hain),” Anand smiled at his friend, “शरीरों से नहीं (shariron se nahi). We are divided by the distance between our hearts, not by the distance between our bodies.”

“An old Italian man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig a garden to plant tomatoes, but the old body just wasn’t strong enough anymore to undertake that kind of hard labor.”

“His only son, who used to help him when he was home, was currently in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son, pouring out his heart’s disappointment.”

 

Mio caro figlio, io ti dico … (My dear son, I tell you …)
It’s planting season, and I’m low on tomatoes. I feel pretty bad, because I won't be able to plant any tomatoes this year. I've just got too old to be digging up garden plots now. If you were here, my troubles would be over. You would have dug up the plot for me.
Amore da papa
(Love from dad).

 

“A few days later he received a letter from his imprisoned son.”

 

Caro papa (Dear Dad),
Don't even try digging up that plot. It is very important, you understand. Don’t dig that plot! I’ll tell you why later, when I am back …
Amore, tuo figlio
(Love, your son)

 

“Very early the next morning, the Carabinieri and Polizia (various police forces in Italy) arrived at the old man’s home. They dug up the entire plot.”

“Not finding anything interesting, they apologized to the old man and left. A week later, the old man received another letter from his imprisoned son.”

 

Caro papa,
Go ahead and plant your tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.
Amore, tuo figlio

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