The Great Pandit
The Great Pandit6 mins 201 6 mins 201
The learned pandit Janardan Mishra was known for his deep learning and erudition and for his proud showy conduct. But he was in reality a very poor Brahmin. Old and aged, he still didn't desist from his irritating habit of giving good advice to people around him. People in his own village Rajipur thought the old man was crazy and being himself poor, he was naturally inclined to eulogise poverty in flowery words. Old Jania, as he was called usually, had some strange habits like sometimes not brushing his teeth for days together, never using soap to clean his body and again sometimes eating heaps of food and sometimes not at all touching food for two or three days. We were then at the High School and loved to tease him. We were sure he was mad. He abused people like Charles Darwin, Issac Newton and Einstein and said they had all wasted their most priceless lives. Everyone indifferent to God and spirituality had wasted their lives as human beings. He and his wife aunt Savitree quarreled every day and everyone held the pandit responsible for that. On many an occasion, he was reported to have beaten his old stubborn wife who thought she alone possessed every kind of knowledge about the world and beyond that too.
Father often said about them: "Poverty is the only reason why they are always fighting. If a mature man like him wastes his time giving moral lectures to people, the results are bound to be disastrous for a family. . . " Everybody seemed to think the crotchety old man should mind his own business. The pandit's two sons Ravi and Abhi who were twins were good students. The elderly villagers said if the old man employed a tutor for them they would surely excel in their studies and outshine their rich classmates. They were in fact two jewels. But the old-fashioned pandit strongly opposed what the two boys were doing. He wanted to employ them somewhere so that they might earn their own livelihood. How the poor pandit's two sons with the meagre financial support from their maternal uncle who was a petty businessman, managed to become two first class post-graduates in Economics always remained a mystery. With the passage of time the two brothers began to soar higher and higher in their chosen career teaching. A time came and fortune sided with them and they became two prominent professors in two famous universities in the USA. They had plenty of respect for their father who was considered cruel, harsh and uncaring. He had no reaction when both got married to two Indian girls settled in the USA.
The girls were not from Brahmin families and the callous old pandit who appeared so conservative
and irrational didn't react at all. This was a matter of endless wonderment and deliberation amongst the people in Rajipur and the neighboring areas. We heard that the professors had sent a huge amount of money in lakhs so that their father might build a magnificent building in the village. Later Jania Nana told my father that the news was true but there was no sign of happiness or excitement in his eyes. That kind of oddity of the pandit left us puzzled. That he was dying for money earlier and advised people to donate to charity for his own benefits seemed completely wrong now. What a strange fellow. . ?
Now the eccentric Nana's wife Savitree kept shedding silent tears. She wanted to live in a very nice house. She also wanted that they should have good utensils. She didn't like the thatched house in which they lived. Now the quarrels became more frequent. She would say to her old man, "Why are you so rigid about spending
money?What use is money after we die? "
The pandit being indignant screamed dirty obscenities at her and then in a cold voice said, "Take your greedy brother's help and get a palace built for yourself.
You want to live like a maharani. . I know about it.
Stop fighting with me. . Or go away and live with one of your sons. " The relationship between the old couple grew profoundly bitter. After being beaten by the pandit once more, she went to her brother's house and didn't return.
The two brothers tried their level best to unite their parents. If someone expressed their worry about money, the pandit would say, "You have got food, clothing and a house to live in. . What else do you want? Be happy with what the Lord has given you. " The people thought the pandit used to talk about charity and hence he might help if approached for financial help. But the pandit never gave anyone a single copper. He knew the people were fabricating excuses.
When all this was going on, news spread that the newly arrived science teacher at the High School was afflicted with blood cancer. The doctors said it could be cured because it was in its early stages. The students began a fundraising campaign but nobody was generous enough to donate more than five thousand at the highest. When the children were passing by his house, the peevish pandit told them that he wanted to meet the grief family of the afflicted teacher. The eccentric pandit said he would bear the cost of the expensive treatment. . . !
The science teacher was first taken to Mumbai. The patient's condition didn't improve and then he was rushed to a hospital in Chennai. After three months of treatment, the teacher succumbed to the dreaded disease. A hefty amount of money had already been spent. The teacher's wife and her two daughters became seriously heartbroken and helpless. The sorrowing wife's parents were very poor. The school however assured that she would be given the job of a teacher in the same school. It was not mandatory to be a trained graduate to become a school teacher those days. How could she sustain herself and her children. . . . ?Perhaps it had to take some six months or so for her to get her husband's job. Her husband's family thought she alone was responsible for their son's death. This is the usual way of thinking in the villages even today.
The pandit came forward to help the dead teacher's wife. He said to her most lovingly, "You are my daughter. . ! Don't worry about anything. . . I am your father. . . Can I eat when you my daughter and my grandchildren stay hungry. . . ?
The teacher's wife sobbed and sobbed and clutched the old pandit like a ten-year-old girl and didn't stop crying. "
Henceforth, the old man didn't have to cook his meals. The dead teacher's wife came to the pandit's thatched house carrying food and nice dishes twice every day. The gossip-loving village women began to whisper amongst themselves that the old pandit's wife had left and the teacher's wife was also a widow, therefore they must be having a clandestine affair. . .
After a few years, the pandit died, and my father said:"The old man was a vast treasure of spiritual wisdom. I can't help praising his austere habits. He was always true to himself. . He was truly
Mother said, "He also beat his wife cruelly. . . !"
Father said, "You don't know how deadly and venomous a woman she was. . . ? Except Jania Na
nobody could ever handle such a horrible creature. . "