Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prayers ... as simple as it is.

"Dear students... Happy fathers day to you and today we are proud to have one of our old students amidst us. Before I welcome him, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce him to you, though he is a man who needs no formal introduction" started the school head boy.

The School auditorium was full and students were eager to meet one of the well known speakers live for the next 40 minutes. Some were pulling each other’s neck ties in fun, some seriously ready to take notes and some already feeling bored thinking about the talk. For Kannan it was yet another opportunity to share his thoughts with the generation to come. Some students assembled there were talking to each other about the videos they have seen on YouTube and about the way the speaker makes it really interesting. 

"I have seen his videos... have you"
"Yeah I have... I like him... will he sign my autograph book"

Kannan heard two boys behind him talk in hushed voice, while the head boy went on and on with the two page introduction about himself. There were cute boys some with spectacles, some well groomed, some really naughty, some with chubby cheeks and a cute little paunch, some by the looks revealed that they were the nerds of the lot, "Stu" as they are called, short for studious and the looks of those kids reminded Kannan about the same auditorium where he would stand along with his classmates for the morning school assembly. All his friends and the teachers came to his mind.

"... It’s my honor and pleasure to welcome our school's old student and a successful creative director, known for his work, motivational speak, inspiring millions, Mr. Kannan Iyer"

The hall reverberated with claps and Kannan's eyes shed a tear of joy. He walked up to the podium, gave a pat on the back of the school head boy, who seemed to be excited and eager to listen to Kannan speak. He rushed to his seat in the front row where the principal and some old teachers with some new, not known to Kannan were sitting. 

"Dear students... Happy Fathers day to you all. It’s really a proud moment for me" Kannan started without the usual four folded paper which many carry with a written speech on it. “I have come a long way before I come here before you today and to speak to you. I owe what I am today to my Appa"

The naughty noise of the students subsided and the voice was the only thing heard in the hall and yes... the fans on the roof, which made the background score for Kannan's words. 

"I don’t want to bore you with a long speech, but want to ask you one question"

The kids who were taking notes from the first word Kannan spoke looked up and stopped scribbling on the notebooks. 

"What do you want to be when you grow up ..." asked Kannan and waited for an answer

Kannan knew the obvious answer and there came a roaring mix of "Doctor", "Engineer" "Pilot" and even "Actor" and "Singer"

"Well... then let me ask you individually" he asked the students with a smile. Kannan was bending down to reach the microphone set to its maximum height, and still falling short of Kannan's expectation. He was bent over reaching the mic and with one hand on the podium folded like a news presenter and the other hand pointing to a smart young boy on the second row.

The young boy stood up and boldly started "Sir... I want to be a science teacher..."

"Ok" interrupted Kannan and asked the next boy

"Sir I want to be a pilot ... and make a lot of money ... so that we have a good life" was his reply

"Interesting" said Kannan and pointed the next boy

"Sir... I don’t know... I just want to be like my dad when I grow up"

Kannan paused. He took a deep breath and asked the boy to sit down. Was that the answer he was looking for?

"Let me tell you about my father ...My Appa is a simple man and once I asked him the same question" Kannan resumed from his silence. He saw his teachers look at him with the sense of accomplishment and happiness. As he narrated, his mind was being filled with that day when he was on vacation and the day started early owing to the jet lag. Appa's day starts early in the morning when he gets up at 4 in the morning. He would slowly without making noise walk out of the bedroom and head to the pooja room. The lights of the pooja room would be turned on and he would stand there with folded hands. Kannan saw him praying silently with a  
sense of contentment on that day too. It was then he relished that Kannan was sitting there punching something on his Smartphone and he smiled

"You did not sleep"
"No pa ... jet lag... I am fine... shall I make coffee for you"

He smiled again and said "No... I will have to go for a walk now... will have a tea there at the tea shop near the temple"

That was his usual morning routine, the walk, plucking flowers for pooja, a tea at the tea shop and humming some song to himself as he walks back home.

As he changed to his usual walking shirt and dhoti and came to the hall, where Kannan was sitting, he turned and asked

"Do you want to come for a walk?"

Kannan smiled and said "No... you enjoy your walk"

As Kannan finished the steaming hot filter coffee, which filled the room with the aroma, and the newspapers, Appa was back and he continued with his daily routine. The wash, the pooja, and then the visit to the nearby temple and back for breakfast. Kannan was intrigued by the never broken routine of Appa and while having the idlies with the special sambhar which smelt of the masalas and coriander, and would be enough to gobble down another dozen of idlies. He asked

"Appa ..." Kannan started the conversation while the devotional song was playing on the CD player" Can I ask you something"
Appa looked up and had another mouthful of the soft idlies...which Amma refers to as "Soft like jasmine idlies"
"What do you pray at the temple” Kannan asked
"Nothing" was his reply
"You mean you just go and pray... pray what" Kannan was curious
"Nothing... I don’t say anything... I just get the pleasure in being there... and ask nothing"

Kannan was spell bound for a second and again asked

"You have asked for nothing all these 70 plus years"
"ah.... yes...  once ... when I had given my exam for CA... I was finding it tough and prayed that I passed" Appa replied

Kannan smiled and thought "The greatness of my Appa is truly his simplicity"

Kannan narrated the incident to the students and continued his brief yet interesting speech at the school

"God knows what is good for us and our prayers are heard... but do you really need to ask what you want when God knows what is best for you?"

The pin drop silence in the school auditorium was broken by a thunderous applause and continued so for a few minutes. 

"Thank you and keep praying...Happy Father's Day" Kannan concluded, feeling choked, overwhelmed with the love he had for his Appa.

As he walked back to his seat in the front row, Kannan ran his fingers through his hair and without anyone seeing wiped the tear on the corner of his eye, smiled to himself thinking

"We pray for so many things... silly or not .... but I can never be simple as my Appa... who achieved everything from being the best dad for his children... a role model for those at work and a friend to all... without ever asking anything for himself in prayers... But I pray for his health and happiness... and I will keep doing it"

Kannan it was too much for the students or himself to follow but knew that there would be very few in this world who would be as simple as Appa, who would walk the world and make it difficult for others to believe...

But it was Fathers day and Kannan remains proud to be a son to such a simple father, whose simplicity remains even today with him and in Kannan's heart. Deep down in his heart, he wished that Appa was there to listen to the applause for him, but was sure that he would just smile and walk away...

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