Saturday, February 11, 2006

Stamped Impressions
In search of truth
Reeta Sharma

You admire and revere martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev. You wish they were born again and again, but only in others’ homes. Similarly when you see sanyasis, you marvel at their courage to abandon the world. But again you shudder at the thought of your own son, brother or husband becoming a sanyasi.

However, the truth is that right amidst us are mothers who give birth to sanyasis and martyrs. Manju Talwar is one such mother whose son has taken sanyas. Is she dejected by this happening? No, not at all.

“We were four sisters and two brothers born into a postmaster’s family at Hoshiarpur. My mother Sushila Devi was an ardent admirer of Swami Vivekananda and Bhagat Singh. And she inculcated similar reverence in our minds for these great persons. My parents gave equal opportunities to all their six children despite their humble economic background. It was sheer coincidence that my husband Chander Shekhar Talwar also turned out to be a great follower of Swami Vivekananda,” reveals Manju Talwar.

Manju, Master’s in political science, named her son Atul (incomparable). A bright child, Atul became a green-belt holder in karate, and learnt tabla, keyboard and guitar besides swimming, shooting and golf. In addition, he won prizes in declamation contests, debates and poetry recitation. Though both Manju and her husband were leading a hectic life, she as a banker and he as a civil servant, they tried to inculcate in Atul and his sister Anupam the values stressed upon by Swami Vivekananda. The two were also fed on stories of martyrs and other great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

“My son’s extraordinary kindness towards fellow human beings and animals made me realise that he was not likely to lead an ordinary life. By the time he was 17, he declared that he wanted to be a sanyasi. Since he was not an adult, we tried to reason it out with him but he remained firm. On May 30, 2001, he left home to reach Ramakrishna Ashram in Kolkata. With just one set of clothes and a few rupees, he travelled to Kolkata,” says Manju matter of factly.

However, Swami Bodh Aasra Nand Ji, head of the Kolkata Ramakrishna Ashram, told Atul that he would have to first finish his education or else people would think that he had run away from the hard path of acquiring knowledge through education. “These words had the desired effect on Atul, who immediately returned to Chandigarh and took up computer engineering course at Rayat College of Engineering. He finished his course with 74 per cent marks,” says his mother.

At 22, immediately after completing studies, Atul stuck to his resolve to renunciate the world and joined Ramakrishna Mission.

As a mother, did Manju’s heart bleed at the thought that her son was becoming a sanyasi?

“No, I did not feel sad. In any case he had chosen the most idealistic path, which is arduous for a majority of human beings. I had always respected him as an individual and knew he was capable of taking his own decisions. However, I have told him, if at any stage he finds it too difficult to follow this path, he should not hesitate to return to us. I had learnt through meditation not to be possessive and that helped me to let him go away from the family. In any case he has gone in the lap of Swami Vivekananda who remains the greatest human being on this earth.

“For nine years Atul is expected to follow a rigid regime. Right from four in the morning till late at night he has to follow a rigorous routine of doing meditation, working in the ashram and serving people. It is a matter of pride to me as a mother that my son, who had all the comforts of life, left it all to serve human beings,” Manju says without any trace of grief.

Manju, who has been dabbling in short stories and poems, has written “An ode to Atul”. To quote a few lines,

Eh aapni dhun da pakka, Jag de sabh moh sukh chadh ke Hai tere lard laga, Ehnu ukka na ajmayi.

(He is firm on his resolutions. He has renounced all worldly relations and pleasures. He is following in your footsteps. Please do not test him).