Death is the only certain thing in everybody’s life. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
My experience with losing someone very close to me is difficult to describe. I lost my maternal grandfather Shri. Damodhar Bapuji Muttepawar (87 year) on 5th February 2017. He was more than grandfather for me. He was an inspiration to many and more than that to me. My life, my personality has many impressions of him. Very disciplined and fondly known in the society as ‘Kaka’ (uncle in Marathi).
He battled well in ICU for more than 3 weeks and was discharged recently after he came out of danger and was recovering. When he was in ICU, doctors had left the hope but were amazed to see his fighting spirit and gave the credit of his recovery to him. He was at his residence in Nanded, Maharashtra when his atma left the parthiv. This is the biggest lost for me ever.
Even during those days when he was in ICU, I was confident of his fighting spirit. I was more relieved when he was discharged from the hospital. So I didn’t expect it was coming. It was very difficult to hear and digest the bad news. It was became my regular schedule to phone my mother who was with my grandfather since he was admitted to the hospital, to phone few times a day to know about his improvement. On Sunday I returned from the Temple, parked the car and phoned my mother and all I could here is her cry that Kaka is no more. He was out of danger, discharged from the hospital, shown recovery. Fought against all the odds but left his parthiv at his will. I couldn’t believe that. It was like someone came from nowhere and punched me hard in my stomach for no reason. I collapsed into tears when I heard the news and my 6 year old daughter could not believe that her psychologically strongest father is crying. She came to console me and asked me to be strong which reminded me exact words of Kaka: “Life offers mountains and valleys to everyone. Ashish, you must bounce back when you face the valley and continue your determined and destined journey.” Only his words could help me to recover from the sorrow of losing him.
I was the only grandchild who could bear his discipline all the time and may because of that most blessed to learn from his life and his learning. I was fortunate enough to be able to trvel with him most among all his grandchildren. Whenever we used to travel together and find some opportunity, we used to have very interesting philosophical discussions. He used to make the complex learning very easy to digest at early age for me. In his words which are still fresh in my mind: “Everybody is going to be dead but what matters is how you are remembered afterwards. Why people remember Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or Maharana Pratap or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and not many other people of their time? It’s because what they have done for the society. People remember who do something else for others. You spend your life and contribute for well being of your family and only your family will remember you. But you want to be remembered in the history, you need to go out and contribute to the society. This path is not easy, you will have to face challenges even from family members, you will have to do sacrifices but the satisfaction of achievement is supreme.”
He had been the key inspiration and major contributor to development of my personality. A renowned freedom fighter, decorated by then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and a Swayamsevak forever. He not only inspired me through his life but instilled the fighting spirit in me. He was one of the key fighters against British rule as well as Razakar movement (Islamic terrorism by Razakar the Army chief commander of Nizam, which is infamous for atrocities on Hindu citizens in Hyderabad state).
He has been inspiration to me by leading his life and he was unique in teaching things. Instead of just telling theoretical concept, he lead me to learn important concepts of the life with first hand experience. It was 1999 when I went with him to Mumbai first time to appear for an entrance examination. One day before the examination, we set out to find out the exam venue and the best route via public transport. He challenged me to find out the route on my own. It was the time when there was no smartphone or GPS. He gave me ideas from where I can get information like checking with bus depots, taxi drivers, the residents and shopkeepers. He was with me all the day and observed me gathering information and finding the path. At the end of the day, it was not just that I figured out the best route to the exam center but the whole exercise improved my confidence tremendously. I learnt how to speak to unknown people to gather the information and cross check it for correctness., how to note down the details and map it out. It improved my analytical skills. He knew different unconventional ways to teach things.
He worked as a Treasury Govt officer and was well-known for his discipline. I have heard stories from his friends that District Collector (whom a Treasury office would report to) used to hesitate to order him anything out of the way and circumventing the legal proceedings. That shows his credibility earned through his discipline and loyalty to his responsibility.
He was an ardent Hindu and lived his life for Hindu cause. The living room of his house was full of photos of inspiring figures like Shivaji Maharaj, Maharana Pratap, Savarkar, Netaji etc. He supported his brothers and extended family with their education, managing his job and still contributed to the society in every possible way. Because of his support, his elder brother Muralidhar Bapuji Muttepawar could serve Sangh Karya in Jammu & Kashmir as Prant Karyalay Pramukh for 17 years. My mother, all Mamas (maternal uncle) and masis (maternal aunts) used to attend Shakha. I guess the intent to contribute to the society selflessly, sacrifice, dedication and discipline all flown from him to next generation until me and the mechanism was Shakha.
He used to work on various his missions. Rishi Prasad a monthly magazine was started by Sant Shri Asaram Bapu. After his retirement from the Government job, when he found that the magazine is full of articles on yoga, inspiration vedic stories and simplified spiritual tips which will be useful for sansari people, he picked up mammoth task of doing a membership drive in Maharashtra. He traveled many villages, towns and cities in Maharashtra and even adjacent states for this. He made more than few lakhs regular members of the magazine which has now become the largest circulated spiritual monthly publication in the world. He used to meet new people and many times people used to consider his drive as marketing and did not give him the due respect. I asked him once what he is gaining from this drive as he has to stay away from family, travel relentlessly, spend effort & time, hear negative and discouraging responses from the people who couldn’t realize the benefits of the magazine or importance of his efforts. He responded: “People who subscribe will get benefited from the treasure of the knowledge of our Sanatan Dharma. I am doing my tiny bit to take that knowledge to the masses. People who do not want to subscribe for the magazine make me stronger to reach more people.” I learnt how to remain positive and overcome negativity. He continued with various missions like building new temples, helping to launch Sanskrit Pathshala etc. The last mission of his life was Gauraksha. He had been doing fund raising in last decade for many Gaushalas in Maharashtra just through telephone calls and spreading awareness among the youth on the importance of this topic and significance of their contribution. In recent years we see nationwide more discussion on focus on this topic. That shows he was ahead of time.
The last conversation we had was when he was in ICU. He was not feeling great on the day, he had his eyes closed most of the day or was not talking to anybody. I phoned my Mama and did a video call. I told him that I was going to visit him in April. He opened his eyes after hearing my voice, smiled at me and nodded in affirmation. He promised me to meet in April but left without meeting, its not fair. 😦
Join me in praying for eternal peace and sadgati of the departed soul. May Parmatma grant the divine soul place at its Lotus Feet. Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi.
It is deep wound and will take significant time to recover. But I am glad for the good times we had. The good discussions we had and the learning I had from him. I learnt from him how to enjoy life as a teacher and learn continuously. I’m grateful for the man who molded me into who I am today. He may not be here on this earth, but his spirit, love and legacy live on. I will keep him alive through his legacy to work for Dharma and work on the principles he instilled on me.