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A Date with Destiny!
by Ramendra Kumar

I have had the pleasure of interacting with the members of generation Next in many ways - conducting workshops, telling tales, indulging in mentoring and lots more. However, recently I experienced the delight of meeting citizens of generation ‘Ex’. And if you think my tryst with the senior citizens was dull and dreary, about preaching and prayers you couldn’t be more off the mark.

But let me begin at the beginning. While on a trip to Bengaluru I was invited by Dignity Foundation which is an NGO ‘committed to changing the way people look at ageing in India’. Its vision is to ‘create an enlightened society in which the 50+ feel secure, confident and valued; and can live with dignity’.

The Foundation is housed in a rather comfortable bungalow, in a quiet and serene location which is bang in the middle of India’s IT capital. I was given the opportunity to address the members of the Foundation during one of the Coffee Chavadi sessions which are held five days a week from 4 pm to 6 pm. The Coffee Chavadi is a unique concept where the ‘young at heart’ get together over steaming cups of coffee and light snacks to indulge in masti. 
My date with Dignity began with me telling them a story based on the grandparent - grandchild relationship. Thereafter there was a no holds barred discussion on nuclear families, the bonding between ‘Yesterday’ & ‘Tomorrow’, the virtues of selflessness et al. I then shared with my new found friends my interpretation of the Jagannath Cult.

  • Jagannath Cult is not merely a religious belief; it is a way of life. It transgresses boundaries of caste, creed, religion and race to embrace the entire humankind.

  • The three images of Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra represent the three colours of humankind – black, yellow and white. Can there be a more evocative illustration of the concept of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam or universal brotherhood?

  • In temples the Lord is usually seen with his consort. The Jagannath Temple is the only temple in the world where the Lord appears with his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Goddess Subhadra. Can there be a better example of family values?

  • The images are not beautiful in a traditional way. They drive home the message that it is not the external pulchritude, but the beauty of the heart and the soul that matters.

  • The images are made of wood. They signify their commitment to the

  • The images are incomplete, the hands and limbs are not fully formed. They denote respect for the physically challenged.

  • All the Gods and Goddesses are ensconced in their sanctum sanctorum waiting for their devotees to go to them for darshan. Lord Jagannath is the only Lord who, along with his siblings, comes out of his abode and reaches out to his devotee during the Rath Yatra or the famous Car Festival. Can there be a more eloquent example of love, affection and democratic values?

  • The Raja of Puri even now sweeps the floor of the chariots. His action bridges the gap between the rich and the poor, the low caste and the high caste and sends out the very important message of dignity of labour.

My interpretation was followed by an interaction on rituals and spirituality, tradition and modernity and wisdom and wealth.

I concluded with a poem dedicated to my father and an award winning story of mine, which spoke about values in the present context.

The deliberations now focused on the art and craft of writing including ideation, plot, language, characters and the compulsions of creativity.

I introduced my 15 year old son Aniket, who was there with me to capture the moods and moments in his camera. When I told my attentive audience that he had completed his maiden novel, they invited him to share his experience. Aniket, a trifle circumspect in the beginning, soon came into his own and discussed with the ‘golden souls’ the plot, structure, characters and inspiration behind his debut work.

After he had finished I got the ultimate accolade: “Mr. Kumar, you have passed on your legacy to your son. Both of you deserve our compliments and congrats!”

Though obviously I did not expect to find ancient relics of yesteryears, I was still in for a huge surprise. The thirty odd members who gathered there were quite impeccably dressed with the ladies stealing the show. Articulate, witty and wise, they bowled me over with their straight from the heart response, warm smiles and sparkling repartees. Above all they made me feel wanted both as a creative person and a human being who is trying his very best to make a small difference to the world around through his well meaning, though often blundering ways.

My date with destiny will remain etched in my mind, heart and soul, forever and ever.

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