26. Unemployed Engineer
29. Opportunities and Obstacles
Slowly a feeling of frustration begins to develop in me. Within myself I feel confident. I have faith in Mother too. Still, if nothing moves for weeks and months and years, the faith gives way. I am afraid I have to settle down as a teacher in a Polytechnic for life. If that is so, it will be a misfortune. That will bring down to dust all the high hopes with which I entered the Engineering College, worked hard, maintained it to achieve First Class all five years without fail. Also your silence is intriguing to me. I wish you throw some light on my situation, said the young engineer who called on me that day.
What he said was true, but that is not the whole truth. As the job situation in the country for engineers had become bleak and was showing signs of worsening, those engineering graduates who had managed to get some placement or other (like this young man in a polytechnic teaching post) considered themselves lucky but were dismayed by the prospects. I did not have much of an encouraging impact on him, but I knew, in his case, that this was not the end. I wanted to be clear about his future, but brief. I said, I understand your mind and your dejection. But there is one more element in your case and that is the fact that you had Darshan of Mother last year. Ordinarily Mothers Darshan or a visit to the Samadhi would have an immediate effect. For some reason, in your case, it has not happened. I know that Mother acts swiftly, but if She delays, She has Her own reasons. When it is all over, you will realise that the delay is only for good. He was reassured to some extent, but was not cheered up to his normal level of infectious cheerfulness.
He is a brilliant young man. The one striking aspect of his personality is that he is always found laughing. He generally begins a conversation with laughter. He comes from a very respectable family that has been reduced to hard work. His father was a leader among men during his young days, when the family was flourishing. Later, adversity overtook the family. Everything was lost except the high qualities acquired during days of affluence. Six children in the family, one after the other, died before they reached the age of ten. The only surviving child was this engineer, who received in his upbringing all the affection due to the dead children. As the father was not affluent, the normal course would be to terminate his education at the 8th standard and begin helping the father in his profession. But the child wanted to read, and the father also felt he should study. In spite of poverty, the father was held in great respect among the family members spread over several villages. More than one young man in the family circle had been initiated into life by his father, and all of them were somewhat affluent. They remained grateful to the old man who had put them on their feet. So, the boy was sent to one of his uncles for high school education.
The boy deserved this support. Without fail, during all the three years he was in high school, he secured very high marks, often standing first in the school. In the SSLC exam he secured over 400 marks. He had cherished ambitions about higher education, particularly as an engineer. He spoke to his father. The father had Rs.500 saved over a period of many years, and in future he could not save much more. It was very kind of his uncle to have educated him for three years. To expect any further help, especially for higher education at Madras, was not possible. In consultation with me, he decided to join a polytechnic with the money on hand. And if he won a scholarship, he could finish the three years successfully. That was the best course open to him. His uncle accompanied him when he was asked to appear for an interview at the polytechnic at Chidambaram. While waiting for their turn, the students exchanged information. Everyone who met this boy, on learning about his high score at the SSLC exam, remarked in passing, If I had this score, I wouldnt join the polytechnic. The uncle, who was listening to these stray conversations, suddenly decided that his nephew deserved a college education and, come what may, he must provide it. He suggested to the boy that it was better to drop the idea of joining polytechnic and take up the idea of joining a college. The boy cheerfully consented and ended up in Loyola College. He passed PUC in first class. His uncles enthusiasm continued. The boy joined Engineering College. He maintained the high academic performance of securing a first class. He won a scholarship every year. His uncle made up any gap between the real expenses and scholarship amount. It was a misfortune that on his leaving the College he found the job market bleak. Jobs were scarce and no one would consider him. One of the employers the boy approached offered him a job at Rs.100. This is worse than not having a job, adding insult to injury.
Ever since the boy came to the town for high school education, I knew him and had a share in his life as his teacher. He used to consult me on all major decisions of his life. Now it was a bleak period. He was running for a year to every possible opportunity of a job without success. It was at this time that he visited the Ashram with me and felt the ocean of peace that is Mother. He once said, When I prostrate before Mother, my being is filled with joy and peace. Often I used to feel that I should continue to prostrate before Her for a longer time. With heroic effort, he succeeded in getting appointed as a lecturer in a polytechnic at Madurai. This was a great relief but not a permanent solution for someone with his qualifications. He was in Madurai for a year and continuing to search for a better job. That search yielded no results. There was no hope of any future results. It was at that time he came to me and expressed the frustration mentioned earlier. I knew that better things were in store for him. Mother delays with a purpose. But my understanding was no solace for his position.
He returned after a few weeks and appeared full of news. He sat down as if he had swallowed something which bothered him. He began saying that he had some very good news but was doubtful of the entire report he was going to give and said that my opinion on the matter would decide the issue. I was happy and anxious to know the news. He said, My uncle is in the dyeing trade. One of his customers is in Salem. Occasionally this man comes to this depot in Cuddalore OT. My uncle has long trade connections with him, but there is no particular friendship or intimacy. Today my uncle as usual went to OT to collect the dyes. Mr. Mudaliar from Salem had come there. He called my uncle over and said, Do you know of any of our boys with an engineering degree? My friend is starting a company in Madras with French technology. I am a director of the company. The company is sending six engineers to Paris for training. The Managing Director has allotted one such job to me. The only condition is that candidate should have first class in Mechanical Engineering. I wish to offer the opportunity to one of my relatives. Though I have made money, there is no boy with that kind of education among my relatives. If you can get me any boy of that description from our people, I would happily appoint him. My uncle answered, There is one in my house fully meeting the requirements. I shall bring him to you at Salem.
The boy told me, My uncle is unable to believe this, nor can I. Of course, there is nothing here for me to lose, but it is hard to believe. My uncle and I felt we should take your advice. In reply I said, Always it is hard to believe things when they come from Mother. As you speak, I see Mothers light on your face. This is truly Grace. Accept it with gratitude to Mother.
Walter, a 65 year old American businessman, first came to India in 1972 to visit his son and daughter-in-law who had come a year earlier to join the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
In 1956 W and his family were living in a house about 20 miles north of New York City. The house had a large yard and a driveway about 150 feet long going from the street to the garage, which was at the back of the house. One night during the winter there was a heavy snowfall. The next morning all the roads were completely covered with snow. The city sent ploughs around to clear the roads as was their custom. W and his family went out early to shovel the snow off the driveway so that he could take the car out and drive to work. While W was lifting a heavy shovelful of snow, suddenly he felt a sharp, intense pain in the middle of his back and he fell over on his stomach into the snow. His family rushed to him and carried him into the house to his bed. He was moaning in unbearable pain and could barely move without crying out. A doctor was called to the house and gave medication so that W could sleep. Later he was taken to the hospital and underwent intensive examination. The doctors discovered that one of the disks in his spinal cord had slipped out of line and was pressing on the spinal nerve. They operated to correct the injury. After that W had to remain in bed for 6 months at home. Frequently his family would awake in the night hearing him cry in pain.
After six months the doctors said he could return to work but for the rest of his life he would have to wear a large girdle 18 inches wide wrapped around his waist. The girdle was fitted with long flat metal rods in the back to hold his back firmly in place. For 18 years W had worn the girdle. Once or twice he tried to live without it for a day or two and immediately the pain would return.
W first visited the Ashram in 1972. At that time his son invited him to have the Darshan of Mother in Her room, but W declined. Again W visited Pondicherry in 1973 and again his son asked him if he would like to see Mother. W said to his son, You know I dont believe in all this religion and spirituality business. I have never bowed before anyone in my life and I am not about to do so now. His son replied, No one said you have to bow to Mother if you dont want to. You can behave exactly as you please. Finally W decided to see Mother. He was taken to Her room and Mother was very happy to see him. Without even thinking, W went down on his knees before Mother and She held his hand for several minutes.
When W came downstairs from Mothers room, his face was bright red and he was glowing with a big smile. He went up to his son and said, You never told me it would be like this. There is nothing else you can do except kneel before Mother. When She looked in my eyes I felt my heart swelling so big that I was afraid my chest would burst.
Again in 1974 W came to the Ashram and stayed in a guest house with his son for two weeks. One night W had a dream that he was standing in the Ashram surrounded by a crowd of people and he was presented a special medal or award. The next morning he forgot the dream, but a few hours later an Ashramite came and gave him a present. It was a silver pin with the symbol of Sri Aurobindo. The man explained that Mother herself had worn this pin on her head dress many times. Suddenly W remembered his dream and he was overcome with emotion and could not even speak to thank the man for 15 or 20 minutes.
A few days later, Ws son noticed that his father wasnt wearing his girdle. In reply to his sons enquiry, W said he felt so relaxed and peaceful that he wanted to remove it for a day or two and see what happened. The old pain did not return and so he stopped wearing the girdle for the rest of his visit. When he returned to the USA, Ws wife was amazed to find her husband without his girdle on. Still W did not put it on and the pain did not return. Now W is 73 years old. He is retired and works very actively in his garden growing flowers and trees. He has never worn the girdle for a single day in the last 9 years.
He is a small landholder owning six acres of dry land. After years of hard work, he had earned this property. Along with that, his status had also grown in the village. He was one of the important leaders of the village though he was only middle aged. He took an active part in politics too. Any government scheme that came to the village would seek his cooperation for implementation. With the progress of the nation, his village too received the benefits of education, roads, electricity, bank aid, and the cooperative movement. He was also an important beneficiary of all these schemes. During these years of progress, his dry lands received electricity, a borewell, crop loans, hybrid seeds, etc. He was a rising star of the village, but with a small base, often shaky because of the uncertainties of agricultural life.
One year circumstances were very favourable. He received government loans in time to raise crops. He could cultivate all his six acres in the primary season for groundnut, but the price was not helpful. So his great hopes of paying off some of his old loans remained unfulfilled. For the second season of groundnut, not many villagers would take the risk as pests would be virulent during this season and water supply would not be fully assured. Only those assured of all resources and capable of taking risks would cultivate groundnut in the second season, which extended into the peak of summer. As the prices during this lean season were always attractive, the season retained its charm for the farmers.
This farmer went for groundnut in the second season. He could do that because he was assured of water supply from his borewell. Favoured by conducive circumstances, he was again able to cultivate all the six acres. The crop was good. Luckily there was no pest. If only the customary high price of this off-season were available, he could turn a corner in his life. In that sense this crop was a deciding one. If all went well, his rising position in the village would become an accomplished fact. Otherwise he could slide down and all his energies would go to keep him from sliding down. Just when every circumstance was favourable, his borewell failed to supply water after the bottom of the hole became stuck with clay preventing water from being pumped out. Normally this could be repaired in a month or six weeks, if everything went well.
This was the peak of summer in the month of May. Soil dries up in minutes after watering due to the heat. During such emergencies, the adjacent farmers used to help save the situation. Unfortunately for him, in his area all lands were dry. He was the only one who owned and operated a borewell. The situation was bleak. An excellent crop was now to wilt before the very eyes of the owner. Indeed, it was a pathetic situation. There was nothing for the farmer to do, not even a line of hope for thought.
Around 10 p.m. this man with this background presented himself at my house, having travelled from his village. His face was dark and sullen, expression pitiable. Before narrating all these details to me, he prefaced it saying, My hopes were great till yesterday. Now they are dashed to pieces. I feel stung. Life is merciless. No one is in a position to offer me even words of consolation. My heart is heavy. Please be patient with me and let me explain my plight. I may feel somewhat unburdened, if you listen.
He spoke. I listened. He went over every little detail of his misfortune with animation, speaking in a choked voice. When he finished, I noticed he was no longer pitiable, or sorrow-laden. He was somewhat relaxed. Perhaps he had found some relief in speaking. I spoke in turn, inspiring confidence in him. I said as he was a hard-working person and had done meticulously everything he could do in his power, his crop would not wilt. He was intrigued and listened intently. I repeated that God helped those who helped themselves, and he was one like that. It was a riddle to him, but his eyes began to sparkle with a trace of hope.
He had heard of the Ashram but never visited the Samadhi nor did he know of Mother and Her personality. I mentioned in one brief sentence, Your crop is sure to be saved if you pray to Mother. All that he had to do was not to exercise his mind how it would be saved. I told him to go to the Samadhi and pray that his crops must be saved. He endorsed my suggestion wholeheartedly and vigorously. I saw his grief vanish and that meant to me that his crops would certainly be saved.
The next night it rained. It was a good rain. His crops would be saved, if only that rain extended to the village. I felt that the rain had come to save his crop and extended itself up to my place.
Ten days later he came with a beaming face twice in size. He said, Your words put strength in me. I had no question in my mind. I felt I was lifted out of depression. Straight from here I went home and then left for Pondicherry. I scarcely knew which bus I took or who was by my side. There was only one thought in my mind. It was my crops future. I reached the Ashram and went to the Samadhi. That was the first visit for me. I did not know what to do. I stood nearby and voiced a prayer. I forgot myself. I dont know what words I uttered. My body was still and mind disappeared. I dont know how long I remained there like that. When I came to myself, I saw people meditating around. There were flowers on the Samadhi. I felt extremely peaceful, relieved and relaxed. Slowly I walked away. Until I reached home again, I was in a kind of daze. In my condition, I forgot the crop too. The next night it rained. It poured and poured non-stop. My heart was filled with gratitude. I offered Mother deeply-felt gratitude. The next morning when I visited the fields, the crop had a sparkle on the leaves. Surely no amount of watering could have had this effect. Luckily the crop needed only one more watering before harvest. The yield was slightly bigger than expected. The price too was better than last year.
Often I hear from devotees, My prayer is always answered, most of the time at once. Sometimes the answer is delayed, but occasionally I get into a familiar situation. Mother grants me some unheard of rewards, more than I have been thinking of. I am overjoyed. Then one after another difficulties crop up. I am afraid of losing what has come. I pray. Things take a positive turn. A couple of days later again fresh difficulties arise. Each time difficulties arise I pray. Things change. What has come is so far out of my way that I am unable to remain calm. Constantly new problems arise. Things alternate and the end is constantly postponed. I am torn between two sides. The anxiety is so great that I even say to myself that it is better it comes to an end, let the opportunity be cancelled, I dont mind. I am unable to stand this constant anxiety.
I would like to explain what a devotee can do on such occasions to help bring about the best result. I shall quote the experiences of some devotees and comment on them.
I am an American who has come to Pondicherry for a short visit to the Ashram. I have read Mothers works and am devoted to Her in my own way. A visit to the Samadhi is uplifting, fills me with a peace I have not known before. I feel like sitting there for hours on end. My general tension comes down and disappears. My mind falls silent. My heart is full, full of pleasant, happy feelings. A strange fulfilment creeps over me. A friend engaged me in conversation and casually, without any intention, I mentioned to him that I have a pain in the back. At once he asked me why I should not pray to Mother for the pain to be removed. It never struck me. During my next visit to the Samadhi, I thought of taking it up as a prayer. This pain is very painful, being a back pain at the base of the spine. Several years ago when I was lifting a heavy bundle from my cars trunk, I sprained my spine. I had medical treatment, but doctors say it cannot be fully cured. Day and night I live with it, though it is now within tolerable limits. My father has had it for over 15 years. Perhaps it runs in the family. I have learned to live with it. As a result, my general posture is slightly slanted to avoid the most painful position. It is much less now than in the beginning, but even at this level it is really painful. I wouldnt wish this suffering even on my enemy.
I visited the Samadhi the next day, concentrated, meditated and after some time, remembered to pray to Mother that my pain should go away. I fell into deep meditation. When I came to myself, I stood up and walked to my room. My friend came to visit me that evening. As our conversation began to touch upon many issues, we came to my pain. Suddenly it dawned on me that for the first time since it began, my pain had not been there at all that day. I was unable to believe my senses. How is it that I did not notice it for the whole day? Mother had given me a gift, really a wonderful gift. My mind began to work. I thought of all the works I used to shun because of this pain. Now I could do them. I had an intimate friend who had this pain. I could tell her too about this. I could tell my father too. I thought, but I hesitated because there in America people may think I am crazy if I speak like this. My mind was full of a million thoughts.
To my surprise, I found that the pain started coming back after two days. Again I prayed at the Samadhi. It left, but this time it left only half way. What a tragedy after that wonderful relief! I was unable to control my thoughts. I didnt want to lose this relief. My mind has been on fire, not being able to go either way. I just do not know what I should do to make my relief permanent.
Let me quote another man also:
I am a retired government servant who at the time of retirement was sanctioned a pension of Rs.45 per month. After retirement I started selling casurina firewood for a living. Over the past 15 years I have progressed in my business and purchased lands and raised casurina myself. Now I have a good property and I am 75. I would like to sell the casurina lands and take rest, but the 27 acres are worth only Rs.10,000 in the market. I could sell it if someone offered me Rs.27,000. I have been trying to sell the lands for the last five years. Once a buyer agreed for Rs.27,000, but the sale did not come through. After great efforts, a buyer came to me, anxious to buy it at my price of Rs.27,000. At this point I was invited to Mothers Darshan by another old man of 70. When I returned home, to my utter astonishment, my lands had become very valuable. A fertilizer company wanted the lands. I finalised the bargain at Rs.81,000. The man was writing the agreement but stopped in the middle. He said he would come back in a week. Two months have passed. He has never come back. I am almost mad. Every car that I pass looks like his car. Every person who comes to my house looks like that man. I have lost sleep and my peace of mind. What an opportunity came my way and how quickly it faded away. My mind considers thousands of possibilities. Finally I have decided to give up and go to the man who had offered me Rs.27,000. This opportunity has become like a torture and I would rather not have it.
Surely the mans plight is pitiable. It is one thing not to have the opportunity. It is another thing to get it and lose it. On these occasions, the more the mind thinks, the more the opportunity is cancelled. What can we do? Is there anything that can be done to save the situation? Is there anything we can do to control our thoughts?
A girl of 31 says, No one who has looked at my face or even photograph has wanted to see me again. So far dozens of grooms have come and gone. The last man, a man of property, a graduate, came to our house with his parents, saw me and agreed to marry me. This was a surprise to me. Between now and the wedding my one fear is that the grooms party may cancel it. My mind runs in all directions. The anxiety is so great.
An engineer says, I am working in a simple situation. People who are starting a factory for Rs.1.5 crores have offered me a share. This is too great an opportunity for me to lose. My one fear is they should not change their minds before the documents are signed.
We can give a dozen more examples. As a rule, on these occasions the mind is activated, one is beside himself, daydreams, builds castles, plans for the future, and again, as a rule, the expectations cancel the opportunities or shrink them to a tenth of what was first offered.
I would say that Mother gives, but Man cancels. This is to reverse the proverb that Man proposes and God disposes. It is true that I would suggest that one should keep the mind calm so that Mother can act effectively. It is not reasonable for me to advise a person in this situation to keep his mind calm, knowing it is nearly impossible. Is there a way out? There is.
We know it is Mother who brought this great opportunity to us. We also know that She cannot act through impatience, anxiety, excitement or nervousness. We know Mother acts best in calm, quiet steadiness, firm faith, and great patience. People who are in such anxious conditions should try to understand this truth and resolve to be calm and unthinking. They must resolve not to be excited, not to activate the thoughts in a hundred directions. If thoughts persist, one should try not to indulge in the thoughts. Mind will become partially calm. In some cases, this resolution makes the mind fully calm, too. If, in spite of this resolution, the mind is still restive, pray to Mother for calm and patience. She certainly gives it. One by one the difficulties recede and the originally given opportunity always emerges in full measure. All who have consulted me, including those mentioned in this article, have happily and fully solved their problems in this way.
Today I received a letter from a devotee in which he says his daughter, who is an M.Sc., has secured a job in his own native town on the day he got my letter. He is an ardent devotee for many years working in the government as an non-gazetted officer with a spotless record of service.
All his four children are brilliant and often top the list in the college. Being a non-gazetted officer, he was unable to offer them the very best in life, but he did his very best to give them higher education. Several years ago when his son passed PUC with shining scores, he was faced with his sons burning desire to join engineering college and his inability to support him in a college for five years. The government rules work in a strange fashion. As his salary crosses the income limit prescribed for eligibility for scholarship, his son could not apply for scholarship! Prior to studies is the hurdle of admission. Scores of applicants with distinction compete for seats. If merit alone were the criterion, his son would surely win.
There are other considerations. As a government official, he knew many influential persons. But in matters of getting a favour, though it may be a deserving case, these contacts do not yield results. Still he called on a local VIP. When he arrived there, many bigwigs were waiting to meet the VIP. He was not willing to wait and make his representation too. Reluctantly, however, he waited his turn. The VIP was polite enough to promise to do his best for his son. Not finding any warmth in the promise, he returned home. He later met me and described his plight. He is an ardent devotee, but at that moment of despair to console him with a reference to prayer or faith could be embarrassing. He left remarking, I have faith in Mother. Let us see. I was happy he said that.
When the results were out, his son had been selected. He called on me with great joy and constantly exclaimed his surprise at the selection of his son, saying Mother is truly great.
He often used to meet me and narrate his experiences with Mother. Once when he was cycling home, he saw a woman loudly wailing, surrounded by a crowd. He stopped to see what it was. The child of the woman was lost and she had given up hope of finding the child after half a day of search. The more he heard about the details, the more he was moved. He thought he would cry if he listened any more. He moved to one side of the road next to a house, parked his cycle and called Mother to relieve the distress of this hapless mother. He was so absorbed in his prayer that he almost forgot what was going on around him. His eyes began to close and he felt lost inside. Suddenly there was a shout which jerked him back to awareness. He rushed towards the crowd to know if anything untoward had happened to the woman. On the contrary, someone who had found the child brought it to where the mother was and hence the shouts of joy.
He was introduced to me thirty years ago when he came to my native town to work in the taluq office We used to meet at the house of a common friend. My friend used to describe to me, after he left, how efficient this man was at the taluq office. He earned a reputation at the office for efficiency, integrity and, above all, for his soft behaviour towards friends and a great willingness to work hard. Later, for several years we had not met. Our contacts renewed after about seven or eight years when both of us moved to another town and ran into each other.
That was at the prime of his life and mine too. He was promoted in his job and was working hard to build up a career winning the good remarks of his superiors. So we met rarely. One Sunday morning he appeared at my house with worry writ large on his face.
He explained to me that things were not going smoothly at the office and his next promotion was at stake. I was wondering how such a person could ever miss a promotion. He said that in circumstances like this anything could happen. It was impossible to predict, he said, who would be promoted and who would be denied. He added, I am frustrated by life around and knowing how I am denied the promotion. This is clear injustice. But what worries me more is what is in store for the future. I was not even selected for the list of candidates from which the promotees will be selected. I appealed against that decision. The government has rejected my appeal. The implication of this rejection causes me greater worry. It means I am ineligible for any future promotion.
He came to me that day to find out whether someone in Madras could be approached to rectify the mistake and have justice restored to him. That was a decade when, among youth, it was a fashion to be an atheist. At that time he was an admirer of those ideals. Those were the first years of my coming to the Ashram. He was not one to whom I could speak about spirituality, much less prayer. I did not have the courage to propose to him that his prayer to Mother would restore justice to him. But that was a moment when such an idea could be spoken. Maybe he would listen to me. I mustered courage at last and briefly explained to him Sri Aurobindos role in national freedom, his yoga and the powers of Mother, giving a few examples. I ended up suggesting that he could visit the Samadhi. He seemed to listen with approval.
After ten days, he called on me with excitement to say that his name was there in the selected list of Deputy Tasildars and he would soon be posted elsewhere. I asked him to clarify whether it was the list from which selection was to be made. He corrected me by saying that his name was in the selected list.
He explained that he had visited the Samadhi on the very day he met me earlier and felt uplifted. He came away with a feeling that his cause would be upheld. I never expected that things would move so fast and so well. I dont understand how it all happened. For me it is very surprising, he said. That was how he became a devotee long ago.