Papaji Accepts a Job
This advice given out by Papaji more than forty years ago, and the manner in which it was given, indicate that his basic message and his teaching style have not changed or evolved over the years. Both then and now, when he deals with seekers, he is direct, challenging and confrontational in his approach. He will tell everyone who is willing to listen that no practice is necessary to understand or know what one already is, and that any effort to find the Self is counterproductive since it takes attention away from what one already is.
Papaji did not spend much time at Ramanasramam. A few weeks after his arrival he was taken off to Bangalore to begin a new phase of his life.
When we reached Bangalore, which is about a five-hour drive from Tiruvannamalai, they put me up in Basavanagudi at the house of my old friend, B. M. S. Naidu. I had known him when I was working in Madras in the mid-1940s.
The next morning he suggested that we go for a walk in Lalbagh, the famous gardens in the centre of Bangalore. Since they were within walking distance of his house, we went there on foot. We strolled through the gardens, occasionally stopping to enjoy the flowers that were on display. Later on, as we were going through the glass house, a large structure in the centre of the gardens, we met a man who was known to Mr Naidu. He was called Krishna Lai Poddar and he was introduced to me as a prominent industrialist who had extensive business interests in Assam, Bengal and Bihar. We stopped to chat for a while.
As we were talking he said, ‘I have a mica mine in Girdi, Bihar. I have come to Bangalore because I recently got permission to mine for manganese and iron in some of the forests near here.’
Then he went on to ask me all the usual questions – where I was from, what I was doing in Bangalore, whether I was married, where was my family, and so on.
‘I am an ex-army man,’ I said. ‘I have a family in Lucknow and I used to have a job in North India. But a few weeks ago I decided to give up my career there and come to the south. My Guru’s ashram is in Tiruvannamalai. Normally, I live there. I have only come to Bangalore because some friends of mine whom I have not seen for many years insisted that I had to come here to meet some of their friends and relatives. When I have finished my business here, I will go back to Tiruvannamalai.’
‘What financial arrangements have you made for your family?’ he enquired. ‘Who is looking after them while you spend your days in an ashram?’
‘God is looking after them,’ I replied.
I didn’t feel that I was being irresponsible. I really did have the conviction and the faith that it was God’s job to look after the world, including all the members of my family whom I was formerly supporting.
Mr Poddar didn’t see it that way. ‘You can’t sit around doing nothing and expect God to look after your family. You have a wife and children to support. I can offer you a very good job. It will pay you more than enough to support your family. I want you to take charge of all the workers in my new mines. I have already recruited mining engineers, geologists, surveyors, and so on. What I am looking for is someone who can coordinate all the work. If you accept this job, you will be responsible for supervising all the workers. You will be paying the wages, supervising the transportation of the ore from the minehead to the ports and buying all the necessary equipment to set up the mines and keep them running. I want a man from North India to look after all this work for me. I will provide you with everything you need, including a cook from North India so you won’t have to eat strange food.’
This was an extraordinary offer for a man to make to a complete stranger, particularly one who had just expressed no interest in working any more. I only found out much later what had prompted him to make the offer.
He had thought, ‘This man was an officer in the army, so he knows how to supervise, give orders and maintain discipline. He now lives in an ashram, so that probably means that he is honest and spiritually inclined. He is just the man I am looking for. I need someone I can trust with large sums of money, someone who can work efficiently on his own, someone who can supervise a large number of workers in a jungle camp and get lots of work out of them.’
We went to his house on Krishna Road and discussed the job in more detail. He wanted me to take charge immediately, without even going back to Ramanasramam. It was an intriguing offer, but I couldn’t see how I could accept it at such short notice. I only had one dhoti and one banian with me. How could I suddenly take off for the jungle and live there for an indefinite period?
He didn’t seem to think that this was a problem. In fact he insisted that I should accompany him on his trip to the mines the following morning.
‘I will pick you up at 8 a.m. from Mr Naidu’s house,’ he said, brushing aside all my practical objections. ‘You will really like the forest. There are high mountains and lots of wild animals.’
I must admit that this was a major plus point in the job offer. I have always liked solitude, and the chance of having a job in a wild, remote forest area was one that appealed to me very much.
“The next morning we left by car for the mines. Our destination was about a six-hour ride away from Bangalore. On our arrival, he took me round the camp, which was still under construction. It was very much a frontier settlement. A bulldozer was still there clearing the forest, and on the land which had already been cleared, huts were being built for the workers. There was a truck, a jeep, a bulldozer, and lots of people running around, trying to organise the new settlement.
After we had had lunch together, he asked me what I thought of the place and the job he was offering me. I admitted that I liked the place very much. There was dense forest all around and in one place, near the officers’ huts, there was a river which mysteriously disappeared into the ground and didn’t seem to appear again. During our brief tour I was also shown a small temple in which it was said that Vidyaranya Swami had composed his famous work, Panchadasi. The whole forest, in fact, was called the Vidyaranya State Forest. In addition to being a famous teacher, Vidyaranya was the prime minister of Vijayanagar, an empire which flourished in that area several hundred years ago.
I accepted the job without much hesitation. It seemed the right thing to do. I liked the idea of spending my days in such a wilderness.
We returned to Bangalore the same day. Mr Poddar gave me Rs 100,000 to cover some payments that were due the following day and told me that I should start work immediately, without going back to Tiruvannamalai to collect my possessions. He himself said that he would arrange for all my things to be forwarded to me. The next day I went back to the mines with the money and some food which Mr Poddar had given me. A day later my Tiruvannamalai clothes appeared, along with a North Indian cook who had been allocated to me to prepare all my meals. A new era in my life was beginning.
Mr Poddar took the address of my wife in Lucknow. Without telling me, he began to send her Rs 500 a month so that she could look after all my family’s expenses. I had told him that God was looking after my family. Mr Poddar didn’t believe me, but unwittingly he became God’s agent.
I settled down in the forest and began my work. Once a week I would drive back to Bangalore to collect enough money to pay all the bills, but I spent the rest of my time in the forest, supervising all the work that was going on there. I stayed in Karnataka and the neighbouring state of Goa for the next thirteen years, working in this and other mining camps as an administrative manager.
Excerpt from Nothing Ever Happened Volume One, pages 194-198
By David Godman