Sandhya Nagaraj
Published on: 4th Anniversary (20 Nov '15)
When I was about five to six years old, my family and I had gone on a pilgrimage. After finishing the prayers, the priest at the temple gave away ‘Prasad’ to all the devotees, including us. First he gave fruits etc to the men, and gave the elder women kumkum. The last of the lot were my cousin and I, and he had only one pack of sugar crystals with him. I could see his dilemma. I expected him to cut it open, divide the contents by half, and share it to us. But he didn't do that. He looked at both of us and said, "Now, I'm an old man living here. Forget about sugar. I'm all alone and have no company with me. I think you both are nice kids. Which one of you are willing to live here with me?" I immediately understood his ploy, and looked at my cousin. She appeared to be bewildered that she'd have to stay back. I smiled and said, "I'll stay!"

One would think, who sacrifices living at home just for sugar? It wasn't that, no. It was about showing love to an old man, it was about treating an elderly person just like how you'd treat your own grandparents.
Agreed, I knew I was going to be bestowed with the whole pack, and then be told to share it with my cousin (which is what happened later), but it was still a risk calling that bluff. Either due to ignorance of how hard it is to actually live away from home (how can a five year old even know this?) or due to the excitement that I knew his bluff, I called it. But it wasn't out of complete love for an old person, nor was it out of willingness to stay away from home. But whatever my intention was, my action yielded some result. An act of renouncing my own home for an elderly person's company seems ridiculously out of proportion for any sane adult, but love is like that, it is ridiculously inexplicable, and it was on grounds of love he was testing us. So ironically, renunciation always guarantees tremendous happiness, IF done right.

And just like any other engineer, I extrapolate this to life in general, which is where my concern really lies. Renouncing is not an act of greatness or of nobility. In fact, anyone considering himself noble or virtuous or anything of the sort while renouncing something is actually acting on a selfish motive and the whole point of selflessness or generosity or renunciation is lost. So for a moment, can we really look into our lives and see on what scale our ability to renounce things stand? For, renunciation is an act of love. Nobody can renounce anything unless he or she loves the person he renounces it for, and this person may even be himself.

In the past, there was no need for anyone to teach or talk about renunciation. People were by nature loving, and hence the ability to renounce was strong by default. In today’s world, it is necessary for us to consciously change our behaviours since we have bigger houses, more TVs in the house than people, and lack of interdependency, which removes scenarios where people get tested for the ability to renounce, and hence to some extent, love. Gone are the days of sharing toys and rooms with siblings. Gone are the days of learning to be happy with what you have, gone are the days of sand in the hair and water on your clothes.
Forget the big things for a minute. How comfortable are you watching something else on TV just because your parents want to, when Harry Potter is playing on WB? How okay are you to go to a restaurant your friend really wants to go to, while she passed off the one you have on mind as nothing more than a mere option in the long list of have-to-visits? How okay are you to work with a colleague after the official working hours, just to help him out, when your boss is NOT looking?

I’m not saying you have to give up everything you want and let others get their way always, but there’s a fine line between keeping yourself happy and wanting to have your way ALL the time. The first step to recovery is diagnosis, and since prevention is better than cure, just like how you’d keep a tab on weight, blood pressure and sugar levels, it would be a good idea to keep a tab on your ability to renounce!
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