Sunday, February 9, 2014

Unsung Hero

Raghu Makwana, a friend and long-time pillar of the Manav Sadhna ecosystem, passed away yesterday. Lot of people closer to him will probably be posting more detailed tributes about him and his work (UPDATE: beautiful writeup by Sid) , I want to share some of my reflections on what he did and who he was, and what it means to me.

Raghu was a true unsung hero. He wasn't famous, he didn't have followers, his work was small. But it was done with a deep purity and with a vast amount of love. He was a real-life manifestation of Mother Teresa's credo: "We can do no great things; only small things with great love".

I will remember a few personal moments with Raghu. First was his smile and his loving embrace. Having no legs, he was low to the ground, so to give him a hug you'd often have to crouch down on the ground. But it never felt unnatural or abnormal. In fact his "disability" didn't enter my conciousness much if at all when interacting with him. That may be one of his most inspiring qualities. He had such dignity, he never let you feel sorry for him.

And he never felt sorry for himself. As Amitabh shared today during the funeral, he was a modern-day Shravan. Instead of asking his parents to take care of him, he took care of his parents and his entire family.

He took care of so many others as well. He treated the 30+ maa-jis he served through Tyaag Nu Tiffin like his own mothers. Jayeshbhai noted today that he would feed all of them before he ate himself. So he acted like a mother to them. That motherly love is close to Godly love. Jayeshbhai called Raghu "baghwaan nu maanas" ("man of god"). And that's why he left us so early; God called him up to do His work.

I will never forget Fernando's sharing during an Awaking circle just after he had spent a day making the tiffin rounds with Raghu on his custom-made hand-pedalled cycle. Fernando was an MS volunteer from Guatemala. That day when he saw Raghu interacting with the maa-jis, he felt closer to God than he had ever felt. People were confused about him coming to volunteer in India. Why were you going? Were you depressed or crazy? Why are you leaving your good career and all your friends? Fernando didn't have an answer to the question until that day with Raghu. That day, he realized he had come to India to tell his "masterpiece" love story, and it was about a man with polio in an Indian slum serving meals to old women.

Countless others have been  touched by Raghu's feats of love. Abdul Kalam once saluted him and presented him an award. Jayeshbhai shared that a volunteer from the other side of the world heard about Raghu's passing and called him, crying and crying. She was from a different country, followed a different tradition, observed a different religion, spoke a different language, but had connected with Raghu's heart. And so she was crying and crying about how this soul could have left us so suddenly.

Nisha and I talked tonight about pure work. Without putting any labels on it himself, Raghu did pure, heartfelt work. I remember speaking to him a year or so ago after his first 10-day, he had a visible glow. He had seen how the inner work related to the outer, how he had connected the dots and gained a spiritual perspective to performing each action. He had reached a new understanding. And since then he had put it into practice.

These days I find myself thinking about legacy more that I probably should (read:EGO). What is Raghu's legacy, now that he is no more? His work was a drop in the ocean, but it was so pure, done with genuine love, beyond seeking self-congratulation or external accolades. And that purity itself rippled out. Fernando wasn't moved because Raghu was an exemplary social entrepreneur. He was moved by the depth of Raghu's compassion and love.

I find myself feeling more and more that for me planting seeds of compassion and love is the only legacy worth striving for.

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