Pt. Shree Kapil Deo Dwivedi, my Baba, was born in early 1930s. No one knows the exact date or year, he was born before birthdays became an affair for common families. Baba was born in a large and loving joint family, the third child among 3 brothers and 3 sisters. He spent his childhood in a house with cows and stories and lots of delicious food. He’d tell us of the exquisite desserts his mother would make which sadly my mother has no idea how to make now and the stories his baba would tell him which luckily my baba could easily recollect and tell us.
Although born in a common brahmin family of farmers, where education meant learning some sanskrit, some vedic rituals and some maths from a local priest, Baba aspired for more. Much to the protest of family he left home and came to Patna to get a formal education. Baba used to tell us that every time he’ll go home his family would not let him come back. In one such attempt to prevent him from going back they got him married to my Aazi at the age of 14. It didn’t stop him but they made a wonderful couple and raised four children and six grand children together. Now the clan has increased to ten grandchildren and 3 great grand children. Baba strived, did petty jobs to meet expenses, and earned two Master degrees in Sanskrit literature and grammar.
In 1964 Baba joined Bihar Regiment of the Indian Army as a Junior Commission Officer and started serving the army as a Religious Teacher. He served the nation for 26 years at locations spread across the length and breadth of the country. During his period in Army he earned 7 medals for his distinctive service and was conferred the honorary rank of Captain in President’s Commission upon retirement in 1989.
After retirement from Indian Army, baba served as a Professor of Sanskrit in Maharaja Kameshwar Singh University for some years before I was born.
This was the life of Baba before I was born.
For me Baba is the first person I remember, tall and broad figure with a voice like thunder. The man who raised me, day by day, story by story, book by book. The man a small portion of whose light shines through me.
Baba believed in unison among all creatures and always used to say that every being can understand your feelings when they’re pure, even more so when they’re not. For him every animal was a god and was here to help us in different ways. The dogs were a form of lord Shiva and the cats of Shakti. He was never afraid of snakes and would never harm them when they’d occasionally appear in our home. He taught me that trees are gods that listen to our prayers early in the morning and should not be disturbed during night.The animals loved him too. The squirrels that’ll run away at the sight of us would come play with him on the terrace while he’ll be basking in the sun during winters. Once a snake came dangerously close to him while he was sitting in the garden, he just talked to him as if he’s an old friend and he listened silently and went away after a while. It was surprising for me as a kid even for other people as adults.
Baba had simple rules of life and only one principle, do anything with a pure heart and you’ll do wonders. He had numerous stories to explain the concept, one in which a poor saint could feed an entire village from a single mango tree but when overtaken by a cruel king the product from the tree would not be sufficient for a single person.
Baba had all the characteristics of an exemplary life. He was well built, a renounced Pundit of his field, would always help a needy to the best of his abilities, remained undaunted in face of innumerable challenges life threw his way and would always be lively and cheerful. Even in his very last years, despite his failing physical form, baba was more lively than most of us. He hated people who do not laugh and are too busy to enjoy everyday life and would say that they are disrespecting the gift of life.
Although a firm believer of caste system baba would never treat any person with disrespect based on his caste. During festivals he’d give our extra brass utensils used for preparing food in religious ceremonies to poor tribal people living near our house. He could often be seen finding auspicious dates for marriage of children of these people. Baba was a scholar of hindu religious rituals and his knowledge in the field was unmatched but he would rarely accept an offer to preside a religious ceremony even from the most affluent families. In one peculiar incident he went to the home of a poor family from an untouchable caste to preside a marriage. Despite being well educated most of us at home and neighborhood protested his decision. It was seemingly so unfit for a man of such caliber and high social status to go to the home of such a lowly family while declining offers from affluent ones. He said “If I have the ability to help someone and I chose not to, of what good is my ability. There are hundreds ready to help the rich in return of riches but if I refuse to go to this poor family they might not find another person and it would only be a shame that I sit here with my knowledge when it’s needed somewhere.” This incident left a great imprint on my mind and helped me see people beyond the tags society puts on them.
Books formed a major part of Baba’s life. He never saved any money but had always collected books wherever he went. Our house is filled with his books, books on shelves books in cupboards, books in old wooden boxes and books lying around in every possible corner. Reading was his all time favourite thing. When we were kids baba would buy us lots and lots of books and when I grew up and moved out of home to attend college, around which time he had stopped going out unless extremely necessary, the only thing he’d ask me to bring was books. He spent his entire life learning and reading and the last thing he did, before being incapacitated by a fatal brain hemorrhage, was read a book. When the hemorrhage occurred he was sitting in his all time favorite half lotus position, reading a book of prayers and drinking his morning tea.
Baba always loved family, even more than Vito or Michael Corleone of Mario Puzo’s Godfather. He’d always be eager to know about every one of our distant relatives and had an unfailing memory of who has been married to whom and where. Give him a man from our region and his place and he’d tell you we are related in what way. For a long time Baba was the only person in his large family receiving a salary and he’d divide it equally among all his father’s brothers even though it meant austerities, sometimes extreme, for his own wife and children. Even when he was studying he’d use whatever extra money he’d get from petty jobs to help people.. our ancestral village still has remains of the well he got constructed for people during a poor rainy season.
Baba inspired some people, made quite some envious of his qualities. Both ways he helped a lot of people improve their own lives. He had this charismatic personality which enchants you. In a gathering of people when baba would begin to chant or speak in his deep sonorous voice, waving his hand in his signature style, everyone else’s voice would disappear. People always knew him as a scholar first and everything else later.
Baba brought me up with great care. My parents barely knew how I grew up, it was entirely my Baba and Aazi’s efforts that made me what I am. Baba would tell me stories, from across the world, stories his grandparents told him, stories he collected over his life, stories that he made himself to help me fall asleep. Stories of brave princes and speaking animals and gods who’d disguise themselves in different forms to help various organisms. He would even sing me lullabies and ballads. Baba-aazi brought me up day by day, story by story, meal by meal. They’d always have sweets for me and would have numerous tricks to make me eat. Wherever Baba will go, he’d never forget to bring us something to eat and something to read. My aazi, belonging from an orthodox brahmin family, would be wary of people from other religions, specially the Muslims, but when someone told her that a blow of air from the Maulavi keeps children safe and healthy, he’d carry me to the nearby mosque where the Maulavi would read an ayat and blow air on my face. When I was born she broke the social customs and visited my mother’s native place for the first time to have a glimpse of her grandson. They broke all their limits in bringing me up and gave me the best of everything they had.
As we grew up we grew increasingly fond of each other, specially after my Aazi left this world in 2004. I left home for further studied in 2010 and it was the hardest day of my life. Baba was nearly on his own after that. Although he lived with my parents and was in good care but he was never so close to anyone as he was to me. He’d wait for my vacations and would shower all his love when I’d come home from college. My home coming would be a celebration for him. He’d ask my mother to make the best traditionsl dishes and would even distribute money among children in neighbourhood to buy sweets. I don’t think I can make someone that happy by mere presence nor will I ever feel that special. A lot of people have loved me in a lot of different ways but none so pure like baba.
After I got a job I’d send him small gifts and lots of books but upon asking wether he needs anything when I come home the only reply I ever got was “I only need you.”
Maybe I failed him. Maybe I should not have left him knowing that he needed me. Maybe I could have done so much more for him by just being with him but Baba’s love for me is the purest and most divine thing I’ve ever experienced and will guide me no matter where I be, no matter who I become.
Death is a paradox, I don’t know what happens after it. It’s been 10 days since baba left this world and I don’t know where he is right now, but I know this that his memories will always be with me and will always guide me home. He’ll always be there to remind me that what we need is only more love and faith and character always wins over calamities. He’ll smile with the flowers and play with the puppies and roam with the wind and shine with the sun. Baba just left his physical form to acquire the universal one, the one that envelopes me all around.