Experiments in Religion
1. Vadala Slums
2. Limbdi Water Management
3. Gujarat Earthquake - 26th January, 2001
2. Under this section I will be presenting my “Experiments in Religion”.
My subm ission is that the Common denominator of all religions is
These are my - expressions of love - for unknown & some times even un-seen people, animals & plants.
These experiences have proved before me - many principles which transcend far beyond what one normally expects from expressions of love. And all the principles I have observed in this field are invariably stated in one religion or the other. Hence in my submission, these “expressions of love” are “experiments in religion”.
2. A systematic presentation should start from the year 1989 when I first started what is generally called “Social Service”. However, if I first start with the year 1989; a few more years will be gone before I can talk of the present.
Hence I am starting narrating my experiences as and when they flash across my memory.
3. In the year 1989, I thought - “so far I have rendered my services in a small manner to the chartered accountants & tax consultants. Now let me do something for the poorest of the poor”.
This thought was planted in my mind by an advertisement by a kind institution in the press, which reproduced Mahatma Gandhiji’s advice : -
(Not the exact words)
“If you are in a dilemma;
Consider whether your actions are going to help
The poorest of the poor; the weakest of the weak!
If yes, Go ahead.
You are bound to be right.”
This is my principle number one.
4. In February 1992 I decided that 50% of my income shall be spent on service to the society.
This would include the direct taxes (Income-tax etc.) that I pay to the Government of India;
the social service expenditure that I incur.
Initially, the formula to compute 50% was a bit complicated. As I became more experienced, the formula became simpler.
In May 1992 I started going to a slum in Vadala / Matunga - on the road behind VJTI College.
This was a slum (Subhash Nagar Zopadpatti) of about hundred huts - all built on the footpath - of normal poor people. At one end of the footpath, towards the five gardens, there were about twenty huts of people suffering from leprosy.
5. At that time, I had two dreams :
5.1 “I should help hundred professionals become experts in FERA and International Taxation.”
5.2 “I should help hundred unemployed poor people in getting employment.”
6. So I made following offer to the slum dwellers.
6.1 Any person who wants to make his own living and needs some financial help; I will try & help.
As complementary offers; later, I also offered :
6.2 Any child of the slum that wants to study, I will try & help.
6.3 In their health problems, I will try to provide some medical help.
And so started a significant chapter in my life. My most valuable experiences in life.
7. We have all seen slums in Mumbai.
We generally call the slum dwellers -
They are thieves & drug peddlers.”
“Why doesn’t Government do something about them!”
Some people will donate money or food to them.
But how does one go to a slum & talk with them!
One Hindi film has made a great impact on my mind.
Amitabh Bachhan & Rajesh Khanna were two friends in the film. Amitabh, a rich mill owner’s son & Rajesh, a poor man. One day, as a strategy for breaking the workers’ union, Rajesh goes & starts living in the slum. And he was changed. Completely.
He explains to Amit -
“So far, we had only seen the slum - dwellers from a distance. We criticised them or threw coins at them.
“But now I have lived with them. I know them intimately. And my whole thinking process has changed.”
(Again, whatever I remember. Not exact words.)
This message had appealed me many years back when I had seen the film. Now it was helpful in avoiding the initial hesitation that we have in talking to an unknown slum-dweller.
So, I gathered all the courage, went to a slum & started talking to the people. The first man I met was - Mr. Mani. A truck driver living there on the footpath.
He had seen the other side of the society. And so talked very nicely with me.
That made my first entry in the slums easy.
Now of course, nine years have passed since that first encounter. And I have had many experiences.
8. Let me today narrate one experience that went on for several months.
Since May, 1992; I am going to this slum almost on all Sunday mornings whenever I am in Mumbai.
One monsoon - Sunday morning I was talking to the leprosy patients on the footpath near five gardens. By then I had became fairly well known in the slum. Some patients told me the plight of a young girl.
8.1 The girl was barely (I estimated) eight years old. She had dark complexion and fine features. She was crippled in both legs. She had to pull her body on the footpath with her hands.
8.2 Other slum dwellers explained me - both her parents were leprosy patients. Both were beggars. A few days back, the father was crossing the road, a speeding vehicle hit him & he died. Very recently, the mother died an equally unnatural death.
8.3 I asked, “Where would the girl stay in this rainy season!”
They said, “She has no home & no relatives who would take care of her”.
8.4 “Supposing, we build a new hut on the same footpath, how much would it cost!”
“Three hundred rupees.”
“Okay, here are rupees three hundred. Will someone please bring the bamboos, the plastic & build a hut for her!”
And so, within a day the girl had her own “home”!
8.5 I was delighted to see the little girl happy. At least she had a home.
Her neighbours would go begging. And they would share their food with her.
8.6 A few Sundays later, I saw some more people in her home.
“Who is this lady!”
“I am the elder sister of this little girl, Sir.
I and my husband have come to stay with her and to take her care”.
There are some sections of our society where rupees three hundred are a fortune. It can bring your lost relatives back.
9. A few Sundays later - the little girl now had started wearing a Sari. She was fully dressed as a woman. Suddenly, in a few months, she had crossed a few years. She now looked like an eleven or twelve years old girl. A pleasant & charming girl moving around happily.
10. A few Sundays later, the kind neighbours gave me news and sought my advice.
“Mr. X wants to, and insists on marrying this girl.”
11. “But that is ridiculous.
“She is a tiny child. And he is forty years old. She is a charming person & he, an ugly, dark ruffian.”
“Sir, he has already married twice. One wife died. The second wife is still there. He is neglecting the second wife and now wants third marriage.”
“Okay sir, you say `no’. We also do not want it. The ruffian shall not marry this girl.”
12. Two Sundays later …
“Sir, that ruffian insists on marrying this girl.
He says, if we will not allow him to marry
the girl; he would commit suicide.”
“We cannot allow the marriage”.
13. Next Sunday …
“Sir, one night the ruffian poured kerosene on himself and burnt himself.”
“Yes sir. He is very serious. We have admitted him to the K. E. M. hospital at Parel.”
“Sir doctors are treating him. But they have given a long list of medicines. The hospital does not have the medicines. We have to buy from outside. It will cost a few thousand rupees!”
14. In Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserable”, Monsieur Bien Venue (the kind father of the poor Church) says : “It is not my job to judge. I only love & help.” (Not exact words).
This is my religious principle number two.
“It is not by business to judge others.”
15. “Okay. Here is my note to the medical store. Please get all the medicines that the patient needs. Let us do our best to save him.”
16. Two Sundays later …
“Sir, the ruffian died in the hospital.”
“God Bless his Soul.”
18th October, 2001