The Personification of Success- A short story

Rohit was convinced he was the very personification of success. But was he really so...

It was one of those unexpectedly cold Mumbai winter mornings. The temperature had dipped to its lowest in that season and few people were about on the streets. It was the first of January, New Years Day. Most people were either fast asleep in bed or had just crawled into bed after their New Year parties.A lone and handsome man in his thirties, resolutely jogged his way on the Marine Drive promenade. No matter the date or weather, Rohit Sharma never missed his morning run. He passed a couple of cars on the way, its occupants looking at him, surprised to see someone actually going for a run like this at 5 AM on New Year’s Day. His expensive Nike shoes pounded on the footpath as he made his way past the Chowpatty beach. After a brief respite, the unusual, dense fog that had appeared that morning had begun to roll again, filling the streets until everything seemed to disappear and fade away into a white semitransparent haze. He was forced to slow down as he reached the next traffic light. He cursed under his breath and slowed down, but a minute later, he was forced to come to a total standstill, the fog having reduced the visibility to just 3 or 4 feet. Seeing a bench on the side, he flopped down upon it, panting.What the hell, he thought, I’ve been running for almost 45 minutes now! He drank from a small bottle that clung to his side and slowly recovered his breath.‘चाय लेंगे साहिब? Will you have tea?’ Rohit looked up and nodded. The tea-seller deftly removed a plastic cup from a bag. He filled it with steaming, fragrant tea and with a flourish, handed it to Rohit. The money was paid, and the tea-seller disappeared into the mist.Rohit sipped his tea, savoring its sweet taste. He looked around and his attention was drawn to an object lying on the bench, by his side, evidently forgotten there by someone in a hurry. Rohit picked it up, mildly interested.It was a book, a biography. He looked at the person depicted on the cover, an elderly gentleman in saffron robes and smiled to himself. One more of those types, he thought to himself. Rohit was basically not a religious person. In fact, he prided himself as an atheist, proclaiming himself as having no time for God and other similar ‘unproven’ phenomena. He looked down upon those who believed in God and even more so, upon those who urged people to do the same.But despite himself, he read the back cover. Then he tried to remember what little he had heard about Srila Prabhupada. Wasn’t he the same guy who had left a successful business to become a sannyasi and then at the cost of his health, gone to the US at the age of 60, to preach about Lord Krishna?! Man, what a crazy thing to do! Rohit thought and shook his head.Staring at the figure clad in simple saffron robes, Rohit could not help but think about the stark contrast between him and Srila Prabhupada. He thought to himself, here he was, the youngest CEO in the country and winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a multibillionaire in his own right, with a girlfriend who was listed by Vogue Magazine as one of the ten most beautiful women in the world, contacts in the highest places, with no dearth of anything. He had everything a man could want; he was success personified!And on the cover of this book was a man, who had technically…nothing. No money, no car or property…nothing…hell, not even proper clothes to call his own. OK, so he had had a big fan following, and he’d got a fancy title like Srila Prabhupada. But what else? Rohit shook his head sadly at the thought.‘A penny for your thoughts young man, and mind you, a penny could get us a lot of things back in my time.’Rohit was shaken out of his reverie. He looked at the elderly, distinguished-looking gentleman in a kurta and dhotar, who had come and sat down beside Rohit, unnoticed by him. The man extended his hand. ‘The name is Vishnu Murthy. I am eighty-nine years old and still going strong.’Rohit regarded him with interest. Despite his age, the octogenarian had a healthy slim physique, his eyes were alert and his face conveyed a warm, friendly smile. A prominent ‘U’ shaped tilaka on his forehead and a tulsi necklace indicated a religious background. He shook hands with him.‘Rohit Sharma, CEO, Sharma Group of Industries. Glad to meet you, Sir.’The old man gestured towards the book. ‘I observed you looking at that book over there. I have had the opportunity to associate with Srila Prabhupada for many years. I have seen the man from up close. But I must insist,’ persisted the old man, with a smile, ‘upon knowing what you were thinking, my young friend…And you may speak freely before me,’ the old man continued, noticing Rohit’s hesitation.‘Well Sir, no offense meant, but in today’s world, where success defines one’s happiness, I was just wondering whether Mr Prabhupada had really achieved any success at all…’ Rohit looked at Mr Murthy.Mr Murthy looked thoughtful. ‘Hmm…And how would you define success?’Rohit shrugged his shoulders, ‘I’d say the achievement of one’s goals…’Mr Murthy looked at Rohit with a twinkle in his eye, ‘And now if you don’t mind my asking you, have you achieved your goals, young man? And are you happy?’Rohit drew himself up, slightly annoyed. ‘Well, if you must know...’ and so saying, Rohit reeled off a list of his financial and business achievements, and included the bit about his girlfriend’s achievements as well.‘So as you can see Sir, I have more or less achieved all my goals. I am an extremely happy man!’ Rohit finished his short speech with a hint of condescension.‘Indeed, indeed, it would certainly seem so… But for one thing…’ The twinkle in the eye had returned.Mr Murthy continued, ‘It would appear that you have set as your goals, those whose results are only temporary in duration; lasting perhaps a few decades at best. And these too, as you would have to agree, can provide you with the kind of happiness that only complements their temporary nature.These material gains that you talk of, are not unlike your…what is that term you use in your business parlance…yes...volatile stocks, are they not? There today and gone tomorrow, wouldn’t you agree?At eighty-nine, I can assure you, I have seen too many individuals who have gained much and then lost it all, the very next instant. Remember what happened back in 1929?’Rohit stared at him. He was no doubt, referring to the ‘Great Crash’ that took place on ‘Black Thursday’ at the Wall Street Stock Market back in 1929 which was thought to have heralded the ‘Great Depression’. In that crash, many billionaires had become paupers overnight, leading some to even commit suicide.‘Now coming back to the question, my young friend, are you really successful and consequently, happy?I will leave you to ponder my question while I go off to answer the call of Nature. At my age you know how it is…’ Mr Murthy walked off leaving Rohit deep in thought.Rohit felt like he had just been run over by an 18-wheeler. He felt like his whole world has suddenly been turned upside down. It was as if he was building a nice, big castle and then suddenly a missile had come out of nowhere and smashed it to smithereens.On one hand, he felt a deep animosity towards Mr Murthy for having burst his bubble. But on the other hand, he felt a grudging respect, and more curiously, a feeling strangely resembling gratitude for telling him these things.He reflected on his own past. It was true. All his life, he had tried to find happiness in all things temporary, the satisfaction derived thereof equally so. First it was the marks or a rank in school and college, then his admission into Harvard. Then it was his business, cars, women, villas; each and every thing that had been coveted by him had lost its charm once he had acquired it. And yet, his thirst had only increased; to achieve more, to acquire even more. And in trying to quench that thirst, he had not achieved success. True, lasting success and true, lasting happiness.Alas, Mr Murthy was right. Rohit Sharma was not a happy man.And then a terrible thought struck him, where would this all end? Would he spend his entire life this way, running from one mirage to another?He suddenly felt lost. He looked around him. It was close to 6.30 AM now and the city was slowly coming to life. Everywhere he could see individuals, desperate individuals just like him, running after some illusion, each craving for that elusive goal called happiness.Mr Murthy had come and sat down beside him, bringing Rohit out of his thoughts. Rohit sighed and turned to him, ‘You’ve just painted a very grim picture, Sir. And sadly, you are right. All of a sudden, my achievements seem worthless and my life seems empty and devoid of happiness’. He waved his hand towards the people passing by them, ‘In fact, everyone’s life seems to be so!’‘And yet, my young friend,’ the twinkle was back in the elderly gent’s eye. ‘And yet, I have known a man who was successful and happy, in the truest sense of the words.’ Mr Murthy gazed down at him. Rohit followed his gaze to the picture on the book that he held in his hands.Rohit’s tone was disbelieving, ‘Did he, Srila Prabhupada really achieve true success and happiness…?’Mr Murthy said, ‘Yes. Comprehensively so. Srila Prabhupada made it his goal to spread the message of love of Lord Krishna all over the world and...’‘Please excuse me sir,’ Rohit interrupted him, ‘I wouldn’t approve of his views about goals in life.’‘As he may not, with yours!’ Mr Murthy shot back with a mischievous smile, ‘To each, his own; that’s how it is, isn’t it? We may disagree with each other, but we can and must respect one-another’s opinions, yes? Like business is your field, Srila Prabhupada’s was religion. So you must view his goal with an unbiased view, from Srila Prabhupada’s point of view …’‘I stand corrected, Sir’ said Rohit with a smile.‘So I was saying,’ continued Mr Murthy, also with a smile, ‘In Srila Prabhupada’s opinion, that was his goal. And therefore, at the age of 60, when most people would lean back and enjoy their retired life, this man went to a country where he did not know anybody and started a worldwide movement which has the largest number of followers till date! His books and thoughts have changed the lives of millions of people. Even after Srila Prabhupada left this Earth, people are still joining his movement and following his teachings.As an atheist, you may not approve of the goals he had set for himself, but the fact remains that he accomplished every single thing that he set out to do. After the age of 60 years. Do you know anyone in the field of religion, who has been able to achieve such a feat? Wouldn’t you term that as a benchmark for success and achievement?’Rohit thought about that for a minute. It was true. In the field of religion, no one in recent times had achieved so much. He was beginning to get a sense of the extent of what Srila Prabhupada had achieved. This was bigger than the biggest entrepreneur story he had ever heard of. He wanted to know more about Srila Prabhupada.So Mr Murthy ran through a précis of Srila Prabhupada’s life, the person that he was, the trials and tribulations that he had to undergo. Rohit stared at him throughout the narration. He was deeply impressed by what he was hearing.Rohit said, ‘I often wonder how people like Srila Prabhupada manage to become successful without any assets to begin with. I mean, in business, we have to start with some capital or assets and then build upon it but….’‘Oh Srila Prabhupada had assets, plenty of them. Not the financial kind that you mentioned, but those assets which few individuals in this modern world have. And they helped him succeed in whatever that he did. Honesty, strength of mind, determination, humility, fearlessness, simplicity and detachment, compassion, morality, in short, he had an immensely strong and virtuous character! This was his greatest asset.’Rohit reflected on that for a moment. He felt an odd but pleasant sense of thrill within him when he thought about it. What would it be like to live such a life? It would be different, but so exciting. Becoming a man of tremendous strength of character, and making each day one that was free of hypocrisy, lies, greed and selfishness; living each day to perfection!A doubt arose in his mind. ‘But is it easy to become like Srila Prabhupada, develop such virtues and character?’Mr Murthy suddenly became serious, ‘Ah, well… no. Actually…it is an extremely difficult task!’ Seeing the disappointment on Rohit’s face, the twinkle in his eye returned.He continued, ‘But not if you know the Secret Formula that Srila Prabhupada employed! In fact, Srila Prabhupada credits all his success to that.’Rohit looked up surprised, ‘Secret Formula? What’s that?!’Mr Murthy leaned towards him conspiratorially and spoke in a dramatized hushed whisper, ‘It’s called Devotion to Lord Krishna.’Now this was something new for Rohit. He was willing to accept that Srila Prabhupada was successful because of his virtues and character. He had now come to regard Srila Prabhupada as a man who had developed a magnetic personality and a strong character, with the capability to change the lives of people on his own merits.Perhaps, even using God as a means to achieve his goal; but nevertheless, on his own merits. Something like a management expert, who had all the right ideas and paradigms in life.As an atheist, Rohit was less inclined to believe that Srila Prabhupada actually attributed his colossal success to someone else, especially God.He stared at Mr Murthy disbelievingly.Mr Murthy was amused, ‘Not convinced? But if you read the book that you are holding in your hand, you will realize this fact. Srila Prabhupada owed every single success that occurred in his life to Lord Krishna. He wanted his entire life to be a prayer, an offering to Lord Krishna.You were wondering what Srila Prabhupada had achieved in his life. If you could see from my point of view, you would realize that he had achieved the most precious, the most coveted treasure in the entire Universe; pure devotional love for Lord Krishna. There is a book that dates back to over five thousand years in which a dark-complexioned King proclaims to His friend, that having once achieved this treasure, there is nothing else to be sought! In short everlasting, permanent success and happiness...’The atheist in Rohit was not satisfied. He complained, ‘But why can’t I develop virtues like Srila Prabhupada without having faith in God?’Mr Murthy shrugged his shoulders, ‘You could try it. On my part, I just told you Srila Prabhupada’s secret formula. But I will also tell you that in my eighty nine years, I have not met a man who has reached anywhere near the stature of Srila Prabhupada without having faith in that Supreme Being.It is believed that God is considered the very source of all these virtues. So if you wanted to acquire some of them, why not approach the Source Itself? That’s what Srila Prabhupada did.'Mr Murthy looked at Rohit in the eye and continued gravely, ‘Faith in God is a magical thing, Rohit. Even a little Faith allows you to perceive things that you never did before, think and act in ways that you never did before. The virtues that you talk of; if you have Faith, Lord Krishna Himself will sow the seeds of these virtues within you and develop them in you.There are many books on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on Faith and Lord Krishna. You could try reading them.You could do one thing. Just as an experiment, you could try using Srila Prabhupada’s formula and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, you could always go back to where you are.And with that my young friend, I will take your leave. I wish you all the best.’They shook hands and Mr Murthy began to walk away. But he paused after a few steps, turned to Rohit and said, ‘There is a beautiful temple very close by from here. Take a right at this traffic light and then the first left. I am going there myself. You could come there if you wish. Just for the sake of it. It might change your life. Hare Krishna!’Rohit watched Mr Murthy walk away. He felt dizzy with all that he had heard. For the next half an hour, Rohit was lost in thought. He began to wonder, should he pay heed to Mr Murthy’s suggestion and start to develop faith in God? And would it help him develop virtues like Srila Prabhupada?Hare Krishna. The words played over in his mind. He considered the idea of Faith in God. He began to think, Why not try it? After all it wouldn’t do any harm. He picked up the biography intending to read it later. He also decided to get some books on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and see what they were all about.It was at that time that his thoughts were disturbed by a sound. He turned to his side. A beggar woman and her child were sitting a couple of feet away from his bench. They were shivering in the cold. The woman was wrapped in a dirty and tattered sari and she was trying to shield her child from the cold. He vaguely remembered seeing someone sitting there when he had first sat down on the bench.As he regarded them, he suddenly felt overcome by their pathetic plight and his eyes brimmed with tears. He moved towards them. The woman looked up at him, confusion in her eyes. He slowly took off his expensive jacket and wrapped it around her. He then dug his hand into his pocket and brought out a wad of currency notes. This he placed in the lap of the bewildered woman.He gently placed a hand on the sleeping child’s head and smiled, ‘तुम्हारे लिये...और तुम्हारे बच्चे के लिये...कुछ गरम कपडे लेना (for you…and your child…buy some some warm clothes).’ As the woman looked back at him with folded hands and smiled at him, her eyes streaming with tears of gratitude, an inexplicable, warm glow enveloped him. Savouring the moment, he turned to walk away.Rohit was surprised at himself. He wondered how he had not noticed the woman and her child when they had been sitting there all the time. He also did not understand what had come over him on seeing them and why he had behaved in that way.In a way he had never behaved before.In a...compassionate way.He stopped in his tracks and a shiver ran down his spine. ‘Even a little Faith allows you to perceive things that you never did before.…act in ways that you never did before.’ Mr Murthy’s words rang in his ears.He could not help looking back at the face of Srila Prabhupada on the book. The latter’s face seemed to smile knowingly and reassuringly back at him.The virtue of compassion….‘Lord Krishna Himself will sow the seeds of these virtues within you and develop them in you.’Rohit turned and started to walk the direction towards the temple Mr Murthy had mentioned. The fog had completely dispersed and the sun had begun to shine now. Rohit smiled to himself.He was slowly beginning to understand...
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  • Devotional service is the ultimate one for everyone....nice story
  • a great n inspiring story....very nicely written....
  • WOW!!!!!
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