God's Mathematics

Feb 9, 2005

Ranbir Singh seemed like a self-made man. Born in the city of Krishna -- Mathura -- he enjoyed talking about God, service and death. "When we leave, we leave with nothing; the poor of the world actually have much more than the rich; the right action is to act without any concern for the fruits." It was all music to my ears. :)

But considering that we were on a 20 hour train ride from Jaipur to Bombay, our conversation also spanned a few random things. Like my $6.43 watch from Walmart.

Ranbir liked my watch and later asked me how much it would be, if I shipped something to him from the United States. Turns out that one of his three sons would've loved it. I did my 43-rupees-to-a-dollar math and told him; he thought it was pretty affordable and was set to pay me for it. I told him he could just have it, and he refused, but our conversation was diverted somehow and we figured we'd get to it before getting off the train.

I was just saying enough to keep our conversation focused on dharma, and Ranbir was doing a fine job talking about it. :) Part way through, though, I started wondering about my watch and what I had offered. I just have a bad habit of spontaneously giving away things, but on second thought, I didn't really feel like parting with my watch; I mean, it had an alarm, it was super convenient, and it was actually kind of cool looking. So I made up various excuses about how Ranbir's son should really have a new watch and not mine.

Anyhow, the conversation went on and off. Guri, Viral and I were largely catching up. There was another retired uncle in our vicinity, who loved the Work and Its Secret pamphlet by Vivekananda that Viral gave him. It was a cool little corner of dharma, on this Jaipur Express train.

We all went to sleep, prepared to wake up before our 8AM arrival.

At about 5AM, I woke up wondering about my watch again. I mean, gee-whiz, here I am trying to be selfless and I can't even let go of a watch! It wasn't the watch, actually, but rather my mind making up all these reasons why this wasn't really an act of service. I closed my eyes, trying to go back to sleep.

Right then, I heard a click. Non-chalantly, I looked around to make sure no one was taking off with our luggage. :) It ends up that Ranbir had accidentally hit the night-light switch. Instead of some grumble, he mummbled "Hare Kishan" (Praise to Krishna) and went back to sleep.

I mean, who wakes up in the middle of the night, and grumbles God's name. Must be God's man.

After waking up, we all hurried to pack-up. Ranbir never brought up the watch but right as he was about to leave, I unstrapped the velcro off my wrists and handed him the watch. He smiled and was really thankful. To reciprocate the gift, he started to write down his address and telling me how if I'm ever in Jaipur, he would take full care of us in every which way.

In the spirit of service, I reminded him of our conversation about God's mathematics. I told Ranbir that we should just treat this as a human to human interaction and leave to "God" to take care of the rest. And in that sense, it was best not to exchange contact information.

A little shocked and a little choked up, Ranbir was a little speechless. But he knew what I saying, that we are all just instruments and that all he could really offer each other were kind blessings from the heart.

With baggage on his shoulders, Ranbir folded his hands for a silent prayer. With his eyes tilted upwards, he poetically said in Hindi, "Dear Lord, I pray that you make us meet at least once more in this lifetime. Dear Lord, I pray to you again that you make us meet at least once more in this lifetime."

And we parted, fully knowing "God" will take care of the mathematics just as we take care of the smiles.

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

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