Remembering Raghu bhai
February 8th marked the death anniversary of a dear brother, Raghu bhai. Those who knew Raghu, knew of his giving spirit, knew how he lived a full life and did every act with selfless love. Raghu Bhalla Makwana was a son to many maajis and kakas he served through Tyaag-nu-tiffin.
In remembrance of the beautiful soul, a special morning prayer was planned at the Gramshree Rudra centre and in the afternoon activities were planned with kids of the Ashramshaala. Ramesh bhai Vasava, who now conducts Tyaag Nu Tiffin service, invited me to come to Rudra Center for prayers that day. Various other people close to Raghu bhai were also there, including Jayesh bhai, a mentor to many, who led a short talk and prayer, Jyotsana ben who sang a bhajan/devotional song, Punit bhai (who photographed that morning), Beena ben (Raghu bhai’s fiancé who was an anganwadi teacher with Manav Sadhna before) and the maajis and kakas fed through Tyaag Nu Tiffin (there are about 5 original recipients of Tyaag Nu Tiffin that are still alive and served through the program).
Jala baa, an elder widow who knew Raghu bhai closely, opened the morning with expressions of missing him. I felt our hearts opened more after that. Ramesh bhai and Beena ben lit an oil lamp in front of a beautiful photo of Raghu bhai (courtesy of Punit bhai) that was draped in an orange marigold and white daisy flowers garland. Beena ben brought a garland of red and white rose flowers to put on the photo. Vermillion/sindhur paste was kept in a small bowl for people to apply to the photo.
Jayesh bhai spoke about the meaning of the name Raghu and he being with Ram now, and how some people worship statues, while others worship life and are blessed and fortunate to come across and meet beings that express divinity. He spoke about dil-ka-kaam/heart work and the bada dil-ability/big heart-ability Raghu bhai displayed in his work and connection with others— through the heart, regardless of language differences or organisational affiliations. Jayesh bhai’s words reminded me of some reflections I had myself witnessed while working with Raghu bhai.
Jyotsnaben shared, “It was a soulful time sharing when we were offering food, which when served with love is like Prasad (holy offering), to the elderly mothers & fathers. That time was about giving love and receiving blessings. It was not about sorrow, but it was about love, care and compassion. Raghu bhai did not die; instead he is living in everyone's heart with love.”
She shared a bhajan:
Aankho pavitra raakh, saachu tu bol,
Ishwar dekhase tane premal no kol,
Saty ejj parmeshwar baapu no bol,
Tara ma parmeshwar chhe tene shodh
Keep your eyes holy, always speak the truth
You will see God within all His lovely creation
Truth is God, These are the words of Bapu
Find God, He is only within you
In the afternoon, with the Ashramshaala children I had planned a reading, watching, and listening activity, about Raghubhai’s life. As a touching tribute of inspiring lessons connecting themes of love and respect, the activity fit the value of respect for the month of February that the centre was focussing on.
Varsha ben, the Ashramshaala coordinator and teacher, summarized a chapter called ‘The Warrior of Love’ from English to Gujarati from the book “What Can I Give?” about the life of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by one of his students/mentees, Srijan Pal Singh. The chapter seemed strikingly similar to what I had witnessed and wrote about as some key life lessons from the life of Raghu bhai.
We played the PowerPoint of still images and words to background flute music to the song Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram played by Pandit Ronu Majumdar.
[The PPT was graciously put to music and put on YouTube, courtesy of Abhishek Jana, a youth who knew Raghu bhai well and who offered to do this without me asking.]
One of Raghu bhai’s younger niece, Sangeeta, a student at the Ashramshaala, cried during it. We also played two YouTube clips, which friend Amit bhai had recorded and posted, of Raghu bhai singing bhajans/devotional songs.
In the end Varsha ben asked me if I’d like to share anything, as I had worked with Raghu bhai for about 9 months. I shared that if each of us took some lessons learned and implemented it in our own lives, it will be a tribute to the legacy of an inspiring person and in that way (as well as in others) the spirit of the person does not die. Even something small and simple like smiling more, connecting more from the heart-space, and putting the spirit/bhaav in our work, can be lived.
"The best portion of a good man's life: His little...nameless…unremembered acts of Kindness and of Love.” --William Wordsworth