Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jottings - Slice of life - 110 ( Karma yoga in action )

Jottings - Slice of life - 110 ( Karma yoga in action )
In 1967, On a beautiful April day in Cleveland, Dr Martin Luther king addressed High school students in Glenville. Towards the end of that memorable oration, Dr King exalted the quality of workmanship one should carry into any field of work that life chooses to lead us into. He said , in his own inimitable, passionate and measured style
“Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that nobody can do it any better.
If it falls your lot to be a street-sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.
Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.
Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music.
Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say here lived a great street-sweeper who swept his job well..”
In this single utterance, Dr King summarized the entire philosophy of work ethic so hotly debated across boardrooms, governments and societies all around the globe. It is as simple as this. Just do, what you have to do with every ounce of passion you can muster. The reward of such an attitude may not monetary, may not be upward social mobility, may not be pride and status among peers; but the amazing thing is : with such an attitude , one does not feel the lack of any of these. There is instead a tremendous sense of wholeness, peace and well-being which becomes the envy of others. This is karma-yoga, the art and science of work.
There is a big supermarket store near my home. Sometimes, i just go there to stroll the aisles, and secretly watch Ben work. Ben is a plump middle aged man with a booming voice and an exquisite smile on his face. He works at the billing counter, both as a manager and an operator. You could see him welcoming every guest with a warm, spontaneous smile, not the plastered perfunctory parting of lips in the name of greeting, bill every article from the billing lane with care, grace and value, ensuring the customer is engaged - talking to them about their purchase and wisdom in doing so , and finally before they leave get to know their names. He would do this unceasingly for hours together without any break. Young boys and girls working alongside Ben would look at the clock for their scheduled break time, fidgeting, but not Ben. He would keep going until someone politely reminds him to step out. I learnt few months ago that Ben was a Customer service Manager, a very high rank in that store. He needn't have to work at the counter at all. But he does it , because he could never watch a tiring team member and not step in to relieve them. He simply loves his job and this store. He has been working here for 15 years.
I have also watched him train youngsters. His standard line to them is “ Watch the item you are picking up. let your mind be where the hands are..” This is line that could have come straight from the Bhagavad Gita. Not only would he advice with a smile, he would physically be there for his agents, rattling away prices, help packing bags and simultaneously look around to see if anybody else needs help. He is a whirlpool of passion and energy touching everyone around him.
One day, not long ago, I visited the store at 12. 30 AM. I needed milk. Ben was there in the self service counter with a couple of boys assisting him. The Store was almost empty with few guests winding up their purchase
“Ben, what are you doing here so late..”
“Ahh, Mr Bala, the boys wanted to party tonight. I let them go. They must have fun, you see..”
“But, what about you Ben.. I saw you at 10 in the morning , and I see you again at midnight.. dont you need a break…?..
He laughed : “ I will Mr Bala. once I shut down in 30 minutes. To me work, rest and play are all the same thing. I dont distinguish and split..
I could only nod to his profound observation. I looked around and addressed the boys near him “ I dont know if you realize you are working alongside an enlightened man. A man, who understands the relationship between work and being. Just learn from him, be near him. it could be the greatest blessing of your lives..”
Ben quickly interjected with a guffaw “ Oh No!! Dont embarrass me Mr Bala. I am just a ordinary worker enjoying his job. Nothing more. Boys, you guys have fun….”
There was a customer searching for something, and Ben was off to help her out.
I walked out of the store smiling, fulfilled and wiser..
God bless…
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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