In the continuous and varied attempts to feel close to my deceased grandfather, I’d come to know that he was a very devoted follower of Swami Vivekanand. This was 7th grade, and we (my brother, nani (maternal grandmother) and I) were all packed up to spend our summer vacations at my Massi’s (My mother’s first sister) in Nagpur.
Like a little kid wanting attention, I was unintentionally pretentious. I packed the first book I found of him from my father’s collection to read over the 2 day train journey. Our berth neighbours were an old couple and a mysterious man who was silent for most of the trip.
I had two books actually. A short version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and Swami Vivekanand’s book, I don’t remember the name of.
Because As You Like It was shorter, I finished it on the first day. When I started the second, on the second day, I was interrupted by that mysterious man when I was on a page in the 20s. He said rather indifferently
“Go to page 84, find a piece of paragraph which has the word dispassion in it, read it a number of times, until you are able to explain what it means”.
I assented tacitly.
After reading that paragraph over and over again, I could only come up with an obvious definition. I replied with it, feeling like the weak defense team in an NBA match.
“Dispassion means lack of passio(n)”, I said.
I’d not even completed the ‘n’ in passion when he interrupted again.
“No, it doesn’t mean that here. Why don’t you keep that book down, and read it some years later from now”.
I was taken aback. The other berth mates, not knowing what he was implying the meaning to be too, kept silent. They just looked at me blankly, so did I.
I was embarrassed and dejected at my lack of knowledge. I did what he told. His voice was so audacious that it was hard to go against it. As a child who’d often do the things denied to him, though I closed the book down, I kept asking myself what it meant in that paragraph.
Ultimately, I gave up and ate then slept. Until my sophomore year, when I woke up, meditated and opened a chapter of Celebrating Silence where I found my answer.