Sep 24, 2013

"Redemption" from Sermons in the Stroms

Once I had to go to Phandarpur, the most prominent place of pilgrimage in Maharashtra in the company of Dadaji.
We started from Bombay. As Dadaji had to make some payment in Phandarpur, he had carried Rs. 2,200/- with him. We reached Phandarpur late in the evening and straightaway went to the mutt where Dadaji usually halted during his visit to that place.
With all its popularity, even to-day Phandarpur is very dirty and there isn't sufficient and suitable lodging facilities.
Next day morning, with just sufficient clothes for bathing we went to the nearby river Chandrabhaga. Bathing over, we decided to go to the temple of Vithoba with wet clothes on. With many, it is a sanctimonious sentiment and at some places it is a general rule that one should enter the temple only with wet clothes on. We spent about half an hour in the temple and returned to our mutt.
On changing his clothes, Dadaji found his costly watch and a gold-cap Parker pen missing. They were stolen while we were away. Carefree as he was, Dadaji did not give much weight to the loss.
A little later, we went to the place of his associate. Dadaji made some payment there and we left for the station to entrain for Bombay. Somehow, on that particular day, the train was to arrive late by 2 1/2 hours. As such, we seated ourselves in the waiting room, in expectation of the train.

From the waiting room we saw a gentleman pacing up and down the verandha; he appeared to be one of the intending passengers like us. The observant eyes of Dadaji saw what looked like a gold-cap Parker pen clipped to the pocket of that gentleman. Though anyone could possess such a pen, yet, Dadaji's curiosity urged, him to make sure if it wasn't his own lost pen.
Going upto the gentleman with an outdrawn pocket-diary, Dadaji politely asked the pacing passenger to allow him the use of the pen for a while. The gentleman readily obliged. With his name over it, Dadaji found that it happened to be his own. With an unassuming surprise— Dadaji still more politely told that gentleman that it was his lost pen and wanted to know how he came by it. 'Well, Sir,' said the gentleman, 'you may take it— it is yours for the saying.' Dadaji- thereupon produced written references testifying to the fact that the name on the pen was verily his.
Thereafter, the gentleman informed us how he had purchased the pen for Rs. 15/- from a boy that morning. Dadaji there and then paid him three fivers. As that gentleman was also to catch the same train that we were waiting for, and with the recovery of the pen, the chances of getting back the watch also appearing to be bright, Dadaji requested the gentleman to accompany us to the mutt.
The gentleman consented and we three reached the mutt. The Manager was informed of the theft and was asked to muster all the servants of the mutt as it was suspected that it was one of them who must have done the stealing. When everyone came, the gentleman, unmistakably pointed out the boy who had sold him the pen.
Others were dispersed and the Manager handed over the boy to us for interrogation. On being told by the boy that he had sold the watch for Rs. 35/- to a Pan-wallah, we all followed him to the shop. At first, the shop-keeper outright denied having purchased any watch from the boy. But, faced with the prospects of a Police search and inquiry, he admitted having bought the watch and informed us that he had sold the same to a Hotel owner for Rs. 80/-.
All of us went to the Hotel and the watch was also got back. Dadaji paid Rs. 35/- to the Pan-wallah, who, along with the gentleman who had purchased the pen, went his way.
In reply to our question, the boy told us that his name was Dhondu, aged 18 years and that he was in the employ of that mutt since eight months. From his looks and talks, he appeared to be a boy of refined manners. On being asked as to why he did the thieving, with tears rushing in his eyes, he told us that his aged mother was dangerously ill and that fearing that the treatment of his mother would suffer a stoppage if he did not forthwith pay up the outstanding bills of the Doctor, Milkman, the Grocer and the Fruit vendor, he stole the watch and the pen with a view to raising enough money through their sale.
Having failed to secure timely help from other sources, in a desperate bid to keep his ailing mother's medical treatment in continuance, Dhondu was impelled to steal.
Wanting to check-up the correctness of what he told us, we asked to be taken to his house. On the way, the boy appealed to Dadaji not to say anything about the incident to his sick mother, as he feared that, hearing of it would immensely shock her and might even accelerate her death. We were conducted to a house and in the space beneath the staircase thereof, lying on an uneven cot, we found a frail figure of an old lady really too very sick.
We were moved by the sight. Dadaji made some casual queries about her then condition, pulled out his wallet and gave the boy a sum of Rs. 25/- and told him to take care of his mother. He was also introduced to Dadajj's friend in Phandarpur, so that ready help may be available to him whenever necessary. Finally, Dadaji gave his Bombay address to Dhondu and asked him to meet him(Dadaji) in Bombay soon after, his mother got well. Dadaji intended to employ him.
After about 3 weeks or so, Dhjondu lost his mother. Thereafter he went to Bombay and is since then one of the most trusted servants of Dadaji. Dadaji got him married and Dhondu to-day is a respectable father with two charming children and a virtuous wife.
Ordinarily, in the same situation, vast many of us would have made the  boy  face a Police prosecution and a sentence of a jail term by a Judicial Court. In consequence whereof, with a social stigma of a jail record, Dhondu wouldn't have been wanted by anyone and himself unable to do  anything honest for subsistence, he would have been forced to take to crime again only to finally become an incorrigible jail-bird.
While the Judicial Courts sentence offenders only once and only for a given period for any single offence, the society relentlessly punishes them forever by never giving them an opportunity to lead an honorable life.
Another wise attitude of the Courts that is highly worthy of emulation is that, even if the person in the docks happens to have previous crime records, yet, the Courts proceed with the case before them entirely on the assumption that the accused is as innocent as a new-born babe. Likewise, in our dealings with persons with a bad past, we should not be prejudiced or pre-conceive that they won't improve. In their place we ourselves would want to be given a chance for self-correction.

Whatever may be the use of Jail punishments as reformative or deterrents, it is not an uncommon experience that with little magnanimity of heart and psychological tackling the society can retrieve and reclaim a very large number of our fallen brethren who are forced to take to crime.