Training in ashram life
In the ‘Ashram’ (orphanage), we were required to wash our own clothes. I found it hard in the beginning because I had not learnt it in my young days. Slowly, I got used to it. If the clothes were even slightly dirty, the Superintendent would either fine us or give physical punishment. Students were terribly scared of the Superintendent on that account. Quite often, imposing fine or physical punishment spoils the minds of children instead of improving them. It arouses in them a feeling of malevolence and revenge. One could easily see such feelings prevalent in our Ashram. Students were seen using abusive language for the Superintendent and were rejoicing whenever he suffered any harm. On one occasion, the situation reached to an extent that the students switched off the electric lights and beat him up with 'chapals'. No doubt, that whole incident was unfortunate and deplorable but it was an indication of the widening rift between the students and our Ashram superintendent. Such shameful incidents would never take place in an institution where the relations between the students and the management are full of affection, cordiality and harmony.
There used to be annual functions at the Orphanage. Reputed persons from outside were invited for the occasion and many others formed part of the audience. The students staged plays and sang songs. They also gave musical performances and display of physical exercises. Those performances were very popular with the general public. Those who gave excellent performances received prizes. I was very fond of those annual functions. For several years, I regularly participated in those functions. I had a special aptitude and liking for dramas. It so happened that once an expert coordinator of the event was convinced about my latent theatrical abilities. He gave me a small role when I was quite young. I was asked to play the role of 'Karan Ghelo'. At another time, I played the role of 'Shivaji'. Yet another time, I played the role of Arjun in a dialogue between ‘Krishna’ and ‘Arjun’. It proved memorable for me as on that day; I received the prize at the hands of Lady Brabourne, the wife of Lord Brabourne, the Governor of Bombay. Shaking hands with me in the Western style, she had asked my name and praised me. That was a matter of great encouragement for me.
I also acted on stage when I joined the G. T. Boarding after leaving the Ashram. I played the role of a poet in a famous comedy drama named ‘Lagna no Umedvar’ (Marriage Candidate). It was written by the well-known Gujarati comical writer, Shri Jyotindra Dave. Had I continued cultivating that childhood aptitude and talent of mine, the result would have been something different. However, the course of my life somewhat changed in later days and as a result, that interest was not nurtured.
Even today, if we give up our narrow mindedness and take a somewhat broader view, the drama, the acting and the actor – that trio still exists. What else is life if not a great drama? The only difference is that the acting on the stage is illusory and artificial in a sense that the actor remains intact and untouched by his acts. In real life, it is not so. Acting in the drama of life strongly binds the actor with the ‘Samskaras’ of his ‘Karma’ and when the time comes, also releases him from those bonds. This acting is genuine and if the actor is capable, it can also be beneficial to him. It goes on till the last stage of perfection. Till that point is reached, the curtains of life and death continue to fall and rise, but the drama does not end. The same actor has to come back to play his part. There is no choice or alternative.