Elephantine Teeth

There is an old Hindi saying – Haathi ke daant, khane ke aur, dikhane ke aur (Elephants’ teeth…one set for eating another for display). I have no idea about the origin of this phrase…perhaps it might be as old as Adam and Eve’s progeny. But there is no doubt that the genesis of the phrase must have something to do with gentlemen who apply double standards in every walk of life. One set of norms, they apply for self and another which they try to impose on others.

There is an elderly gentleman who lives in my vicinity. He has retired from the government service about five-six years ago. He has tremendous faith in Hindu way of life and Vedic philosophy. So commensurate with his belief and ideology, he lives like an ascetic on the path of renunciation while still living with his family.

I have the privilege and honor of being his close relative because he is the father-in-law of a nephew of so and so relative of my wife’s maternal uncle’s brother-in-law. It’s natural that he is very affectionate to my wife for that very reason and he has also told me more than once that I am like his own son. So we respectfully address him as ‘Uncle’.

Uncle is spending a major portion of his time in meditation, worship and religious discourse etc. For this, he is always on lookout for worthy audience and devotees. He is equally affectionate to children, young and elderly people. The only condition is that the subject should a believer and patient audience.

On face, it appears ironical that his own children and grand-children lack the requisite zeal and fascination for his ideology. Perhaps they are well versed about the fact that too much anxiety for renunciation leading to nirvana doesn’t hold good for unmarried young and family persons. This is, in fact, more convenient and fruitful only after retirement in sixties and beyond.

On this subject, uncle and his family members don’t have any apparent conflict…rather they seem to be in agreement. This was once divulged with me by his thirteen years old grandson on an assurance of an ice-cream and chocolate.

The way universal values and ethics are taking a nose dive these days, perhaps there wouldn’t be a person so sorry and anxious as our hon’ble Uncle is for the entire humanity. He often tells me, “Son, it is the bad influence of sinful kalyug that people are fast losing faith in our religion, value system and Vedic philosophy. The nation and society are showing steep decline in moral values…and that it is only a matter of time that the entire humanity will be taken over by the evil forces.”

But a faint ray of hope still exists. His views on social awareness and moral values are indeed very original and well thought of.

I dutifully listen to his sermon, “Morality is the key of good conduct and discipline in life…Every soul should be honest and hardworking… It’s so necessary to renounce lust and greed for wealth, carnal desire and other worldly pleasures…And that meat and alcohol have such an evil influence that it is worth discarding forthwith.”

Uncle is of firm opinion that it is useless to even think of the upliftment of soul and consequent nirvana without purity of thoughts and conduct.

He is an ardent believer of the phrase – charity begins at home. That there remains no difference in his saying and doing, so he starts with all good practices at his own house. For illustration, he will frequently change his domestic help, washerman, milkman etc. or encourage them to seek change themselves by creating ideal situations so that he could serve humanity to the maximum extent during the life-time.

He will never bye a thing, even consumables like milk, fruits and vegatable, unless the shopkeeper agrees to give ample or at least token rebate. He doesn't have any selfish interest behind this but the underlying noble intention or motivation is to economise and save maximum money for the cause of poor and downtrodden class.

There is a sort of un-written pact between Uncle and myself. Perhaps he has taken a resolve to improve my both worlds. So I have to perforce listen to his sermons for hours together on mystic and complex subjects like how to get rid of evil practices, imbibe right ethics and values, Vedic scriptures, refinement of soul with ultimate goal of achieving nirvana. On such occasions, we have several rounds of tea so as to regenerate our energy loss. At times, biscuits are also invited so as to augment substantive energy levels, if the session drags too long.

I have heard uncle was very intelligent and sharp since childhood. He never showed undue interest or keenness in routine functions like passing every year in all grades. He was in favor of maximizing experience and knowledge. This takes time and a lot of patience even at parents’ level but after all having a solid base is so important and key for success in life…Deeper is the foundation, durable and stronger will be the building.

During life, Uncle has been very enterprising and successful. Thanks to his hard work and vision, he never gave any opportunity to his superiors to be dissatisfied, rather he always kept them ‘happy’. So he never faced any hurdle in promotions and getting appointments of his choice while he was in government service.

He remained a very honest person all along with a firm belief in ‘simple living and high thinking’, but what to do with the common man who despite repeated advice would always be keen to bring sweets, gifts etc., which he always accepted with great reluctance only to avoid their heart-break. After all, a kind-hearted person should always consider and respect sensitivities of others. So Uncle would not see anyone disappointed and, off and on, accept offerings in all forms as if it was only God’s will.

I always had this misunderstanding that to learn and acquire wisdom and knowledge, a person is not required to waste a life time himself to experience it. Instead one can learn a lot from others’ experience and wisdom in short time. Uncle always reprimanded me for my misconception because he has been proud that it is the age and long experience, and not the sunlight, which is responsible for the greying of his hairs. If a moron like me ever gets wisdom, I shall be grateful only to him.

It is often noticed that in every congregation of saintly persons, some atheist and unfaithful too sneak in like ‘a crow among swans’. Such undesired elements try to spoil not only present of a saintly person but they are also found to be taking unwarranted interest in their past too. Consequently, many inconsistent and irrelevant things keep on surfacing off and on.

A similar blasphemer is the son of an old friend and colleague of our uncle. Who often says, “Elderly uncle is actually a ‘painted jackal’…his talks of social service, religion and philosophy etc. are only a pretense or deception… Otherwise during young age, uncle was often in news for his amorous escapades…he would seldom do a work without immoral gratification...and that he had a lot of cravings for meat, alcohol etc. too.”

Even Uncle too doesn’t have any good opinion about this blasphemer. He considers him a ruffian and scoundrel sorts. Apparently, due to his low IQ, blasphemous attitude and obstinacy, he was perhaps unable to absorb Uncle’s Vedic philosophy, hence he continues with all kinds of irrelevant gossip about him. As such, our Uncle too has not taken any pledge for the reform and nirvana of every damn sinner.


A couple of days back, I came to know that uncle was not keeping well. Partly my occupation with office work and partly due to habitual lethargy, I could not visit uncle’s house to enquire about his health and well-being.

So yesterday, when I came back from office in the evening, my wife snapped with sarcasm, “You are so occupied with your work all the time that you don’t even seem to bother about our well-being. Incidentally, are you aware what have happened to our respected uncle? I am sure you are well aware that uncle is rather seriously ill these days. You should have gone at least once to enquire about his health and well-being. After all, on such occasions, people expect a lot from their near and dear ones for look after and care.”

On reaching his house, I realized it’s his old sickness which has raised its hood again. A few days back, his air conditioner had developed some defect. Consequently, he had to sleep whole night in verandah under extreme heat, dust and mosquitoes and he had to cancel his otherwise regular morning walk. It was certain that the hang over was likely to continue till it is known to every single friend and relative, followed by their sympathy visit.

In fact, uncle is quite prone to delusions as also very sensitive and fanciful about his health. Years back, he was reported to have high blood pressure and ever since he walks at least five to six miles daily without fail apart from taking regular pills. His family doctor, who himself is a heart and asthma patient, had advised him that inhaling fresh air through morning walk was of a greater benefit than even sanjivani. Ever since, whenever there is any break in this daily routine due to some inconvenience, uncle’s blood pressure suo moto tends to jump high. In such case, uncle becomes normal only when he is convinced that umpteen pills in lieu of sanjivani, vitamins rich enough milk, fruits and nuts have compensated the damage done to his health.

I consoled uncle handing over a glass of fresh apple juice, “Please have it, uncle…you will be alright soon. As a matter of fact, to me, you are looking quite fit as if you have taken off your morning kits just now.”

The gravity of Uncle’s discomfort was for more than my sympathy. So he simply ignored my ‘foot in mouth’ talk and moaned, “Vijay, my son, till I was in active service I never had any time for self. After retirement, I thanked God for relieving me from worldly duties and chorus…I thought I would spend remaining days in meditation, worship and social service. But now I find almost daily one or the other trouble keeps on bothering me. It appears destiny has only pain and sorrow in store during my old age.”

I was aware of Uncle’s attachment for life and that he advocates and aspires ‘to live for hundred years’. Perhaps the situation demanded some sympathy towards him, I don’t know why but instead of sympathizing him, my mind impulsively started working on a mischievous hypothesis.

I started in a humorous tone, “Uncle, I see no reason for you to be unhappy or anxious in life. After all there are only two possibilities…a man will either be healthy or unwell. If you were healthy, there was nothing to worry about but your illness too poses only two possibilities. Either you will get well soon or you will pass away.”

I realized for a moment through fast changing colors on Uncle’s face that he has not taken my dialogue very kindly. Yet I don’t know what prompted me and I continued rather passionately, “In the latter situation, there are again only two possibilities. You will either go to heaven or to hell. You are indeed a saintly gentleman and I have no doubt that the doors of heaven are open for you. But God forbid, even in case you are compelled to go to hell, you should not worry. If you recall even Dharmatma Yudhisthir was required to have a feel of hell for a while for a sin committed during life. Rest assure, you will meet so many friends and relatives there that you wouldn’t have time to ever worry about.”

Perhaps I would have continued for some more time with my utter non-sense but for the surprise and shock caused by furious uproar coming out from Uncle’s throat. And then I realized I had committed blasphemy and the sin of breaching the strict no entry zone.

Uncle shouted at me, “What rubbish! You are mocking me…you think I’m a child, even your father would be of my son’s age. Here I’m struggling between the life and death, and you are deriving pleasure making a fun out of me!”

His strong breadth under the silk linen was a clear indication that uncle’s anger has crossed all boundaries. Then with some controlled voice he uttered, “Due to my affection with Ramola (my wife), I used to see and talk to you also. I thought you are a gentleman but now I find there is no difference between you and Gajanan.”

Now I was really amazed. I have mentioned about Gajanan whom uncle has been honoring with the titles of ruffian, scoundrel etc. Things had really gone bad and out of the hand too…I quietly left for my house in jitters.

Those who know me, they also know well I have no dearth of moral values and ethics, and a lot of goodwill and patience. Besides I am also generally known for a cool and well disposed temperament. But I don’t know why I didn’t have even an iota of shame or repentance on this incident. I was, in fact, feeling very light as if an earthen pitcher was getting filled drop by drop for long and due to a momentary flip, it had fallen into pieces draining out its contents.

Now I think it’s good that we are not in Satyug era when words of muni(s) and saint(s) had instant effect. Otherwise one doesn’t know what curse would have fallen on me by that angry outburst of uncle. Perhaps I would have gone Nahush way and consequently I had to wait for ages for descendants like Pandavas to release me from his curse.

But this was not the end of the story. By following day, Ramola was fully aware of the graphic details of my sinful deed. Now hanging like Trishanku between the uncle’s resentment and my wife’s Durwasha like wrath, I am sincerely pondering which God or Godess I should worship to come out of this imbroglio…


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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