He said, “No, I am not rewarding him. I spoiled his clothes; I am simply replacing what I have spoiled. And he has not stolen. Intentions are just intentions. And even if he had stolen, what is wrong in it? In this whole village everybody is poor, only I am rich; so if they take something away, it belongs to them. From where have I got all my riches? – from these poor people. They work for me; they work in my farm, they work in my garden. Everything that I have…I don’t produce anything – I don’t go to work in the field, to cut the crop or anything; all these people do it. So if once in a while somebody steals, they are stealing their own things; I am not concerned in it.
He told me, “Don’t think about that man as a thief. That is not your business. And we enjoyed it, it was such great entertainment.” I said, “That is true, that we both enjoyed seeing him.”
The thief went on slipping into the corner, but the further into the corner he went, the more he was caught. He wanted to escape from the juice of the betel leaf, but he could not get out because that corner was just close to my grandfather’s bed. It was dark there, so in the beginning he was thinking that it was just accidental; but then he started slipping away and the spit started following him into the corner. Then finally he thought, “It is not accidental; that old man is spitting like a good shot. And the story he is telling is just to make me aware that he is awake: it will not be easy to steal anything.” So finally he had to declare himself He said, “I am here, and suffering. Now stop and let me go!”
My grandfather was such a good man and always nice and helpful to everybody; whoever came to him, he was helping. He would give money to people. If they had come for a loan, and they wanted to put something down as mortgage, he never accepted it. He said, “I don’t know – tomorrow I may die, then who will give you this mortgage back? You take the money. If you can manage to give it back, good. If you cannot manage, nothing to be worried about – I have enough.”
He never took those people’s signatures as proof that they had taken money. I told him, “You should have their signatures as proof that they have been lent money.”
He said, “It is not a loan, it is their money. They may be thinking it is a loan, but I am not thinking of it as a loan. So if they return it, good; if they don’t return it, there is no loss because I was never expecting them to. And they are so poor; how are they going to return it?”
Such a good man, a beautiful man, simply died. What was the meaning of his life? That became a tortuous question to me – what was the meaning? What had he attained? For seventy years he lived the life of a good man; but what was the point of it all? It simply ended…not even a trace was left behind. His death made me immensely serious.
I was serious even before his death. By the age of four I started thinking of problems that people somehow manage to go on postponing to the very end. I don’t believe in postponing. I started asking questions to my maternal grandfather and he would say, “These questions! Your whole life is there – there is no hurry – and you are too young.”
I said, “I have seen young boys dying in the village: they had not asked these questions, they have died without finding the answer. Can you guarantee me that I will not die tomorrow or the day after tomorrow? Can you give me a guarantee that I will die only after I have found the answer?”