I was also amazed that he was always ready with the very things that I liked. He was a man of the law, so naturally he found a way. From school I would rush to his house, take my tea and sweets that he had bought, then he was ready. Even before I had finished, he was ready to listen to what I had to tell him. He would say, “Just tell me anything you like. It’s not a question of what you say, but that you say it.”
His emphasis was very clear. I was left absolutely free, with not even a subject to talk about, free to say anything I wanted. He always added, “If you want to remain silent, you can. I will listen to your silence.” And once in a while it would happen that I would not say a single thing. There was nothing to say.
And when I closed my eyes he too would close his eyes, and we would sit like the Quakers, just in silence. There were so many times, day after day, when I either spoke or else we stayed in silence. I once said to him, “Shambhu Babu, it looks a little strange for you to listen to a child. It would be more appropriate if you spoke and I listened.”
He laughed and said, “That is impossible. I cannot say anything to you, and will not say anything, ever, for the simple reason that I don’t know. And I am grateful to you for making me aware of my ignorance.”
Those two people gave me so much attention that in my early childhood I became aware of the fact, which only now psychologists are talking about, that attention is a kind of food, a nourishment. A child can be perfectly taken care of, but if he is not paid any attention there is every possibility that he will not survive. Attention seems to be the most important ingredient in one’s nourishment.
I have been fortunate in that way. My Nani and Shambhu Babu started the ball rolling, and as it rolled on, it gathered more and more moss. Without ever learning how to speak, I became a speaker. I still don’t know how to speak, and I have reached thousands of people – without even knowing how to begin. Can you see the amusing part of it? I must have spoken more than any man in the whole of history, although I am still only forty-nine.
I started speaking so early, yet I was not in any way what you call a speaker in the Western world. Not a speaker who says, “Ladies and Gentlemen.” and all that nonsense – all borrowed and nothing experienced. I was not a speaker in that sense, but I spoke with my whole heart aflame, afire. I spoke, not as an art but as my very life. And from my early school days it was recognized, not by one but by many, that my speaking seemed to be coming from my heart, that I was not trying parrotlike to repeat something I had prepared. Something spontaneous was being born, then and there.
The principal who gave me his watch, and brought this whole trouble about for you, his name was B.S. Audholia. I hope he is still alive. As far as I know he is, and I know far enough. I don’t hope against hope; when I hope, that means that it is so.