ll Hari Om ll
The name ‘ Ratnakar Shetty ‘ has always been associated with cricket administration. The Joint Secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2003, he is now its Vice President. Known to be an excellent Sports administrator and an equally good organiser, he talks about his views and feelings about Bapu in the following interview.
How and from whom did you get to know about Bapu for the very first time?
It was my professor, Sadhanatai Upadhye who spoke to me about Bapu. She was the Head of the Marathi Department in our college. We had always had a lot of respect for her.
I was very distressed and disturbed when my wife passed away. Sadhanatai had come to offer her condolences. She suggested that I see Bapu. I visited Bapu at his home near Shivaji Park. I did and I felt tremendously calm. I needed the peace. After this meeting, I began to sense a positive change in myself.
In 2004 the Indian cricket team was scheduled to tour Pakistan and I was appointed Manager of this Team. This was indeed a historic tour as our team was visiting Pakistan after 14 long years. The tours to Pakistan that preceded this one had not really been pleasant. Besides, at the time Pakistan was facing internal violence and strife. The security and safety of the Indian team was a matter of concern for one and all. So my responsibility in the situation was naturally vital and grave.
We set out on the tour and I felt the existence of a divine power with me – it was with me and it was guiding me at every step, at every moment. About 5-10 thousand cricket lovers from India were in Pakistan to witness this series. The Indian flag in their hands, they roamed the stadium very freely. They even walked outside freely. This had never happened in Pakistan. For all those who were worried about the safe conclusion of the tour, this was a significant event, an event to cherish. Karachi, the very city that worried us the most, witnessed huge crowds holding banners demanding the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan and that was truly something, to say the least. Everything went off “fine” like Bapu had said.
and then I just kept coming to Bapu. I cannot make it regularly to the discourses on Thursday. But I begin my day with a prayer, I begin the day by recalling Bapu to my mind. That is what assures me that the day ahead will be good. That is my trust. Moreover, I make it a point to attend all the functions and programmes in Bapu’s organization. I visit His home during the Ganpati festival. I get to see Him for a short while then. Though few, these moments are extremely important and enough to fill me with peace and contentment. It is after all faith that matters and faith alone that is most important, is what I feel.
What is it that appeals to you the most about Bapu and the general ambience?
What I like most here, is that there are no compulsions. We go to Bapu, we are blessed with darshan. Nothing is imposed on us, just nothing. The freedom, the liberty is what I like the most.
I see millions waiting their turn patiently and calmly in long queues to get darshan. I am aware of the deep faith they have in their hearts for Bapu. The chief reason as I see is that Bapu Himself practices all that He preaches. This has a profound impact on the ordinary person.
Tradition and age old custom hand down rites and rituals and people blindly follow them. To free people from the clutches of pointless rituals and misconceptions is not easy, to say the least. But Bapu does it all and mainly through His own conduct. I remember it was within merely two or three days of His mother’s demise that Bapu resumed His routine and schedule. He was of course grieved but then duty has to get its due and this was what Bapu conveyed and yet again by being the guiding example. The fact that He Himself is what he wants us to become, makes the difference; that is what I feel roots even more firm the faith that we have for Him.
There is yet another thing that amazes me about Bapu. Despite His huge following of millions, He has not made the slightest change in His life style. He even continues with His medical practise. I feel this must be quite tough for the common person could even expect miracles from Him! It cannot be easy to be in medical practice in these circumstances. But people do accept Him as a doctor! Bapu carries out both these roles successfully and that I find truly amazing!
What in your opinion, does Bapu’s spiritual thought and guidance have to offer to society?
Take the city of Mumbai for instance. What do we see? Every person is struggling at every step. This struggle, this strife spares nobody. There is strife at the family level, at the personal level too. People come to Bapu as they seek support and help in this situation of strife. They pray to Him. They may not be able to talk to Him personally but they trust that recalling Bapu to the heart will rid of pain, it will bring joy. During functions, I see people waiting for hours together in disciplined queues to get that one glimpse of Bapu for that one little moment and I feel and sense the unique kind of faith and love that they have in their hearts for Him. The seva activities and projects inspired by Bapu have had a deep impression on my mind. Bapu’s spiritual guidance does everything from uprooting misconceptions and blind faith to enhancing social commitment and fellow feeling.
Over the past few years, I have observed that the number of people coming to Bapu, of people believing and trusting Bapu is on a rapid rise. But what amazes me even more and what I feel is the most important is, this swelling crowd of followers has made no difference at all to Bapu. He neither wears a rosary around His neck nor has He felt the need to take to any so called symbols associated with spirituality. He is exactly what he used to be and what He has always and all along been. That is what He is and that is how He carries Himself and that is also what makes me like Him all the more!
ll Hari Om ll
Published at Mumbai, Maharashtra – India