20 Apr Lightening Lamp – Bhavanbhai Patel 1932-2004
The following blog is slightly different to the rest. It is about my late dear grandfather who passed away in 2004. He was a warrior, making a difference with his charitable heart. The following story about my grandfather was written by a lovely man late Dadubhai Patel whom worked closely with my grandfather on his mission to set up a charity in Gujarat to save sight. The impact of my grandfather’s work has effected thousands over the years in Gurjarat, Surat and till today is still remembered for bringing vision back to many who simply could not afford treatment. He is my biggest inspiration to follow your dream and achieve your vision.
Shri Bhavanbhai Patel was a person with an exemplary character and displayed through his actions a total dedication to the cause of service to mankind. In the earlier days of his life, he was harbouring an ambition to make a good living and harnessed his adventurous spirit to venture, go abroad to earn plenty of money. “Success goes to those who dare and act”. His daring act of treading an unexplored avenue of life in his youth favoured him in fulfilling his cherished ambition and he could amass wealth. He was so deeply involved in making money that nothing else came to his mind.
However, a queer stroke of fate awakened his inner soul whose voice directed him to shift the focus on his life on some noble cause. Our poet laureate Narsinh Mehta has rightly said in one of his poems that all the efforts and penance to realise a goal are in vain until your inner soul is awakened and you have known thyself. The noble soul enthroned in his heart, on being awakened by the LORD OF FATE inspired him to divulge in his heart his earnings to launch some acts of benevolence aimed at doing good to a large section of humanity and he followed that dictate of his inner voice in letter and spirit all his life thereafter.
History of the lives of great souls reveal that there is always some enlightened soul or an eye-opening event that is at the back of a shift in the goal and path of life of a person. It happened in case of Tulsidas, Surdas and Swami Krishnanand Saraswati in his life on the other side kindled in his heart that flame of service to mankind. As a result, he diverted a substantial successor to the poor and needy through organisation and conduct of surgical camps for operation of cataract of eyes and also of piles. Once he plunged himself in the pursuit of this noble cause, he never looked back even at the moment of his demise.
Shri Bhavanbhai was blessed with a loving and understanding wife Kusumben, who not only supported the actions of her beloved husband but also actively co-operated with and participated in them. Both of them together received the patients in the medical camps with a smiling face and with a feeling of compassion in their hearts, witnessing both of them constantly moving hither thither looking after the care and needs of the patients in the camps, was a heart-moving sight.
A true devotee of Swami Krishnanandji, Shri Bhavanbhai was a pillar of strength to Vishwajyoti Ashram at Vadodara since all the medical camps he funded were organised under the aegis of the Ashram. He had an immense love and abiding faith in me. His passing away is an irreparable loss to the Ashram and a personal loss to me.
I ardently wish that the commendable acts of social service initiated by Shri Bhavanbhai might be continued to be conducted by his son Atul and Preeti, life partner of Atul. The tradition should continue. I have complete faith that Atul will not belie my hopes in view of the noble cultural values his parents have inculcated in him. I, on my part, pray God that he may bless Atul and his wife with inspiration and spirit to follow the footsteps of Shri Bhavanbhai and fulfil his last wish.
GOD BLESS THE DEPARTED SOUL
January 26, 2005 – Dadubhai Patel
Vishwajyoti ashram, Vishwamitri, Vadodora 390 011.
SHRI BHAVANBHAI PATEL – A DEDICATED BENEFACTOR
“Lives of the great men all remind us, we can make our life sublime”. It is said, “some people are born great. Some achieve greatness while greatness is thrust upon some people.” Only those of the great men are at the zenith of greatness who have achieved greatness by virtue of their dedicated selfless service rendered without expectation of recognition or reward in any walk of life that benefit a large section of humanity. Their life is outstandingly exemplary to inspire others of similar status and stature to emulate the path of service they have treaded.
Life of a human being whether great or ordinary is beset with dualistic characteristics such as pleasure and pain, success and failure, concord and discord, laughter and sobs, likes and dislikes, love and hatred, hopes and despair, and so forth. Life moves on following the path laid out for a human being by the Lord of Fate and has to face and combat this duality of mental state and also the events responsible for arousing this state. It is said that no living creature has the ability to violate the path laid out for it by Destiny, nor does it have the power to alter or obliterate what has been destined for it by the Lord of Fate. Amidst this sort of life of a man, there are some blessed souls who by a queer stroke of Fate happen to come across almost inadvertently, events or realised and saintly souls that prove to make the turning point in their life. The sight of an old man, a disease affected person point in the life of Prince Siddharth who transformed himself into Lord Buddha/ Likewise, the every first meeting of Narendra with Swami Ramkrishna Paramhans gave us the most renowned saint Swami Vivekanand.
Miracles of the kind do happen in the world even in modern times as is evident from the life of Shri Bhavanbhai Patel in respect of whose sacred memory this book is published to serve as a torch-bearer for others in position similar to his to adopt and perpetuate the path of selfless dedicated service to mankind.
Bardoli as a town in the Surat district of Gujarat State in India hardly needs any introduction to Gujaratis settled anywhere in the world and also to those of the foreigners who are familiar, even at a fringe level with the history of the struggle for independence of India. It is the town where Mahatma Gandhi launched his first non-violent non-cooperation movement against the British rule in India to fight for justice to the farming community against unjust land revenue levied on them. It marks the land from which Sardar Patel infused in the sons of soil a sense of steered the moment to a successful end. The land of the town of Bardoli, and for that matter, that of the whole of Bardoli Taluka has been blessed by great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel and as a result the people residing there have imbibed in them the qualities of courage and compassion. They are courageous enough to tread a path of adventurism to explore new avenues of earnings to make and to undergo any degree of hardship deep down in the corners of their heart a feeling of sympathy for others, especially less fortune, a characteristic of sharing the happiness and miseries of their fellow beings and a tendency to sacrifice their wealth and energy to be of help to the needy. These noble characteristics of the sons of the soil have been amply rewarded by Nature by bestowing upon the land abundance of prosperity. Shri Bhavanbhai Patel was born on June 17, 1932 in the village of Kharvasa of Bardoli Taluka. His father Shri Dayarambhai Patel was a farmer who made his fields and also in rearing the cattle has paid him a handsome dividend to enrich his life and that of the members of his family. Shri Bhavanbhai spent his childhood as well as youth in his native village where he earned his primary and secondary education and helped his father in the practice of agriculture, the ancestral vocation of the family.
The routine monotonous life of a rural farmer did not satisfy his inner urge to tread a path that led him to develop himself mentally and materially. He felt suffocated especially during the season in which there was no farm-work to be done. True to the tract of the community he belonged to -namely the Patidar community-as also that of the tract he hailed from, Shri Bhavanbhai was fired with an inspiration and enthusiasm to venture on plunging in a profession that helped him satisfy his volcanic aspiration to achieve prosperity in life. He, therefore, went abroad while he was in the prime of his youth and settled in the city of Bradford in England during the mid-fifties of the last century. He worked as an employee in a bus depot during the early period of his stay in Bradford. Later on he realised that starting a business establishment of his own was the only alternative if he were to prosper enormously if he were to prosper economically and thereby help his family and other kith and kin to be happy mentally and materially. Shri Bhavanbhai, therefore gave up his job in consequence of this realisation and he purchased a house for residential purpose for his family and himself. This was some time in the year 1971-72, almost a little over a decade and half after he set his foot in England. He started his business shop of selling various essential articles in retail in front portion of the house, which was converted in a shop. This little enterprise flourished in a course of time and started fetching him handsome monetary returns.
People in and around Surat in Gujarat are conniusers of good food and are well known for their preparation of mouth-watering Gujarati dishes for snacks as well as for dinner. Shri Bhavanbhai thought of exploiting his knowledge and skill of culinary art to expand his business and started a shop for selling eatables for snacks, this little enterprise helped him to add to his income. However, he still needed more money to ward off his dept he had incurred in raising loan for the purchase of the house and for launching his business enterprise. Patidars of Gujarat are noted for their industrious nature. They are undeterred by hard work, physical or mental. Shri Bhavanbhai himself being a Patidar, worked as a taxi driver at night to augment his income and thus he could ward off the dept in course of time and prospered financially.
Sweet is the use of adversity. Shri Bhavanbhai had to undergo untold hardships before he could achieve his cherished dream of making himself and his family economically happy, while he was breathing a sign of relief, a noble thought sparked off in his mind. He felt that no Gujarati landing in Bradford with a view to settle in life there should be required to face and combat the adversities he had to face and struggle against. He, therefore, began lending his helping hand to any Gujarati who needed any kind of help. It is said that rendering help to the needy was an attribute that Bhavanbhai had inherited from his ancestors; it was almost a family trait as it were. The difficulties he had to pass through in the initial stages of his life in Bradford, England has helped the spark of a noble thought to ignite a fire of selfless services to the needy in his heart.
A noble deed or campaign gets momentum only if there are supporting hands associating themselves in the task. Shri Bhavanbhai was lucky enough in this respect since he could get strong and substantial support in his voluntarily undertaken job of rendering help to the needy from his wife Smt. Kusumben who was Bhavanbhai’s co-trader on the path of duty, in pursuance of the Indian tradition of a housewife. True to her name, she had a heart as soft as a flower unstained support rendered ungrudgingly o Shri Bhavanbhai by his wife Smt. Kusumben helped Shri Bhavanbhai to widen the scope of his selfless service both in extent and depth. Both of them together formed a couple any Gujarati could count on for help since both of them had kindled in their hearts a flame of burning desire of being helpful to others.
There is a famous verse in Sanskrit, which reads as below:
‘Vidya vividaya, Dhanam madaya
Shaktihi paresham paripidanaya
Khalsya Sadhor viparitmetat
Gnyanaya Danaya cha Rakshanaya’
This verse distinguishes between a villain and a saint. It says that he uses knowledge possessed by a villain for indulgence in fruitless discussion; the wealth possessed by him is used in satisfying his ego while the strength possessed by him is used for torturing others. In contrast to this, all the three entities namely knowledge, wealth and strength possessed by a gentleman are used by him, respectively for imparting knowledge to others for enlightening their lives, charity to the needy and protection to the weak.
Shri Bhavanbhai and Smt. Kusumben followed this dictum in letter and spirit and used substantial part of their earnings for charitable purposes involving selfless services to mankind. There lay the greatness of their respective personality, which reflected the quality benevolence imbibed by them. In course of time the circle of acquaintances, friends, well-wishers and admirers of Shri Bhavanbhai and Smt. Kusumben widened because of their generosity in helping others and their charitable work. Their family also expanded and they were blessed with two sons, Atul and Shailesh, and two daughters, Ranjan and Lata. All these four members of their families have footsteps of their parents. Following the footsteps of their parents, they have been carrying out charitable work aimed at service to mankind with managing their respectable business, except the younger son Shailesh who, unfortunately, is no more at present.
It was during the early eighties of the previous century, that the most revered Swami Shri Krishnanandji, a descendent of a royal family of a State in Rajasthan and one who, after reigning his job as a high court judge had renounced all his worldly possessions taken to Snyas was touring the world over for carrying on his mission of service to mankind simultaneously with inculcating spiritual values among his devotees. He was in England during that period and was a frequent visitor to the residence of Shri Bullubhai Patel in Bredford. His activities involved gathering the people for mass prayer delivering group-talks and discourses on Indian culture and spirituality, group singing of psalms-religious songs sung in worship to God and inducing his followers and devotees to launch and carry out collectively activities and programs designed to serve humanity at large through rendering them succour to redress their sufferings from various ailments. His work was, in a way, a judicious combination of social and spiritual work carried out selflessly for mass uplift and was dedicated to god through the medium of services to man, in consonance with the dictum “Service to Man is Service to God”.
One day Shri Ballubhai Patel introduced both Shri Bhavanbhai and his wife Smt. Kusumben to Swami Krushnanandji. This introductory meeting of souls wedded to service to mankind marked the beginning of a shift in the thoughts and course of action of Shri Bhavanbhai. The bonds of his association, affection and regard for Swamiji came to be strengthened day by day and both Shri Bhavanbhai and Smt. Kusumben played hosts to the revered Swamiji quite frequently during the later subsequent visits to Bradford.
It was some time in 1981 that fate cast a cruel blow to Shri Bhavanbhai and his family. Shailesh, the younger son of Shri Bhavanbhai passed away while he was very young. The whole of the family was grief stricken and Shri Bhavnbhai and his wife were heartbroken. The pangs of agony and anguish were so severe that Shri Bhavanbhai’s life was greatly disturbed and dislocated from the usual pattern. Swamiji heartily consoled Shri Bhavanbhai and lessened his shock and grief by diverting his mind to indulge in-group prayers. The frequent visits of Swamiji to the residence of Shri Bhavanbhai and consequent activities of mass prayers and informal dialogues on religious and spirituality worked miraculously not only in lessening the intensity of his grief but in understanding the hard facts of life. In course of time Swamiji persuaded Shri Bhavanbhai to organise an eye-camp in his home village Kharvasa in memory of his deceased son Shailesh and take help of Shri Dadubhai Patel of Vishwajyoti Ashram at Vadodara for this purpose.
Shri Bhavanbhai readily and willingly accepted the suggestion Swamiji made. Shri Dadubhai Patel had vast experience of holding medical camps and was a seasoned organiser in this respect. Thus an eye-camp was held at Kharvasa with generous donation from Shri Bhavanbhai and with active co-operation of Shri Dadubhai. It was a pleasant and appealing sight to see Shri Bhavanbhai moving here and there in the camp to look after the various services offered at the camp and to inquire about the welfare of the patients. True to the spirit and duties of a co-trader on the path perused by her life partner, Smt. Kusumben also associated herself whole-heartedly and with profound dedication in the service of the patients at the camp. Her special role in the camp was that of Ceres, the goddess of corn (food) – Devi Annapoorna. She looked after the preparation of the food for the patients and their relatives accompanying them and served them food with a sense of service and dedication to the cause of providing succour and solace to the patients, of whom were very much moved by her display of love while feeding the patients. Both Shri Bhavanhbai and Smt. Kusumben were so much excited with the success of the camp and the relief the patients received that they almost took a vow to organise more and more of such eye camps in the future. Their innermost desire was to transform their native village Kharvasa into a place of pilgrimage for the sick to receive medical treatment to alleviate their sufferings from diseases of the eye and also of haemorrhoids (piles). Needless to say, the entire expenditure towards holding this camp was borne by Shri Bhavanbhai.
Shri Bhavanbhai was helped in the organisation and conduct of the surgical camps by service minded doctors like Dr. Ramniklal Doshi of village Chikhodara for operation of haemorrhoids, Shri Dadubhai Patel in matters relating to the organisation and management of the camp.
The resounding success of this camp and the relief extended to the ailing patients encouraging Shri Bhavanbhai and Smt. Kusumben to hold more and more such camps. They had advance in age and their business was managed and looked after by their son Atul now. They had enough free time at their disposal, their income had gone up and their earnings were through honest means. Besides, both of them nurtured compassion for the poor and needy in their hearts, their views on charity were influenced by the preaching of Swami Shri Krishnandji whose blessings both of them had received in every benevolent action they did. Hence, they decided to visit India in December / January every year and hold an eye camp in their village of Kharvasa out of a part of their income earned in England. This decision was almost an oath they had taken for themselves.
In pursuance of this Soloman oath, Shri Bhavanbhai had organised by now around twenty eye camps during the last twenty years. He always shunned publicity or social prestige for himself. The principle forces guiding him in his charitable activities were the preaching of Swamiji emphasising “Service to man is service to God”, the inspiration he derived through his dedication of Swamiji’s mission of selfless service to mankind out of compassion for the poor and in cooperation received from Shri Dadubhai Patel. The unstinted support he received from the members of his family in his benevolent recognition or reward was matchless and worthy of appreciation.
Behind holding an eye-camp which by now, total up to nearly twenty, Shri Bhavanbhai had also held seventeen medical camps for surgical operations of persons suffering from piles. He was helped in the conduct of those camps by the services of a surgeon Dr. Krishnanand Chitaniya just the way he was helped by the services of Dr. Ramaniklal Doshi, a well known ophthalmologist in Gujarat, in the conduct of the eye camps. Both these medical personages rendered their services without charging any fees-the act which speaks volumes for their generosity, their concern for the patients and their dedication to the medical profession. They deserve all the praise.
A unique feature of all the camps was the group singing of devotional songs by the girls from Bardoli on the night previous to the inauguration of the camp the next morning. This programme was held with a dual objective of commandment of any activity with prayer to God and to create a serene atmosphere for the patients to be at ease for the surgical operation to be performed the next morning. While all the medical camps and the blessing of Swami Krishnanadji and were help under the aegis of Vishwajyoti Ashram of Vadodara, some of them were graced by the visits of outstanding personalities of various fields in the State of Gujarat. Shri Dadubhai Patel was inseparably linked with all the camps to a successful end, the flow of money required for the camp came from Shri Bhavanbhai for the benefit of the people of his village, Shri Bhavanbhai also organised a Ram Katha in 2002 in Kharvasa.
Age began to tell upon the health of Shri Bhavanbhai and he was ailing with maladies linked with senility. The vigour which he possessed even in his sixties and which was evident in his movement during the camps earlier had dwindled and he became physically so weak that he was confined to bed, making him realise intuitively that he was passing through the last phase of his life in the middle of the year 2004. Never the less, his seal for organising the annual eye camp remained undiminished and he insisted upon the members of his family to see that the chain he had launched was not broken. He intensely desired from his heart of heart to see Shri Dadubhai before he breathed his last and so insisted upon his wife and son on sending a message to Shri Dadubhai to be by his side when he left for his heavenly abode. This was indicative of his love for Shri Dadubhai, his faith in him and the esteem with which held him in his life. Shri Dadubhai was on the horns of a dilemma when he received a message from Shri Atul, son of Shri Bhavanbhai to reach London immediately. Honourable Shri Naval Kishor Sharma, the Governor of Gujarat was scheduled to visit Vishwajyoti Ashram on September 4, 2004 to offer his good wishes to Shri Dadubhai on his entering the eightieth year of his life on that day and to have his lunch with Shri Dadubhai at the Ashram. On the other side Shri Dadubhai was greatly perturbed on receiving the massage regarding the last wish of his noble friend and benefactor, lying on death bed and was eager to leave for London at the earliest. By grace of God, the programme of Governor’s visit went through peacefully and Shri Dadubhai left Vadodora for London the very night of his eightieth birthday and reached there on September 8, 2004.
Shri Bhavanbhai was lying emaciated and unconscious on his sick bed in the hospital when Shri Dadubhai reached his bedside. No sooner did Shri Bhavanbhai catch a glimpse of Shri Dadubhai at his bedside than he regained his bed and embraced Shri Dadubhai affectionately. This was indeed a very touching sight for all those who were present there. Shri Bhavanbhai has mustered strength at that moment to speak to Shri Dadubhai and express his last wish of perpetuating the chain of charitable work of services to mankind with the help and financial support from his wife Smt. Kusumben and his son Atul. He had a sigh of relief when he did so and a few moments later breathed his last as a satisfied soul after he had exchanged a few words with his near and dear ones. A GLORIOUS AND NOBLE LIFE THUS ENDED PEACEFULLY.
Shri Bhavanbhai lived a dignified life and died a dignified death. A person of unique mettle, he was charity personified, He was blessed with having an understanding and affectionate wife lending boundless support and help to him in all his undertakings, be they his business or the medical camps. The mutual understanding and the spirit of cooperation, accommodation, adjustment and sacrifice which both Shri Bhavanbhai and Smt. Kusumben shared with each other contributed a lot to the upbringing of their children who held their parents in high esteem and ungrudgingly supported all the social activities their parents launched. The whole family was close-knit and peace and harmony reigned in their home. Passing away of Shri Bhavanbhai is indeed a great loss to Vishwajyoti Ashram of Vadodara in its mission of service to humanity at large and a personal loss to Shri Dadubhai.
Let us all join together in praying God to bless the departed soul and bestow eternal peace on him. Let us all pray together that God may give us the strength and sagacity to eschew the wisdom and virtues Shri Bhavanbhai displayed in his life as a dedicated benefactor and make own lives sublime. We pray God:
Lead us to the real (truth) from unreal (untruth)
Lead us to light from darkness
Lead us to heaven (the abode of nectar) from the jaws of death.
Shri Bhavanbhai has cast upon his son Atul a great responsibility while expressing his last wish. The responsibility of perpetuating the name and fame of Shri Bhavanbhai that now rests on the shoulders of Atul is indeed quite great and more important that one can imagine. He and the members of his family deserve our heartfelt sympathy and sincere wishes to help him fulfil this responsibility.
God bless the surviving members of the family of Late Shri Bhavanbhai who imparted vision to those who suffered from the loss of it, through the eye-camps he funded and organised.
I hope this was an inspirational read x