Thursday, February 21, 2008

BHIM SAIN TYAGI -- World's Greatest Dad

This is me with my Dad,
Lt.Col. (retd) Bhim Sain Tyagi

The pic was taken exactly a year ago, in Feb 2007.

After ailing for about four months, let down by failed kidneys, undergoing dialysis twice weekly, swinging between despair and hope, my Dad passed away on the 6th of Feb. The cremation, the immersion of ashes in the Ganga, the Chautha – all that is over now. What is left is one huge hole. They say time will fill it by and by.
I had a very special relationship with him. Was the only one who lived close by and spent the maximum time with him.
I am sharing with you a note that I read at his Chautha – the prayer meeting for the peace of his soul – along with two of his poems, one in in English and the other Hindi (translated as “Autumn Leaves” on another page) .


His name may not be familiar to all for he kept a low profile although he did a lot more than many others. Lt. Col. Bhim Sain Tyagi retired from the army at the age of 48, an age when he thought he could contribute his best to the world, so he decided to pursue his studies. He enrolled in Panjab University's Dept. of Laws, received his Law degree, and practiced for a while. His aim was philanthropy, and he wanted to help the poor and needy, all those who were unable to afford the hefty fees that legal procedure demanded. Thus, after serving the armed forces for more than two decades, he began a career in social work, fighting battles for the less privileged.

Simultaneously, he floated a society for relief, education and service to the people and opened up a school in the Madras Colony adjoining the Panjab University. It was a success and very soon another school in a different area came up under his guidance. Then another and another. By the end of it, Col Tyagi, with the help of his society, CARES, was running as many as eleven schools for the children of migrant laborers and other poor sections of society. He would collect funds from the Red Cross, from Social Welfare Departments, from philanthropists and others who would willingly donate for a noble cause.

This was not all. Col. Tyagi had a passion for writing. While still in the army, sometime in the early ‘sixties, he had penned a few collections of short stories in English. Being equally skilled in other languages, he wrote verses and stories in Hindi and Urdu too. The earliest collection was "Usha and Other Stories". His love for his village Hathwala, in Haryana, is evident in his non-fictional prose "A Few Pages from the History of Haryana" and in his novel "Quicksand of Time". With "Bandar ke Panje" and "Braiy Ruksat" he established himself as a significant Urdu writer. While holidaying with in Mauritius, he wrote "Tales from Mauritius" and "A Bunch of Stories". He also contributed to the genre of children's fiction with his "Poems" for all ages. His Hindi and Urdu poems were published in "Zindagi Guldasta Bhi Hai". In October 2007 he published his sixteenth (actually he had lost count by then!) book, an anthology of poems entitled "Sardi ki Shaam" (Hindi). He did not go for any hype; he did not ask for publicity or recognition. Some discerning bodies however – like the Urdu Academy – took note of his work and gave him an award but it did not mean much to him for he believed in the idea outlined in the Gita – that one must do one's duty and forget about it, without hankering after rewards.
Firmly believing in the immortality of the soul, he was prepared for his final departure and would often quote the lines: “I have warmed my hands before the fire of life, / It sinks and I am ready to depart.” He had bequeathed his perishable body and its organs to the PGI. The Eye Bank came to collect his donation when the time came, just as it had collected the eyes donated by his first wife when she had died, way back in 1979.

There is no denying that Bhim Sain Tyagi belonged to a vanishing breed of intellectuals who believed in high thinking and simple living. Ask him a question and he would have the answer – a living encyclopedia, if ever there was one. He was also an active Vipassana practitioner; he – with his wife Sudha Tyagi – showed the path of meditation and enlightenment to many others groping in the darkness. Actively involved in the functions of the Maharashtra Mandal and the Tyagi Sabha of Chandigarh, he had a circle of friends whose lives had been touched by the sunshine of his presence, who loved him dearly and have gathered here to pray for the peace of his soul. The guiding spirit behind all those who knew him, he may not be present In person today but those we love never go away. They walk beside us everyday, unseen and unheard, look down at us and smile, still loving, still a part of this beautiful world made even more beautiful by their good deeds that light up our lives.

Excerpt from a poem written by Bhim Sain Tyagi:

The Eagle’s Death

‘Tu Shaheen hai, parwaz hai kam tera’....

One fine day, the king of skies, the Eagle,
Having flown, floated, swooped and turned
Having done the ‘kam’ assigned by God
Selects the peak, the highest ledge
Or a lonely branch of a barkless tree
By snow and storm long beaten dead
Alights on it, its wings widely spread

Then it slowly folds its tired, creaky, wings
-- Which takes some time. Having done that
It puts its beak in the feathers on its chest
And then it closes its old Eagle eyes.

The snow, the storm, the deadly things
That were waiting behind the rocks
Come and gently pat and nudge
Saying, “Well done! O King of Kings”

The body falls ahead by gravity
Earth to earth returns, grain to grain
But the spirit soars towards the sky
High, higher, still higher it goes
The King of Birds, the Eagle, flies again.

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