All through my childhood, my mother, who’s an exceptionally intelligent and sensible woman, narrated stories to me of extraordinary times faced by men such as Balgangadhar Tilak. The reason I write this piece today is because of a dawn of realization of how such casual story-telling times in my childhood has had a deep impact on the person I am today.

So, the story was that Lokmanya Tilak, who was also a teacher of Mathematics, was in the middle of a lecture. At the same time a messenger crashes in through the doors, panic-stricken and grief writ large over his face. He announces to Tilak that his son had passed away at home and that he should come immediately. Tilak, ever so calmly, explains to the messenger to go forth and that Tilak himself would follow only after he finished the duration of his lecture.

That was the story. And my mother always finished it by saying how Tilak was loyal to his thoughts and morals that even in face of a personal devastation of his son’s death, he gave his duty the first priority. And of course, Tilak has also written the “Geeta Rahasya”- a treatise on the Bhagwad Geeta. I have read the Geeta Rahasya in my childhood. But if you have read it, you might realize how scary it is! I always wondered how he could have managed to write like a critical analysis on something like the Bhagwad Geeta and also quote parallels and dissonances between philosophers from all around the world. I normally would go through the pages of the Geeta Rahasya; and more often than not, the pages would also go right through me!

But when I now put myself in Tilak’s shoes and think whether I would be able to do what he did, I draw a blank. I don’t know. Moreover I don’t know if I WANT to do that in the first place. Here, my logic prevails over “dharma” or duty. If I were a surgeon, in the middle of a life-saving procedure on a patient and this news were given to me, I WOULD say the same thing as Tilak did. Because there’s a life that could be endangered if I would sway with my emotion of grief and leave the patient in the lurch. But if I was a teacher and the news of a dear one’s death would reach me, I perhaps would excuse myself, knowing that this lecture can be delivered again without harm to anyone’s life, pride, interests or emotions.

Stories like Tilak’s were from a different time and sometimes I feel they are not relevant anymore to me. There is a way for stories to become legends and fables especially if they have happened more than a century ago. It’s right when it’s said that every knowledge has a time and place. Not everything can be relevant at all times; not even legends.