Since my childhood days, seeing suffering in others caused me great sorrow and I would try and do everything I could to help that person.
As I became older, this feeling continued to become stronger. Once we were going from Bengal to Jamshedpur. After 15 kilometres of walking, we would usually stop somewhere and make arrangements for food and rest. On this particular day we had stopped at a small village, where there were hardly any facilities. It was 12 noon and time for the midday meal. Some people from Jamshedpur were accompanying us. We were resting in a veranda of a house. Opposite to where I was sitting was an open field. A small girl of about three to four years in age was sitting under a tree. Wearing simple clothes, she had a broken pot and a torn jute sack in her hand.
I called her to me and asked, ‘What do you do here?’ She said, ‘During the day, I beg for food and eat it.’ I asked, ‘Then what do you do at night?’ She replied, ‘Nothing, I sleep under this tree.’ I asked whether she was afraid of the dark. She answered, ‘No, at night Bhagwan comes to me.’ I realized that there is something special in this girl, she had such a beautiful understanding at such a young age.
The thought arose in my mind that when this little girl grows up, what will be her future? I invited some people from the town and told them that, with their consent, I could take the girl to a city and place her within a good community. At that time Veerayatan had not been established. I told them that if they can give their approval in writing, then I would take her with me. They accepted my suggestion. I named the girl Pushpa. I asked Pushpa, ‘Will you come with us? We will find you a nice place to live.’ She got ready. She did not have any family. We cleansed her, washed her hair and dressed her in another set of clothes. She wore Pujya Bai Maharaj’s clothes. She had with her an aluminium vessel, some old clothes and a jute sack. We asked her to leave all these behind. However, she was reluctant to leave anything behind. This was understandable, I thought, as for such a long time these things had been her companion and perhaps leaving them was not so easy for her. Slowly, with time she will dissociate herself from them, but there was no need to worry about it at present. It transpired that within days, she began to trust us and left behind those items of her own accord.
Shrimati Madhuben, who was teaching in a Jain Pathshala in Jamshedpur, was present with us. She had observed the whole situation with interest. Financially, she was living a simple life. She herself had 3 daughters. She was educating them and cared for them. She said to me, ‘You have such good intentions for this girl, and you are doing so much for her. Can I also not do something for her? Would I not cope even if I had 4 daughters instead of 3?’ She decided there and then that she would adopt this child as her own.
She cared for Pushpa just as she would her very own child and fulfilled her responsibilities with a lot of love. Once grown up, she made arrangements for Pushpa to be married into a good family.
If every family can, in this way, care for a person in great need, then the lives of thousands of children would be transformed. Truly, people like Shrimati Madhuben, who extend a giving hand, are society’s true angels.