My father's generosity

It is very hot in India, but since our bank used to serve many Europeans, my father was influenced by the European culture, and he always wore a real suit and occasionally a tie.

In the evening when he came home and took off his coat, I sometimes used to take money from his coat pocket: a few paise — much less than a few cents. I felt no need of asking him or telling him; I just took it. Whenever my mother caught me, she would always scold me.

Once I overheard my mother say to my father, "Do you know that he steals money?"

"What? He steals?" my father asked.

"I have seen him take money from your pocket," my mother said.

But my father just laughed and said, "My youngest son, my dearest son, has no right to take money from my pocket? Is that stealing?"

"What will happen if he starts taking money from others? I have to intervene before that happens," she said. She thought that if one day I stole from my father, then the next day I might steal from my brother, and the day after from somebody outside the family.

O God, for me even to think of stealing from others' pockets was impossible. But my father took my side. He said, "As long as he steals only from my pockets, I don't have to worry. He is my son, and I know that he will never take from others."

I used to take money quite often, but I never took very much. One day the thief was caught by the victim. My father asked me what I was doing. I said, "Oh, you are my father so it is all right!" My father only laughed and laughed.

One morning when he was planning to do something after leaving the office, he said to me, "Tonight I may not even come home, so the best thing is for me to give you two rupees now. Since I won't be here tonight or tomorrow, take these two rupees. You will need them." So my father gave me two rupees! That was at least twenty times more than I would ever have thought of taking in the first place.

This was the kind of father I had. He used to say to my mother, "Among our children, Madal is the only one who cares for material wealth. We have lost all our other sons and daughters. They all care for God, only for God, so they have gone out of our life. But I have all faith in this one. He is my true son."

My mother was so delighted that all her children were fond of the spiritual life. My father and mother at times used to argue about this. In reality, both my father and mother were extremely spiritual. But, unlike my mother, my father kept his spiritual life a top secret.

I also took money from one of my elder brothers from time to time. He was like another father to me — so full of affection. Otherwise, I didn't take money from anyone else except on special occasions, when I would ask my other brothers and sisters for a few rupees.

Four or five times a year there was a village fair. Before the fair I would go and ask my father for money. Then I would tie it up securely and put it in my pocket. Next I would beg money from my mother and brothers and hide that, too. After that I would go to my sisters with such a sad face, crying that I didn't have any money for the fair. My sisters would also get money for the fair from my father, but since they were older, they would get more than I did. They were always full of compassion, and they used to give me a large part of their share.

When I went to the fair, what did I do? You may find it hard to believe, but I would buy very little for myself — just some candy. I would use all the rest of the money to buy things for my family. When I came back in the evening after the fair was over, I would give them everything that I had bought, and they would get such joy. They were always so moved. After I did this a few times, whenever I used to cry and pretend that my father and mother had not given me money for the fair, my brothers and sisters would give me much more money than they had before. They gave me more than they kept for themselves because they knew that I would go and buy them things.

Later on my father showed me the height of his compassion and affection. He was a gentleman and very well respected all his life. For years and years a barber used to come every morning to give him a shave and occasionally cut his nails. But in the last few years of his life, he used to have the barber come only to give him a haircut. Even though he had enough money, he said that the barber's daily visit was something extravagant and unnecessary. Then the amount that he would have paid for these things, he put in a container and kept on a shelf for me. Quite often I would come and take this money from him. Sometimes I felt sorry because my father was getting old and he was going to all this trouble for me. Just to be able to give me more change, my father started shaving himself.