Emperor of Air
"Is it luck that you've found the right thing that allows you to feel like you are at all times being your best person? Because one can go through life and be the best person one can, and always choose the good thing to do, the right thing to say, the compassionate thing. But at the same time, I sit at my desk every day, and I'd like to be expressing myself from my heart always in my writing. But I have to write some stories I don't care about to earn a living. How do I bring together what I want to do and what I have to do?" Shankar seemed to sharpen, more on his ground now. He summarized the sum of my ramblings:
"Are you saying that in your business you are sometimes asked to do things which are not right?" I thought about it.
"Basically, yes," I said.
"If you stick to truth, you won't lack for anything." he replied slowly. "I started a school with 175 kids. People thought I was crazy. It's difficult to feed two children in India. I had no money. I took a school that was bankrupt, which had a loan on its head. When you have trust in God and your spirit, I tell you this, everything will fall in line. When you think all the time how do I feed myself, then you're in trouble, but when you do some good job in the world, there will be a million people ready to feed you with desserts and the whole meal.
"People who were around me, my family and friends, wondered why I was taking the responsibility for poor children when I have no steady income at all. Okay, they said, you have some money for two months, but what will you do for the third month? But when we started doing, it would come right at that moment when it was needed. Now we are running 100 charitable schools in India. Some in tribal areas where no one else will go. Twenty years. And in each school we have about 1000 children. It's very gratifying when you see children who would never have had an education, and now they come up with a good education and smiles."
The interview was over and I watched him leave the room, dancing his way into the main hall. A chair was waiting for him on a stage with a microphone. Thousands of people were there because they wanted to hear what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had to say—a simple message of trust, hope, and love. I got into my car and drove in silence all the way home through the rainy night. When I got home, I slept like a rock.
Allen Salkin is an investigative reporter living in New York City.
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