Dwaraknath Reddy In the Eyes of Others
Uma Swamy’s Tribute to Dwaraknath Reddy
In the milling sea of humanity, there are but a few who are able to turn a family owned confectionary business into a nationally acclaimed company, and a household name, within the short span of a life-time. There are even fewer, who after scaling heights of success, choose to give it all up to tread the path of serving humanity. What is it that makes them give up comforts known only to a chosen few and embrace the suffering of others? What is it that compels them to bond with people they never met before and strive to free them from suffering and disease? What makes them want to enthuse a person who has lost the will to survive with dreams of a better tomorrow? As we attempt to chronicle some of the experiences in the lives of the poor, in whose life Dwaraknath Reddy Ramanarpanam Trust (DRRT) came as a turning point if not a miracle we recognize that these changes did not happen overnight. A seed sown by Dwaraknath Reddy grew over ten years, spreading its branches to become the tree of life. A tree, nurtured with the sweat and toil of Anita Reddy, his daughter, who was blessed with the mandate to manage DRRT, and others in the DRRT team who felt privileged to be actively involved in it. The tree is still growing, and growing strong. It was as if Dwaraknath Reddy, Appa to those whose lives he had enriched, was handpicked by destiny, to be the turning point in the lives of people, stricken by suffering, disease and neglect. By establishing DRRT, Dwaraknath Reddy was able to get the means to support people, to create employment opportunities for them, to enable their children access education, and to live a life of dignity and health. As we try to capture the spirit and impact of the work done by DRRT and represent the sentiments of those whose lives took on a new meaning after DRRT entered their lives, we pay our humble tributes to appa.
He was a Hero To Me
"He has been a very special person to me from the first day I met him. As a successful business man he talked philosophy, ethics, spirituality, society and interpreted for me the deeper meaning of my own work in a manner that kept me spellbound.
He fondly signed for me and gifted his book, “The Physics of Karma: A Requiem to Time” saying it would mean something to me. I could never fathom its depth as combination of science and spirituality was beyond me.
He was a hero to me leaving business and moving to an Ashram. And then his ‘Giving Pledge’ that enabled Anita to pursue her dreams and goals in education, leadership, training, entrepreneurship and empowerment—all focused on the poor and the marginalized. The father-daughter team, him the loving supporter and she the passionate doer, has been my special privilege to know and admire. I honestly know nobody who has combined such diverse grassroots development initiatives as creatively as Anita has."
Kirtee Shah - Architect, Ahmedabad
‘Minding the mind- till it obeys’ on Shri V Dwaraknath Reddy
Like a Gardener’s Seeds
Can there ever be anyone who is not optimistic? Everyone has hope, trust and faith. We plant a seed and water it with the hope it will sprout. We trust nature, we have faith in the possibility of its growing into a plant or a tree or a part of a forest. However, what about the result? Will it yield flowers and fruits or will it give shade, add beauty to the universe or protect an eco-system?
You might probably argue that it is another thing totally. However, have you seen someone who sows seeds almost every day and remains assured of the outcome?
I know of a ‘gardener’ who has hope, trust and faith. His job is to plant seeds. Seeds of right thought, of spirituality, of earnestness in one’s purpose in life and of the true meaning of love. He leaves the rest to the superbly orchestrated laws of cause and effect. I am talking of Shri Dwaraknath Reddy after watching him for twenty seven years! Day in and day out anyone could walk into his retreat and ask him a question or many, look into his serene face, talk to him about themselves or just sit in awe as he talks to people who need his words. For him his wages for the day are earned because, I guess, he has planted his seeds. And therefore his day is well done!
His retreat is a haven of an idyllic setting at Tiruvannamalai where he moved in after retiring from an active life of a businessman into an active life of a sadhak or a practitioner of spirituality as he would prefer to call himself in all his humility. See a sadhu or a sanyasi, or an ashramite and he would show his respects to them with folded hands and a gentle smile. His very countenance bears such accommodativeness and a loving respect for those who go about their lives with purpose, duty-mindedness and sincerity. Inevitably, it becomes very natural to bow to him or show your respects. And the affection he extends makes your heart melt in its warmth! One meeting later there is only awe in the eyes of those who behold him and a question writ large in their eyes – How can such a great man be so simple?
I think it is by the age of sixty that he came away to Tiruvannamalai to actively retire into a life of seeking and practicing the path shown by Shri Ramana Maharshi. Since then he has been completely engaged in being all of himself and minding himself in the spiritual sense. Whatever had been earned by him went straight to a charity trust called Ramanarpanam Trust. And what he earned was his share in the family owned business of Nutrine Confectionery Pvt Limited that was mainly built up by him and brought to the forefront of the confectionery industry in India as number one after the initial spade work by his father Shri B V Reddy. His return to India after an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from The Louisiana State University in the U.S. was with the intention of starting an industry at Chittoor in the state of Andhra Pradesh. His work experience and business acumen put the company on the forefront within a couple of decades. It was when he felt the next generation were ready to take over the mantle that he made the decision to step into what he had a heart for – minding his mind! He packed a suitcase and moved to Tiruvannamalai to live near the Ashram of Shri Ramana Maharshi.
The seclusion from a desire driven world to that of seclusion and occasional company of like-minded and earnest seekers of truth and clarity of thought was his gain. But not just that! The renouncement of his estate and personal wealth and the channelizing of his funds for the needy around him has brought along an increasing number of people who love and care for him like their very own. In a simple idyllic setting of a neat little cottage, a comfy sit-out pavilion and a worship room with a garden, his ashram-like home is often visited by peacocks and monkeys beside unannounced visitors, and all of them get attention and go away satisfied in their own ways. But, no, not even for a moment should I let you think he has become a guru of some sort for he would not allow that accretion to himself. He would claim to be a humble sadhak, a class fellow of one who is a sincere student.
Again, I should not allow you to take this for truth because he is so proficient in his subject and its application in life. He has seen and known all the woes, hurdles and grief anyone could face in life besides those that a seeker of truth would confront, the stagnations and obstacles to actual living by the principles laid out by the rishis and gurus of wisdom. He frequently confronted death that took away his near and dears in a way that left him grief stricken and shaken, questioning its justice or injustice! Talk to him and what will emerge is an appropriate dose of exactly those words of wisdom that you would need and the most practical way to go about it. Intuitively and like an experienced doctor, within minutes he would be able to diagnose, with his years of experience and interaction with people, and rightly pin-point your problem area sometimes even before you can articulate it, your obstacle or stagnation, the mistake in your perception or the direction you should ideally take. Watching him talk, disclose his life’s events and weave in words of advice and show great examples for one at any level, is like watching a star performer and you would hear something new, useful, pertinent and very significant to your current requirement. It is not surprising that visitors even after their very first meeting and without any kind of ritual mode or instruction or example tend to touch his feet in respect, address him as father and want to come back when permitted.
Can You Cry for God?
So I presume I have conveyed his role as a teacher who plants seeds of faith, love, trust and spirituality, but what about the person who can cry for God, who can cry at the pain of a suffering one, who can understand the pangs of separation from a dear one, who can empathize with those who are in need? His eyes mist and his voice chokes even when he has to mention the love of Krishna, the relation between a mother and child, the plight of a hungry person or the pain of a sick animal. It is not at all surprising to us who know him a little more closely that he directs all his wealth to the needs of others. What are his needs, by the way? Anyone would be surprised at the spartan life he leads.
Each and every activity of his is measured by how the same resources could benefit someone in need of it who cannot afford it. Fortunately enough he has been gifted by a daughter who can not merely feel the need of those below the poverty line but also step in actively to untiringly put into fruition the wish and offering of her father into the container of the need. A full-time social worker, Ms Anita Reddy has constructed the future of many children along with building schools, vocational centres, means of livelihood and dwellings for the needy, not just in one place but in several communities across southern India. Awarded and encouraged with the prestigious ‘Padma Shri’ title by the Government of India, I know her source of inspiration, her motivation and her support is her dear father. All the people of her various communities address her father equally fondly as ‘Appa’ too! They are nevertheless struck by the way he conducts his life in simplicity and spirituality.
Once again I have reinforced my view of this gardener. The way he has touched innumerable lives cannot be measured, his garden is growing, his flowers blooming and their fruits. For me he is an example of what change a single person can bring to the world.
The Candy Baron with a Sweet Tooth!
Once upon a time tempting every little child with some favourite variety or the other, it has to be mentioned that his taste in every sense of the word is as unique as that of a sommelier or barista. With epicurean delight he would describe what is best in everything to be relished, be they confectioneries like what he spent his active years developing, or delicacies that would be a gourmet’s delight. According to him, all that is intrinsically fine, beautiful and enjoyable can be duly and enjoyed provided they were righteously earned and rightly deserved. But he is very clear about the measure of all good things. Overdone, the best could turn worst! There couldn’t be anyone who would not be surprised at the limited quantity of what he ate but being associated with him this long he has taught me many a lesson on choice, variety, quality and proportions.
The Author in Him
The lurking author in him surfaced even in his graduation years. Writing poetry on his dreams, future or some imagined circumstance later found purpose in business correspondence that was always laced with humour and his love for words. It became a serious vehicle of transportation to a realm of seeking clarity for his own self and elucidating many a revelation as a result of his spiritual study and close contact with Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Ishwarananda Giri or Swami Shantananda Puri to mention a few. Being editor for the ‘Tyagi’ magazine of Chinmaya Mission in the nineteen sixties his editorials and essays got shaped as a book initially called ‘Paada Puja’ now titled ‘Rising Sun, Melting Mists’. It contains his spiritual aspiration and elucidation of ideas expressed with a great ‘beauty of style and power of thought’ to quote Late Shri M P Pandit of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Many a book followed each one leading to the other, delving deeper into Consciousness and the mind, the power of reality and reflections for a professional scientist to a layman alike! Among these he explained the cause-effect sequence from becoming to being as a self-propelled sequential operation of the unmistakable law of universal causation. He titled a book ‘Can God Improve My Balance-Sheet?’- Invoking the Inner Potential and to me it is a perfect hand-book on self-improvement! When his scientific-mind questioned Infinity and Total Consciousness based on the verity of our temporal existence he had to sing a Requiem to Time though his book called ‘The Physics of Karma’- a Requiem to Time. Explaining scientific concepts in words that can be understood by a layman and exponent besides charting out the ‘fundamental Upanishadic ideas along with concepts of Relativity and quantum physics’ the content clearly shows how he can fly comfortably on ‘wings of reason and intuition’ to quote Swami Jitatmananda’s review on his book.
To present the ideas of Upanishadic teachings and to rub shoulders with scientists of the space age, the author in him took a large stride in presenting our ancient vision of the ultimate truth clothed in words understood by modern science. From creation to entropy, from Vedanta to Ramana Maharshi, from (idam) this to (aham) me, he connects the paths that lead to discovery through elimination and assimilation effectively with his vibrant words and subtle humour in the book titled ‘Death Was Never Born, Life Never Died – Re-incarnation or Evolution’.
‘Diving Deep into Ramana Maharshi’s Teachings’ helps a spiritual seeker strike at the very root of the ego-sense and reiterate that the purpose of sadhana is to return to our source. Revelations like ‘Death is a transfer, not a transformation’ and ‘Spirituality is the science-of-life that dismantles the error in the science-of-matter’ abound in the book as he unravels the import of Ramana Maharshi’s silence and some of his words of wisdom.
All said and done applied Vedanta for the layman is garbed in simple clothes and true-life incidences. One such instance drew his attention and forth came a book ‘Divya – The Rainbow Child’ where unfortunately a young sprightly girl is diagnosed with cancer and the struggle of her family to save her life lead them into various paths, well-known to those in similar situations. Grounded by a wise member of the family and through innocent but intelligent questions from the earnest child the author weaves a tale of ultimate survival through right understanding of ancient spiritual truth.
The Sportsman and Photographer
His fascination for and prowess in sports, especially Tennis and Cricket cannot be gainsaid. A regular player even in his active years of working as a business man in the confectionery industry and an enthusiast who knew the skills and abilities of players enough to predict outcomes of matches, his interest in physical activity was like a Grecian philosopher’s because it was a fit body that could house a fit mind that could question, persevere and find the right answers on the path that he had embarked upon.
In Tiruvannamalai he would walk and walk and walk. Then climb too! There was always a sportsman and an adventurer in him seeking an opportunity to exercise. To keep the mind fit, the body had to be fit too. For years until recently, climbing half the way up to Skandashram on the holy hill of Arunachala every day for several years was a practice, walking in the grounds, around the hill’s circumambulatory path and playing sport kept him young in spirit and body. A recent hip-joint replacement has restrained his physical activity and we are hoping to see him more active soon! Earlier we have had the opportunity to be guided by him to best view locations of the holy hill of Arunachala, and also trekked into areas of interest on its path around. This brings us to his deep interest in photography and how he educated me on the techniques of the art beside the nitty gritty of equipment. He had as his friends experts in the field in developing film and transparencies like Swami Sai Das of Tiruvannamalai and printing them using special processes like Shri Vidyavrath of Pondicherry to employing thematic and aesthetic judgement like Shri Basu John of Chennai to mention a few. His own aesthetic sensibility is very refined and clear. Wherever he felt that he was unable to see through the eyes of the artist before him he made an effort to understand and if he could not see that way he always made no pretension of it. His honesty and clarity are his hallmarks and his assaying of the worth of things almost never went wrong! I have watched in jaw-dropping amazement the way he estimates the prices of things or services without actually having to handle money himself considering his dedicated family and staff.
Whether it is bhakti or affection, compassion or empathy, Shri Dwaraknath Reddy to me is an epitome of the ideal in all ways of how one should conduct oneself in life, through trials and tribulations, through joys and sorrows, through success and failure. He believes in every word he says and patiently and effortlessly slides into realms of timeless vacancy in his solitude and concentrated application of philosophic advice to his visitors as and when the need arises.
In his own words – the beautiful dispensation of a just and impartial Lord holds sway in creation; we should embrace it with loving adoration and conduct ourselves in harmony with the law, when its inherent strength will become our strength, and its equanimity our peace.
I pray for and wish Shri V Dwaraknath Reddy serenity and good health to continue to lead us in all things good forever.
Written by Rajny Krishnan
She was introduced to Shri Dwaraknath Reddy by her sculpture mentor Shri Kalasagaram Rajagopal in the year 1991 and since then has been following him with deep respect and affection. An artist and presently a professor in art and design practice in IIT Madras, she attributes her mooring in the spiritual to Shri Dwaraknath Reddy and feels blessed to have come under his fold