After the foundation stone laying ceremony, we started the construction of the hospital at Kenchanahalli. The pace of work was slow and was completely dependent on the rate at which we could get funds. Mr.Advani of M/s Advani & Associates, Bangalore (and a good friend of Varadarajan) had made the design and drawings for us, free of cost. Mani of Beechanahalli led the team of masons and Seshadri of Saragur was our main materials supplier.
As the work progressed, I got a letter from one Mr.A.S.Nagarajan from a place called Polur in North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. He had written that he was volunteering earlier with the Ramakrishna Mission at Malliankarani near Chennai and was now looking for an alternate place. He had visited the Kanchi Mutt and the Shankaracharya had suggested that he consider our place. He was the kind of person that we were looking for to oversee the construction work and I requested that he visit us. Within the next few days, an elderly looking man with a long beard, attired in just a dhoti with no upper garment, walked into our place.
Nagarajan was a senior scientist, serving in the Defense Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) at Hyderabad and was involved in developing India’s nuclear capability. Not agreeing with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi cowing down to US pressure, he had resigned from his job and decided to settle in his village and live a Gandhian way of life. Being unmarried might have made his decision easier, but I was awestruck at the simplicity, high ideals and lifestyle of this extraordinary individual. All that he had was a cloth bag containing a towel and 2 sets of dhotis.
He moved in with us at Brahmagiri and I had a first hand exposure to austerity; not the ‘conspicuous austerity’ that our Indian politicians are demonstrating today. After a few weeks at Brahmagiri, he decided that he would be more useful by staying at Kenchanahalli. His house was our ‘cement store-room’ that I had written about some time earlier while talking about Mohan and the mating cobras. Here he stayed on minimal food, while doing maximum work. I still remember the days when we didn’t have any labourers working and I would keep pumping away at the hand pump and he would collect the water and ‘cure’ the just-built stone foundation of the hospital.
But sadly, we couldn’t get along well. Maybe it was my inexperience, my immaturity or just the difference in our age. After a few months, he told me that he found it difficult to continue working with us and bid adieu. For a long time after that, he used to write his customary post cards quite regularly. How I wish I could meet and update him about our organization now!
One thing that is still fresh in my memory is what he told Ramesh once: “I have worked and interacted with many Prime Ministers and Presidents and could figure them out. But I just cannot figure out this President of Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement.” I am still on the journey of figuring myself out!