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They Alone Live Who Live For Others – Story

Manju was probably in class eight when she started coming to our ashrama. Her village, Dungri, is not far from the Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium at Ranchi. She would participate in the different functions of the ashrama along with the other girls and boys of her village. She admired Swami Vivekananda greatly. As she grew up, this admiration turned into devotion.

It was during a very severe spell of winter that I went to her village in connection with some welfare activities.

Walking along a muddy road, I saw little Manju standing outside her house. She requested me to come into her house, and I agreed to do so on my way back.

When I went to her house, a group of village elders flocked round me, as is usual in these villages.

Manju first took me to a room where the photographs of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda had been kept on a shelf near the window. Flowers had been offered. When I made my pranams, it occurred to me that I should make some offering too. I had three hundred-rupee notes in my pocket. I offered the money, had some nice tea, and returned to the ashrama.

A week later, Manju came to my office. Knowing that her family was poor, I asked her if she had kept the three hundred-rupee notes safely. She appeared to be hesitant about answering me. I coaxed her: ‘Okay Manju, you are not going to tell me, right.’

Manju replied with some hesitation, ‘No Maharaj, I do not know how to explain it to you.’

‘What do you mean? I saw the window next to the shelf open. Did the wind carry the notes away?’

‘No Maharaj, I have spent the money.’

‘Oh! That’s nice. Money is meant to be spent, why should you be embarrassed about that? What did you spend it for?’

She was silent again. There aren’t too many things that a fourteen-year-old village girl could spend money on.

‘Did you spend it on your dress, or to purchase rations for your family?’

‘No Maharaj, I did not spend it for myself.’

I was now very eager to know what Manju had done with the money. What she told me left me speechless.

‘Maharaj, you know our neighbors, how poor they are! I saw the three kids of the family shivering from cold. I could not bear to see their suffering. So, I went to the Tupudana Bazar and purchased three sweaters for them at a hundred rupees each. When I gave the sweaters to them, how happy they were!’

Swami Vivekananda has said, ‘They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.’

Manju’s heart was clearly alive, for it had transcended her small body-mind complex and embraced the so-called ‘others’.

SourcePrabuddha Bharata Magazine May 2008 Issue