Saturday, April 05, 2014

A modern day 'Sarwan Put'...

Bhai Gurdaas Ji mentions a person named 'Sarwan' as a role model for being a son and serving one's parents.

ਹੋਵੈ ਸਰਵਣ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਕੋਈ ||੧੧||
"Rare is any obedient son like Sarwan of mythology who was most obedient to his blind parents.(11)"
(Bhai Gurdaas Jee: Vaar 37, Pauri 11)

In ancient India, there once lived a sage named Shantunu and his wife. Both were very old and blind. The couple had a young son named Sarwan. Sarwan had devoted his life to serving his blind parents. He took care of each and every wish of his parents. Sarwan's whole life centred around serving his parents.  Once his parents said to him, "Son, we are old and do not have much time to live. Before we die we wish to go on a pilgrimage to Bharat's holy places." Sarwan agreed at once to fulfill their wish. He made a kavad, a special carrier, for his parents. He carried the kavad on his shoulder and they left on the pilgrimage. Sarwan was so devoted to his parents that he did not feel their weight.

A few months later, they reached the outskirts of Ayodhya.  Sarwan's parents were very thirsty. He went to the nearby river to get some water for his parents who he had left behind at a spot. As he went to get the water, King Dashrath, who had gone hunting for a deer in the forest, mistakenly fired at Sarwan thinking it was deer. When he cried out, the King came and asked for forgiveness. However, Sarwan was more concerned about his parents than his injuries. "My old parents, are very thirsty. Please take this water to them and quench their thirst." After saying this he died. Dashrath took the water to the blind couple. He told them about his mistake and about their dear son's accidental death. The parents were very sad to hear this and wished to be taken to Sarwan. Dashrath carried the kavad and took them to the body. The old couple grieved at their son's death. Dashrath bowed at their feet and begged for forgiveness.  Sarwan's Father said, "King, we do not want to curse you, as the power to curse is only in God's hands. But we can see your future. As we shall die shortly longing for our son, you too shall die longing for your son." Soon they died, longing for their dear son. Dashrath, too died, longing for his son Ram Chandar when he went to exile.

In Panjabi folklore and across India, a good son is called "Sarwan Putt". As Sarwan stood for sincere service, duty and devotion to his parents.     

Recently in the news I came across a modern example of a "Sarwan Putt" which was very humbling and moving to read about. Please read below:

Loving son takes his paralysed dad to Chinese university and rigs up special bed so he can stay the full term

  • Father is paralysed, mother is mentally disabled from battle with meningitis
  • Took care of his mother for most of his life, but still got into top university
  • Guo Shijun manages to take care of his father full time and earn top marks
  • He has since earned a scholarship to help him pay for school and care

Most people could forgive Guo Shijun if he gave up on his dream of a university education: because of his full time commitments to caring for his paralysed father and sick mother, he is spread incredibly thin.

Most people would forgive him, but it is possible Shijun wouldn't forgive himself, as instead of giving up his studies, he persuaded university officials to let his father to stay in his dorm for the full term, after he was paralysed in a building accident.

Shijun still managed to get a place at a top university, and, impressed with his dedication in the face of insurmountable odds, they let him bring his father to university with him to lighten his load.
Chinese student Guo Shijun (right) prepares a meal for his father in his dorm while his father (left), who is paralysed from the waist down, rests in the specially installed bed

Guo Shijun takes a picture with his father. For most of his life he has been a young carer, and his workload only doubled when his father became disabled

Shijun, now 20, came from a poor family and had a tough childhood, as his mother was left mentally disabled when he was younger following a battle with meningitis. She was cared for during his formative years by him and his father, and despite this responsibility, he still managed to get top grades at school.

His already tough workload got worse when his father was injured after falling 15 meters off of a bridge he was working on in the city of Liuan in the Anhui province in the centre of China, becoming paralysed from the waist down.

Shijun's grandparents took over care duties for his mother, but they couldn't look after his father as well, so he rented a small room near his university dormitory and moved his father in, so that he didn't have to keep rushing to check up on him between lessons and during lunch. 

Despite insurmountable odds, Guo Shijun has managed to earn top marks at university, and a scholarship for his good grades

Guo Shijun installed his father in his dorm room so that he wouldn't have to go far to check on him between lectures

To keep up his studies he paid for university by borrowing money from friends and relatives until he finished. These costs, amount to £2000 a year for tuition alone, not accounting for food, bills and the cost of care for his parents.

However, despite the huge handicap to his studies, he managed to earn a scholarship to help him on his way.

Talking about his experiences, Shijun said: 'I can't say life is easy but the only way out of the problem is through hard work so I'm not complaining.
'I think once I graduate things will get much better.'

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