By Anjali Nauriyal
Recounting the story of his life has immense value, especially for the members of the new generation. Meet Rev Dr P Satish John, who prepared himself from his formative years to be ‘public spirited’ and ‘service-dedicated.’ He validates how living a life merely for the ‘self’ would be unfair to his creator!
Doon their Karma Bhoomi:
Today he heads a ‘profound and purposeful’ organisation, the Himalayan Torchbearers (HT), but this was made possible only as the result of a dream shared with his wife Rajini Doris Barnabas.
The duo was happy living in Australia, where Rev John was Dean of Students at a Bible College, and worked with Torch Bearers and contributed to social work and education. There he had myriad opportunities to advance in life. But, both, husband and wife were smitten by love for their country. In their hearts, they needed to go back to their homeland to invest in and work with their own people. They aspired to contribute to the people and country where they belonged. And so they didn’t think twice before returning to India.
For Rev John, Doon was always meant to be his Karma Bhoomi, in God’s scheme of things! This is the place where he spent his formative years as a student, more specifically at the Doon Bible College. Dev Bhoomi purified and fructified his personality, opines Rev John and made his ‘thinking and blood’ truly ‘Uttarakhandi’.
In Doon, the couple began by helping individuals at their rehab centre. Many alcoholics and drug addicts found a happy home, under their spiritual influence, and came out of the dungeon of misery and wretchedness under their guidance.
“We were not experts in this area of work. But to those who required help and intervention we would say ‘we can love you and help you’. We were willing to serve whoever and wherever. We tried to save people who were drunkards, tried to save many who were afflicted by suicidal tendencies, made an effort to help the underprivileged and the disadvantaged in whatever way we could,” recalls Rev John.
“In short, we didn’t want to lead a stereotypical life, merely for material and social gain, and die. Living a life for the ‘self’ would be unfair to the One who created us. Here I was greatly influenced by readings related to the life of Jesus that involved the idea of ‘sacrifice’. There was one verse in the Bible – I came to serve, not to be served. I came to give my life as a sacrifice for others – that inspired me and shook the core of my being. In the line of service then I sought my life’s calling.”
Himalayan Torch Bearers:
A more powerful and lasting impact in the couple’s work arena came about when they organised themselves under the umbrella of Himalayan Torchbearers (HT).
“It became easier for us to move forward from this point,” he discloses. Today, HT houses a lively Education and Spiritual Reformation Centre, where hapless individuals can improve upon the circumstances of their life, educationists can school themselves in the rudiments of the Bible, and many others can get their lives right.
“Contributing to society through Education is our major tool through which we endeavour to fortify underprivileged children,” he reveals. “So far, we have set up 7 schools for the needy and the destitute. Two of these are in Delhi, 2 in Doon, 1 in Mussoorie, I in Uttarkashi, and 1 in Khatima. Out of these, we were able of make two independent and self-sufficient,” the ‘man with a mission’ adds. “No way do we want these to be commercial ventures. At present, we also have a Slum School by the name of HTB Academy in Dehra Khas, where we hope to prepare youngsters for a useful life.”
Politics and Purpose of Life is to serve:
For the past two decades, as a social worker and an educationist, Rev John overcame formidable challenges to take on any responsibility directed at serving the children of God. But when politics knocked at his door, he realised it was time for another learning event in his life and, so, was happy to don another mantle. He clarifies, “When I was offered the post of VC, Uttarakhand Commission for Minorities, I had no hesitation in accepting it, as I regarded it another opportunity not only to explore the world, but also an opportunity to ‘Serve’.”
Asked how he keeps pace with the big bad world of politics, he makes clear, “I never go out there thinking that all are bad, because I am one of them. In fact I think of others as better than myself. In effect I treasure the ability to love other people regardless of who they are. All governmental opportunities come through political platforms. My purpose is not to be identified with any political party or as a politician, but with my social work. This was not about position and political mileage. Positions never attracted me. It did not involve any money so no one could doubt my intention. I lecture all over the world and receive a red carpet welcome everywhere. But this offered another chance and prospect to serve my people, I thought, so what if it’s through a political platform,” he explains.
“I love my country and my people. My identity today is actually attached with what I do for my country and society.” Continuing in the same vein, he states, “I am grateful to the nation in which I was born and raised, and I want to give back. I am happy with any platform that gives me an opportunity to serve my people. I don’t take or desire any political mileage because I am never going to stand for election.”
“It is also about one’s purpose in life. I was 18 when I began thinking ‘why do I exist in this world?’; today I am grateful that the needs of the world can open doors for me to serve,” he emphasises.
Today, Rev John is also Chairman of Doon Bible College, the oldest theological college in Northern India. He was once a student here, and life turned full circle when he visited this place as the Chief Guest recently. He has also served as Coordinator, Planning Commission of Uttarakhand, and was also part of the PM’s 15 Point Programme.
Till death did them apart:
In their dedication to service and enthusiasm for life, the husband and wife duo was cut from the same cloth. From the day they first met, she aided, encouraged and sustained him. It was a symbiotic bond and partnership that they shared, till the day she breathed her last on………2017!
“From the day I met her, she became my partner in all good things,” Rev John shares nostalgically. “Our inspiration was Jesus, who helped us to be one in thought and action. She had immeasurable love for people. I always knew she would be a great partner, and she never failed me on that score. She was my best friend. We shared the same synergy. We learnt to agree to disagree. It was a real partnership,” he exclaims. “But God took her away one day.”
“When she was diagnosed with a disease, it fell upon my person to tell her that only God’s miracle could save her. But she never complained. In fact she ended up providing a lesson to us in her illness and death,” he states with a touch of despondency. “She said she did not fear death and never complained. Very few people can face death the way she did.”
“God was good to us,” she had declared. “We were lucky to live 28 happy years of marital bliss. Now, you will need people to manage. You must manage well.”
Rajini John faced death head-on. Till the very last, she did her own bathing and cleaning. She refused medication and treatment once the doctors gave their last verdict, because she wanted to spend her last days with her family rather than languish hopelessly on a hospital bed.
“I miss her corrections. She was my best counselor, my best critic,” he exclaims.
Carrying forward a Vision:
Zara John Fair, daughter of Rev John and Rajini, returned to her parents’ fold after completing her education in the US. As the only child of her parents, she spent most of her growing up years in sharing their experiences. She married a foreigner, but only on the condition that he lived in India to work with the vision that she had held dear since childhood.
Her husband, Dave Fair, journeyed to India to adopt it as his permanent abode. He began by initially playing a supportive role in HT’s mission, but later brought in his own learning to make the initiative more rewarding.
Today, Zara and Dave share Rev John’s compassionate love for all mankind! Dave wishes to invest in empowerment of student groups as well, while Zara hopes to create worthy experiences for herself, resonating her parents’ vision. “I love India,” reveals Dave. “I love teaching children and I adore the outdoors, hikes, nature walks and the like. There is so much diversity in India; there is always something new I am learning all the time.
“He truly seems to be more Indian than the Indians I meet,” chuckles Zara.