5 September 2017
A few days ago I went on a short visit to Ramoji Film City on the Vijayawada Road near Hyderabad to check on my ability to travel and to finalise the media studio for some upcoming interviews. Little did I know that it would turn out to be an encounter with a very rare family and its respected patriarch, Shri Cherukuri Ramoji Rao.
Beforehand, I had no idea of the work of this humble human being who, to his credit, was recently honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India, given for exceptional and distinguished service without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex.
My visit to the sprawling Film City, which he had erected in grandeur, flair and far-reaching vision, was supposed to be uneventful; instead I encountered a giant of a man who carried himself in unassuming humility that was profoundly felt.
When I asked Ramoji Rao garu if he believed in God, he said, “Not really,” and his reply made me think highly of the concept of the Buddha and Mahavira when they spoke of no Self and no God, respectively. When we relegate our successes and failures to higher deities or to God, at the psychological level we fail in truly attempting something. Neither do we have complete faith in God, nor do we have complete self-dependence, and with this half-hearted lukewarm approach success cannot be ours.
Once we have the conviction that “I am myself responsible for weaving my destiny,” we succeed. Yesterday, I could see how this belief of a karma yogi manifested in his success. Ramoji Rao garu must have started the Film City around the age of sixty, as he is now over eighty, and look how the project has turned out!
His entire family was down to earth and very authentic. It was a joy to observe how much love and respect his daughters-in-law showered on him and the graciousness with which they all hosted us. He was utterly authentic and truthful, and I am sure his authenticity and truthfulness will lead him to a greater truth.
The way they all looked after our comfort and showed us around Film City, like a child would display his toys with a kind of self-pride, was exemplary and deeply touching. There is nothing wrong in having self-pride when you have achieved something with your own effort.
It is only weaklings who rely on forces outside of themselves, be it God or other human beings. I am not trying to praise atheism, or trying to infer that anyone I met during this memorable visit is an atheist. I am only suggesting that it is good to follow the dictum that “God helps those who help themselves.”
I liked Shri Ramoji Rao garu’s authenticity and was touched by the golden hearts that surrounded this gentle giant.