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A tribute to a philanthropist

A tribute to a philanthropist

Capt. Purushottam Sharma (Retd)
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and wait”
-H.W. Longfellow

Dr Om Prakash Mengi was born at Jammu on January 14, 1918, on an auspicious day of Makar Sankranti when the Sun takes to Northward Journey for which Bhisham Pitamah severely wounded in the Battle of Kurukshetra kept waiting for dropping his mortal coils on bed of arrows for Uttrayan to set in . His parents Lala Ishar Dass Mengi and Smt Prabh Devi were a pious couple. His illustrious father L Ishar Dass Mengi (1886 – 1975) was one of the most revered persons and distinguished educationist of Jammu who enriched the society by serving for 34 years as Headmaster, Inspector of Schools and Professor In-charge of the Training Department of Prince of Wales College, Jammu (now Government Gandhi Memorial Science College, Jammu). After his retirement from the Government Service at the age of 55 years in November, 1941, he served the most prestigious Institution of the town known as Ved Mandir at Ambphalla, Jammu, for 29 years from 1943 to 1972 during which he had played pivotal role in creating Balniketan (Orphanage for boys) with vocational training facilities, Bridhashram (Home for the Aged & Infirm), a Gow Shaala (Cow Protection Centre) and Andh-vidyalaya (Home for the visually handicapped).
Dr Om Prakash Mengi (1918 -2009) being worthy son of his worthy father was held in high esteem in the society.
Wearing ornamental smile on his face, Mr Mengi was always found clad in sparkling cotton robes ( traditional ‘kurta, pyjama’) with a dimly-hued ‘pagri’ as his head gear. Tall and lean in his frame, he walked majestically faster than his age infusing lot of enthusiasm and energy in those coming in his way.
The author had the proud privilege of being an associate of Mr Mengi who headed the Ved Mandir Organization at Ambphala, Jammu. Like his father Mr Mengi was also an embodiment of love and selfless service. Blessed with broad vision, abundant patience, good sense of humor, spiritual excellence and courage of conviction, he was well known for his simplicity, humility and generosity. In face he was born to live for others.
He was often found surrounded by solution-seekers, needy and destitute. Very sympathetic, clean-hearted and sweet-spoken, he never disappointed a sorrowing person. He would first wipe out his/her tears, make comfortable and then discuss and find a practical and workable solution. By virtue of his effective approach and healing-touch, he would instantaneously become one with the less privileged. Some of the visitors to him felt as if Dr Mengi’s shadow was walking by their side in finding relief to them.
Colonel Ishar Dass who was the Brigade Major of Jammu-based Infantry Brigade once told the author that Dr Mengi had led hundreds of volunteers from Jammu City and surrounding villages to work round -the- clock to rebuild Jammu Airport during India’s partition days and made it operational to take on aircrafts landing with Indian Army when the situation was alarming in terms of enemy invading the State.
During Dr Mengi’s tenure as head of Ved Mandir Organization, militancy was at its peak in the State particularly in Jammu Province and a cause of deep concern. It posed a big challenge to provide food, raiment, shelter, medicare and education to the large number of children rendered orphan, both males and females. The challenge had to be encountered vigorously and skillfully.
Under his leadership, the Organization resolutely planned and began with execution of new projects and pledged to work with God-Speed, raising funds, donations in kind and infrastructure. Owing to his advancing age. It was on December 23, 2001, that he had to hand over the baton to RC Gupta, a retired Chief Engineer and former Member of the Punjab Public Service Commission who possesses beautiful heart, passion for selfless service and believes in perfection of everything. The goal was well achieved beyond imagination. Dr Mengi’s farsightedness and inspiration worked wonders for soon there came up a magnificent and spacious two-storied building of Balikaniketan comprising of an office room, 8 dormitories, dinning hall, kitchen, recreation hall with in-door games facilities, a spacious multi-purpose hall and bath-rooms/toilets block to house the orphaned girl children, a large multipurpose hall generally being used as dinning hall for the boys, ten dormitories for orphan boys, a primary school building consisting of 10 rooms exclusively for the orphaned children and a hall at its top, two computer learning centers (one each for boys and girl-children), a free homeopathy dispensary for general public, a Ved Vidyalaya wherein Vedic teachings are being imparted. The Organization has now adequate space to accommodate around 150 orphaned children .
One of the most significant decisions that was taken during his time was to utilize every inch of Ved Mandir land for ‘seva’ (service to humanity) purposes only.
Charitable activities had a big swing and push during his presence in Ved Mandir and the tall trees in the shape of SEWA (Service Extended With Adoration) have widely spread their wings affording shade and bearing the sweetened fruits for the society. Dr Mengi had been one of the most sought for and esteemed member/advisor on almost all the eighteen charitable institutions working in Ved Mandir Complex at Ambphalla, Jammu. His presence was always felt in learned assemblies.
Dr Mengi was often seen wrapping currency notes and putting these in blank covers without any address of beneficiaries written thereon. He would send these to the needy through a messenger (office peon).
At times, he was also seen washing the faces and cutting nails of orphan children of Balniketan and picking up waste material and putting it in the refuse containers. These inspiring pieces of ‘Seva’ (Service) made others to emulate.
Author who was doing as Secretary of Shanthi Sadhana Ashram in Ved Mandir complex was picked up by Dr Mengi to join his team after seeking permission of Swami Gaibanand Ji Maharaj, founder of the Ashram. He, therefore, believed himself as one of the ‘pupils’ of Dr Om Prakash Mengi Ji in the field of selfless service after retirement from the Indian Army in 1981 and still feels being directed by that noble soul in his working in the field of service to mankind.
It would be appropriate to mention that it has been the guiding spirit of Dr Om Prakash Mengi Ji that transformed the working and mush-rooming of more and more charitable institutions in Ved Mandir Complex. Cherishing those good memories, it would be pertinent to say that noble soul is in total bliss to witness the rewards his good deeds fetched.
Dr Om Prakash Mengi Ji made us all very sad on November 14, 2009, when he dropped his mortal coils. The culmination came slowly but steadily like a lamp that burnt for long time and extinguished because it was not replenished with the oil it needed.

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