Short Stories with a difference

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Zenith

'I really didn't knew that the bank was sending Shruti as the trainer. I know how uncomfortable it must be for you,' said Sandip.
I thoroughly believed him. So I didn't speak a word. I stood under the banyan tree watching Shruti teach the tribal girls how to operate the sewing machine. Most of the girls had never even seen a sewing machine and Shruti had to start from the scratch. Soon the tutter of the sewing machines filled the air. I stood there watching the class from a distance for sometime and then I walked away.
'Where are you going?' Asked Sandip.
***
The Brahma temple never failed to cool my nerves and today was no exception. I sat there and meditated. Peace engulfed me and the shock of seeing Shruti was slowly absorbed. The cool air flowing from the river kissed my cheeks, tousled my hair and filled my lungs. Yes there was magic in this air which worked as a catalyst in spiritual progress of every seeker since times immemorial. It gave you the answers if you were truly tuned with the divine.

'There are people, places and situations that will make you uncomfortable, but you can't always runaway from them. Even if you run and lock yourself in a cave in the mountains, yet there will be something that will continue to pester you and make you uncomfortable. Wisdom lies in living with the uncomfortable. Detachment from all that is pleasant and unpleasant, while living with them is true spirituality.'

In that heightened state of meditation, I received my answers. I opened my eyes and prostrated the blue holy rhythmical water of Narmada. I opened my book and started making plans. After all I was now an officer on special duty of the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of the bank. 

 

Monday, 29 April 2019

Yoked to the ...

'Babuji will I really be able to make a dress and stitch a blouse?' Kajari asked as she drew a rangoli in the courtyard abutting the hut.
'Yes Kajari, provided you practice the lessons regularly.' I said.
'How many lessons will be there? How long will take to me to stitch a blouse by myself.'
'I don't know. Why don't you ask all these questions to the trainer when she arrives?' I said.
'I have been waiting for her for the past week, from the day you told that you were going to teach stitching to we tribal girls.' She said and continued with her rangoli.

There were ten girls enrolled in the stitching classes and all of them were busy decorating the hut. They were making garlands and festoons. Their chatter and laughter had filled the air. For the first time they were shown a dream, the dream of being self-reliant and standing on their own feet. 'Otherwise we had no existence. At times I felt the cattle were better than us, Babuji.' Kudumaga one of the tribal girls had said.

After completing all the decorations the girls came up with an arti plate. Kajari held the plate in her hands and asked, 'Babuji, just have a look. Is everything alright?'
'Kajari all this is not needed. And in fact I don't know much about these rites. Even if you welcome the trainer with mere words, that would be fine.'
'How could we welcome her with mere words Babuji? She is no less than God to us. And I am asking you about the arti plate because we are ignorant about it. Had Bengali Baba been here, I would have asked him. Has he reached the Himalyas?' Kajari asked.
'He is going to Himalayas on foot and it will take him couple of months to reach there. Not so soon.'

'The trainer is here.' Someone said and we swirled around. The girls adjusted their sarees and arranged the arti plate for one last time. The lights were lit and they were all damn excited to welcome the trainer. My eyes met with the trainer's and my face turned ashen. It was Shruti who was standing in front of me.
Read the last part here

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Xoanon surfaces with bag full of blessings

That morning when I was bathing, I played and splashed the water. What I saw through cascade of water my eyes couldn't believe. I rubbed them again and again. Was I hallucinating? 'Baba pinch me.' I said.
'That is not needed.' Baba said.
'Are you seeing the same thing as I am?'
'Yes, my son.'
'Then what should I do?'
'Go out and greet him. He has come a long way for you.'

I wadded through the water to reach to the bank. I slipped twice, but that didn't dampen my joy and enthusiasm that had fountained on seeing my friend. By that time Sandip had come farther. He stretched his hand. As I held it he twitched me out of the water. Unmindful of the fact that I was all wet, I held him in a tight embrace,
'How are you my dear friend?' He asked.

The tea brewed on the stove as Sandip opened his bag.
'What is this?' I asked.
'Why don't you see yourself.' He said.
I took the file from his hands and began reading. Tears of joy flowed from my eyes.
'I don't believe it. I don't believe it.' I said nodding my head. 'Why would the bank sponsor my dream?' I asked
'It isn't sponsoring your dreams, Chetan. It is discharging its corporate social responsibility. You may not be aware, but we all love you. Boss has been enquiring about you all the time and I would keep him updated with all the developments in your life.'
'But how did you know about what was happening in my life.'
'You should have been a professor instead of a banker. Don't you remember you had written letters to me?'
'Oh, yes.' I said.
'You are now an officer on special duty. The bank is glad to see that you want to do something for the tribals and is more than happy to be a part of this project. We will be having four sewing machines to start with. The trainer will be here next week. By that time we have to set up the machines and transform this hut look like a training centre. We are also in talks with an organization to set up a school in the forest. But that will take some time.'

I handed over the kulhad to Sandip. 'Tea tastes heavenly in this kulhad, amidst this moist air and music of the gurgling river. I am not surprised that you stayed here for so long.' I just smiled. 
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Friday, 26 April 2019

Weaving the mortal with Immortal

'Usually renunciates go unannounced. Who is to be informed and who bothers. But this time I carve an exception for you my son.' Baba said. There were tears in my eyes. I was yet to meet a godman as honest as him. He was so candid with his failures.

'Don't cry. Destiny had bound us only up to this point. Though I have not acquired the siddhi to predict the future, I can certainly say that you will be a vehicle for upliftment of the poor. Your hands will carry the fragrance of the flowers that you will give.'

'Baba what about my spiritual goals?' I asked. Baba had a belly laughter. Seeing the colour of my face change, he controlled it and said, 'Who told you that spirituality is something out of the world?'
I was perplexed. Baba continued. 'Remember my son, whether we realize it or not, we are spiritual bodies playing our roles in this mortal world. Spirituality is not something to be searched in the snow-capped Himalyas or the esoteric scriptures.'

'So should I give up all my spiritual practices?' I asked.
'No my son, I don't mean that.'
'Then?'
'I don't say give up spiritual practices. All that I say is don't give up your family, friends for spirituality. Neither does spirituality mean turning face against the material comforts. All material comforts are crafted by God. This world is His garden and he wants you to enjoy fruits in His garden, the material things included. God wants you to enjoy them and at the same time remember Him.'

Sensing my expressions he said, 'Don't get perplexed. You will sail through, everybody does. Do what your inner voice says. But at the same time use your logical brain as well. Keep the proportion fifty-fifty. God wants you to use to your heart as well as your head. Why otherwise He would have installed brains in human bodies? Go ahead with your work. I have been living here for such a long time but I believe that it is your sadhana, your work, that will bring a positive change in this land and its inhabitants.'

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Vertigo

You can read the previous part here
I was so busy with my sadhana and social work that I had totally forgotten about the prophesy of Baba. That day while we were having bath, Baba closed his nose and took a dip into the river. He didn't come up even after ten minutes. My heart skipped a beat. 'Baba, Baba.' I called him. I couldn't trace him anywhere. I swam into the river and tried to locate him. But he was nowhere to be seen. He had disappeared mysteriously. Everything around him was piqued with mystery, be it his arrival or disappearance. I was exhausted with the swim. I climbed upon the boulder and panted.

At that point I realized how much I was attached to Baba. 'But renunciates should have no attachments. They should sever all their ties with the mortal world.' I remembered Baba's words clearly, as if he was sitting next to me and talking to me. That is when I felt a pull, someone had twitched my leg and I fell into the river. Though I was a good swimmer, this sudden lug had left me breathless. Water entered into my nose and mouth. Somehow I caught hold of the boulder and gasped for breath. That is when I noticed Baba was perched upon the boulder and smiling at me.

'You scared the hell out of me Baba. What is this?' I asked.
He stretched his hand and I climbed upon the boulder.
'Just a teaser, sort of mock drill. Chaturmas will be over in a week and I have decided to dismantle the hut.' Baba said.
'Where will you go?'
'To the Himalayas.'
'I will accompany you.'
'No. Now our destinies fork out. We cannot remain together. That is the will of the Almighty my son.'
'In that case I want something from you.'
'Yes, go ahead', Baba said with a benign face.
'In fact I want two things from you. Firstly your blessings to serve the humanity and second is your kutiya from where I can serve them.'
'Tathastu. So be it.' He said and the hut became mine.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Unbowed


You can read the previous part here
'I have nothing to say Kajari.' I said when she pleaded for long that I should say something.
'Aren't you angry with me.'
'No.'
'Why?'
'Of late I have realized that every person desires to progress in his life. From cycle to scooter, from bike to car, every one wants to surge ahead in life. Then one day when your heart is filled with all the material things in the market, you hanker for the exotic, out of the world experience like nirvana. Life is this never ending quest for betterment. You desired to make things better for you and I will not blame you.' I said. Hearing this Kajari composed herself.

That day I wrote a long letter to Sandip. I knew Kajari wasn't wrong in hankering for a better life, though her ways were certainly questionable. But on another thought, did she have any other alternative? Obviously no. I wanted to generate some better opportunities not only for her but for all the tribals. That is what I precisely wrote to Sandip. I wanted him to get in touch with a few NGOs who would be willing to spread their work across this region. So that women like Kajari would become self-reliant and improve their lives.

The next day onwards Kajari started fetching water for us as well. I protested. 'No, this way I want to pay for my sins. This is my prayachita.' She said. But I didn't agree. Finally when Baba said in his baritone, 'Let her have her way,' that I relented. I couldn't withstand the sight of her malnourished body frame carrying the load of two pitchers, one over her head and balancing another on her waist. Tears ran down my eyes. Baba consoled me, 'It is all about how you feel. If this act of fetching water relieves the burden on her shoulders, we shouldn't deny her this outlet.'

That day was sunny and Narmada chirruped and fled like a truant child. I felt better. Baba was in an unsually good mood too. 'Make some kheer today.' He commanded. I stirred the pot of kheer and smiled. 'Is life of a renunciate any different from that of a householder?'
Read the next part here


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Thunder and Tribals


Read the previous part here
It was still raining when Kajari came to see me at the Brahma temple. She pulled the plastic sack, which served as her rain coat, aside. Then without speaking a word she stood before me. Both of us were at loss of words. Then I turned my gaze away from her and watched the river. Narmada continued to flow regardless of the change in the season. The bellowing black clouds, the occasional thunder and lightening didn't seem to have any effect upon her.

'Babuji, I know I have wronged you.' Kajari said fidgeting with her red bangles and avoiding an eye contact. I didn't react. So she continued. 'I was the one who became a point of contact between you and the tribals. The tribals were going to be benefited from it. When they were getting money, I felt that...' The thunder roared into the sky.

'I felt that...,' Kajari continued, ' I should seize this opportunity. Believe me I am not lying. I didn't ask for any commission in the first place. It was Muraku who placed a hundred rupees note in my hand and I saw the opportunity. The clouds are striking rains. It is difficult, if not impossible, to step out into the slippery forest which is inundated with poisonous snakes in rains. That is when I started demanding hundred rupees from anyone who wanted to meet you. It was my commission.'

She continued. 'For the first time in my life I was having so much money at my disposal, and I decided to make the most of it. We are tribals Babuji. But does that mean that we have no dreams. We do have dreams, which we know will never be fulfilled. We will live as nobody in the village and die as one too. But you came in my life and the money followed. I fulfilled my dreams like getting this bangles.' She shook her hand in front of me and the bangles tinkled. 'This.' She said and pulled up her saree little and showed me the silver anklets that adorned her slender legs. 'I promise you that hence forth I will not charge anyone for fixing a meeting with you. I have had my share of joy and I am happy with it.' She said.
I didn't feel like speaking and hence I kept quiet.
'What happened Babuji? Speak something. Scold me, hit me, say something. I am a sinner. I beg your pardon.' Kajari was all tears.
Read the next part here

Monday, 22 April 2019

Storm


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The morning started with heavy winds rattling the door of the hut. There was a sandstorm lifting clouds of dust, dried leaves and whatever it could lay its hands upon.
'Don't go outside.' Said Baba. I sat crouched at a little distance before him.
'Son, the last month of the chaturmas has begun.' He said. I didn't speak. There was silence for some time and the only sounds that could be heard were of the swirling wind and swaying trees.

'I am going to dismantle this kutiya.' He said after a pause. Sages and their riddles. Then he said, 'You have served me with all the love. If you wish anything from me, please free to ask.' I didn't know what to speak. So I kept mum. Baba again said, 'Ok. There is a month left from today. If not today, you are free to ask anything that you want in this month.'
Both of us stood cemented in that enclosed hut for sometime. After sometime the winds subsided and we stepped out to go to the river. But today seemed to be the day of shockers. Another tornado was waiting for me at the door when I returned from the river.

I thought he was some tribal who had come for some work. My hunch was correct. The bent man was in his sixties. He was childless and he had heard from someone that he was eligible to receive the pension for the destitute. When I agreed to accompany him to the Tahsil office, a strange thing happened. He placed a fifty rupee note before me. So even the adivasis were corrupted. I twitched my hand to give it back to him. That is when he folded his wrinkled hands and said, 'Please, don't say no. I can't pay hundred. Fifty is all that I can afford. Kajari had said...'

That is when Kajari came panting and stopped him midway. 'Hadn't I told you to wait for me? Why did you come alone?' She asked. Then she spoke to the old man in their tribal language. But by now I had learnt a few words of that language too. From the words and her expressions I could make out that she was unhappy with the old man and was reprimanding him. I darted a glance at Kajari. She was avoiding my gaze. I had discerned as to what had happened. But I wanted to hear it from the mouth of the horse.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

SonDay


There are some moments which you cherish in your life – the first job, your marriage, moving into a new house, birth of a child. Standing apart from all these crowning glories there are some moments which outwardly appear small and mundane, but have a deep impact on our lives. This Sunday I experienced one such moment. Thanks to Ariel India's sons #ShareTheLoad campaign.

I decided to share the load with my mother. So I undertook the first task of the morning which involved making tea. Every morning my mother would lovingly ask me, 'Beta tea?' and I would reply, 'Yes please. But please remember less sugar and don't forget to add lemon grass as well.' Today I took up the responsibility and asked my mother, 'Mom tea?' My mother smiled and just nodded her head. It was unexpected for her that she would get a ready made tea. She held the cup in her hands for long and had every sip slowly, cherishing the moment.

My task didn't stop just by making the tea. There is another job which follows making the tea. I took the cups to the sink, where the other paraphernalia – tea pan, strainer were waiting. I washed them as well. It was my mother's teaching. 'Every time you have tea immediately wash the cups and pans. So that the next time you have tea, you don't have to scrub the pan first.'
 Another interesting task of the day was washing clothes. I remember telling my mother at times, 'Please brush the cuffs and collar properly. See the stain has not gone.' But today I realized what an herculean task doing the laundry was. Brushing, rinsing, involved lot of effort, perhaps more than the gym. I washed all the clothes and hung them on the clothes line.


I was sweating by now. I am sure I must have burnt at least four hundred calories. When I struggled to rinse the double bed sheet on the clothes line, it was my mother who came to my rescue. I realized how tasking daily household tasks were.


Gandhiji had said every person should undertake some physical activity every day and that physical activity must be productive. I fully agree with him. Household tasks are not best left to the womenfolk. Every member of the family must be actively involved in the household tasks to reap its multiple benefits – good physical health, better relationships and most importantly mutual respect. I have shared the load, have you?

‘I pledge to #ShareTheLoad in household chores in association with Ariel and BlogAdda

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Reredos


Read the previous part here
My days would be occupied by advisasis. There were many, some even from the forests beyond the mountain, who would come to me. Their requests were simple - writing a letter, opening a bank account. Of course there were those as well who ought to have been true beneficiaries of various government accounts but who had become unfortunate victims of bureaucracy and red-tapism. When I accompanied them to the government offices their files would jump at a lightning speed. Poor people, I was glad that I was of some use to them.

Initially I thought that I was drifting away from my spiritual goals by serving them. But stranger are the ways of the spiritual world. I was truly living the karma yoga enshrined in the Bhagwat Gita. Again my nights were exclusively for my spiritual sadhanas. I worked sincerely for those illiterate souls without expecting anything in return, not even thanks. The merit which I was earning through this service was accelerating my spiritual progress.

The other night what started as a usual meditation, with the golden light entering my body through my crown demonstrated something which I had only heard of. I started losing body consciousness and my body became lighter than a sponge. I felt an upward surge. Even this was not new. My consciousness had travelled from the body many times by now. That day too I started having this feeling of floating and the lightness that it accompanied. I was lighter than a feather and was floating in air. Open your eyes, I heard a divine voice. I followed the command and opened my eyes. I felt something different. I had no contact with the ground. I was levitating. I was floating two feet above the ground with no support whatsoever. I closed my eyes, thanked the Almighty and continued my sadhana. I was not going to fall into the trap of these siddhis. I had learnt it from Baba.

That day onwards I noticed a unique change in me. I was calm and serene all the time, no matter what the situation was. So even when the bank manager would lose his cool or the Lala would take a stubborn stand, I would be calm and happy as if they were the most cooperative persons in the world. Amidst the worldly things, I was always connected with the divine, as if I was absorbed in deep meditation. Was that the reason why I took it too long to notice the changes in Kajari's behaviour? She had gained a little height. She no longer draped the saree around her waist. She would carry it elegantly like any city woman would with the pallu running across her shoulder. She would dab some foundation and colour her lips too. But all this had escaped my eyes until I was told about it that day.
Read the next part here

Friday, 19 April 2019

Quaint terrain

 Read the previous part here
I sat on the boulder in the middle of the river. I closed my eyes and assimilated all that was around me. The gushing water. The chirping birds. The soft rays of the morning sun. The blue sky. I was part of this pristine world and I couldn't thank my luck. I opened my eyes and looked at the mountains. The mountains were now all green, eager to join the music of life on the planet earth. That is when I spotted a familiar figure surface from behind the woods. It was Kajari and she was not alone. A balding man in his forties with just a towel draped around his waist accompanied her. Neither was she carrying the pitcher along with her. It meant she wasn't coming to the river to fetch the water. She pointed a finger towards me and said something to the man which I couldn't hear. I came near the bank. By that time they had come to the river bank too.

The man was Muruku and he was Kajari's neighbour. He had lost his son in the last monsoons to snake bite. Every family who had lost a member to snake bite was entitled to a compensation of rupees two thousand from the government. Muruku had made umpteen rounds to the Tahsil office but had not received the compensation. He had lost his son and he didn't wish to lose on the compensation. Two thousand was a big amount for the adivasis.

Kajari said with folded hands. 'If you could help him.' I remembered the words of Baba. Karma yoga is the highest form of devotion which finds mention in the Bhagwat Gita itself.
'Have you got the papers?' I asked the tribal. He removed crumpled papers from an equally crumpled plastic bag.

I went to the Tahsil office and made enquiries with regard to Muraku's application. After making three rounds to the office in a week, I was told that the file was pending as Muraku had not filed an affidavit in support of the application. Poor Muraku didn't even know what an affidavit was. He didn't have a bank account either, in which the amount of compensation could be deposited. I helped him with his affidavit as well as the bank account. The Tahasildar too subdued on learning that I was an educated person. He assured me that he would process the file at the earliest.

That night again I had a wonderful experience. While I was meditating my body metamorphosed into blue light. My head, limbs, chest everything was made of turquoise blue light. I felt light as if all my body weight was gone. It was such a pleasant and tranquil state. Was it the result of my sustained efforts or the blessings which I had received from Muraku?
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Thursday, 18 April 2019

Preassigned

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'Baba did I do the right thing?' I asked.
'There is nothing right and wrong. Duality is the inherent characteristic of the universe. That is what mother Kali represents.' He said stoically.
'Whether I am drifting away from my practices? Did I break the rule by rubbing the Lala on the wrong side?'
'Locking yourself away from the world into a cave is not the only form of sadhana. There are numerous other ways. There is karma yoga too. It finds an honourable mention in the Bhagwat Gita. Do what you feel is right and dedicate it to the Lord. Remember the Lord never gets angry at anyone, particularly when you are feeding an innocent child.'

I felt better with this assurance from Baba. There are some phases in life where you know that you are doing the right thing, yet you need assurance, and Baba provided me with that.

That afternoon when I meditated in Brahma temple, it dawned upon there were many things I had to be grateful for. I always had enough to eat. I got education and a well paying job followed. I had people around me for whom I was their world. Those included my parents, Sandip and of course Shruti. Absorbed in gratitude I felt tonnes of weight being taken away from my shoulders. I felt light like a feather. I flew with the air and then slowly and gradually I came back to my original position.

'Be wary of the siddhis, there are numerous of them. Some will make you lighter than a feather and some heavier than thousands of elephants put together. Just practice and don't get attached to siddhis. I have paid the price for such indulgence.' Baba had said.

Some times negative thoughts would hold their hands and dance in front of eyes. One thought would lug in another. I had come away from family and work so that I could concentrate on my spiritual journey. But I would be worried about my mother's frail health. At these slippery moments I would have this strong urge to call my mother. But I succeeded in overcoming it.

Amidst this torrent of emotions, flashes of serenity on the other side would smile at me. I would remain still and sink further into that ocean of peace. The prickly thoughts would all be washed away and I would sit in that unruffled, tranquilized state for longer periods.

I was elated with my progress. I would meditate in the mornings, noons and evening. Soon every activity of mine became a meditation. I would be aware of the splashes of water that dashed against my body while I bathed. I would be privy to every grass of blade that caressed my feet as I quiescently trudged the mud track on my way back to the ashram.

Then one day I saw a scintillating, lucent violet star at the centre of my forehead. I felt lightness throughout my body. I stood clung to the star that seemed to shine brighter with every passing moment. Absorbing its radiance, the vibrations of peace that it transmitted, I sat cemented for the entire day and night. I was now prepared to plunge further into this ocean and perhaps also lay my hands on the gems hidden into its deep belly. But how? This was enigmatic. Life whether material or spiritual is like a jigsaw puzzle, in which each piece surfaces at its own pace, in its own preassigned time, while you can't make out the bigger picture with just a few pieces in your hands.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Opening of the heart


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Kajari's face overflowed with happiness and the reason, the shopkeeper at the fair price shop had agreed to give her ration even in the absence of an adhar card. Balancing the bag of rice over her head, she happily walked home. As she did so I kept watching her. How can six kilos of inferior quality rice bring so much happiness in a person's life, I wondered. Was I taking all my blessings for granted?

That night when I meditated all that I could see was Kajari's happy face. I had this strong urge to open my eyes. But somehow I controlled it and continued with my meditation practice. Yet the entire incident played in front of my eyes.

It was an unwritten rule that though this place was frequented with sadhus and sanyasis they never interfered with the locals and in return got all the needed respect and cooperation. I was neither a sadhu nor a sanyasi. I was just a seeker, one with formal education. Initially the shopkeeper took me to be an ascetic and greeted me with folded hands. 'How can I serve you Swamiji?' He asked. When I told him my intention of visit he was fuming internally, though I could make out that he was somehow controlling his rage. I politely informed him that the government had issued a specific directive that no person shall be denied supply of ration for want of adhar card.

The shopkeeper wore a fake smile and said, 'Swamiji why do you entangled in the lives of these tribals? Things are not as they appear. They sell of their rations and buy booze. If you don't believe...'
'In that case I will have to complain to the public distribution officer.' Snapping him I said.
That subdued him. He didn't stretch it any longer and Kajari was given her due.

When I narrated the incident to Baba the next day all that he said was, 'Hmm...' He neither approved my actions nor did he disapprove it. I guess he was lost in his own world.

'I think this is going to be my last chaturmas here.' He said. I had heard that holy men can predict their deaths too. Was Baba referring to his departure from the mortal form? Well I didn't have the courage to ask for any clarifications.
All that I said was, 'Baba why are you saying this?'
'Simply.' He said and laughed like a baby.

When I meditated that night for the first time I could feel a sensation in the middle of the chest. I could see that my heart was illuminated. A divine light had engulfed it. Soaking that divinity I sat absorbed in meditation the whole night.
'Someone is progressing. The heart chakras are opening up.' Baba said the next morning while sipping his lemon grass tea. 
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