Short Stories with a difference

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?

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Preassigned

Read the previous part here
'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. 
Read the next part here 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Nimini-piminy


You can read the previous part here
'Kajari do you pray?' I asked.
'I pray once I step out of the house, before I trample the bosom of the forest goddess. That's it. Sometimes I feel I should perform an elaborate puja, with all rites the way Bengali Baba does. But then my stomach rumbles with hunger and I forget all about it. Tendu leaves are so hard to find. The number of trees has dwindled and the demand soared. What would take me an hour to collect a basket of leaves now takes five hours, and unless I sell the leaves I will have no money to buy rice. Some times I am forced to cross the mountain and enter the forest on the other side. Those days I am so exhausted that my legs become heavy like stones and I stagger way back home'

'Doesn't your father work?'
'He does as and when he feels like working, which means never. He is drenched in liquor all the time.'
'Kajari, I feel so bad for you. A tender girl like you has to shoulder such a heavy burden. I wish your I could make your life a little better.'
'Babuji I get to eat, have a roof over head, what more does a person want?' Her question had perplexed me. I had no answer to that.

I didn't see Kajari for the next few days. I wondered if she had been to the forest on the other side to collect tendu leaves. It was the holy month of Shravan. The day would be cheerful, sunny and bright, and the very next moment black clouds would meander into the sky and it would rain. The skies seemed to be aping my state of mind which alternated between vibrantly optimistic and depressingly gloomy shades.

Now that Baba had completed his sadhana I was a free bird. Yet I continued to serve him. But I was no longer bound to his hut, though I continued to stay there. I would walk to the bridge, cross it and sit at the Brahma temple watching the flowing river and roving boats, wondering if life flows freely or we have to rove it in the direction of our goals. I loved this place, this temple. A unique joy and peace would engulf me as I sat cross-legged on its ancient stone floor. After some time my eyes would automatically close and I would be transported to another world together. I felt a pull to this place, this temple in particular. I was drawn to it the way magnet draws nails. When I told about it to Baba he said, 'Bound to be. You have meditated at that place in your past life.'

That day when I was returning from the Brahma temple I met Kajari. She wasn't her cheerful self. There were dark circles beneath her eyes. She trudged up the road with a drooped back. Seeing me she couldn't control her dam of tears, 'How will they survive Babuji? What will they eat?'
'Kajari, where have you been and what's wrong with you? Please tell me in a manner that I can comprehend.'

Wiping her tears with her calloused hands she said, 'I have been standing in the queue at the fair price shop for the past six days. The Lala doesn't give my share of ration saying that I don't have an adhar card. I have already applied for one Babu, long back when the government officials had come to our cluster. But I haven't received it yet. Babu there is nothing left at home, all the pots are empty. My brother hasn't eaten anything for the past six days. My brother and father, they will die of hunger babuji,' she said.

'Did you eat anything?' When she kept mum I got my answer as to why she looked so emaciated. I took her to a nearby hotel and forcibly made her eat. I got dal-chawal packed for her father and brother. On our way back I purchased rice and other groceries and handed it over to her.
'Come tomorrow we will see what Lala has to say.' I said. 
Read the next part here 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Maze of Doubts


Read the previous part here
I am sitting with my legs crossed. My eyelids are drooping as I drift into meditation. My breath has become shallow. I can feel a tingling sensation across my lower back. Soon it travels to my neck and then my head. I am submerging into a placid ocean of peace. My eye balls are gazing upwards at the anjaneya chakra, the spot between the two eyebrows. I consciously witness my breath, the way it enters and expands my chest and then goes out. I now see a tunnel of light. It is formed of umpteen spiral rings of light. I am travelling through it at a lightening speed. I am no longer the body. Its consciousness that is traversing. I then reach the spot where I can see Baba meditating. His body too is made of light. I halt at the place, in his company. I feel the vibes which he is emanating. I feel assured. I feel at peace and in the company of Baba I behold that state.

I don't for how long I had been in that state. But I think I must have meditated for the entire night. I remember Baba had once said in his trademark gravelly voice, 'Days are for the bhogis and nights for the yogis. Yogis engage in their spiritual practices at night, when the whole world has gone to sleep.'

When his sadhana concluded, Baba placed his head on my lap and cried like a child. His tears flew from his cheeks on to his beard. It was bizarre to watch an elderly man, a sadhu weep. After some time he composed himself and said, 'I undertook the penance for the first fourteen years. I followed my practices rigorously and then at the end of the fourteen years Maa Bhagwati appeared before me and bestowed a siddhi upon me. I could see a person's past. I was elated and those around me were impressed. But tell me what is the point in telling people something they already know. They are more interested in their future, which I cannot predict. So I undertook another fourteen years sadhana. When that did not yield any result, I undertook another penance of fourteen years and so on. This was my fourth round and I failed this time too. I know it is my fault. For the first time I had undertaken the penance without any expectations and I received the siddhi. But the subsequent sadhanas, they were all stuffed with desires and hankerings to receive siddhis and the recognition that followed. I have wasted my life son. I urge you not to waste your time. Go away. '

That evening, heavy clouds bellowed into the sky and it rained. I sat quietly at the door of the hut as needles of rain drops pierced the river flow creating small ripples. Baba's words had pierced my heart as well, a ripple of doubt was created. Baba had been a renunciate for more than three decades, though he had attained siddhi of peeking into people's past, that had not made him happy. He was disappointed and felt that he would have fared better if he had stayed back at his home. Was I committing the same mistake? Will I too repent my decision at his age? The thoughts cropped up in my mind. The sky was filled with black clouds.

The following day opened with a promise. The black clouds were all gone and the sun shone with confidence in the clear sky. Baba went on with his rituals. His vow of silence was over. He asked me to make some tea for him. 'And don't forget to add some lemon grass into the tea.' He said. I too felt a little better. While the tea simmered I asked myself, whether I was happy with my job and relationship. The answer was obviously no. I was disenchanted. That is the reason why I was here. My sadhana will not meet the same fate as that of Baba. Every person is different. Our priorities are different and so are our destinies..

I called Sandip. That was the first time I was calling him since I left on my spiritual journey. He was very happy to hear my voice. Our conversation circled around banal formal questions like how are you, the warmth, the camaraderie was obviously missing. Maybe it was because of the distance between us. I wanted to rush back to him, to tell everything that had happened in all these months, but I controlled myself. I hung up the phone, pull out my notebook and pen and wrote a long letter to him. 

Read the next part here 

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Kajari holds the Lantern

Read the previous part here

She said, 'They are harmless. It is we humans who have encroached upon their lands who have to be careful.' The girl who stood before me was no more than seventeen. Balancing the earthen pot over head gingerly, she walked, no her frail frame swayed as she walked. She was wearing a green blouse and a yellow tattered saree. Her saree didn't run across her shoulder. It was wrapped around her waist like a skirt, pulled up to the knees and tucked in the waist. She was wearing a necklace made of cowrie shells and stones.

'Aren't you the Bengali's Baba's chella?' She asked. When I nodded in agreement, she told me that her name was Kajari, she stayed in the forest, and she would make a daily trip to the river to fetch water. She narrated me how Bengali Baba had healed her younger brother when he had caught fever the previous year.

'What do you do in the forest? Don't you go to school?' I asked.
She had a boisterous laugh at my question. Her swarthy midriff shuddered as she laughed. After a minute she said, 'We are adivasis and this is our home. Where else will we go?'

Kajari fulfilled my desire to communicate with a fellow human. She in turn had a lot to ask about cities. She had only heard about the cities and never visited one. I arranged my tasks in such a manner that I would be at the river to fetch water at the same time when she would come and on her way back I would accompany her and collect the firewood. That ensured that I didn't drift away from Baba's service and not a single minute was wasted.

That day Kajari said, 'The pilgrims do come, especially those who undertake the parikrama. They do kanya puja and offer us some money and gifts. But that is reserved only for young girls who have not yet begun to menstruate. I began menstruating two years back and that privilege was taken away from me. Nobody thinks of our education, leave apart education, no one cares for our existence. We are just subsisting without potable water and medical facilities. All that we get from the government is two kilos of rice per head from the fair price shop across the river.'

I was taken aback by the way she referred to her menstruation. There was no shame, no embarrassment which we educated city dwellers face while talking about this topic. She then went on to tell me about her mother's death. Her mother was pregnant with her third child. One night when it rained cats and dogs, she went into labour pain. An elderly woman who performed all deliveries in the hamlet was summoned. Kajari held her lantern up and the woman examined Kajari's mother who was gnashing her teeth and wincing in pain.

'I don't think she can make it here. She will have to be taken to hospital.' She said. A visit to hospital meant trotting the hilly forest terrain for six kilometres, then crossing the river and a bus ride for another ten kilometres. It was night time. The incessant rains had made the path slippery. Trees had fallen had some places thereby blocking the roads. Moreover even the tribals knew that the hospital was actually only a primary health centre and there would be no one there to attend them at night.

So the men decided not to take any risk and wait up to the sun rise. By dawn Kajri's mother's cries increased. She let out a final cry and passed away, with the child still in her womb.

I was shaken to the core on hearing this sad story. But Kajari narrated it as a matter of fact, without any trace of grief. For me it was just an incident, a painful, aching incident. For her it was a life with all the have-nots, a life she had accepted.

'Kajari, why don't you get married?' I asked her one day.
'Who will cook for my father if I get married? I can't think of my marriage, not until my younger brother grows up and brings a wife. Not until there is another woman in the house.' She paused and said with a smile. 'Maybe I will be well past the marriageable age by then.'
I felt as if someone had dug a dagger into my heart. This young woman was happily sacrificing her life for her family without any remorse or complaint.
'Are you happy?' I asked her on another occasion.
'Yes, absolutely, life is beautiful.' She replied. The twinkle in her eyes evidenced that her reply was genuine. 
Read the next part here 

Friday, 12 April 2019

Keeper


You can read the previous part here
The ebullient Narmada giggled like a young school girl. Now I was in her undisturbed company. I listened to her gurgling talks and she was the only one I spoke to. Baba had taken a vow of silence for a month. He was to undertake special spiritual sadhana. When I first heard about it, I offered to volunteer to make his life comfortable. Pinching my cheek he had said, 'You naughty fellow. You know that if you serve a seeker, you take away half of his punya, the merit he earns.' This remark was jocular and he allowed me to serve him. I moved in Baba's hut seven days before he was to undertake the sadhana.

I served Baba with all my love and devotion. I would clean the hut, pluck the flowers and bring the fire wood, fetch the water, cook the rice gruel, and make tea for him at odd hours without any complaint. He was visibly happy. 'You have made my life comfortable my son.' He said the day before his penance was to begin.

The following day was like any other ordinary day. We went to the river, bathed, worshiped the Shiva lingam on the bank and closed our eyes and meditated up to the noon. Now both of us were in mauna or silence, Baba obviously because he had undertaken the special sadhana, and I because there was no one whom I could talk to. I had been speaking so much all my life, but I felt I was listening for the first time. Now I was aware of the every sound within my range of hearing – the splattering water against the boulder in the river, the chirruping mynah that perched on the top most branch of the banyan tree, the swishing wind, the grumbling of Baba's stomach as he performed rechak, kumbhak and other yogic kriyas. Life was opening a different dimension for me and I was overwhelmed.

However, by the end of the first week I was bored. I had this strong urge to speak to a human. But I was in Baba's service and I had voluntarily taken up this responsibility. So I couldn't retract. They say as your are spiritually spiral up, your desires melt, for they are quenched the moment they arise. I had the same experience.

One day while I was plucking the flowers, I heard a sweet voice, 'Stop there.' There was an urgency in the voice. I stood cemented as a six feet cobra slithered in front of me.