Gift of Time

Gopal was a daily wage worker in the small town of Nowrali in the eastern pradesh. Quite a few of landless labourers were not guaranteed consistent work. They did not belong to the town as they did not have a proper dependable identification as per the authorities whose task was to guarantee work to the poor under various schemes brought out by elected governments. He like others existed on the ground but never was a part of the system.

These men wandered daily in search of work at middle class houses and the rich in town and did to the best of their ability what came to them. The summer made their tasks difficult when the oppressive heat did not allow them to roam freely from door to door or while they worked.

A few of them loitered near Ramaseth’s palatial house thinking that he could assign them some work at his house or at his diary ranch at the outskirts a mile away where few people were guaranteed employment if they were found to be diligent in their work.

The summer was oppressive as said earlier and the Sun as task master struck people who ventured out of the shade for too long. Last year the town had lost quite a few people this way.

Today Gopal had gone from house to house in the well to do areas at walking distance from his shanty. Everyday he covered 10 to 15 houses on an average before someone assigned him some work. The jobs ranged from anything that the house owners could not do or manage for themselves.

For the last two days he wasn’t getting any and was thinking of what to do. There was nothing to eat and he went to Manikchand’s grocery to buy some rice and vegetables. But to his dismay the shopkeeper refused to give him anything on loan. Already Gopal’s dues had crossed 500 rupees and Manikji was not willing to extend it any further.

Gopal as his nature did not complain and retraced his steps. Manikji was right. How could he run his shop on charity. That would make us people lazy. He also would fall into the debt trap and become one among the poor if he persisted to help this way. He had to safeguard himself first if he had to help others. Lord, if only i got some work, i will pay him his dues soon…sighed Gopal.

A hungry Gopal scratching his face was walking back to his hut in the sweltering heat. It was then he observed somebody sitting outside his door in the shade perhaps waiting for him to arrive. Do I know him was the thought that came across his mind as he greeted the stranger who had got up on seeing Gopal.

Are you looking for me? No and Yes replied the smiling stranger with all humility. I was sitting in the shade. I am on the way to Neemgaon and hail from Govindpur and thought of resting my legs. I went near the shade of that bungalow you see there pointing to one of a well to do family house but the people did not like a stranger near their house and then I thought of coming over here. Can I lie down here in the shade for a while till I feel fine and go about my way. Why here, come inside. Here, have some water. Gopal brought it from the earthen pot and put some biscuits he had, to refresh his guest. You can lie on my cot till you feel comfortable to make the next leg of your journey. Gopal was happy to have a guest but sad at the same time that he could not offer a decent meal.

They talked about a few things including the lack of work in the town . Call me Keshav. I have to reach Neemgaon before it is dinner as I have an important work to accomplish there. Why don’t you, Gopal, try your luck at Ramaseth’s house. I heard he is rich and needs an extra hand or two on daily basis?

I went there a couple of times but there is always a gathering of people looking for work and much abler than me. Gopal drank water to suppress the pangs of hunger that emanated and rested below alongside the bed on which the stranger had gone to sleep.

As evening approached, Keshav took leave but not before gifting a wrist watch to him saying it was the only thing of any value he had on him to gift him for his endearing nature. Gopal was at a loss to accept this looking at Keshav’s smiling face upon him but the gentle hands pressed the gift into Gopal’s palms. I should hurry now looking at the setting Sun but not before giving a parting remark. Try one more time at Ramaseth’s house and do not forget to wear this lucky watch when you go to him early morning. Gopal agreed mentally as he watched Keshav go out of sight round the corner houses.

The next day after a quick bath he left early morning and was at the gates of Ramaseth’s house. Today there was nobody looking for work except him; maybe he had come earlier than the others or as Keshav said his gifted watch was lucky for him. It was then he saw the Seth coming back after his morning walk with a servant in tow. Though Gopal went upto him with folded hands, he ignored him as if he didn’t exist and went inside. The servant told him to wait for some time before they decided if they wanted an extra hand that day.

After a few minutes Divakarji, the police officer walked into the house for what seemed a customary visit. Gopal knew him as one or two times, Divakarji had given him some work at the town police station. Looking for work here? Yes Sir, replied Gopal with hands folded. The officer observed the watch on Gopal’s right hand. It looked costly and out of place on the worker’s hand. Where did you get this? Some habits die hard was the thought that came to Divakar’s mind as the question had left his lips before he could ask something. Sir, a guest gifted it to me yesterday at my house. And who was He to have graced your house? I do not know; he appeared to be a traveller. Hmm retorted the pondering officer as he walked inside.

Welcome Divakarji what a pleasant surprise. How come at this early hour. Hope all is well? Yes yes..I just happened to take this way for my morning walk. Please be seated, infact i just came in after finishing mine and was thinking of having breakfast. Why don’t you join us. I am waiting for my wife to complete her prayers you know how she is..let me go and inform her or else both of us will have to wait for more time. He came back after a few minutes. She is always busy with Krishna and attributes all what we have today to His grace and not because of my business acumen. Anyway what news have you about the town. How has been the last week for you. For me it has been pretty busy….As they spoke, Kanta, Ramaseth’s wife walked in, greeted the officer and asked one of the servant to clear the clutter on the breakfast table as she went into the kitchen to get tea and the dishes. While chatting over as they had the khichdi and Upma, Ramaseth glanced at the wall clock. It still was saying 5:35 am so it had stopped and pointed it to her to get it repaired. He wasn’t wearing his wrist watch, strange didn’t he tie it before he went on his walk. He asked the standing servant. Do we need any extra worker today? to which Kanta replied yes we need one to clean our water tank. Yesterday we had a dusty wind and the terrace is laced with dry leaves and twigs. Okay, time I get going as he glanced at his wrist a second time as was his habit. He wasted quite a few precious minutes of the day just to look up at the time. The wheels of time never stood still though every second it never stopped looking at what we did as if it had to maintain a log of our doings…

Where is my watch, he wondered as he went upto his room and searched for it and couldn’t find it. Divakar saw the troubled look on the Seth’s face and enquired of it. I think i lost my watch during the morning walk and these servants have you noticed it anywhere? It was a gift from a person last month when I had helped a person on a night when their vehicle had broken down on the highway. I had arranged all help to get him and his family to continue their journey. For my services that night he had gifted to me a watch an antique silver costly one..Kaantaa have you seen it..Kanta’s voice came from the kichen..i will look for it. Meanwhile Ramaseth asked his servant to send for the helper waiting at the gate.

Gopal appeared at the steps of the Gopalkunj mansion where its owner Seth was talking to Divakar who was now taking his leave. Gopal came up the steps with folded hands. Can you do some work properly on this property? Yes Sir. I shall..Divakar told Ramaseth that he could count on Gopal as he himself had utilised his services.

Kanta after taking care of the kitchen chores meanwhile went into the prayer room just to see whether the window was closed. Her eyes first fell on the watch lying on the solitary chair. Oh it is here my husband kept and forgotten while notifying me about the arrival of Divakarji while she was praying.

Suddenly she heard some loud chatter outside in the verandah and came out quickly.

Where did you get the watch? I am asking you a second time. Kanta walked in to a scene where she saw Gopal in tears and surprised to see the same watch in her husband’s hand. Do you see Kanta. It seems i dropped my watch in the grass somewhere during the morning walk and this guy gets it and walks into the very same house to where it belonged to. And on top of it he has the nerve to tell me, RAMASETH of all persons that it was gifted to him by some stranger who was mad to go and rest at his place. As if there were no rest houses or lodges in this Nowrali town!!

Divakarji what do we do with this fellow. Divakar who was maintaining calm so far said..yes this is the same answer he gave me at the gate when asked of this lost watch. Well it is your call Seth do you want me to press charges and proceed now that you got your watch. The Seth replied..I don’t want to, from my side. Well off with you he shouted at Gopal, there is no work for you here anymore.

Wait a moment..Kanta said and hurried to her prayer room; the watch was still there. So she was not dreaming. Again going back and before Gopal could move out, she called him back. NOW what, an upset Ramaseth asked looking at her. He didn’t like Kanta interfering in this case. She was too kind and left a lot of such people of the hook. NOW do you want to feed him breakfast too. Kanta looked at her husband once and he kept his silence.

Now tell me what is your name..in a sweet voice she asked….Gopal. The name struck her.and where did you find this? No maam i did not find it anywhere. Keshav had given it to me for my hospitality. I gave him water and food what i had and he rested on my cot and in the evening he gave this watch as a parting gift. And he also said..Gopal broke into tears now in front of the kindness shown by Kanta. I understand please speak on, do not be afraid of these two not so gentle men with a smile she made fun of the two who were listening. Keshav also asked me to look for work here.

Enough of your talk..this guy comes looking for my fallen watch and not work and has the audacity to wear it on him as a gift from an imaginary traveler. Divakarji take him, please! I don’t have the time for all this… said a fuming Seth.

But this is not your watch. Why are you taking him to task? Your watch is still lying on the chair in the prayer room. Ramaseth and Divakar rushed to find the evidence but came out soon in a huff. Now Kanta you are making a story to help this Gopal. I now suspect you gave this watch to him when he came looking for work..there is no watch in that room dear Kanta. What do you mean there is no watch there. I will go and get it myself for you to see. The devoted Kanta went inside the prayer room and her eyes first fell on a smiling Krishna and then on the extinguished lamp. It is too windy she thought as she shut the lone window and then lighted the lamp. Getting up she casually lifted the watch from the chair. These people did they go blind in anger? How could one judge others when the curtain of anger and prejudged notions exist, and one calls himself a policeman who cannot locate a watch on a chair in a 16 square feet room, her thoughts were lapping and making her a bit agitated. She calmed herself by looking at Krishna and went out.

Ramaseth was looking at the news paper headlines as she walked in. Where are the others? She heard the gate being shut and saw Divakar taking Gopal with him. She called out to the servant to bring them back and showed the watch to her husband. See Sethji..she always chided him by calling him this way… Here is your watch. Now you see there are two of them and coincidentally both were gifted. Gopal has not taken yours..Kanta addressed the men assembled. Divakar felt guilty thinking he had acted in haste and harshly in the shadow of the affluent Ramaseth. Kanta gave the watch back to Gopal saying Gopal we are sorry for what happened and I apologize on behalf of my husband. Please forgive us and can I ask you if you are still open to the task for today at our house?

A smiling Gopal gave the watch to Kanta saying…Please keep this watch safely with you. It acted as a recommendation letter and now I don’t have any use for it. For me the Sun is enough to judge the passing time. In that case Gopal, the now mellowed Seth said we are hiring you as a full time helper with us. You need not look for work anywhere else. Gopal with folded hands said..I am so lucky. Yesterday I met my Krishna and today I met Lakshmiji as he looked at Kanta. What more do I need. Seth looked at Kanta. He was proud of her and happy that things concluded this way. He went out but not before telling Kanta to feed breakfast to Gopal before he started his first assignment at Gopalkunj mansion.

Kanta smiled at Gopal as he ate his delicious breakfast and she retired back into the prayer room and kept the watch Gopal had gifted her in front of Krishna saying Thank you for saving us from commiting a sin today early morning. Here is a gift for you for being the master of ceremonies and presiding over today’s incident. Krishna smiled at Kanta for what belonged to him had come back to him…He was busy thinking who next would receive the Gift of Time…

Churned Quotes while writing this post:

All the time you seem busy or act busy. Spare some time for me who is all the time looking at you…

You never know when the tide of time washes over you. It may lift you now and then dump you the very next moment…

The Lord is the best scriptwriter and He nevers leaves an opportunity to act in his plays even if it be, a small guest appearance…

Hunger is the worst form of punishment that is inflicted on the body. If a man or any creature is denied that basic right, the gods go hungry…

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Story of a Ruin

Hindu temple, Ubud, Bali
Pura Temple, Bali

On the banks of a winding river
covered by shade giving trees
stood an old temple now a ruin
one day, was I mighty surprised
to see myself walking towards it?

The glaze from the noon fiery sun
as it struck many majestic pillars
at first blinded me; I could see
a deity of a goddess unattended.

Offering my salutations to her
I looked around to spot anyone
who would come this desolate way
but alas, no one seemed to exist
except me, in these lost quarters.

I walked the once trodden steps
when having heard a sharp noise
I turned around, to my wonder
the old sanctum door now shut
who shut that door, I wondered.

Around the farther side were
trees plenty next to a cool pond
with flowers growing amidst it
my eyes spied in the shade of trees
a monkey, a squirrel eyeing in awe.

The breeze and the fruits in bounty
took me to a dream of bygone days
I dreamt of that place back in time
how festivities rocked the still ground
where people flocked lost in joy.

The temple fair with pristine glory
attracted one and all, near and afar
a visitor in me now in different attire
there I saw a beautiful girl standing
at the steps of the majestic temple.

Was she beautiful, was she radiant
was something about her charm
observing all who were lost in fun
who she was, so bright as the sun
my mind at sea, churned thoughts.

I climbed the lovely temple steps
devotees praying to the goddess
somehow the glow on the deity
could very relate to that on the girl
one in divine, one in human form.

Casual inquiries it was made known
she was the child of the temple priest
a devotee who cared for nothing
engrossed in the service of his folk
worship a mother who was his child.

I circled with the crowd at every turn
her radiant smile, the mighty holy
doubts cleared with the compassion
she bestowed on us with her love
a mother pleased at her children.

At a loss, keep the discovery to myself
do I make it known, had I the courage
should I approach her I wondered
would she listen, as others her age
a woman, she of a countless age.

One day, she was playing with kids
getting close towards the little ones
when she sensed my approach,
the all knowing smile asking
was I attracted to her these days.

With courage, I went near divine her
while the kids not at close quarters
asking her, was it true, I had sensed
she the divine in human form said
keep it to you, which I did this time.

Days were spent meeting and asking
had she powers she could exercise
could she keep the village blessed
she would wait for them to pass a test
then, would decide to be a part of it.

Months passed by, days of joy to me,
one day, the priest’s daughter fell sick
ailments added to her father’s plight
one said of a physician with the king
might help her to tide over her state.

A journey to the palace was too far
to ask for a cure might invite wrath
a lad I was, to carry the message
private to the medic, to respond to
a person glowing, despite her pain.

I went to the court and with difficulty
manage to get his consent, for the call
but he asked a fee, which I doubted
any one, of the village could afford
but they could have tried and helped.

With sad tidings, I got the message
no one cared to help the priest
who did selfless service for them
helped bring blessings from Her
just as She had blessed him with Her.

Chiefs and landlords refused to help
in kind or in money, left him sad
the priest died, broke, just as he was
was this test you told of, she smiled
she was to pass, with me by her side.

Rain clouded to the delight of all
but my plight, no one could gauge
I lost her that night, hands in mine
radiant as ever, loving eyes upon me
in torrents, it poured from the sky.

The river nearby rose in anger
submerged all with its people
waves climbed the forsaken temple
they also washed away our lost selves
I must be glad to part with my body.

It all came back, I was driven here
a place where I loved a girl of glory
a divine Odyssey it got me here
left to reminisce the story of a ruin
would She come again for me…

If you liked reading this, hope you enjoy the sequel that continues as a story in Yajnavalkya

Yajnavalkya

This story is a sequel to my earlier post in poetry
Story of a Ruin

A young scholarly man well versed in the scriptures who had set out on a journey to many great lands in the peninsula happened to come across a temple in a place near the Vindhya mountain range that stretched from the east to the west across the country. It was sometime afternoon maybe when the Sun was thinking of winding up for the day in a couple of hours and the hot sand was in the process of cooling much to the delight of Charna, the horse of Vedavalkya who was galloping at a cruising speed while his master observed the beauty of the place they had come to, but not before crossing a mighty river at a shallow point some miles away, though it seemed only a few moments ago.

Amidst the groves some distance away, he could see an ancient temple and reined Charna towards it as the destination. Vedavalkya thought there would be some habitation near it where he and the horse could rest for the night before proceeding to Magadha which was still a few days away. At a distance of a few miles, he could see a few hills jutting out of a thick forest. Having brought the horse to a halt, he alighted and looked around the precincts of the shrine but could find none to his surprise. He bound the horse to a rock with a short rope, which Charna could break loose easily if some calamity approached. Maybe there would be habitations at the backyard,thought Veda as he walked across.

No sooner had he put a few steps, when from nowhere a group of bandits on horses came up and were bent on injuring him. One of them rushed upon him on a dark horse and swished a dagger at Veda who while sidetracking him and the horse fell on the soft sand. The leader of them and the few others laughed at his plight. Before they could proceed to rob him of whatever valuables on his self and injure him, they all were startled to hear a laughter that came from a lady who had appeared on the steps of the temple. Veda was surprised to see a beautiful girl nay a lady, dressed in an attire which only the well to do could afford, and who though looked at him with soft eyes, was at the same time laughing at the band of thugs, who took to their heels and vanished into the distant forest from where they had appeared to come.

Getting up, disheveled from the sand, his long hair matted with the dust, he got up and approached the young lady and with folded hands asked, ” Oh Devi, from where have you thus appeared to save me in time?” to which she replied with a assuring smile, “Why, isn’t this place mine, where I have resided for a long time? I was watching you for long and was wondering if you would miss this place on your journey in your quest for furthering your knowledge“.

I am deeply indebted to you for saving me, but am also confused as to how your pleasing laughter to the ears caused the bandits to flee in fright?” asked Veda. “That is another story, which I would narrate along some day, but now you look very tired, why don’t you get fresh with the water near that well and I am sure you would find some fodder for your horse near the barn and the hut you see yonder“.

Veda approached the well, cleaned himself of the mud, drank some cool water and took a wide vessel that appeared to be a drinking pot for the cow standing there and munching and observing the stranger that was him. He then went up to the barn and took two sheaves of hay for Charna and walked beside the hut and observed the open door it had. There was nobody it seemed at first glance, but then there was a glow coming from someplace inside it. Though curious, it seemed inappropriate to trespass as per his morals, and he walked up to the steed and handed it to him along with the vessel of water for him to drink.

Call me Mitra” the voice came from so near that he almost jumped. She was standing at a distance smiling at his bewilderment but the voice seemed so close as if she was whispering in his ear. There seemed to some aura about her but he couldn’t pin point it down as to what it was. “Why don’t you take a bath in the river and come for the evening prayers?, the offerings are ready for the Goddess in the shrine” to which he consented and hurriedly walked across to the river flowing at its own sweet pace. It was quite some time he had taken a bath in a river in the last two days and the warm water did him good to clear up the fatigue in his body.

With fresh clothing from his haversack, he groomed himself to let the water drain from his long flowing hair before he climbed the steps of this seeming divine temple. Built in solid rock columns it somehow gave the impression that this temple was hewn out of a solid rock that existed ages ago at this place. He came near the sanctum and was surprised to see the worship items that had been arranged in front of the deity along with a few well lit lamps. It was his turn to get dazzled as the form of the goddess which appeared dark so far dazzled in a slow ever growing glow and became so bright that he could not look at her for more time. He prostrated before the divine and by the time, he got up after his prayers, the form had subsided to the initial warm glow resembling the presence of a smoldering fire within.

Veda got up and sat in meditation for quite some time into the night before he got up and was aware of his surroundings. The form of the goddess had assumed the original dark hue. The items of worship had disappeared and there was only the sound of the owl and the crickets in the silence. Charna was sleeping in his standing position as all horses did especially when it was not familiar territory and the sounds from the nearby forest not helping much as assurance to the poor creature.

There was no sign of Mitra, whom he thought would have retired to the hut or a row of huts behind the barn. This was no time to enquire and he took a sheet and laid it on the steps and was sound asleep in a few moments.

When it was dawn as heralded by the chirping of the birds and the neigh of Charna, Veda woke up just in time or so he thought, before Mitra could chide him for sleeping so late. Although an early riser, the travel had left him a bit tired. He rushed to the river had a quick bath and returned in time to take Charna for a quick gallop around the place before he could think of having some food. The horse was happy to go places and he set up a pace which would take them to the perimeter of the forest but Veda checked him not to dwell in too deep for he knew that wild beasts and men existed who would not stoop to venture out to see a welcome meal presented before them in the early morning. He patted on its hind leg and swerved him back to turn towards the temple for he had to meet Mitra, have some grub if she had something to offer and be on his way to the next destination.

The horse trotted its last steps before it stopped for him to descend and survey the barn and the hut and any trace of Mitra. This time, he would have to go near the hut and call her to come out if, as per his thoughts, she stayed in it. “Looking for me“, the voice boomed near along with the chime of anklets as she walked up to him. She had a plate of fruits and a sweet dish ready for him to savor. He gratefully thanked her for it and sat on a stone seat nearby after she had seated herself at a nearby one. “Oh but I should be feeding Charna first“. “I have already done that” she told him as if she read his thoughts. Charna was busy feeding at some grass and sprouts of ground nuts, that she had spread in front of him.

After having the morning ritual prasad/offering presented to the Goddess, he was thinking of leaving when Mitra said, “What is the big hurry, stay here for a few days, be in the company of the Goddess and get her blessings before you set out“. Veda was in two minds, one part of his was now asking him to stay, for he definitely thought there was much more to learn from this place than all the places he had visited so far, but one part was also worried to leave, considering this place looked strange as did Mitra who was smiling at him as if she understood what he must have been thinking.

Don’t you worry about your stay. You could be lodged in one of the huts behind the barn and your horse can share the barn with the cow until you stay put here”. “But then who stays in the hut next to the well, is that you or someone else?”
Oh no, that hut is the hermitage of the Sage Dhuwija who happens to stay here for most of the time doing penance. After a week on the full moon day, he will leave this place to the south of the Vindhyas, but before that I will set up a meeting with him. Beware, he is no ordinary sage, he will put you to the test and if you come out of it with success and life, I will reward you“.

and what reward are you thinking of giving to me after the meeting”, in half jest asked a smiling Veda. “That will be known to you when the time comes. Come, now I will show your lodging so that you can see if it suits you well or do I need to set something else there“. “I am a wandering pundit in search of knowledge, don’t bestow any more luxuries than I need at this moment”, said Veda.

What is it that you seek Vedavalkya?, asked Mitra, “is it just knowledge or something more“. How did she know my name, or did I tell her already, he seemed confused but answered “I seek knowledge to refurbish my soul and in the material context, i need knowledge to govern for I am the prince of Videha and the kingdom has seen better days than the present state it is in now. I have been sent out by my ageing father to seek that knowledge to administer them and the power to be invincible to seek protection from my neighbors when ever the need arises. For a King to rule wise and well and protect his subjects, he himself should get a shield of protection from the Lord without which he would be subjected to many attempts of disconcert and a ruler who falls to a mortal wound takes his state along with him”. Hmm pondered Mitra looking so deep into his eyes, he wondered if he could stare back without blinking at those beautiful yet striking eyes. The case of the bandits fleeing at her laughter was still in the back of his mind, but he had not ventured to ask her, what it was that made them flee! Just plain laughter it could not be, there was something more, but some times the glance and her ever knowing face curbed him to voice his thoughts. By now, he was sure she was a mind reader and kept quiet.

She showed him the hut and asked him to meditate for a week, “Just take plain water and the fruits that I bring to you in the morning, that should be enough for the rest of the day. Come to the temple in the evening and offer your salutations to Her and seek her blessings. Get up in the morning, be at the river as the first rays of the Sun fall upon you. Never ride your horse during these seven days till I ask you to. Remember these, I will meet you every evening when you come up the temple steps and do not wish to seek me, any other time”. So be it, with folded hands said Veda to the ever smiling Mitra but when she had said all these, he had seen streaks of some sternness in her eyes or did he feel that way, he was not sure. She appeared to be the same age as him, but sometimes when she talked especially when she put forward the commandments, she appeared to be ageless.

Veda surveyed the interior of the small hut, there was a wooden bed and a box to keep his belongings, a couple of windows to the east and one to the west all made up with matted reed and leaves and some wooden finish here and there. There was a lamp lit inside in one corner. there was a rack of a fresh set of clothes for him kept for use. Was there some divine help here or who else could furnish these things at such short notice, or were they kept for some guest who was expected here, he knew not. A leafy tray of fresh chosen fruits was kept for him. They looked inviting and delicious and he had his fill before he ventured out for a walk. He carefully avoided the hut near the well, thinking he might spot Mitra and thus break the vow he had promised and came back in a span of an hour spying Charna happily grazing in the barn next to the cow who looked at him as he came near. Putting his hands on her head to which she did not express anything, he then ruffled the mane on Charna before going back to his hut and set himself up for meditation. He closed his eyes and the form of the Goddess came to him. He focused himself on her and sat in a deep trance for many a hour he knew not. The slanting rays of the sun through the window caught his eyes and disturbed them and when he opened his eyes, he knew evening was fast approaching.

As per Mitra, he prepared himself for the evening salutations, by going to the river, taking a bath, donning a fresh set of clothes, he hurried back through the sand to be in time for the evening ritual. As he climbed the first step, Mitra met him on her way out, telling him to light the lamps and pray to the Goddess for divine help to achieve his goals. Just as the previous day, Mitra had kept all the worship paraphernalia ready. He lit the lamps and looked up with folded hands towards the Goddess.

The glow as the previous day appeared, as he prayed to her and when he opened his eyes, he could see the Goddess divine in all her splendour exuding rays filling the places with the atoms of light striking him and rebounding back. He felt as if washed by her glory and a strength that seemed to grow in his mind and body as he stood there. Finally he prostrated again at her feet for many long moments and as he got up, the glow had subsided and strangely the offerings had disappeared. He stood again hoping Mitra would appear but there was no sign of her coming and he bowed down again before coming down the steps back to the hut by the barn.

After seven days of such ritual followed strictly by Vedavalkya, on the seventh evening as he got down the steps, Mitra was smiling at him standing next to him, from where she appeared all of a sudden, he was at a loss to explain. So you have passed the first test well, Veda and now tomorrow I will usher your self to the holy Dhuwija who would test your knowledge. You should answer him to the best of your knowledge though there will be some harsh tests you would be subjected to at the same time”. “What harsh tests? gasped he “that you will find out in due course, but do not lose hope and maintain your calm however rigorous it may seem for the rewards are great”.

They walked together to his hut but she did not enter and bade him good sleep. He stood at the door as she walked across to the next hut at quite some distance and disappeared into it. He wondered when he would ask her the question, who she was, but then there was still time to ask it, but first he thought of how he would fare with the Sage. Mentally he said his prayers and went to sleep. In his dream he saw that Mitra was riding his horse and had ventured into the forest to seek out the bandits and their hideout. She rode daringly with Charna getting accustomed to her style as if he knew her for ages. Presently as the bandits came out, all swords in hand, she raised her hand and to his wonder, he could see her hand now wielding a spear. She threw it on one of the men and nailed him. Others rushed on to her giving huge cries, but then she came down from the horse and in a maze of dexterity what he could see in a matter of moments was, everyone had hit the dust and it was at that time Veda saw Charna hit on his side by a small wound from one of the swords of a bandit. She looked back at Veda, he who was hiding behind the trees. That look was really fearful and he got up from his dream sweating. After having a mug of water, he got up surveyed the surroundings, everything seemed peaceful. Everything looked fine and then he went back to sleep and got up only in the early morning.

The next day morning Vedavalkya got up, had his morning ablutions done and prepared himself mentally by meditating on the Goddess and was he charmed to see Mitra’s eyes upon him as he opened his door. “It is time for me to introduce you to the rishi. Be calm and answer his questions. Once he acknowledges you, then maybe you can be free to ask yours. But I again warn you, during this time you have to be fearless and not of weak mind as you will be tested as required by the Sage”.

They walked beside the barn, and he looked to Charna and immediately saw the fester caused by the wound, so the dream was true, he thought. He didn’t look at Mitra much less ask her about last night’s foray into the forest made by her. Not dwelling even a moment to pause by his dear horse, he moved on, accompanied by the young lady. She got in and foretold about Veda’s visit to the Sage and came out. She looked once at him and walked away to the temple. With slight hesitation, Veda stood at the doorstep, when again he was startled by her ‘now go inside‘ voice that came so close even though she was a good 20 steps away from him now.

He stepped in, the hut had a glow of the sun, the glow of enlightenment, wisdom, knowledge all put together. The sage welcomed him and asked him to take a seat opposite to him on a seat of grass which it seemed was hot with embers and dark ashes. Obediently he sat with a clear mind, the seat was fine, maybe it was a glow, it was not hot at all.

“Son, what do you seek? Do you seek wealth, knowledge or wish to live long?”

Sire, I seek knowledge and your blessings so that I might live long to accomplish my mission of imparting peace and justice to my people of Videha“.

It is good that you seek the welfare of others along with the self and not at the expense of others“, said the Sage.

I see that you have read the scriptures well, that shows on your face but I want to test your determination and courage while testing how far you will suffer to get these“.

I will ask you 5 questions, son be prepared. Answer them best as you could, formulate and answer them in your mind if not through your tongue“.

“Yes Sire, I am all ears..” to which the sage smiled and said, “only the ears to hear the question would be sufficient“.

My first question dear, what are the six means of knowledge to know the self?”

Veda replied they are “Pratyaksha—–Under this comes our five senses—-Visual, Auditory,Touch,Taste, and Smell. Also our thoughts &emotions in our mind. They are also directly known or seen.

Anumana—–We do not directly see the object in reference, yet we associate two things cause of experience. Like if we see smoke,we instantly conclude that there must be fire somewhere.

Upamana In comparision. Like we see a new animal and come to know about it with reference to a similar thing seen earlier.

Arthapatti—-is presumption. Like if someone is fat and he says I do not eat the whole day, we persume he may be eating at night.

Anupalabdhi—–Means non-availability or non-existence. We know very clearly the absence of a particular thing or person by it’s non-availability at this time & place.

Sabdha—–Means the words of a knowledgeable person.It is a revelation about something by a wise person.

Just as he had answered the first question satisfactorily, to his horror, the seat on which he sat became hot and hotter, so that he could think of nothing else but the fat melting and the smell of burnt skin, but he stay put where he was, remembering Mitra of the experiences he would have to face while facing the venerable sage.

Somehow he lost the sense of smell and the pain dulled as the Sage went on to ask his next question. “Who is the person whom we consider wise?”
Veda’s tongue seemed to weigh a ton now as he could not lift it to answer, try as he might. Then he thought of Mitra and the Goddess and saluted her in his agony and mentally answered to the Sage,” It is the wise man who beholds all beings in the self and the self in all beings and it is for that very reason he does not hate anyone“. Veda looked down and to his horror, he now knew why he couldn’t spell the answer, as his very tongue was lying beside him. This could only be a dream he thought, but the seat again started getting hot and Veda waited for the Sage’s next question with abated breath.

What is one thing that causes bondage and at the same time liberation?”
Veda replied mentally, “It is indeed the mind that is the cause of man’s bondage and liberation. the mind that is attached to sense-objects leads to bondage, while when dissociated from such sense-objects it tends to lead to liberation“.

Just as he had finished answering, his eyes dropped off from its sockets and he went blind but still luckily he could hear as that was good enough for this session.

How is the atma known?” was the next question put forth.

The Atma is really worth seeing. One should ‘see’ the Atma by Sravana,Manana,& ‘Niddidhyasana’ which means that one should first hear these scriptures from a ‘right teacher’, then reflect on what is being revealed by ‘Him’, and finally meditate on it ,till the knowledge is assimilated throughly” was his mental answer to the sage.

After this answer he lost his hands and limbs as they were cut off suddenly and scream he couldn’t, the pain he was experiencing already was too much so that the loss of his limbs did not much add to it. He was surprised why he had not fainted by now, and then attributed it to the blessings of the Goddess. Mitra had prepared him for it well in the last seven days.

Now what remained was his trunk and head which lay prostrate in front of the sage. Was the next blow the death blow, he wondered, even ready to take it as it came, if it did come.

My last question, Son, if you answer well, this trauma and agony should end, but your answer should contain the misery you are experiencing now. Here it is, listen to it carefully. How does the knowledge of the scriptures, the Vedas help you?”

Vedavalkya, a poor semblance of himself answered mentally, “The Vedas cannot show you Brahman, you are That already; they can only help to take away the veil that hides the truth from our eyes. The first veil to vanish is ignorance; and when that is gone, unskillful behavior goes; next desire ceases, selfishness ends, and then all misery disappears”.

The answer was to the point, just as the Sage expected him to. Mighty pleased, the Sage got up and placed his hands on Vedavalkya and blessed him saying, “Your parents had rightly named you as Vedavalkya and you have truly lived up to the name given by them, but answers that were given by you in great agony just as I was sacrificing your body parts as offering to the mighty Goddess who wanted to test you all this while through me, Son, have bestowed on you the new name Yajnavalkya. Go back to your kingdom as I deem you fully fit in the knowledge that you wished to acquire through her blessings. There is no need to go to farther lands, for you are knowledge incarnate with my blessings. Go in peace and take Mitra with you, she is an expanse of the Goddess herself and where ever she is with you, victory will be yours”.

The blessings of the sage made Yajnavalkya whole again as he recovered all what he had lost a while ago and shown with a lustre never before and as the sage took his hand, Mitra stepped in and the sage placed her hand in his.

Both stepped out of the hermitage, the test was over, he had come out successful, just as he had hoped. Mitra was all smiles looking at him as she took him one more time to the temple as though it seemed only a few moments of test, the sun was setting and it was time for the evening ritual. There were a lot of questions he wished to ask Mitra, but again he kept silent till the ritual was over. This time too, she asked her to wait at the steps as she ascended to make the preparations for worship of the Goddess and then came down as he climbed the steps to pray to the Goddess who seemed to be in all her glory. A beam of light from her struck him and with that he knew he was granted immunity from the many perils he would have to face when he would rule over Videha some day in the near future.

After taking her blessings, he came down and saw Mitra waiting for him next to the barn. Charna was being readied by her for the journey back home where she would accompany him, a wise woman to add to his knowledge and hold discourses with him as two equals that would be the pride of Videha as they lived as much as they wanted in the city.

“Are we riding back to Videha this very night?, asked Yajnavalkya. “Sure, why can’t we in this bright moon light”. “and what about the sage and the Goddess? asked he. “You forgot, I told you the Sage would move from here to the south of the Vindhyas on the full moon night and it is fast approaching. As far as the goddess is concerned, her larger expanse remains here for the next person who would come here after a thousand full moons, and a part of her has detached from her to serve her and worship her, the role which I played so far. See, there she is, Vaishnavi, she is all set to take over from me”. Yajnavalkya looked across to the temple and could see a female form waving at her. Assuming courage Yajna asked, “Could you now please tell me, what caused those bandits on the first day of our meeting to flee?”. “My face, Yajna” with a smile Mitra said, “just as it is pleasing to you and for every right minded, it harbors a fearful form that even the evil could never withstand and add it to the laughter emanating will be like the sound of heavy drums sounding next to their ears. So never ask me to show that face to you”. “No No, I am happy to see your smiling face” replied Yajnavalkya as they rode into the moonlight.

In due course of time, Mitra and Yajnavalkya on Charna’s back, rode night and days to reach Videha to the great satisfaction of his father who then relinquished the throne in his favor for a golden period for many years which the people would cherish….

I hope the Goddess who inspired me to write this story blesses every reader who reads this

Shraddha & Saburi.

The Saint of Shirdi in whom I met my Guru 40 years back when I visited Shirdi and whatever I am, I owe it to him.

He had always stressed on us following 2 things in life. Shraddha that is faith in the Lord and Saburi that is patience in Life.

Here is a lovely poem from Bindu on the importance of following the principles asked of us by Sai.

https://wp.me/p9rOUY-2m

Goddess

goddess

Goddess, whenever I  look to you
I know you have known me
all my trials and tribulations
you wore them as a garland
to keep my worries at bay.

My offerings are to please you
but so trivial as they really are
when compared to the lovely gifts
countless that has been bestowed
these years on me by your good self.

In all my walks and moments
haven’t you walked with me
watching my every step that I took
correcting as a loving mother should
you were at my every beck and call.

I am greatly thankful to you
for having kept me company
I only wish you would hold my hands
lead me to places where I go after this
As I tread my steps now weary with age…

 

Happy Navratri and let Her blessings be upon you.

Sun Songs

sun_tales
Credits : mazeepuran.wordpress.com

My salutations to the mighty Sun
who shines ever so bright as never
breathing in new courage and hope
to every soul that looks up to him.

He is always there when you need him
unless he rests in the depths of the night
His first ray is the daily prompt by which
all beings get up and set themselves up.

His appearance from the mild to the fiery
for all, he appears as a true benefactor
without him, won’t the world be all gloom?
lost in darkness and devoid of very life.

He is concerned about every one of us
his duty being to sustain us in all walks
he shrinks in size but never shuns his work
days and nights, a result of his progress.

He shows how every rise has a  gradual fall
how the mild become fiery before they sink
without him, we would drop dead by work
as we would never know when to take rest.

P.S : Thanks are due to Rupali who blogs at mazeepuran.wordpress.com for inspiring me to write this with her above clicked picture.

 

 

Work is Worship

For those who have followed me recently, am republishing this post written 3 years ago, a long one for the happy weekend read.

Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.

Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of  energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.

rickshaw puller
Credits: The Sunday Tribune

Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down to holy shrines spread across the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or transported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.

Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.

It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.

A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today.  The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops.  The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.

It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.

The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.

The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the temple priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces as his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.

Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he counted them later to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…