The enchanting Lake

It was a bright summer day and I thought of going boating in the lake that was nearby the construction site that I was working at. I reached the boat landing pier and there was only one canoe with an old guy looking out for his next passenger. There were supposed to be a couple of diesel powered boats, but they had been taken already  by someone else.

Aren’t the diesel boats available today? I inquired. The grim face replied, yes there are. One of them is and already rented. The other driver had a rough fight with a passenger yesterday over the  money he paid, and has been taken away by the police.

Boat station

That means I am to put up with your rickety canoe. Is it capable of holding the both of us. Hope it won’t capsize in the middle of the lake? How much do you charge?

Have faith and patience sir, I ask for only 2 dollars for 2 hours came the reply. How much is charged by the diesel boats. They take 7 dollars for one hour. With a few customary greetings we took off at crawling speed in the manual  boat. I asked him to paddle close to the rocks that jutted out of the lake, which he gladly did.

The cruise along the bush filled hills was well worth and I was happy I took off today to come to this place.

The lake was much bigger than I thought of. I was lost in the scenery that was unwinding before my eyes.

The sun was getting a bit too hot and our ride was slowly getting into its second hour. We had cruised a good mile away from the station. Shouldn’t we return, I asked impatiently. The boatman now rowed into an inlet opening amidst the bushes and anchored the boat and asked me to venture out into the cool placid shaded waters. There was the constant murmur of the brook, the birds crying as they flew over our heads.

This place is only a treat for my passengers, the diesel ones don’t come here. Maybe I will gift a dollar extra for this place. Thanks but no, am happy with my 2 dollars, a wry smile appeared on his face.

When we reached the station, I picked my pockets to pay him. I had only 2 dollars on me to pay him. I forgot I had stepped into the grocery earlier to buy a pack of cigarettes and some fruit juice before walking to the lake. Then I wondered what would have happened had I taken the diesel boat…

Author’s Note: This was a story inspired by some beautiful pics taken by my WordPress friend Stephanie on her visit to Mockingee Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada and who was so kind to allow me to share them in this picture filled story. Hope I have done justice to the wonderful pictures. Please visit her post and blog to enjoy the full original collection below. https://wp.me/p72EU1-bCZ

The thirsty traveler

Once a rich man who always took pride in his possessions that he had accumulated and his rising status in society looked disturbed. He could not get quality sleep, could not enjoy much as of old and therefore decided  to do a solo ride to a far off place to meet a Guru who he thought would help him attain some peace of mind. The Guru’s Ashram was hundreds of miles far away from the city and was at a place which was unknown territory to him. Almost an hour to the destination guided the support voice from the vehicle. He happily drove ahead for some more time.  The vehicle navigation stopped momentarily as he  came across a place where the path ahead twisted into opposite directions. On the left was a muddy patch that looked like leading into the desert. The other was a better path leading into a shade of trees at a distance. There he saw a  traveler on foot with torn clothes and a dirty  bag in hand. He stopped his vehicle and inquired of  him on which   path he should take ahead.

“I am walking with only one destination in mind said the smiling mendicant. But you may take the left one”. He offered some water to the rich man which he refused saying he had enough of it with him. “It is a wonderful vehicle that you have got here. Hope it will take it to your intended destination. I can accompany you if you like me as a guide“, to which our man replied “There is no need for your guidance. This has inbuilt navigation. I can manage myself alone“.

The rich man thought of the man as a crazy old man and continued on the path on the right  which was well laid out and was happy he had not taken the foolish advice. After having gone some time, the road suddenly disappeared beneath the desert sands and the trees he had been seeing in the near distance had also vanished. His vehicle navigation was of no use in the desert terrain. Huge dunes of sand greeted him. He travelled over them each time narrowly missing being stuck in the loose sand. He stopped his vehicle as it had got heated. He drank from his rations of water and offered some to the vehicle.

It was hours since he had met the mendicant and cursed himself for not having taken him on board. After travelling again for some time, he came to the same place where he had met the mendicant. There was no trace of him. This time he took the left one and within an hour he reached an oasis which was lined up with the same trees that he had seen before. He reached the Ashram having hundreds of seekers sitting in attention to what the guru was saying.

“Always remember that there is no rich and poor among us. We are all seekers traveling through the limited time gifted to us. Seekers of joy, seekers of wealth, status or power. But there is a cost to such seeking. You lose your glow as you make compromises, do not listen to your inner guiding voice, do not heed good advice given externally and thus lose your way in the desert of life. If you had sought your creator all along and lost yourselves in his glory and attained bliss, there would be no need to drive yourself here to take the advice of this foolish man. The Lord is busy yet he has time for each one of us. When we are about to dwell on the wrong path, he sends us good advice in many forms. It could be your parent,  your sibling, a friend or a stranger. Take a pause in your stride and listen to such good advice”.

Saying so, the guru looked at the lone standing rich traveller who was looking at him to guide him to some seat to sit. When their eyes met, the rich traveller could recognise the smiling mendicant in the Guru…

A Kadali Tale

On the occasion of Onam I wish all my dear readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead! They say after a sumptuous feast on Onam, children should listen to a story or more…

Hope you enjoy this Kadali Tale from my archives.

kadali

Reghu chanced upon a small cottage while on the run away from the nearby Chartusra city and in his travails, hungry and famished and with a bag laden with stolen valuables, the robber makes his arrival known to the inmates by coughing and gasping at their door. Vedha, the small time jeweller traded in his jewellery which was made at the cottage with Bhanu, his helping hand welcomed the tired robber not knowing his exact credentials. On inquiring as to why he looked so tired and out of breath, he said he was a trader from Chartusra and had been followed by robbers while coming this way to Patali, the port city, the same place where Vedha used to sell his home made jewellery.

Reghu was welcomed as a guest and was told, he could stay for a few days before he could gain enough strength to go to Patali. One day Reghu’s eyes fell upon the golden bunch of 4 Kadali kept in front of the Lord and worshiped by Sree, Vedha’s wife, Reghu was thinking of adding it to his collection. The old caretaker and help, Bhanu to whom Sree was just like a daughter took good care of them all. Bhanu was not happy about Reghu but Vedha dismissed his fears and allowed Reghu to stay. With stolen silver and gold coins he impressed upon the jeweller to make a replica of the Kadali saying it would fetch him a good price at Patali. The jeweller obliged and took a week before finishing one, an exact replica of the one which he had made earlier on Sree’s request.

Once the work was completed and Reghu getting impatient and tired of the stay with the lovely couple, one day kills them and flees but not before taking the work in progress jewels and the two Kadali bunch. After walking for two days and night he came across a plain land with not much human habitation near a placid river. As dusk was approaching he thought of burying the 2 golden priceless Kadali. He chose one huge old jack-fruit tree to bury one near it. As he was in the process, a fearful spirit came down the tree and asked him what he was doing. Reghu told her that he was hiding this Kadali which he had in his hand and said he would return in a week to claim it. She agreed and asked him about the other banana jewel he had in his bag. Reghu on second thought thought of burying the other one too there, but she told him to hide the second one, a hundred yards away as she could not stand the sight of the divine jewel. Do claim this one in a week otherwise you will forfeit it and I will not allow anyone who comes in possession of it, any peace, was her parting words.

Reghu walked a hundred yards and came upon a mango tree near the river bank and as instructed started burying the Lord’s Kadali there. A benevolent spirit came down the tree and asked what he was doing…. He said that he was burying the Jewel in his possession and showed it to her. So be it, she said with a smile, I will guard this till it reaches the rightful owner and help him in any test that he is put to, she murmured to herself..and went back to the tree.

The river was in full flow and had submerged most of the land when he came back after selling the stolen jewels and the coins with a few workers to set up a home. To his surprise he found the landscape had changed thanks to the flood. The marked trees had got uprooted and he knew not where his twin treasure lay buried. He was seen digging most of the time but never told his servants as to what he was looking for. They deserted him soon after his money got over. He was now a man gone mad…

Years had passed by with the jewels remaining hidden where they lay for a few generations. The land had changed much and it was a small village now. Jinu was a landless worker who got a tract of land on lease from the greedy village officer to plant banana plantains. Half of the produce he would need to give to the officer as per the deal struck between them. As expected and to Jinu’s happiness, the first crop turned out well. One day while digging a canal to water the plants in the land, he came upon one of the golden plantains. He took it to Jayaram the local jeweler who had a good look at it and gave a small token to Jinu assuring him the rest of the money, but as a law abiding citizen, he had to talk to the village officer first about its antiquity before he could sell it as the laws had changed. He showed it to the village officer the same day who kept it with himself though he told Jayaram and Jinu that he would be handing it to the higher officials in the government and had no plans to keep anything to himself. The next day he told Jinu he had other plans and asked him to stop using the land for his planned second crop.

Jinu was out of work and was finding it difficult to sustain himself after whatever money he had on him ran out. He could see that the tract of land was fully dug up by the village officer in the hope that he would get some more of such golden Kadali, but his search for more treasure turned futile. Meanwhile Jinu again approached the village officer after a couple of weeks to use the tract of land for plantation, but he was driven out.

The village officer’s wife was fascinated by the golden fruit so much that she took it daily out of the strong box to marvel at it. The fascination increased so much that the officer had to hide it in another room and lock it. Meanwhile Jinu thought of planting a few banana plantains around his small home near the river bank where he was forced to retire. At least it will keep him from hunger once his efforts bore fruit. He prayed to Krishna at his home that the first fruit from his land will be gifted to him. As he dug another canal he came upon another golden plantain which was the exact replica of the first one he had got, but this time he made good his promise and bestowed the golden marvel to Krishna. Whenever he prayed, the golden jewel would change to real bananas and he would take one as prasadam(offering from the Lord).

One day he chanced upon Tulsi standing nearby who happened to watch him at his plantation work. He inquired of her and came to know that she was jeweler Jayaram’s daughter. One day she asked if she could assist him at his work in the plantation. He replied on one condition that she should accept her fair share of the produce once it materialized to which she gladly agreed.

The officer came to know that Jinu had a small plantation around his house. Somehow be didn’t like it but also couldn’t do much about it. Jayaram paid a visit to Jinu and saw the bunch of 4 bananas with a golden hue kept near Krishna’s idol. Oh! how marvelous a sight and so golden, said he after tasting the one from the bunch offered to him by Jinu. Can I have one more..Why not sir…take two, one for Tulsi too, smiling at her, who was standing at the door. The much pleased Jayaram had never had such a tasty fruit and he expressed the same while having it. Sir, my Krishna’s prasadam is always like his love. The more you love Him, more sweet will be your offering to Him and so, his prasadam in return. Being a devotee himself, Jayaram was no doubt thrilled by Jinu’s company. He and his daughter became frequent visitors. One day Jinu revealed to Jayaram, his wish to marry Tulsi. But Jayaram first decided to put Jinu to the test before he could approve his request.

Krishna

Jayaram asked Jinu. This bunch of mini kadali that you offer to Krishna daily…can you show me the plantain which yields such sweet bananas to you. Jayaram was sure no plantain could yield a bunch daily, in fact not more than one in its lifetime and with Jinu having not more than a dozen odd plantains, there seemed to be a mystery about them which he wanted to unravel.

Jinu was in a fix as to what he should say when an old woman came that way and asked for some ripe banana as food to be given. Jinu said I can give you some rice and vegetable but I doubt I can give you a banana at this time as it was well last noon and his kadali prasadam could yield real banana only before noon based on his experience.

The old woman laughed a bit loudly, much to Jinu’s and Jayaram’s consternation. You call yourself a planter? There, yonder. I can see a bunch of fine kadali. Jinu rushed to his garden and much to his surprise there was one ripe kadali bunch awaiting them. He took it down and gave to the woman. No, I don’t want all of this, maybe you can give the better share of this to your guest here, smilingly pointing at Jayaram. Saying so, the woman took leave.

Jayaram was a bit disturbed and left with a perplexed mind. The next day he sent Tulsi to bring a bunch of fresh Kadali. Tulsi came in the morning as was her wont, to Jinu’s house, prayed to Krishna, took two of the prasadam kadali and there were only two left for the day. Father has sent me for a bunch if you could provide it. Jinu at a loss went to the same tree and there, lo another bunch of ripe bananas was waiting to be taken down.

This went on for a few days. Jayaram came on the fourth day himself and examined the tree. There was none. He was going to win he thought when another woman appeared asking for something to eat. Jinu asked what he could give her. Don’t bother I will go inside and take what I need. She went inside and was not to be seen for sometime. Both went in to see her feasting on a bunch of freshly plucked kadali. Jayaram was at a loss of words and failed to understand what was going on. He asked Jinu from where this bunch came when Tulsi appeared in the doorway saying I plucked it in the morning before you two had even got up and kept it here.

The woman had her fill and after blessing Jinu and Tulsi and laughing at Jayaram went her way. It was a matter of a few weeks time before Tulsi and Jinu got married on an auspicious day.

The village officer couldn’t sleep on many a night as he could hear someone pounding on the closed door. The noise from the room where he kept the golden Kadali, the disturbance from the roof as if someone heavy was trampling upon the tiles…the fearful shadow behind the curtains, the poor sight of his wife already at her wits end when she could not see the golden fruit anymore, now out of sight behind the closed door of the cursed room. It was just a matter of time before the officer too went mad after he saw the room ransacked, one day, by some robber and the golden Kadali missing…

The innocent barter

scales

A shopkeeper in the Dharia village always seemed busy, giving groceries to his customers who used to flock to the shop till he closed his shutters by 7 pm. A group of retired people and laborers used to come and sit talking to each other on the wooden planks laid out in front of the shop and comment on the happenings of the day, or about the columns in the daily newspaper which one or two would take turns to read loudly to the benefit of those who were either lazy to read or had pitched their tents only eager to hear gossip.

Every week, on a Saturday, a small boy named Golu used to come to the shop to sell the clarified butter (ghee) his mother used to make at home from the unsold buffalo milk that had few takers in a solitary tea shop and a couple of neighbouring houses. The buffalo was the only means of livelihood to his family. Every time, he used to carry a kilogram of ghee and would barter it for a kilogram of sugar or pulses from the shop, as was the agreement with Bansal, the grocer.

As Golu would make his appearance whenever dusk was approaching, some of the elders would make inquires about his family, some about his buffalo while some used to tease by calling him as Gheelo (take Ghee). Some used to chide him for unnecessary things just to make him cry, to make merry for themselves, while the only sane guy among them, Raichand, scolded them for showing such behavior to the poor lad.

One day, as Golu came with a kilogram of Ghee, Bansal, the grocer kept it on the weighing scale, as he was busy handing over some condiments to another customer. Someone’s attention in the group fell upon the ghee packet lying on the scale. On the other balancing pan, was a weight of 1 Kilogram. The ghee packet pan was floating in the air and therefore he deduced that the packet contained less than the weight intended. As was their wont, the issue quickly grabbed the attention of the retired folks and some started making arguments in the shop saying that Golu and his family had been cheating Bansal all this time.

Now Bansal was in his elements having taken up the cue and started shouting at Golu. Such allegations coming at short notice from all quarters forced Golu to tears and he started crying loudly. Raichand who was also in the shop and who was a retired sales tax inspector consoled the child and asked the others to maintain silence while he got down to inquire as to what could have gone wrong. He was one man who never thought of implicating anyone unless the facts were laid out before him.

Once Golu’s crying had subsided to sobs with deep breaths in between, Raichand asked him, “Golu, could you let me know, how do you weigh your ghee at home in the packet before you bring it here”. Golu between sobs, pointed at Bansal and said, “I always weigh our butter pack against the sugar or the green gram packet that is given to me in barter”.

Arrogance Heights

Arrogance is a mental state and when it will take seed and cause our ruin, no one knows and therefore this story serves us to remain humble or remind ourselves when we land in such situations. The post was written when Basheer a friend and Cabbie in Bahrain was harping on this topic of how arrogance spoils an individual and complemented it with an outline of a simple story that he learnt in school, which I had never come across earlier. I hope on the occasion of Eid, this story makes an interesting read.

Once there was a tiny mouse, who used to live in holes dug by himself, some on the ground, some in the wall of a house where he frequented at night for dishes forgotten to be tightly closed or some left overs lying here and there. There was no issue of food for the mouse, but he always was in awe and fear of an alley cat who used to frequent the place where the mouse lived. The alley cat would try to pounce upon him given the opportunity or whenever they came face to face, but most of the time, he used to give the cat a slip by slipping just in time into one of the burrows dug to handle such situations. There was a tree nearby the house, and it used to be difficult when the cat after his sleeping sessions on the tree would come down in a jiffy when the mouse was just loitering around and our poor guy had to scamper with many a wounds which he would lick in private and think how his world would change..

Once it so happened, that a sage visited the house and its inhabitants on his way and blessed them and was just about to leave when the mouse approached him and told all about the miserable life that he was living because of the alley cat. Sensing what was going in the tiny mind, the Sage asked him, in what form would he like to continue in life, if the cat was giving him so much trouble. I would like to be a cat so that I wont have to dread this alley cat and any others that might come this way, pleaded the mouse. So it be it, said the Sage and walked away.

The little mouse was mighty surprised to see himself as a cat and he ran the whole day in leaps and bounds, climbed the tree and jumped to the window to startle the little boy inside and then back and so forth. He went into the house through the door and nobody saw him nor shrieked when they saw him. He was loving the freedom and came out to enjoy the world in his new form. But to his chagrin, the house dog barked at him and chased him and he had to beat a hasty retreat out of that house for ever. He too became an alley cat living in every street a day based on the street dogs pushing him away and he soon became tired of being on the run, leading the life of a fugitive who could barely rest in peace anywhere.

He chanced upon our Sage one day and asked him if he could change him to a dog and the transformation happened much to his joy. But the happiness was short lived when children and adults alike threw stones at him whenever he went his way looking for food around the houses and shops across the street. To cut a long story short, our guy changed many forms till finally he told the Sage, “let me become a tiger in the forest, so that everybody will respect me for what I am and I can live a peaceful life”. So be it, said a smiling sage and vanished.

The tiger roamed about and was happy to see that nobody came his way or troubled him. He could kill any animal that he liked for his food, be it a nimble footed deer, a lost goat or a troubled buffalo. Days went by and slowly the tiger became more of a trouble maker in the forest. He killed animals with gay abandon even when he was not hungry and hence every animal dreaded him.

The sage thought of making a visit to know how the mouse fared in his newly acquired tiger’s form now that the mouse was not even thinking of him. On the way he saw the forest in disarray as if somebody had created havoc to the eco-system with carcasses of animals lying here and there and rotting. As he walked, some of the gentle animals came to him and said how the tiger had became a menace to the inhabitants and pleaded with the Sage to rescue them from the clutches of an animal gone wild.

The sage said he would talk to the tiger on their behalf and ask him to mend his ways for good and the retinue of animals thanked him but still followed our sage at a safe distance. Sensing some movement, the tiger came out of his dwelling and saw the sage. He just blinked without giving any respect whatsoever now that he was the king of the forest. The sage put forward his proposition and advised the tiger to come to terms and behave himself for the good of all creatures. The tiger got angry telling the Sage it was no business of his and he should beat a hasty retreat before he got hungry. The sage laughed at this, and the tiger could see the animals in the distance watching all this. “How could you laugh at me, when I am ordering you to flee if you value your life. Why are all of you tired of life and in defiance”, he spoke to the Sage and said that there was no need of him visiting him again with silly advice and demanded him to leave immediately as dusk was fast approaching.

The Sun much as he wanted to enjoy the climax of the unfolding drama below, was beating a hasty retreat behind the dense foliage. On the way down, he saw the rising Moon and told him all about what had happened, so that he could tell him all about the unfinished story when they met the next day morning. The moon ever so eager, climbed fast in time to position himself at a vantage position to see what would be the outcome of the conversation between the tiger and his preceptor, the Sage. An eagle flying that way also thought of resting his wings and he landed on one of the branches below which the Sage was standing and lent his ears as did other animals in abeyance.

The Sage seemed hurt at the dialogues from the tiger and he warned the mouse turned wild cat that it would be better to be humble rather that destroying himself with arrogance. Hearing this, the tiger who had had enough sprang at the Sage who was standing at a distance of a few feet. As he took off, he knew the Sage would be a an easy prey but to his surprise the Sage easily dodged him while he was in the air and when he landed on the ground, much to his surprise, he found himself having turned into a mouse. These moments didn’t last long, as to his horror, the eagle had already descended from the branch above to pounce on an easy prey in the darkness lit only by the glow of a smiling crescent Moon…

EID Mubarak to All..

eidgreetings
Eid Greetings

Assets and Disabilities

A rich man who had worked hard in his youth now wanted to enjoy the best of his life. He got a beautiful house built, a green lawn to go with it and a powerful vehicle. He had a vast area of land around this house. There were a few servants at his beck and call. He was now reaching his sixtieth birthday having retired a few years back.

His devoted wife was always concerned about him and their children who were well settled in life and lived in different parts of the world. Everything happened to go well for him and it appeared to all that he was living happily. But of late he was not feeling as of old. He wasn’t happy about this phase. He had no health issues yet he was feeling a bit low.

He travelled to places of scenic beauty in his car. He had the best fruits brought to his house. He was still caught in the web of money. His mind was busy calculating how much his investments gave back in return. Exploring new vistas of financial planning was becoming his best loved hobby and he had gotten used to measure everything in money. A person walking by his house was measured by him whenever they got a chance to speak to him.

He still read the newspaper before the breakfast was laid out for him. He read some paragraphs from priceless books written by successful men. Walked around his garden inspecting the trees whose produce gave him good money.

His lunch had the best dishes though he partook very little from each of them. He surveyed his workers at work in the large tracts of land and came back home having lived yet another day. But as said earlier, he wasn’t sure if he was happy in spite of having what he had wished for.

One day a famished dog with a wretched look came to the gate. The gate was half open and the dog looked at him in anticipation but he raised a hue and cry and the poor dog took to his heels. His wife who was him chided him gently for not helping the dog.

A few days after, a man came during noon time asking for something to eat. Even though he knew lunch was almost getting ready, he shooed away the poor man who had come with great expectations. This also was noticed by his wife.

The same day evening his chartered accountant came and laid before him the income statement. He was highly impressed and rewarded him and showed the statement to his wife. The assets column was overflowing whereas he had no liabilities. See Rumi, he told his wife, no liabilities. Yes!, she remarked sadly, “but you have a disability. You have lost the ability to move even a mustard of these earnings to those who need it” .

Food for thought

The divine Sage was in deep meditation for a few hours and as he got up from his seat, he could sense that his beloved wife had prepared the noon meal. There were a lot of guests who were waiting for that moment when they would be called to partake of the meal after the Sage and his beloved disciple Makarand would have finished their meal. But as usual, Makarand was not to be seen nor he was responding to the call from the Sage’s wife. He fulfils all his duties perfectly but when it comes to having his food we have to call him many times. Shouldn’t he respect the food that is served to him or haven’t you taught him that. Look at the birds and animals waiting patiently for you both to finish the meal so that they can have theirs. I just have to call them once and they will come running to me. You are right devi, I need to teach him this aspect soon. He closed his eyes for a moment, said his prayers and started on his meal. Markand came late just when the Sage was getting up.

A couple, Malhar and Gauri lived in a small town. They were devoted to each other. They didn’t mind sharing food to anyone who came knocking at their door or came calling in the case of animal kind. The wife used to make rotis(flat bread) and some vegetable as her husband was a daily wage worker. Some days he used to get some work, sometimes he returned by lunch time and they would have their tiffin together.

Apart from the poor who visited their homes during lunch time to get a share from their scanty store, there were visitors in the form of a pigeon, a crow and a dog who used to visit by morning. The dog used to get half a roti and the pigeon and the crow, pieces from the other half. After having that, they would disappear. Not all days they used to visit but those days when they didn’t get food elsewhere one or two or all three would be present. The lady was very happy to feed them as if they were her own children. She used to be sad on those occasions where one or more wouldn’t turn up a particular day.

Not one who came to them went empty handed. One day she prepared 5 rotis as the flour had finished and the husband said he would bring it on his way back from work. She packed 2 rotis for him, kept one for herself and one for any guest who might turn up. Another one was for the dog and the birds.

On the way to work, the husband kept one roti back for her or any additional guest who might turn up. If any one so did turn up he very well knew she would give her share and go hungry.

The Sage and his disciple had decided to visit the home of Malhar today. Such visits benefited Makarand and also the host. They entered the house invisibly just in time to find Malhar putting one roti back. The Sage with his divine power added one more roti to the basket and one roti to Malhar’s lunch box. They then came to the door of the house and sat there waiting. Are you waiting for Malhar to leave? asked Makarand. Yes and then we will have some visitors to this house, came the Sage’s reply. They waited patiently. Malhar had left for work a few moments ago. Then one dog appeared at the door gave a small bark calling out for food. Shortly a pigeon flew and landed a few feet away from the dog making a guttural voice. Then there appeared a crow who sat on one of the branches of the guava tree in the courtyard and started calling out for food.

Are these the visitors to this house that you were referring to? Makarand’s question added to the clutter. Yes and we two also will make our presence felt now, replied the Sage. The lady opened the door and found an elderly mendicant and his disciple seeking food at her doorsteps. Her attention also went to the dog and the 2 birds. Today is a blessed day certainly. She went inside to open the food basket when she remembered that there were only three rotis left. It is fine she told herself, I can go without food till my husband comes in the evening.

She opened the basket to see 5 rotis intact there. Why, she had forgotten to put the two rotis in Malhar’s lunch box! Oh, what will he feel when he opens his box during lunch time. She got disturbed but couldn’t remain so for long. There were people waiting for food and she couldn’t keep them waiting. She went out, gave one each to the Sage and his disciple. The leftover roti, she broke in half and gave to the dog. The other half she broke into two made them into small pieces and gave it to the Crow and the pigeon who were crying all the time for food.

Isn’t it strange for these birds and dog to cry so desperately for food when they should wait for her patiently. I am sure she feeds them most of the time they come here..the disciple cut himself short as he saw the lady coming out with another box with the remaining rotis.

Please have your food. I need to go out and search for my husband. He has gone empty handed, she told the guests. Do not worry lady when this dog can help you seek him. Go with him and he will help you find your husband today. Saluting them, she hurried out into the street with the dog running after her. The crow and the pigeon after having their food also flew away.

Now that we are left to ourselves, could you let me know why you chose this house today. The couple so loving and yet they do not have any child. Aren’t they blessed or were they cursed in their previous birth? The lady wasn’t cursed but her curse is working now for her three sons. The lady in her past birth was just like this, doting after her sons and their father. Every day she used to prepare delicious food for the family. But most of the days they didn’t come to her for lunch. They found it worth while to visit many of the houses in the locality or cheap rest houses and found happiness in such food they offered. Even if they were at home she had to call a hundred times for them to have their food on time. Many a day in despair she had muttered to herself that it would have been better preparing food for the animals seeking food at her home.

Now in the present, they go in search of food at various houses and restaurants but most of the time nobody gives them anything and they come here to their mother who always has food for them.

So how have you blessed her by our visit today, asked Makarand. From now on her flour will never get over like it did today and she will have enough rotis in her basket when the situation demands and yes she will have these sons back and obedient in their future birth, replied the Sage. And I think I have learnt something today, said Makarand, I will take my seat on time whenever food is lovingly served by mother…

The Ants and the Snake

Once, there lived scores of  ants in an ant hill. They had built the hill over years of labor from the mud on a slope away from the paths men frequented. It was a desolate place with a lot of shrubs and grass. Not many creatures frequented this way except for one who had lost the way and therefore their location was not known to many.

Their fort was well protected by the myriads of soldiers in the nearby vicinity who were ready to pounce on any intruder or predator including some men who wanted to bring it down whenever they chanced this way. Soldier ants and the regional chiefs co-ordinated every hour and discussed the weather and the wind which were also a risk to their stronghold. From the ground, for tiny them, the hill looked as tall as a mountain which might take an hour to climb, even for the swiftest among them.

The Queen had to be protected at all costs. If there was an invasion and the commander in chief thought they and the fort would not be able to survive the onslaught, there was a small army kept within the palace to transport the queen to a safer destination in minutes. For that a couple of forts at a distance were already prepared and maintained daily. The food and water rations were stored at appropriate locations at various places in and around the hill for the army of ants. Special squads were sent far to detect any smoke or bush fire that might pose a risk to their lodgings.

On one side of the mound, a couple of rats burrowed their holes and decided to stay put there. Since they didn’t mean harm to the inhabitants of the fort, they were not attacked. In a few weeks time, a snake that meandered that way, chanced upon the rats stay. It decided to make an attack on the fortress. It circled the hill, crushing many soldier ants who tried to bite the intruder as he wriggled upon their ramparts and made a run to the many holes dug by the rats. The rats ran into the bushes and disappeared.

The snake thought of pitching his tent in the hill though every day he met some resistance from the soldier ants who were dead against this slimy creature putting the fort at siege. Daily hundreds of ants died or got injured from the snake’s movement who used to go in and out as if he owned the place.

A group of children from nearby homes who had thought of making this place a playground for their vacations, cleared some of the bushes and the grass. At first they met high resistance from the ants but who then retreated to the fort lest they meet with lethal consequences from them or their parents. Every day they started playing games metres away from the ant hill which was well hidden among the bushes.

The snake also was aware of the children playing at a distance but ignored them as they didn’t seem to threaten him. Oblivious to him, he continued dealing deaths and injuries to the ants on his meanderings. The ants sometimes irritated him but for the cool comfort of this mud hill, he could tolerate them till the rains arrived.

This could not go on for long this way. The snake has to be driven out and the children too since they might wreak the hill if they ventured into the bushes, thought the commander in chief. He sought a meeting with the queen and the elders group. I don’t know why the queen persists with this group of elders. They just pamper her, eat and drink and while away their time. And the queen calls them worldly wise. I, in my lifetime haven’t heard any wise words from them except citing issues with the way I operate!

The meetings with the queen and her group of the advisory board was either short or a long drawn out affair. There were times when he was dismissed in minutes and days when he used to sit hours and get audited on his actions. But this time it would be different. He would strike terron in their hearts and ask for more batallion and thereby increase his stature while trying his best against the snake and the children.

The court was already assembled as he stormed in with his bodyguards and took his seat. After the initial customary greetings they came to discuss the safety of the fort. The queen cast a glance on him which was a signal for him to voice his concern. He gave a lengthy speech often trying to embed fear in the group if immediate steps weren’t taken to get rid of the imposter snake and the children.

We will make an attack on the snake with 5000 soldiers and another 10000 would be needed to drive away the children. He made his point and sat down. That is the size of our full army including those who guard our backup forts. One of the elders remarked and continued. We cannot put at risk losing 15000 of our men sending them on a mission where there is a feeble hope of winning. But we can’t stand idle when daily we lose hundreds of our soldiers. This way we would lose either way before the rains, said the commander trying his best.

The queen asked of the eldest ant in the group. Is there no other way, Sir? The eldest closed his eyes as that was his habit while trying to arrive at the solution. After a couple of minutes he opened his eyes and said that there was one. Tomorrow morning nobody will bother the snake.  Let a hundred soldiers march back and forth every day morning until further orders to the eastern fort which is the nearest to the children’s play area. Let the queen be shifted tonight to the western fort deepest in the bushes. Let us abandon this fort tonight and let the remaining thousands assemble at the west until further orders with the queen.

What do you have in mind, asked the Queen. Your majesty, the queen, you must have faith in me but the strategy will be disclosed later. Please arrange to issue necessary orders since we have to act on this immediately.  The Queen made the orders and put the commander and his deputies into the act. They murmured a bit as to what good would come of this but they obeyed the orders to the word for that was how they were brought up.

The next day morning, the snake woke up to see there were no ants to disturb him. He peeped out of the hole. Yes there they are, he was amused but at the same time curious. They are all marching to the smaller ant hill. Why would that be? Maybe the rats are there after running from here. No, they would never come within 100 metres of me. He surveyed the other parts of the fort. Yes the ants have made a transition to their new place. But why?

The question came to him again and again without an answer. Then a fear crept into his mind. The weary ants, did they sense any danger here for them to abandon this well built fortress. The children had come today but only two of them were there. He could dodge their eyes and quietly scramble into the smaller ant hill and see what the ants were upto. He wriggled quickly towards the play area and that is when the children saw him go into the nearby ant hill. When they realised the danger they fled towards their houses raising an alarm. The chain of ants were asked to stop the marching and asked to immediately get back to the western fort as soon as they saw the snake at the eastern fort.

All the ants were at the western fort and asked to bide their time till further orders from the commander. All were looking at the play area and getting bits of information from the few sentries posted  at the gates. There was a lot of commotion when a group of people came running with sticks and a bag. They destroyed the Eastern fort in a minute to unearth the snake who made a run to the central fort but was beaten, caught and secured in a bag. Some of the men came into the bushes and found the towering but now deserted ant hill and destroyed it also and went back. On the way back they were heard rebuking the children for selecting this area for their play.

The same day evening the queen had assembled a quick meeting to discuss future plans and congratulate everyone on the turn of events in their favor. The elderly advice had saved them from daily casualties and impending doom. They put up plans to build a big fort after the rains. Till then the queen and her army would continue their stay at the western fort as per the meeting minutes. If only they had asked for elderly advice earlier, many more lives would have been saved, some soldiers were heard saying to each other. The commander wiser from this experience now understood that Every problem with our enemies may not have a military solution always…

The Caretaker

Vinu came up to the cinema booking counter. Gasping for breath, he requested ” 2 tickets please“. It was the fifth day the new movie was playing at the theatre. Reji at the cash counter asked him “All alone today?” to which he replied ” she is not keeping well“. Reji gave the change back but before he could ask why two tickets, Vinu had vanished into the crowd.

A few days back while coming from the weekly market hosted by the neighboring town, Vinu was getting worried as he still had 2 long miles to cover before he could reach the fields where his village was. It was getting slightly dark although the rising moon seemingly bigger than usual, heralding a full moon night comforted him. The next 15 to 20 minutes would be treacherous, he thought. He was also thirsty and cursed himself for not carrying a bottle of water on him. He had heard a few stories from the villagers about these woods and they came to him now, he hurried almost breaking into a run. This was the place where robbers used to trouble weary travelers and the poor villagers who went this way to the weekly market. In the morning, he had gone with Hari and Shyam, but they had returned back early, he had said he would be right behind them, but had lost a lot of time in the market loitering around all the stalls making those several item purchases which was asked of him.

What is the hurry comrade, are you afraid of the darkness or is it that you are carrying something valuable that you don’t want to share with us?” came a whispering voice at close quarters. Very soon a hand on his shoulder and a knife placed on the other prompted him to turn slowly. There were two of them with handkerchiefs tied around their mouth. “You are a good lad. Let us relieve you of the burden that you have carried so far safely to us. Now will you run across the fields to your home where your people would be worrying about you. Tell them your goods were stolen here and they will believe you, since this is not the first time it has happened“.

Vinu, of 15 years although a brave lad, started crying. How could he face those who had given money to his volunteering for small purchases on the eve of the festival. Dinakar his wealthy neighbor had gifted him 50 extra rupees for bringing his ordered goods. How he and Vimla, his childhood friend had planned to see the new movie that would be shown in the theatre with this prize money. Now as he walked alone crying thinking about his impending loss of face on his arrival back home, he hated going home and decided to stay put in the woods. The fear of the woods and the thieves had vanished. How one fear, the fear of facing them all had become the primary one and banished all others out of his mind.

What if he loitered around and found the robbers den and recover his goods if they had let their guard down. It was not only easy but risky too if they saw him or sensed his motive. A second meeting would turn out to be a sour one and mighty unpleasant. “What can I do alone against the might of two grown up thieves. Who knows if there are more of them in the den. Oh if there was some goodness in the forest let it come now to help me out“, he cried out to no one in particular but hoping that someone in the dark woods might take pity on him.

What are you doing here at this time of the hour. Don’t you know that I frequent this path on the new moon day and why are you crying“. The harsh tone suddenly changed soft. Vinu looked up to see a goddess form standing in front of him. “Who are you?”, in all innocence, he asked. “No I am not that
which you are thinking. I can assume any form I wish and to you I would look like how you see me now. I am the caretaker of the woods here. I see that no harm comes to it and no one disturbs the sanctity of these good old trees. Now can you tell me your story that made you cry
?”

Vinu recounted all that he had experienced in the last hour and how his hopes of seeing the movie with his earned money seemed to have dashed to the ground. “Don’t worry about the movie now whatever it is. Let me handle your case. How do you want your goods back. Do you want to smoke them out or drown them all“. “No, no.. Nothing of that, just let us go and get my goods and if they see us, can you frighten them out of your magic prowess which I assume you must have“, he paused looking at her.

The smiling spirit said, “So be it. Let your imagination run wild but keep holding my hand firmly so that no harm comes to you. At the forest shrine at the outskirts, a lot of your villagers had come to me with complaints for the past few months. Some of them have given me small presents and promised
more if I can get rid of these gang of thieves”
.

They walked hand in hand and at every step Vinu kept looking at the face of the forest caretaker who had appeared to him as a goddess and also to assure himself that every moment of it was real. When the caretaker of the place walks with you why should one fear. The spirit said to him. “I will give all
what you lost, what will you give me in return”. “I will, I will…” nothing came to his head all the more because he wanted to gift something valuable in return. Lost for words, he put a question back. “Ask
me. What do you want me to give and if I am blessed , I surely will?
“. “You truly are blessed little one, or else why would the wonder of time make us cross each other’s paths today. I will ask my gift when I have helped you with the return of your goods. Come on now, and as we walk, tell me all about the village, the villagers, the theatre and the movie that you intend to see”. Vinu though tired went on rattling everything he knew like a tourist guide that made even the spirit sigh and whisper, “How I wish to be a part of your sweet little village“.

They had come to a clearing in the forest where a few trees had met the axe and logs were arranged in a circle with a small fire lit at the center. The gang of four now were resting and one or two wandering off to sleep. “There it is! my sack of good things. Let me go and get it”. But the spirit
holding on to him said they will walk together into the ring. As they walked into the ring, there was everything that would warrant a fight. One of them noticed the lone Vinu and started laughing at which the other got up and started towards the boy with a stick. “Unless he gets a sound beating,
he will not remember to go home
“. Vinu at the sight of the stick thought of running away but the forest spirit invisible to others held on to his hand and whispered to him that he would not be harmed. 

All of a sudden, a pack of wild dogs descended on to the place and started fighting with each other barking ferociously at the party of thieves who didn’t know how to contain the animals who had come uninvited. They beat a hasty retreat with the pack close on their heels. “I don’t think they
would come back here for a few days or so, and then I would deal them in my own way”.
Vinu, all smiles, tired and famished thanked her when she picked a bunch of fruits from a tree which he ate in no time sitting on the ground. “Now pick up your sack and let me come with you till the outskirts in case you fall into another situation. Why don’t you come with me to the village, stay with us and enjoy the festivities? I will also take you to the Cinema and we can watch the new movie”. She smiled, “Good lad, I have a lot of work here, but yes, whenever you go to your theatre for the movie, have a seat beside you for me, so that we can watch it together. And make me a promise, you wouldn’t tell anyone what happened here and about me helping you”. Both of them hand in hand walked across the tall mighty trees spread out like a procession and the moon light so very bright peeped into the dense foliage lighting up their path to the fields. All the way back, Vinu was telling the spirit how glad he was to get out of the forest that night without any injuries, thanked her at the perimeter of the fields where she stood still, till his diminutive figure vanished into one of the houses.

When Vinu arrived that night, half of the village was awake looking out for his arrival and how glad they were to see him walking back across the fields, especially Hari and Shyam who had arrived earlier without him and subjected to a lot of scolding from the elders for not taking care of the boy on the way back. Heaping blessings on the boy and a lot of thanksgiving to the forest deity, they all retired to their houses. The next day, a lot of people came back for their goods and were glad to see him having picked the finest at best rates. But towards the evening, he developed high fever and was in bed for a few days, though now and then few came to enquire about his wellbeing especially Vimla.

After 4 days into the festival, the fifth day he went to Vimla’s house wanting to ask her out to see the new movie which had run for four days and might disappear on the seventh day. But it seemed he had passed on his fever to her and she was not all in a position to accompany him that day or the next. A sad Vinu, ambled across to the theatre all alone. At that point he remembered what the forest goddess had told him, she will come and sit beside him if he had a vacant seat reserved for her. With a rush of happiness coming back, he ran to the cinema and bought tickets for both of them.

The cinema hall was always packed during the Navratri festival, as most of the villagers was seeing it many times over; he hurried across the hall searching for the seats, as his eyes was getting adjusted to the darkness. He seated himself and waited for her. Within a few minutes, he sensed her hand in his, her typical fragrance but couldn’t see her because of the darkness. “So you came, just as you promised!“. “Yes, I never break my promise“, she replied in a sad way. The movie started immediately and Vinu was all eyes and ears into the movie and enjoyed it thoroughly. As the movie ended, he looked at the forest spirit, she was almost invisible, though he knew she was there. “Why cannot I see you now?” “You will, whenever our paths cross next time, but for now, you will have to content with my presence“. They walked out hand in hand just as they had walked through the woods. Vinu was silent, he had broken his part of the promise as he had confided to Vimla about the encounter in the woods. She bade him a whisper of a goodbye with Vinu hoping that they would meet in the near future, the dense woods willing…

 

Yajnavalkya

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

I thought of reposting this story during Navratri. My best wishes to all of my dear readers. May the goddess of learning bless us all…

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 him 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