This is part IV of “Guruji in the Horizon”, a spiritual novel consisting of many parts. To read the previous parts, please go to the labels on the right bar and click on this title or click on this link: Will You Come Back Guruji
All the three of us sat down for lunch. Jimmy also eats with us. He will not eat alone. He needs my company for eating too. My mother asked me why I was painting the wall of the temple. I merely told her that I simply wanted to do that. She asked me to apply gingelly oil on Ganapati continuously for a few days and it would regain its black colour. Somehow, I do not like people calling idols in the temple as ‘it’. According to me, every idol is full of life and exists with flesh and blood. When you do not think that the idol has life, then why should you worship at all? I did not like my mother calling Ganapati as ‘it’ instead of ‘him’, but I preferred not to correct my mother. I do not want her to get hurt even for trivial things. Both of us do not speak to each other on most of the days. We have nothing to share, except the deep love within. To express love no words are needed. In fact, true love cannot be bound by words. My father left behind an old edition of Bhagavad Gita. To my knowledge, he never touched that book, leave alone reading the book. The book remained in a highly dilapidated condition now. When my mother touched a few pages, several pages fell down. The entire book was infested with silverfish. My yoga master used to tell me that though Gita is a very sacred book, its precepts cannot be followed in today’s environment. I have not read that book, but I listened to my yoga master who used to refer to Gita quite often. Till my father died, I did not even know that he had Gita with him.
After finishing my lunch, I helped my mother to clean the place and organize the vessels containing food for our dinner. Then I went to the temple and I found the walls were bright and clean looking. A couple of men passed through the temple, but not bothered to even turn to have a look at the renovated temple. A sort of happiness started to flow within me. I felt as if I was fully energized and recharged. I removed the cloth around Ganapati, brought water from the river and poured over him and wiped him clean. All the dust around him was gone. I wiped him dry and applied gingelly oil around him. The oil was absorbed immediately. Again I applied the oil and I did this three times. During the third time, the oil was not fully absorbed. Now Ganapati looked very blackish now, like the idols in the temples. I was really happy and in the height of happiness I asked Jimmy how Ganapati is. He could not understand what I said, but waged his tail vigorously. I knew Jimmy is happy with what I have done. Jimmy and I returned to our rocky bench under the banyan tree. I lied down on the rock and Jimmy squatted on the ground. It was beginning to drizzle. My mother told me that raining is an auspicious omen. I wanted to do a few more things for the temple. I wanted to light a lamp daily for Ganapati, offer him food before I take our food and adore him with some flowers by procuring them from around my place.
The cool weather conditions coupled with physical work made me to take a nap for an hour. When I woke up, I went to my home and searched for an earthen lamp. I found a very old one and I cleaned it. I asked my mother how I should light a lamp for Ganapati. As I have just renovated the temple, she asked me to keep the earthen lamp on a piece of wood, wet the wick in gingelly oil and then light the lamp. I collected everything to light the lamp. I went around and procured some flowers. I also plucked papaya fruit from my land. Carrying everything, I went to the temple. First I lit the lamp. Then I placed flowers at the feet of Ganapati. Suddenly a thought appeared like a flash in my mind. I have forgotten to dress him. I rushed back to my house and searched for some new clothes. I could not find anything. I asked my mother. She opened her rusted trunk box and took out a new blouse piece. It should be at least ten years old. When she opened it, almost every piece of thread had come off. I could not use the blouse piece to adore my Ganapati. I decided to use one of my washed towels. I took a towel and rushed to the temple and tied the towel around Ganapati’s waist. I again placed the flowers at his feet and placed the papaya fruit before him. I moved away from the temple and looked at Ganapati and I could see him elegantly seated with a broad smile on his face. I was in a state of jubilation. Tears rolled down my eyes. I was standing in the same place for a while. Suddenly, I found something creeping up through my spine. I turned back and took my hand to drive away any insects that would have got into my shirt. I could not find anything. Still I felt the upward movement in my spine, which became stronger and stronger. I rushed to my seat beneath the banyan tree and sat down. Even then, the movement was continuing. My entire body became extremely warm. I was sweating profusely. Suddenly my body started trembling. Jimmy began to bark at me, which he had never done all these years. His bark became louder and louder. I could not tolerate the forceful movement in my spine. I rested my back on the bark of the tree. That was the last thing I know.
I felt the chillness on my face. I gradually regained my consciousness. I was lying on the rock. I felt very weak. But I could feel that something has changed me thoroughly. With great difficulty, I got up and sat down on the rocky bench. I saw an old man with a white dhoti, a long white towel on his shoulders, with white beard, a long and white flowing hair and a white bag on his shoulders. When I saw him, I involuntarily stood up. He smiled at me and I found that he smiled at me in the same way as my Ganapati smiled at me. I asked him to sit on my rocky bench. He smiled and sat on the rock. Jimmy barked a few times. He does not like anybody sitting on my rock. When the old man looked at Jimmy, he stopped barking and wagged his tail. I was still standing before him. I never wanted to sit by his side nor even on the floor. He asked me my name. His voice sounded melodious. I told him my name, “Shankaran.” On hearing my name, he again smiled and shook his head in an approving manner.
“Do you know what Shankaran Means?”
“No, I do not know.”
“Lord Shiva is known as Shankara.”
“I do not know who Lord Shiva is.”
“Do you know you?”
I did not understand this question at all. But still I replied, “I know me well.”
“Why did you add that ‘well’? You could have simply said ‘I know me’.”
“There is no one who knows me better than I. Hence I said well.”
“Do you know me?”
“No Sir. This is the first time I see you.”
“Yes, you wouldn’t have seen me earlier.” He suffixed his answer with a childish smile.
“Who is this?” he asked me, looking at my Jimmy.
“Jimmy, my dog”
“How do you say it is your dog?”
I could not answer this question. I remained quiet. I was cursing myself for having used the word ‘my’.
The old man again smiled at me approvingly. He asked me to sit by his side. Reluctantly I sat down, two feet away from him. He asked me to move closer to him.
“Shankara!” by calling my name, he placed his right hand on my head. My head started reeling. I began to sweat again profusely. He took off his hand. Within a minute, I regained normalcy. I knew at that time, that this man was not an ordinary person. This very thought made me to stand up. He looked at me again and showed his eyes to sit down. He had not uttered a single word. I sat down.
“Where do you live?”
“That is my house” I said pointing my right index finger at my home.
“You are living all alone?”
No sir, my mother lives with me”
“Then why did you say my house?”
I did not know how to reply. But I have decided that this man does not like the word ‘my’ and decided not to use the word ‘my’ in his presence. I was feeling exhausted. I sat on the ground. Jimmy also sat by my side. He smiled at me intriguingly. A sort of stillness prevailed. Only the sound of the river was audible and the occasional sound of the breeze. I looked at him. He was smiling to himself by closing his eyes. It was about to become dark. The lamp I lit before Ganapati was illuminating like a star in a dark night. I could see Ganapati also. The unusual silence continued to prevail. Normally this is the time to take my evening bath. But, I could not get up. He opened his eyes and told me that he wanted to take bath in a river nearby. I told him that river Cauvery flows nearby. He got up and all the three of us walked together towards Cauvery.
I was curious to know about him, but was scared to ask him anything. He commanded respect and his voice was very melodious and soft. There was not much difference between the whistling breeze and his voice. He appeared thin, with wheatish complexion. His attire and hair looked white. The only difference was that his hair was glowing. His attire was spotless. Had he worn saffron clothing, probably I would have identified him as a sage. But he was wearing spotless white. All along I was wondering how he had reached my place. I never saw him before. He certainly appeared new to this place. I was disappointed a little because even though he had seen the renovated Ganapati temple, he did not observe anything.
On reaching the banks of Cauvery, he opened his bag and pulled out a white towel and spread it on the sand. He sat down on the towel and looked at the flowing river. He was muttering something, which was not audible at all. Due to the breeze, his hair was flowing on one side. He sat very erect, his hands joined together. I carefully observed him. His breath has slowed down. At one point of time, he looked like an erect wooden log. Jimmy and I were sitting far away from him. Jimmy appeared as though he is scared. I thought of going back home, skipping my evening bath. For the first time, I was unable to take a decision. It was horribly dark. The moon was just appearing on the east and stars begin to twinkle. I have great interest in gazing at stars. From my hamlet, stars are clearly visible, as there was no pollution at all. Villagers are healthy because they inhale pure air and do not eat junk food. They work hard in their field. These are the secrets of healthy villagers. They get up early and go to bed early. Most of the villagers finish their dinner before sun set, as they do not have electricity. In our hamlet we do not use any kind of pump set to water the field. Water flows from the Cauvery river. Our area is extremely fertile. But I knew for certain that one day our land would be used to construct a factory. My thoughts went astray. Suddenly I heard a melodious voice calling me Shankara. I turned to the side where he was sitting. He was still sitting in the same place, but his face slightly turned towards me. I ran towards him. He got up from the ground without any support. In the pitch darkness, his white dress and silver hair were distinctly visible.
“How deep is the river here?”
I knew the purpose for which he was asking for. I said, “I take bath here daily”
“Oh! Good. Do you know swimming?”
“Yes sir. I know swimming.”
“How long you can swim? Have you gone to the other side of the river?”
My reply was crisp. “No”
“No specific reason sir. I never wanted to do that. That is all.”
Cauvery is very broad in our area. Water always flows with force as our area is slightly low lying.
“What else you do?” He asked me.
(to be continued)