I was again in the same place. The place, which was as new as then when it all happened. As I  walked, I could see the pyres burning and the fire crackling down the wood. As I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to soak in the ambiance, the wind smeared ash all over my face. I opened my eyes, went next to the pyre, took some more, and smeared it all over my body. As I looked up, I could see the moon at its cusp and millions of stars twinkling onto the canvas of the cosmos.  As I moved some steps further, I could sense a presence, rather more than one. Like before, they kept vigilance over the entire place.

I said with a smile, “Reveal yourself Nat and Khem. Although it has been long, I can still sense your presence. So much time has passed but you two still play tricks on the visitors that come here for pilgrimage. You haven’t changed at all.”

I turned back to find two beings, one dwarf and the other tall. Distorted form, black complexion with hair all over their body, relatively bigger pupils, pointy ears, ragged wolf clothing on their vest and ash smeared all over, they looked as new as then.

With a high pitched voice and grin on his ash smeared face, Nat said,” How are you Kishori? It has been long since you set foot here. You know Mata and Prabhu still wait for the time when you will…”

Khem interrupted Nat and said,” You started again with your bombardment of questions. After so long has she arrived. Instead of interrogating her, we should take the news of her arrival to Mata and Prabhu.”

Nat replied with a loony face,” But Khem, I was not interrogating but just asking….”

Khem again interrupted him in between,” I very well know your attitude of asking.” After scolding at Nat, he said to me, smiling restless,” Kishori, please wait here. We will deliver the news to Mata and Prabhu.” Saying this, they immediately vanished like a puff of smoke.

After they went, I smiled and said to myself while looking at the moonlit mountain top,” The one who knows everything. How can my presence be hidden from them!”

From the cremation ground, I took a stroll down by the lake. The stars were looking at their reflection through the lake and the sound of the primordial was vibrating all over the place. I found the rock and sat down on it, observing the two swans playing with each other. As they saw me, they rushed and started caressing my hands and legs with their soft white feathery neck, quacking in delight. I offered my obeisances to them, smiling and caressing their neck with my palms when I felt her hand on my shoulder.

“Maa!” With a smile, I turned back to see her back in her royal and elegant form. The smell of mogra emanating from her flower band tied to her hair was filling the whole atmosphere with joy. With a large grin on her face, she hugged me. It felt as if all of my tensions, all my responsibilities, all my struggles had faded away and only stillness remained. I touched her feet and tears from her cheeks fell on my hair.

“Kalyan ho, Putri,” she said, weeping with joy. Wiping the tears from her cheeks, I said with a smile,” Maa. If I would have known that coming here after so long would be the cause of your cry, I would have never come here.”

She placed her hand on my lips and said,” No, no, daughter. The tears that are flowing down are tears of joy and bliss. Don’t try to stop them. Let them flow. After so long, after so long you have arrived, even if it is for a brief period, I am still happy and satisfied with your presence here.” She took my hands and kissed it, still tears flowing down her cheeks. Her pain caused my heart to ache and tears started pouring through my eyes.

Before they could fall on the ground, he collected it on the palm of his hand. As he brought his hand up, he said,” A daughter’s tears are always unbearable to her father, even if her father is a Yogi.”

I ran and touched his feet. He took me up and said,” The place of a daughter is always on her father’s heart, not at his feet. I hugged him tightly. He placed her palm on my head and said,” Kalyan Ho!”

“How are you, father?” I said, smiling with tears.

“How can a father be, without his daughter beside him?”

“I am sorry, father. Because of my decision, you both are still in pain. I couldn’t stay long enough to give you the pleasure of being a daughter.”

“No daughter, we are not in pain. You took that decision due to your compassion, and for that, we are proud that you are our daughter. but apart from what we are to the world, I am also a mother. Try to also understand a mother’s position here. What can a mother do when her daughter leaves her home for the cause of a greater good? I can’t stop you from leaving because the world will benefit from your decision and a Sankalp is that thing that makes a being great and being your parents, we don’t want that you break your resolution for our pain. And also, it is a cost that we have to bear every time because of, who we are because I also did the same thing with my parents.”

I held her hand and said, smiling,” Maa, your daughter is hungry. Can you give her something to eat? It’s been ages since you fed her with your hands.”

With a grin, she replied,” Definitely. I am coming back with something, you love to eat. Wait with your father here. I will be back soon.”

As she left, I looked at him. He was looking at me straight with a minute smile on his lips.

“You are Lord of Lords but this puny being is still your daughter. Please don’t hesitate to ask thinking that you have no right to interfere with the free will of any being, including your daughter’s.”

“That is not what I am thinking.”

“Then what are you thinking father?”

“I am just admiring the extent to which you have grown up. My small  lovely daughter whom I first held in this very hand is now holding  the hands of so many beings.”

“Why credit me with something father, that I don’t do at all. It is a known fact that everything that I achieve or do is because of your divine grace. Without your help, I can’t even pluck a flower from a tree.”

He laughed for some time and then he said,” I still remember the day when you were small and you were collecting orchids with your  mother near Nanda Devi and you said you can’t pluck the orchid because it would cause pain to the plant and then called me to pluck it instead.”

“That was a long time ago father but it still feels new.”

“But for me, it still feels like a few moments ago. When you don’t have a strong sense of physicality, time becomes relative.”

“Yes, father.”

As we looked at the still lake, he sat down on the rock. As he sat, I sat on his lap, admiring the view together.

He said,” Daughter, I don’t keep a sense of time but your mother does. Although she transcended her physicality, still she wants to be, with her physical nature intact. All the timelines originated from her but she wants to be, without having any knowledge of the future. But that is her personal choice and I respect her decision.”

“Yes, father. The knowledge of the future is a burden that you three have to bear.”

“That is a part of our responsibility daughter and we don’t regret carrying it. But the responsibility that you have taken is not yours to take but you still took it.”

“I couldn’t help myself because of the way, you all raised me, and no matter, what happens, in which state I may or maybe, I will always be grateful to you all.”

“But child,” he paused for a little and then said with a heavy voice,” It has been ages. How long are you going to wait?”

“How long have you waited for Mother or should I rephrase it as how many times, have you waited for her?”

He didn’t reply back.  We were observing the stillness of the lake together when a gust of wind, made some of the leaves of the Kalpavriksha fall on the water and it caused ripples all over hiding the reflection of the sky and us.

“Here is your favorite” She came back with plates full of delicious delicacies.

“Maa, why so many? You know I don’t eat this many.”

She replied,” Have you seen your condition, child? You can’t be recognized at all. You clearly haven’t taken care of yourself.”

“Maa,” I said holding her hands, “I am taking care of the things that need to be taken care of.”

“But your body…”

” My body is not the same mother. It is different, and the one I chose, serves many advantages in society. No high maintenance for appearance, no continuous glances to make me feel awkward or vulnerable, no unwanted attention. I could do my work effortlessly without many restrictions and hindrances that society has set up for the other ones. It has its limits but unfortunately, I have to admit that, during this time too, having this body is not less than a privilege.”

She took a morsel and brought it up to my mouth. I took one and fed it to her and took another to feed him. He took it and took another to feed it to me.

She said with a smile, “Only a mother can know the ecstasy of feeding her child, no one else. It is the privilege that only a mother has.”

As she said, he looked at her. She stopped smiling and looked at me. I looked at them and with a smile, I replied,” That is true indeed. But through you, I have also experienced it. To be a mother is a wonderful experience altogether. It completes a woman. But for the time being, I have to make this wonderful option pass.”

They both looked at each other. I comforted them with a slow blink and said,” There are times but, you know what?” I placed my head on his lap and said,” Being a daughter also has its perks. You can sleep on your father’s lap and ask him to sing you a lullaby every time you want to fall asleep. Could you?”

With a grin, he said, “You don’t have to ask, child. It is your right and my delight.”

As he started caressing my head, I said,” When I see your devotees, father or yours, maa. It makes me feel guilty.”

“Why?” They asked.

“The reverence, the surrender, and the love, they have for you all, melts my heart. It makes me feel that I should serve them in every small way possible. It doesn’t matter where they are, at least they are trying to attain you in every little way possible. No matter how many times they fall, but they are still trying. And look at me, I couldn’t even serve you and decided to leave. When I look at them, it makes me feel, I have so much to learn from them, to bask in their presence, to experience the ecstatic feeling to be at their service.”

“To drink poison and still show nothing happened has always been a unique trait of your father’s but now I see, it has seeped into you, too.” She said and kissed my forehead.

I tried to say something but he put his finger on my lips and said, “No more, my child. Have some sleep. You have been awake for a long time, and you will be, not decided for how long but at this moment, close your eyes and take a jump from this Loka to Nidraloka.” and he closed my eyes with his palms.

As he started singing his lullaby, I could see the stars fading away into oblivion and a whisper eased my departure,”We will always be with you.”