Part One Of In Search Of Shiva Is Here
My Father disappeared a 5 days ago- just a day after my 15th birthday. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that he left us abruptly. One moment the three of us were standing on the paved steps watching the brilliant choreography at the Dashawamedh Ghat- entranced by the sonorous chanting, the high pitched gongs of the ritual bells, the resonant trumpet of conch shells, the blazing brass lamps and the smaze of incense; But by the next, as I turned around to look at my Father- he was no longer standing where he should have been-right behind me. I tugged at my Mothers pallu and asked her if she knew where Father was. And she looked at me perplexed, equally surprised at not seeing him behind us. She walleyed and raised her neck to try and look around for him. But Nothing. She, then tried to deduce that perhaps he went for a stroll- crowds bothered him and clearly, we were amidst a swarm. But her premise was iffy- and correct only to the extent that he liked to stroll. But where would find a space to do that here and at this hour?
When 30-40 calls to his mobile phone went unanswered, anguish set in. Mother and I began to frantically searched across the ghats, in all the familiar nooks and crannies, in the by lanes and the various eateries and cafe’s of the vicinity. Perhaps, he went back to his parents Kothi that was right behind the Nepali Haveli- so we called home. But neither Daadi nor Chandan Kaka, our house help, had seen my Father ever since we stepped out earlier that evening.
The crowd that had gathered for the aarti- had more of less dissipated by now- making way for some stray strollers but mostly many teenage boys who now had a proper field to play cricket. We were clearly in their way.
“Please zara Aunty!” One of them called out. We had walked ourselves bang in between their field.
My Mother, who was now desperately trying to keep it together, glared back at that boy. She then held my hand and started to walk towards home.
“Ma, where do you think Father has gone? He will be back soon right?”
“Yes, I hope so dear, it’s highly unusual of him! But you know na how he forgets to charge his phone, clearly, this is one of those days.” She then went on to elaborately talk about how he had so many old friends in the city, maybe he must have spotted someone from BHU in the crowd and decided to just catch up over chai and pakoras.
This was not true. I don’t ever remember Father forgetting anything nor was he prone to leaving suddenly to meet friends.
It was rare that my Father ever had a say in our holiday plans, not that he couldn’t, it was just that Mother had an extraordinary wanderlust and her mind was always brimming with ideas, amazing ideas! We had been on jungle trails, mountain hikes, sky dives, hot air balloon rides, cross country drives and picnics under night skies. It was like her being would come alive at the mere mention of the word “vacation” and with the will of her sheer enthusiasm, she was able to manage the entire itinerary. Father was more than happy to give in to any of her plans- partly because he loved watching the incandescent glow of her excitement that glistened for days. Mother’s passion for music and travelling fuelled the engine of her being. And through them, she would say, she sought to experience the “human-cosmic connect”, after all a place is not just “matter” it is also “spirt”. She asserted this with so much earnestness- I believed her! Father would smile and listen intently but mostly brush it off as “woo-woo” stuff that was much beyond his grasp. He would say that the only transcendental stuff he understood were Pi and e.
Both my parents were at the different ends of the spectrum on such, and many things and they could have had some incredible debates, but Father was not the kind to debate, as also his job as a particle physicist at CERN, left him with no time for us- leave alone “planning” for or debating anything! So, we always went ahead with the holidays and all the underlying “woo-woo” of my mother that came with it.
The only exception was this particular vacation- it was entirely his idea! He told Mother that he had a longing to go home- visit his mother, to taste the kachori sabzi from Thateri Bazaar, go around the city with Sankata chacha, the rickshaw-wala. And, to make the prospect of his case more enticing, Father, proposed taking Mother to see the late Bismillah Khan Saheb’s room in Hadha Sarai!
That sealed the deal easily for my mother. She couldn’t say no to Shiva and Shehnai and so this this trip was promptly planned!
But as excited I was to see the city; my Father grew up in- I was no longer credulous. Over the last one week that we spent packing for our trip- I noticed the exhilaration that coursed through Father- it was the kind that I’d seen when he was working in his lab or rather “understanding how Nature works at the most fundamental level”. He and his team were constantly on the search for new particles ever since the Higgs-Boson and they had even discovered newer particles over the last few months.
But my Father, when not preoccupied with these discoveries, often found himself deeply engaged in drawing parallels between the micro cosmos that he was submerged in at work and the broader cosmos itself. He would tell me that he didn’t think the two were different. Often when I heard him speak- it felt like, for all the “woo-woo” he brushed off, he wanted to desperately believe in it. That perchance there was some truth in what Mother seeked and sensed. Afterall, Quantum Mechanics, the study of micro cosmos, does have a theoretical concept of microscopic blackholes leading to the potential existance of an “other dimension”. This was aside the fact that the larger cosmos has its own super massive blackholes- these could also be thought of as different dimensions, and in both cases the general laws of Physics as we known them don’t hold good. So there was something there which for the lack of better understanding couldn’t be explained. But perhaps this was how seers and sages sourced the concept of God and its method of encountering humans?
A lack of an answer never meant that an answer did not exist.
**To be Continued…tomorrow
**I offer this humble offering at the Feet of Mighty Mahadev as well as at the Feet of My Master who inspires me everyday.
**This is a work of Fiction