Part One is Here
Part Two is Here
A day before we took our flight from Geneva, I decided to accompany my Father to work. At almost 6-7 degrees, it was the usual early December, chilly morning. The skies were gloomy grey, while the earth beneath had pulled over a thin blanket of pristine white snow- perhaps just a few hours ago. I supposed if I had stuck my tongue out I might have even caught an errant flake making its way from the sky. But I decided otherwise and pulled my neck warmer closer to my mouth. From the moment we stepped out of Block 41 making our way towards 39- I immediately perceived a surreal yet rhythmic stillness. I stopped in my tracks and stood for a second to take in this feeling. Was it my mind playing tricks? Was it the cold? My father who had taken a few steps ahead, realised I wasn’t with him and looked back. Seeing this, I picked up pace and smiled at him. He smiled back, almost sensing what was on my mind.
“I feel it every time- this still hum”, he said
“But how did you…” I was caught off guard.
“Well, it’s not just you…a few of us here do. We put it down to ‘woo-woo’ – just don’t tell your Mother!” He chuckled.
We walked on, but I couldn’t let the feeling pass. But before my mind could waylay me with further speculation- we found ourselves standing in front of HIM! In the backdrop of a few spindly and skeletal poplars, silhouetted against the rising rays of the Sun, breaking out in streaks across the bleak sky, HE stood there in his bronze majesty, in that Anand Tandava Pose- encased in a ring of fire. HE had gracefully cross raised his left leg at the hip level, while firmly balancing on the right that was quashing a midget demon. A snow shawl had delicately formed to cover his neck and while his countenance beamed enigmatically at us, I couldn’t help feeling a little warm under my neck. I had seen Shiva here many times before- but today there was something electric about the atmosphere.
Father and I just stood there in reverence and awe. Is this how creation began? Dynamic and yet rhythmic riot of graceful movements rippling through nothing and creating everything?
“The cosmic ballet he performs is definitely unbalanced- there is more matter than antimatter! But how does he keep it all together?” My Father blurted. “I ask this of him every day…yet…”
“What?” I couldn’t follow what he was trying to say.
“Indeed, what is the secret?” He answered.
“Dad,” I said looking at him suspiciously. “Is this why we are going to Varanasi? I thought you …”
“Naah! I just miss the kachori’s a lot!”
We walked on, with me unable to make sense of anything.
By the time we reached home, it was already close to 11pm. We walked in to see Daadi pacing the living room. Her face was calm, but her frantic turning of the mala beads belied her demeanour. Chandan Kaka had laid the dining table a while ago, but it had thus far remained untouched and would remain so.
“Don’t worry Maa Ji, there is a perfectly logical explanation to this! I know it.” My Mother said, walking towards her. “We just need to keep patience and…”
But Daadi immediately cut her off in frustration.
“I’m going to whack him on his head- when I see him. I’m 72, and he’s not in school any more to be playing truant!”
“Let’s wait a bit longer?” Mother, responded. “Did you have your dinner? Why don’t we all sit down to eat something? It may calm all our nerves!”
“What nerves? If he comes home, send him to my room. If not, I will start making calls in the morning.” And with that Daadi made her way out of the living room and walked up the spiral steps to get to her room on the first floor.”
Mother and I looked at each other and plonked ourselves on the raised baithak. The dull red bolsters were the only things that had our back at this moment. Mother let out a deep sigh and grabbed the bright yellow, satin cushion that lay on the arm of the seat. She held it tight across her chest, I suppose in the half hope that it would calm her racing heart.
“Why don’t you eat something, sweetheart?” My mother asked. I knew she didn’t want to.
“No, Ma…I’m ok. But I can eat along with you” I said, hoping Ma would take the bait.
But Mother just smiled and responded despondently “What say we go up and take some rest? I’m pretty sure He will be back home in a bit.”
As soon as we got up, Chandan Kaka walked in. He too seemed clearly dispirited and harrowed through his frail frame.
“Betaji, did you learn anything?”
“No, Kaka. But I’m sure he will return in sometime”.
As we started to walk out, Chandan Kaka began mumbling “This is not the first time Beta. I just wanted you to know….”
Mother stopped and looked back at him “What do you mean Kaka”
“He has done this a few times before in college…”
“Yes. Once, when he was at BHU- he went out one morning with that Panditji’s Son…said he would be home by evening. But they both didn’t show up for a week! Maa Ji and Saheb- they neither ate nor slept. And that Panditji and his wife- they shut down the temple for a while. Police were involved- they must have searched every house in Benares all the way till Sarnath!”
“After that- again I think before his PhD in Germany- that time Maa Ji almost had a heart attack!”
“But where did Father go?” I interrupted.
“What?” My mother exclaimed. “Is that what Maa Ji meant by ‘truant’ in school?”
“And he returned, just as he left. Like it was some vacation trip. I don’t think Maa ji spoke to him for a month or two after those events”
“But he is neither religious nor spiritual!”
“That’s not entirely true, Beta…”
“I don’t understand!”
“He believes in Mahadev…a lot! Every day in the morning before school or college …it used to be Omkareshwar, Vishweshwar and Kedareshwar.”
“I find this hard to believe…In fact he always brushes me aside when I remotely talk about anything God or Spirit…”
“Then after he started to go to BHU, both his disappearing stints were to some remote places-Mundeshwari Maa and then this place in the south, Mangalanatha Swamy. But then after he left from here for good- this is the first time he has done this! Beta, don’t worry…he will be back, Maa ji will throw a fit, you just stay strong.”
With that Chandan Kaka, quickly cleared the dinner table…and left us to our thoughts.
My mother’s head was reeling hearing all this. I held her hand and led her up the steps to my parents’ room on the second floor. As we passed through Daadi’s room, we noticed that her door was left slightly ajar…she had not turned the lights off.
“Why did he visit those two temples Ma?” I asked Mother so I could keep her thinking and not sinking.
“I don’t know really – I just know that they are very old- both of them. Sometimes such structures have a lot of potential spiritual energy I guess- because of the continuous prayers and pooja’s done in them over years.”
“But Maa Mundeshwari sound like a Devi temple?”
“ It is! But the presiding Diety is Shiva in the Sanctum Sanctorum- making it a temple of Shiva and Shakti. Both the temples are some of the oldest in the world- at least archeologically- older than the ones in Kashi, I think. I don’t know what to make of all of this…I’m just as confused as you are.”
That night, my Father didn’t come home, and my Mother wept bitterly. I held her hand, tried to console her and mentally told myself everything would work out.
The next day, as both me and my mother made our way to the living room- my mother was ready with a plan. In the wee hours of the morning, she had made a list of every possible friend she knew who lived here and had planned to visit them. She told me she would ask Daadi about that “Panditji’s Son” and go to him as well.
What we didn’t know was that Daadi was already way ahead of us.
**To Be Continued…
**I offer this humbly at The Feet of Mighty Mahadev, as well as at The Feet of My Guru who inspires me everyday!
**This is a work of Fiction.