A Pilgrim’s Progress
A Pilgrim’s Progress9 mins 427 9 mins 427
A young tenant had always missed his dates to pay the house rent to the owner. He made stories to buy time from the owner to pay the rent but he knew it would not last long. Therefore, he seriously thought to change his job of a Telecaller with a private company. He comforted himself from one fact that all his colleagues were facing similar problems due to irregular payment of salaries. Still, he hoped, one day the situation would improve and he would not have to make stories to pay his rent. Amidst such uncertainties, he was warned by his father to marry within one year out of which eight months had already passed.
His phone started ringing. He saw, it was his mother call. Their talk would start with a lovely “Namaskar” from his side and end with his father’s loud shout, “Do whatever you want to do but you have to get married within four months.” He was used to such paternal banters. So, he waited the phone to ring three times to receive the fourth or fifth call, as many times it stopped ringing after the third. He picked up the phone and it was not different from the earlier calls.
He tried many times to share his problem with his father but all in vain. His father’s kingly order to return home if he was incapable to survive terrified him. He did not want to disprove his vow that he would stand on his legs and would not seek the parents help. After all, he had survived on his father pension money for four years to unsuccessfully prepare for Civil service examination in Delhi. The bitter taste of survival on the parent’s money, after one’s education is finished, blackens the art of living with the shades of depression and rejection. He was carrying the burden of parental wish non-fulfillment and familial disobedience.
For the last five months, he had not received his salaries. The employees’ layoff further scared him even to inquire about the salary from his company. So, his day begun with the silent noting of his Team Leader’s harsh dictation and a gossip over a cup of coffee in the Cafeteria finally ended his duty. He stopped eating in the hotel as he was running out of money. Luckily, last time when his mother came, she had brought all utensils with herself that became his domestic tools to fight adversities. He started cooking. By his cookery skills, he tasted all types of recipes: burnt, salty, sour, watery and uncooked.
His phone started ringing. He was getting late for the office, so he cut the call and strode towards the road to catch an auto. It kept on ringing but the noisy streets silenced it. He opened his phone in his office. There were ten miscalls from his house owner. Immediately, he called him back but nobody picked the phone. He tried some 20 times but no answer came from the other side. He sent an apologetic message and got preoccupied with the routine office works. There were multiple meetings on that day. He had to work till ten pm in the night.
After returning from the office, he found a notice hanging on the door to vacate the house within 48 hours. After tearing, he threw it in the dustbin. He gulped a glass of water and took a deep breath. He felt like his neck choking, so he vomited the water from his mouth. It sprinkled all over. He lied for some time on the bed and went to the kitchen to prepare his dinner. He tried to sleep but had to pass the whole night awake as he was not able to find a solution. The rent was also a large amount; even his two months’ salary would be insufficient to adjust his rents.
Next day, he woke up early and set out for the office. He reached his office early but he had no interest to walk into it. He stood at the gate for some time and took another auto to leave for an unknown destination. His mind stopped working. Except his father and mother he had never asked for money from anyone. After every final stoppage, he would take another auto to go nowhere. People were came and went just like ads on the television. Sometime, he would close his eyes and try to doze but the jerks on the road repeatedly reminded him of the notice of the house owner. He got down at one end of the city from where the rural areas were stretched out.
He began to walk on the road. After walking a few kilometers, he found a solitary road. There were no vehicles, no traffic and no hustle and bustle of the city. He developed a soar on a toe, sometimes it pinched him hard, still he continued walking. In the evening, he found an abandoned empty thatch. He sat on its earthen verandah and lied. He was fully tired and completely exhausted. The earthen surface of the verandah was more soothing than his cushion bed of home. The west bound breeze blew across his body. It was so much relieving. In the distant sky, behind a hill the sun was willfully drowning into a yellowish bed. He was lost in the art of the nature. A cow herd walked lazily emanating the dust that had a pure smell of fragrance of musk. He was so happy; he never wanted to return back to his rental house and parental home. He started dozing and in a few minutes he fell asleep.
One group of pilgrims was marching fast towards their holy shrine; they had to reach there before the dawn. While their head chanted sacred songs, others sang in chorus to repeat it. Another was continuously ringing a bell. The pilgrim’s progress broke his sleep. He woke up and sat. The group took a break at his place. Their earthen lamps illuminated the place brighter. He saw many shining faces with long beards, wearing saffron robes from the head to toe. They all smelled sandal. Seeing him, one from the troupe inquired, “He appears to be a town man; what is he doing here.” His eyes were dazzling. The young man replied, “Babaji, I am from Bhubaneswar.” He smiled and continued, “What are you doing here?.” How to answer that question? He lacked words to answer. He asked for water. One of the pilgrims gave him a bottle. He finished it within a few seconds. He again asked for food. They gave him some food that they carried from a temple. He ate it hurriedly like a hungry calf.
While others lied on the verandah, he sat quietly gazing at the open sky. Now, he felt little better. Seeing him seating, the same saffron clad pilgrim asked, “Where are you going?” He looked at his shining face and said, “I don’t know. Yesterday, I came here; I don’t know what place is this and I don’t know, where I would go.” The bearded old man rose from his place to sit. He was surprised at his reply, “What, have you lost your way?” He smiled and answered, “No, No, I have come knowingly. I mean, just for a change.” Then he started laughing. He continued, “You mean, you are here, in the middle of nowhere, at such a lonely place for a change. The whole place is deserted; there is no house up to your stretch of vision and you say, you are here for a change.” The young man had no answer but he tried, “I was fed up with my problems of life therefore I came here.” The pilgrim could sense his state of mind. He did not want to inquire deeper. He said, “Why don’t you join us; we are going to a holy temple to perform kirtan. Tomorrow, we will be doing nagar parikrama till midnight and we would return in the next morning.” He was thrilled by the offer. He saw people doing kirtan but never became a part of it. He packed his shirt, pant and tie in his office bag. As his phone ran out of charge he packed it too. He wore a saffron robe offered by the pilgrims and enunciated his pilgrimage.
At the next dawn, they all started their spiritual sojourn. He walked behind them and shyly sang the devotional songs to repeat their head. Still, the house vacating notice came afloat in his eyes. He stopped singing and started murmuring haphazardly. His unrhymed murmur deflected the flow of the troupe’s chorus singing. The head smiled and gestured another singer to help the man. He came and whispered in his ears, “Sing mindfully, you are physically here but not thoughtfully. Sing loudly and occasionally close your eyes; you will see; your thoughts will be here.” He tried and succeeded. After repeated efforts, he started singing loudly and often ranged the bell. A few minutes later, he became one of them, singing in chorus the divine songs Hare Rama Hare Rama Hare Krishna Hare Krishna. He was lost in the profanity of divine rhythm of pure bliss. He felt so light; now, he could control his thoughts; the house rent message was there in his mind but it was not overpowering his other thoughts. His towering problems appeared dwarf: father’s kingly order to get married; his burden of the survival on his father’s pension money; the non receipt of six month’s salary and the house owner’s message to vacate his house. Now, these were immaterial to his stream of thoughts although they were a small part of it. He sang loudly and danced madly with them till the midnight. With them he took food and slept on the temple verandah.
Next day, she woke before others and started walking towards the town. After sometime, the same thatch he found there standing elegantly right in the middle of a vast stretch of green terrain. The first ray of the sun fell on his face; it was so refreshing. He started striding on the same road towards a newer destination that he knew very well. Now, he became a pilgrim of his own soul.