Chapter 9: Lilawati
Chapter 9: Lilawati
I told my wife about my visit to the ashram and my conversation with Swamiji. I told her about the complex nature of the scandal and how it looked like they trapped Swamiji into the entire incident. I narrated how Swamiji had taken it all philosophically and had compared the incident with what happened to sage Vishwamitra. I also told her about his request to visit his family and hand over some money to them and how Swamiji suggested that she too should go with me.
It excited my wife. She was happy that Swamiji remembered her and was so nice to send her to meet his wife and children. Obviously she was thrilled that we would be close to Swamiji and his family and this gave her the opportunity to share tales with other devotees and make them feel jealous.
I met Swamiji after two days as he had suggested. He was not there, but Pyare Mohan was. Swamiji had left instructions with him to attend to me and give me the money and further instructions.
“Bhai Rajesh Ji”, he said beaming at me.” Maine teek kaha tha na? You are Swamiji’s favourite. See, how has he given you this special task? Here, the money is in this bag”, he said handing over a fairly thick and big duffel bag to me. It weighed, and I wondered how much money was in it. “Here are tickets for you and your wife and keep this money for expenses.”
“Pyare Ji, this is unnecessary”, I said handing him back the money envelope.” I will manage it.”
“No, Rajesh Ji. Please take it, it is Swamiji’s wish.”
“Well, if he says so. Any other instructions?”
“Rajesh Ji, please do not feel offended, but he has asked you not to talk to her much about the details of the case. If she has seen the TV and read about it, Ok. But please do not discuss what will happen or not happen. She is not to be disturbed by speculations. And please tell her he could not arrange for all the money she asked for. He will, however, try to send her more.”
I nodded my head and prepared to leave when he added “Rajesh Ji, one more favour Swamiji wanted. If you can, find out discreetly why she needs so much money. I know this is very delicate, but Swamiji would be pleased if you can find out. Do it with utmost discretion and if you find that it is difficult, leave it.”
I could understand the worry. Why would a family of three tucked away in a village require so much money? If I recall correctly, Swamiji had asked his family not to travel out of the village. Another issue worried me more than this domestic one. How am I going to carry the money bag safely on the train? What if it were to be stolen? I have never seen this much money in my life what to talk about carrying it! Why did I have to get into Swamiji’s personal affairs? My wife was right, I am mad, and when I show her the bag she will go berserk. My uncalled for and stupid actions have now landed me in a colossal mess and I cannot get out of it.
My wife reacted as expected.
“What rubbish? How can we carry this treasure chest with us in a public train full of strangers, thieves and thugs? Haven’t you heard about UP and Bihar? Are you mad? Being a follower is one thing but you are taking your devotion too far. What does Swamiji think you are? His henchman who will do all his dirty work? Will you murder someone if he asks and his wife? Is she some maharani? What is she going to do with all this money? Buy a palace? I tell you, all this is very fishy, dal mein bahut kala hai.”
“You are a fool to get into his personal life like this. Do you know he had forced his family to go away? You are a simple man and follow him like his pet dog, par woh swami koi doodh ka dhula nahi hai! He is a debauch, yes this lady, Seema is not his first or last. I heard from some old disciples of Mataji that he did something with some other girl in the Mehrauli ashram and it was all hushed up. Mataji said nothing, but she asked him to leave the ashram. I did not want to tell you all this, but it is too much now to bear. I will not come with you go.”
It stunned me. Sita was wild and rightly so, but how the hell did she know about what Swamiji did there? Anabelle also told me about it but I found it hard to believe her. But coming from Sita is another thing, she has validated what Anabelle told me.
“Sita, I am sorry but I never imagined that I would get into a mess because of my curiosity. I cannot avoid this trip but I promise there will be no further trips like this.I really want you to come with me, I need you to come. Please, just this once.”
She relented. We took the trip with a lot of suspicion and fear, but we reached the village safe. It relieved me that all this would be over soon and I vowed that I will stop going to the ashram from now. No more investigation for me. I had enough.
Lilawati opened the door and invited us in. She looked a bit disturbed, but her behaviour with us was very hospitable. We had something to eat and drink, took a bath and then met at the hall in her house. I told her about Swamiji and the money. I told her that Swamiji was sorry that he could not manage more but promised that he will send her the balance money soon.
She did not seem so concerned about the money. She seemed very distracted and in a hurry perhaps to get rid of us. Sita must have noticed all this but remained silent. Finally, when I handed over the money bag to Lilawati, she said:
“Rajesh Ji, ab kya karungi paison ka? I no longer need it now, please take it back and give it to him.”
I had no clue about this fresh twist and I looked at Sita despairingly. We were stuck with the money now and had to ferry it back to Delhi. My problems only worsened. But why did she not need it now? What had happened? She owed me an explanation.
“Kya hua? Are you are angry with Swamiji? Please understand that he in jail and he could have done nothing there. You also understand that arranging such a sizeable amount is difficult for him. He does not have that much to spend as he is a mere Trustee of the ashram. He also did not know why you required so much money. Please do not be angry with him.”
“Rajesh Ji, I am not angry with Swamiji and I understand his problems. I needed the money for a purpose that I did not want to disclose to him, because he will prevent me from doing it. As for his obligations as a Trustee, you hardly know the man. We have suffered so much because of him. We had to leave Delhi, sacrifice our lives so he could become God. Millions of people flock to him for solutions, but what solutions has he provided us? He may be God for you, but not for me and my children. He has not once visited us or allowed us to visit Delhi. We cannot escape this prison where he has put us. My children’s lives are ruined. Now, their father is also a rapist, think how they feel about it? They cannot even tell their friends about their father.”
Lilawati broke down and was now crying. Sita put her hands around her and tried to console the lady. This was a dimension of Swamiji I never thought about. What was I supposed to say now in his defence? There was no defence for what he has done to his family to get to where he is now. And what am I doing here? Carrying money and messages for a man who had abandoned his family?
“Lilawati Ji ‘’ my wife was speaking to the lady softly.“Jo bhi hua,achcha nahi hua. Bahut bura hua behen ji. I can understand your situation. I suggest you keep the money with you for emergencies. You deserve to have at least this. I would have left my husband if he had done anything like this, par aapne bhi khoob nibhaya.Bahut patient hain aap.”
“Behen, it is our fate that women have to always suffer. I cannot even talk to anyone about my problems, let alone do anything. My life is ruined but I want my children to be free. I tried my best, but even God seems unhappy with me. See how that man has escaped despite so much hue and cry and evidence?”
It was all too much for Sita and me to digest. We had come to deliver money and a message. But this visit had turned everything upside down. Lilawati would have been happy if Swamiji had been found guilty and sentenced. It upset her that he got away with the crime. But this is how life is and not everything is under one’s control. I left the two women to share their emotions in privacy and walked out to the street, wandering in a random direction.
I had reached a marketplace, and it was bustling with activity at this hour. Fresh vegetables and fruits, grains of every variety, milk all that you associate with rural India were here, and it was a beautiful sight for my sore eyes. Talking of my eyes, I think I just now spotted a ghost! It could not be true and perhaps my eyes were playing tricks on me. Maybe I was thinking about Swamiji’s case and all the events that were unfolding rapidly, but can this be true?
A girl had just walked past me, and I glanced at her. She was dressed in a sari which she wore like how ladies in a UP village would wear. She drew no attention and I would have passed her as a villager except because I had seen her pictures in the papers and on TV. She has been one of my preoccupations of late, and I could not but recognize her. It was Seema.
Or was I hallucinating? I followed her, drawn by curiosity and with the sense of mystery taking over my other senses. I needed confirmation and I could get it only if I followed her. What on earth was Seema doing here in this village? Was this a coincidence that she chose this village to hide from the police?