From Outwards Into Inwards
From Outwards Into Inwards
My neighbour Ramanath Sadangi had praiseworthy wisdom and profound scholarship. He lived with his two sons(Abhishek and Abhijeet)and a daughter called Lichi. His wife Gayatri was a beautiful woman and a school teacher who taught elementary maths at a school in a neighbouring area of my locality. The lady teacher was loving and friendly. When a little puppy was run over by an unknown car, she was found inconsolable."Such a kind heart...!"People wondered at her benevolence and charitable nature.
Sadangi was bossy and commanding and I found him very unpleasant and meddlesome. He regularly appeared on TV channels and delivered lectures on enlightenment, spirituality, and God. At the early stage of his career, he used to come to me and bragged of his vast learning and knowledge of the Gita and the Vedas. When anyone wanted to have an answer to a question about God and spirituality, they went to Sadangi Babu who overloaded them with hundreds of answers and numerous solutions to their problems. He commanded genuine respect for his wisdom. He had his regular scheduled television programs on a number of TV channels. He had his own YouTube channel too. Money was coming into his hands in plenty. In spite of this, he was greatly worried about the construction of a building in Puri. I couldn't make out why the man was so worried about building a house in Puri when he had had two big palace-like houses in his hometown Kendrapara and in Bhubaneswar. He had a Skoda car which must have cost in lakhs. There was a chauffeur to drive and maintain the expensive car. It was nothing surprising to hear the chanting of mantras and the sounds of devotional songs, soothing music, and the fragrance of incense sticks coming from his house. Initially, he never failed to inform me when he was going to be on a television channel. After some days, he didn't even raise his eyes to greet me. Please note that I was senior to him by fifteen years. I tried to keep quiet. I got acquainted with his passive indifference to me and forgot how he used to reverently say, "Sir Namaskar..." when we met accidentally. Now he had a Toyota Fortuner and most of the time I found him proudly driving the beautiful vehicle which offered a strong contrast to my cheap Maruti car whose monthly installments I was still paying every month. Thanks to the arrival of covid19 because of which there was some leniency towards the payment of those monthly installments.
But Sadangi was as prosperous as any time in the past years. Their attitude to me had changed. I had taught his younger son Abhijeet and had earned accolades. But that was three years back.The man's attitude had totally changed in this particular case. Parents and most students seemed to attach a little or no importance to tutors like me after the period of their children's studies got over. Was that the reason why Sadangi Babu avoided me...? I had visited their house once or twice and had experienced all this.
While returning home in the night, I watched Sadangi Babu abusing an old man who appeared to be a mendicant. Sadangi was lecturing on the proper use of time and money. The old mendicant was drunk heavily. I stopped there to observe the verbal attacks the scholar was making on him. The mendicant was observing him honestly and innocently. Sadangi was repeating: "Why must you beg when you seem physically okay...?" The old man said with tears in his eyes: "I have a noble mission to fulfill and hence Allah has directed me to beg to fulfill my stomach. Begging has made me better. Nobody ever found fault with my mission. Sir. Nobody helped me today with any money or food...I will have to stay hungry tonight."
Ramanath's wife came hurrying downstairs hearing her husband shouting at someone. She tried to calm Ramanath saying, "He is hungry and asking for food. Don't scold him...!" Now Ramanath turned to his erring wife and screamed, "No food or money..! Give nothing to him. He is drunk." Gayatri inhaled the smell of wine in the air. In spite of this, she said, "Baba, I am giving you 100 hundred rupees and you can eat your evening meals elsewhere.."
The mendicant was saying: "My name is Kamal Baba... I live at Chandrasekharpur. My wife and sons live in a basti near the Sikhar Chandi Temple. Ramanath ordered him to leave but he ignored him. Gayatri who had gone indoors,came back with a hundred rupee note in hand.Ramanath's eyes had bulged out of their sockets in anger. He flared up at the beggar: "You drunken old ass...! Leave this place at once..! Or I'll kill you..!" He snatched at the hundred rupee note in his wife's hand and pushed her hard backwards but she somehow managed to balance herself.
The mendicant was still standing with hope in his eyes. Next, Ramanath commanded the intruder to twist his own ears and slap himself on the cheeks. The culprit instantly obliged. But he again pleaded with Ramanath, "Please give me that hundred rupee note.." Ramanath was exhausted and some youngsters had gathered there. One of them pulled at the old man's dirty white lungi and someone else tugged at his long hair from behind. The tea seller woman Kabita kicked the old man on his thin leg and he fell to the ground. When he rose to his feet, there was blood on his knee because of a scratch.
They reprimanded him pointing out that he was drunk even though he pretended to be a holy man. The youngsters discussed how they were working hard to spread awareness against the wine trade in the state and decided to call the police.
A boy said that the police would not arrest him merely because he was drunk. Ramanath was indignant but silent. They couldn't ask him what to do next. They told Kabita to report him to the police accusing him of having tried to molest her but the woman got enraged and scolded them as she found the suggestion embarrassing.
It was a cold evening. The old mendicant started to walk very slowly and unsteadily as he was drunk. My wife who was watching all this was deeply upset. She narrated the whole incident to me in injured tones. I listened to her attentively and said with a chuckle: "I have no mercy for drunkards." A relative of mine who was an alcoholic used to haunt my house at Laxmisagar.
I had severely abused him with the warning that if he dared to visit my house even once after that, I would be compelled to use force.
Even today I don't have the slightest mercy for drunkards. These people not only make a mess of themselves but bring great shame and dishonour to their families.
It was the day of triumph for Ramanath's family and their well-wishers. Abhijeet had become the state topper in the class 12 CBSE examination.
But Ramanath was severely afflicted with chronic back pain. The spinal cord surgery that he had gone through was of little use. After a few days of it, the unbelievable aches had returned with full force. Whenever Ramanath felt a little relieved, he cursed the surgeon and the hospital. He had become a source of worry and concern for his family and a whole lot of their relatives. There was no financial loss. But the pain was beyond the capacity of anyone to tolerate. Only Gayatri knew that the affliction had already turned to cancer. Ramanath was praying to Lord Ganesh to take his life and spare him the pain.
A tribal woman, Matuli Nayak who had arrived in Bhubaneswar was growing famous for her wonderful healing powers. People said she could even cure any kind of cancer. Gayatri suggested that they should make a visit to her. Some well-known cine celebrities, big businessmen, and politicians had started frequenting her with their varied prayers and complaints. She had grown wealthy and now had a huge temple and a beautiful palatial house for the VIP visitors to be accommodated in some more than one hundred rooms in it.
Ramanath and his wife had got tired of making visits to the tribal God-woman. It was, they had decided, their last visit to her. Today it was Friday,and Gayatri had duly worshipped her Mother Goddess Santoshi and was constantly praying for the cure of her learned husband. An assistant of the divine healer told them that they had to complete twenty-seven visits. Only after the completion of the said number of visits was the healing process going to start. They had completed eighteen visits including the present one.
They came back home and Jena came to administer the painkiller injection to Ramanath as he did every alternate day wishing that the healing would be a very slow process. Gayatri was helpless and cried her heart out in front of the photo of Mother Santoshi. She didn't know when she had dozed off. She saw the smiling Goddess in a dream assuring her of her husband's complete cure sometime very soon.
She got up to the call of a beggar outside and went out to see who it was. It was the same old man holding the same begging bowl..! He said to her, "O my beloved Mother...! Why are you crying..?My Guru has sent me here ..Take these holy basil leaves and some Ganga water. Tell your husband to chew and swallow the leaves and then drink the water...He will be fully cured.." Gayatri again inhaled the strong smell of wine and was doubtful of the mendicant's words. But as she was helpless, she did as he had instructed her. A desperate Ramanath swallowed the chewed leaves and took the Ganga water in a small plastic bottle. He instantly fell asleep. This made her a bit curious and surprised. Ramanath usually found it very difficult to go to sleep even after taking high-powered sleeping pills. She went outdoors and was happy to see the old man sitting. She requested him to enter the house and sit on the sofa. The old man began to sing: "Mein tere pyar mein pagal..." in a melodious voice.."She served him coffee and cakes.
After an hour Ramanath opened his eyes. He saw the beggar standing in front of him. Ramanath experienced a kind of heavenly joy and bliss for the first time in life. Then he smelled the repulsive smell of wine. But he was unable to protest against the beggar's presence. Gayatri narrated everything in detail. Ramanath sat in his bed and said, "Geeti..how come I fell asleep without taking the sleeping pills..! All my aches have disappeared! I am also able to sit upright....!"
Gayatri pointed to the old man and burst into tears. Ramanath contemplated the mendicant curiously and said, "Why are you addicted to drinking?"
The old man chuckled and said, "Why are you addicted to chewing betel leaf day and night? Even you can't go to bed without a pan in your mouth ?"
Ramanath came down from the bed and lay prostrate at the old man's feet. The old man had sandalwood paste marks on his chest, arms and forehead.
Sitting at the holy man's feet with folded hands,Ramanath said: "My Lord, tell me who has sent you here..!"
"I am a devotee of Allah. I worship the Almighty Allah."
Ramanath looked unconvinced."But, you are dressed like an orthodox Hindu?"
The old man said, "Yes I am an orthodox Hindu but I worship Allah.."
"How strange? " Ramanath said to himself. "Can Allah be as powerful as Lord Shiva?"
He turned to the old man and said, "But Muslims strongly hate wine? You seem to be heavily drunk...?"
The old man said, "Allah doesn't hate wine..Allah doesn't hate anything at all. He has no hatred for any kind of living creatures.Each and every creature is Allah's child.Hatred is a sign of human weakness. Only the weak hate things..The harder you hate something, the weaker you become...."
"Maybe...But don't you think Prophet Muhammad was a false prophet?"
"No ...Muhammad is and was as good as gold. I love Him. I visit Kadam Rasool and take the holy water the priests offer me.."
Ramanath said, "Muhammad married many women and molested a small girl named Aisha who was only nine...?"
"Ramakrishna married a girl who was five years old..." said the old man.
"But Ramakrishna was an incarnation of Lord Shiva..?" Ramanath said.
"Krishna was also an incarnation of God and he was in love with a large number of Gopi girls.." the old man said.
Ramanath placed his head on the feet of the old beggar and cried.
"Both Hindus and Muslims and people of all other religions are proceeding along the path of untruth and falsehood.." the mendicant said.
"What is your caste? Are you really a beggar...?"
"I am a goldsmith by caste and sometimes I massage people's limbs and bodies to earn just a bit of money to keep alive..." said the old man. In extreme cases, I take to begging..."
"Do you like the venom spewing Maulanas of Islam?The ones on YouTube channels...? Will they ever worship the deities of other religions? "
Ramanath said. "Why did you omit to mention the Hindu pandits, scholars, fanatics, and blind believers...and those of the others..?"
Ramanath said to the old man, "You seem to be absolutely fearless!"
"Yes, I am absolutely fearless.."
Days and months passed by. Ramanath stopped appearing on TV channels as if he had decided to stay in hiding. Gayatri was profoundly upset because her husband's earnings were now almost zero. Ramanath spent his time alone in his study lost in profound meditation...He told his wife he was working most sincerely. Gayatri and the people of the locality exerted tremendous pressure on him to tell them about the interactions between God and him but Ramanath clung to his promise must tenaciously not to breathe a single word of what was going on between him and the gods...Gayatri wondered how the man who was running after money now refused outright to touch it. Nor did he ever read any holy books.
The man running outwards was now most rigidly turning inwards. What he feared the most were money, fame, and woman. He wondered at his miraculous capabilities to keep his priceless secrets very very deep inside him till the end of Eternity...
Gayatri cursed the old beggar who had succeeded in making her husband a good-for-nothing fellow...She pondered what her husband meant by the words "from outwards into inwards.."
Now Ramanath never felt tempted to appear on television and give lectures with a view to enlightening others. He didn't avert his eyes when he came across charming women and voluptuous grown girls.He thought some unseen agency was purging him of the impurities accumulated within him..
Gayatri had stopped giving money to Ramanath. So when Ramanath couldn't make contactless transactions in small amounts,he didn't feel embarrassed to beg a fifty rupee note from anyone to meet the instant need.Gayatri's brother had employed a psychiatrist to treat his mentally deranged brother-in-law but hardly had a month passed,the psychiatrist came to their house to "visit" Ramanath as if he were a deity...