THE ABLUTION26 mins 609 26 mins 609
At the beginning of my formative years, I had been introduced to the divine concept by none other than my own father. He was a workaholic all through his life and remained so till his last breath. His indomitable trust in the divine concept led to many a tussle in the family, but, he never defied his belief in the face of all odds. So strong was his belief in the divine intellect, that, one day, when the whole family was on the verge of starvation, with nothing to sell, to buy food for that day, he still kept his cool and went on reciting from the holy scriptures, while my poor mother was fighting tears from flowing down her eyes at the thought of having to let her kids watch blankly at the empty cooking utensils.
My father's intuition, however, paid off that day, when the bankers came home at noon to hand over a cheque of one lakh rupees as a loan for his humble business. He had applied for the loan a year earlier, but, bottlenecks had come up one after another, in such a fashion, that our hearts had started sinking, and we had almost lost all hopes of availing the loan, which was the last hope for the family to survive after my father had been rendered invalid by disease at the ripe age of fifty. With no source of income, both I and my elder sister, still studying in school aided by full free studentship, owing to our good academic records, my father had nothing left other than to opt for a bank loan to set up a humble business in order to feed the four souls in the family. We had been selling guavas from our trees to meet the daily food requirements till then. When the trees no more bore fruits, we were left exposed to the pangs of poverty. The earlier day, my father had sold all the scrap in the house to buy some food. So, when the bankers turned up with the cheque, tears flowed down the cheeks of my father. We thought, our plight had ended. But, hardly did we know that it was just the beginning.
Every person that my father engaged to set up his business, turned out to be a traitor. Each one of them only tried to decamp with some booty from my father's mere investments. Finally, the struggler in him manifested itself in the form of a messiah. He jumped into the unknown world of business with the meager knowledge that he had gained till then. The result was disastrous. He failed in his business. The bankers sent him a reminder after a reminder to recover the loan amount, but, my poor father had been ruined completely. He had nothing to offer them. However, his trust in the divine dispensation never deserted him. Once again his trust won. My sister had graduated by then, and I had cleared the entrance examination for Engineering studies. The school in which we were studying, offered my sister the job of a teacher. The quest for money became slightly comfortable. I too got admitted into the Engineering stream with a study-loan. Our time seemed to be changing. But, alas, everything doesn't run as expected. Man proposes and God disposes. My sister developed a disease of the liver when I was in the third year of my degree course. After a year of a relentless struggle against the fatal disease, she died. And with her, died all our hopes of reviving our fortunes. Till that day, I had been a fervent believer in the divine intellect that my father followed. But, my sister's death shattered all my faith in the divine dispensation.
What was my sister's fault? Why did she have to die? She too believed in God! She also sincerely followed my father's footsteps. Just like my father, she also never uttered a lie. She never wronged others. She never took a favor that wasn't due to her. She did not do anything that could tarnish the image of my father or of the family. She had only tried to support her father at his despondency. Was it a fault? Was it against the law of the Holy self? If not, then, why did she have to die? Why on earth did she have to die such a pitiful death? Why? Why? I went on asking these questions to the God that I believed till then. But he never answered. Never! I still remember, when I was trying to sleep that night, my father and my mother were having a desperate argument on what my sister's fault was, that she had to depart from this living world with none of her ambitions fulfilled. My father still went on uttering the sayings from the holy verses, but, this time he failed to convince my mother. She was inconsolable. She could not sleep for a total week. Neither could my father. An irreparable loss had completely confounded him.
The following year, I graduated from the Engineering stream. I cleared a job interview in the public sector, but, could not join because of a faulty system in my college. I could not get my final result before the date of joining, because of a back paper resulting from non-appearance caused by my sister's death. With a complete hostile feeling brewing inside me for the concept that is called God, I turned my wrath at the society that tried to cow me down. I took up tuition classes, and after a few hiccups, emerged as a money-making machine in that profession. I was often loathed because of my arrogance, but then, I was not a God-fearing person anymore. I had changed myself. A sea of atheism was churning inside me, burning off any speck of the divine intellect induced in me in the past. I cared for nothing except for money. My sole dream was to earn money, to make money, to ditch others for the shake of money. I became so vocal in my quest for money, that no relationship could eke out any kind of sympathy from me for anybody in financial distress.
Luck finally shined on me when I got an Engineering job quite near to my house. My father was happy now. My mother rejoiced. That was when I got my first salary as an Engineer. But, ifs and buts are a part of my life. Very soon, my father left for the other world. He had been bedridden for a long time. So, his demise did not affect me too much. He deserved to die in order to get annihilation from his sufferings. However, the greatest achievement that my father had accomplished in his life, was the irrevocable faith in the divine incarnation even in the face of appalling adversities. After his death, I reached a better financial position, compared to my earlier life. And yet again, I was struck a deadly blow by the bankers of my father's business endeavor. They wanted to recover the loan amount from me. I thought of dodging it at first, but, that option was closed. My father had mortgaged our land against the loan, and the bankers wanted to lay siege on to it, if I did not pay back. I had to dole out the huge sum from my meager savings. As if that wasn't enough, recovery of my educational loan also gave me an ultimatum. Court cases were going on, and it had been decided in favor of the bank. Once again, I was caught in neck-deep waters of financial instability. I had to pay it back too. With my savings dwindled, I was left with nothing but my monthly salary. Still, I thought, the demons of the loan had been pulverized, and in a few months' time, I would be able to regain balance. But, my hardships were far from over. I was confounded by a completely new type of problem. After my father's demise, I had provided shelter to a poor family in the outhouse. They used to carry out a few of my daily chores in return for the favor I had shown. Their presence had provided me a security cover for my mother when I was away, or on duty. Otherwise, my mother would have been rendered completely lonely in the house. Her health had also become a matter of some concern for me, of late. With the family living close to her, she also sought to shed her solitary confinement. Gradually, my mother became quite dependant on them, and Dibakar started exploiting the situation in his own favor. Dibakar was, however, tolerable to some extent. But, his wife was openly siphoning out favors from my mother. I didn't pay much attention to these things as my main problem of the dearth of companionship for my mother had been solved.
Till then, proposals for my marriage hadn't seen the light of the day. My mother was worried about that. I was also worried, but, for a different reason altogether. How long could my mother cook food for me and carry out all the household activities on her own? She too needed an assistant. I was also nearing the age of forty. So, it had become imperative, that my marriage is solemnized, and that too, at an early date. Eventually, one of my marriage proposals got through and shoved me into an abysmal pit of confusion and monetary predicament. Since all my relatives were staying in Kolkata, I had no one to help me in this turbulent situation, staying five hundred kilometers away. At this moment, Dibakar extended his help voluntarily and I considered him as an elder brother, supporting me physically at the time of need. Little did I know that he had other intentions as well.
I had to renovate the house before the day of the marriage. I had only six months of time in hand. With no physical support of any kind, I had to depend upon my friends for a lot of things. Dibakar, almost every time, gave me his moral support. About a month before the date of my marriage, I received a letter telling me that my would-be wife was an ex-lover of someone, and that, I was committing a grave mistake by agreeing to marry her. The letter was purportedly written by one of her lovers. I took this as a prank and forgot all about this. When there were only ten days left, somebody rang me up in my mobile, telling me that he was her lover and I should refrain from marrying her. This time, I felt a bit perturbed and asked my would-be in-laws if they had given my mobile number to someone else outside their family. They denied. I again thought it to be some sort of a bad joke and shrugged it off. Finally, I got married and came home with my wife and a host of our relatives. Dibakar had assured me of all kinds of support including cooking for all my relatives. But, when my relatives came, he simply avoided me. Even his wife stayed away from doing anything on the pretext of illness. My relatives had a harrowing time, cooking for themselves, and preparing for their outings. This vexed me. Dibakar and his wife were supposed to be doing all the chores, but, they simply avoided doing anything except picking out this thing and that for their benefit. After around a week, all our relatives left. Dibakar's wife got well as soon as all my relatives had left, and she even cooked food for my mother. Within a month of my marriage, my wife found Dibakar's wife placating my mother. Sometimes she gave her food to eat. My wife, Anita, did not approve of this. She told me once or twice, but, due to serious financial difficulties after the marriage, I could not pay any heed to her words.
A year later, my wife had a miscarriage. This time, Dibakar did not even come out of his house to help take her to the hospital. Since I was away on some official work, my mother had to take Anita to the hospital in that condition. Things started happening at a very fast pace. I was peeved at the animosity of Dibakar and his wife. They behaved like complete strangers with my wife, but, showered my mother with praise. Anita objected to this, but, I was too engrossed to take any cue from these freak incidents until matters drew to a worse one day. Anita had a terrific pain in her stomach when I was away in my office. She told Dibakar several times, that she needed a particular medicine to subside the pain, but, even after two hours, Dibakar didn't come up with the required medicine. Anita was in dire straits. She rang me up and told me about her problem. I immediately sent one of my colleagues to get her the medicines. After Anita's pain subsided, I rang up Dibakar and told him in the strongest possible words, that, he was supposed to do the minimum work for me and my family in return for the favor he had been receiving. I don't know what effect my cold threat had on him, but, someway he seemed to mend his ways.
After three miscarriages in a row, Anita told me something which I couldn't believe. She told me that Dibakar's wife was practicing witchcraft and that she had become the target of all her black magic. She had no physical defects as per the physicians in conceiving a child, and yet she wasn't able to give birth to a child of hers. In the beginning, I did not believe her, but, gradually my conceptions started changing. I began experiencing difficult situations at my workplace all of a sudden. My mother's health also started deteriorating without any symptoms. Even my financial status received jolt after jolt for no particular reason. I became suspicious of Dibakar's intentions. He had stopped interacting with us. His wife also did not speak to me as she did earlier. Their two children also avoided us. Dibakar's wife only spoke to my mother when I or Anita was away. Whenever we came close in between their conversations, she used to move away. My mother also started behaving suspiciously. She began supporting Dibakar's wife and children. Often she had arguments with Anita at the behest of Dibakar's wife and children. She started behaving as if she were one of Dibakar's own relatives. One day, when I was at home in the evening, I saw something odd beside our house. Some strange light appeared before our house and vanished before our eyes. Anita had seen this earlier and had told me of it, but, I had simply ignored her words. Once I myself saw it, I could not, but, believe it. Another day, at around midnight, I heard a peculiar bird call just over our house and looked at Anita. She simply told me to keep quiet. I obeyed her then, but asked her the next morning, what it was. What she told me, was something quite astonishing. She said that the bird's call was that of a vulture, sent to cover our house with negative energy. That day, we both heard the same call at exactly the same time. Then onwards, it became a regularity. Every night, exactly at midnight, we heard the same call. This gave me jitters. I told Anita, that we must take spiritual help if this was really an effect of black magic. Anita told me, that, she had already sought such help from her spiritual guide, and that, he had told her to chant the Mahamrityunjay mantra one hundred and eight times to ward off the effects of any evil spirits. So, every night, just before midnight, both of us would sit in meditation, reciting the mantra. Gradually, after the regular recital of the mantra, the birds call finally stopped.
But, things started going awry very soon. Other peculiar disturbances began popping their heads in the most uncommon way. One day, when we were all at home, a black cat came in front of the house and started wailing. The wailing went on for hours without a break. The sound was so terrifying, that we could not garner the courage to go out of the house also, to see what was the cause. It was really uncanny. Finally, Anita and I had to sit for meditation chanting the most powerful Mahamrityunjay mantra. Once, we both completed reciting the mantra a hundred and eight times, the wailing stopped. The whole night became creepy for us, so much so that, we could not sleep for the entire night.
The next day, in the afternoon, Anita told me to go and see, where my mother had gone. I was a bit perturbed by such an uncommon instruction from her. I asked her what it was, and she told me, that, Dibakar's wife had called my mother to the outhouse, to perform some kind of a black magic ritual with her assistance and that it certainly had something to do with the negative atmosphere which was gradually engulfing us. In order to verify Anita's suspicions, I immediately went there. I was really astounded by what I saw there. My mother was seated in front of a makeshift altar, where bones and skulls had been gathered. They were performing some kind of a ritual and my mother had been made a party to it. I got infuriated and asked my mother what it was. Surprisingly, she told me to go home and not meddle in their affairs. I turned my glare at Dibakar and his wife, and asked, "What is this going on? Why have you collected bones and skulls here? What is the purpose of this ritual?" Dibakar simply tried to pacify me, saying, "Oh no! This is nothing. You don't have to bother about all these. This ritual is going to bring harmony in the house". I said, "I am not at all satisfied with your answer. Stop this ritual immediately or I will simply take action against you". My words had the desired effect. Their ritual was stopped. I returned home and my mother followed me. After around an hour, I asked my mother what it was all about. She simply gazed at me with blank eyes and lost consciousness. A few days later, I met with an accident and had to be hospitalized for a week. Dibakar did not even visit me during my hospitalization. When I came home after orthopedic surgery, Anita told me to remove Dibakar's family from the outhouse. My mother got infuriated at her and started an argument favoring Dibakar's family. The heated argument went on till I told my mother that she was being misguided. The atmosphere remained gloomy in the house for the next several days.
The other day, Anita told me, "See where Dibakar's wife is going with her younger son. They always have to go through the main gate in front of our house. But see, she is jumping the wall beside the outhouse, where her son is starting a bike to take her somewhere. It is clear that they have some sinister motive in mind, otherwise, why should they try to hide from our eyes!" I sensed logic in what she said. I knew they would have to pass by our main gate anyhow. So, I ran to accost them there. What Anita said was actually true. The mother-son duo was on the bike. Their faces turned aghast on seeing me in front of the gate. I rang up one of my friends and, describing their clothes, asked him to follow them to the end. I spoke loud enough for them to hear what I was saying. My phone call had the desired effect. The mother-son duo returned back in two minutes. I was certain, they could not have ventured out to perform their sinister activity in the face of the mortal threat that I had issued against them. The result was almost instantaneous. They left the outhouse within a week, without even informing my mother, whom they had chosen for their accomplishments. Anita was relieved, but, something told me, there were darker clouds arriving. And soon they did. I started losing my temper quite often. The same thing occurred to Anita as well. Quite often, we had unnecessary fights at home. My mother started becoming restless. Every Thursday and New moon day, we found raw rice and flowers scattered in our doorway. We could never know when these were put there. Now, even my mother began getting annoyed at their behavior. Slowly, the atmosphere in the house turned tense. The negative atmosphere was so intense, that many times, I lost my behavioral cool. I remained tense throughout the day. Matters got worse when I left my job for no plausible reason. Now, with no source of income, I started blaming God once again. Anita, on the other hand, became more dependent on spiritualism. She consulted astrologers, spiritual Gurus, and every other person, whom she believed, could eradicate my problems.
One day, she told me that her spiritual Guru had asked her to visit his ashram in Narshowabadi to perform some rituals, which could reduce my suffering to some extent. At that time, I had just been rejected in a job interview, which, I was almost sure of the clearing. I wasted no time and agreed to Anita's proposal of going to Narshowabadi, in Maharashtra, to seek refuge in the spiritual ablutions.
We also took my mother along, for, she couldn't be left alone at home while we were away. My mother's deteriorating health was, no doubt, a piece of concern, but, what we feared most, was Dibakar's next step, which, we could, in no way, conjecture. He had become revengeful, on having had to vacate the outhouse, which he had been enjoying for free. So, we felt as if he and his wife had turned their entire vengeance on Anita, for whom, they had to quit their free abode. According to them, it was my marriage to Anita, that was responsible for their plight. Otherwise, they could have continued to stay in the outhouse for free, and, maybe, they could have secured the occupying rights to it, by placating me and my mother. But, with my marriage solemnized, they lost all hopes of getting that ever. So, they resorted to every sort of evil design to take revenge upon Anita, with the sole intent of breaking our marriage.
In the evening, when we were about to set out for Narshowabadi, the taxi was standing at the gate. Anita and my mother were seated inside it. I just pulled at the lock of our main door to check that it was properly fitted. Suddenly, a black cat appeared out of nowhere and blocked my way. It started gnashing its teeth and purring viciously at me. It didn't want me to leave the house. I was startled. We were supposed to board the Bhubaneswar-Pune express train at eight o'clock, and we were getting delayed, but, the cat showed no signs of letting me out. Whichever way I tried to go, avoiding the cat, it simply jumped in front of me and showed its teeth. Anita came out of the taxi, unlocked the door with my keys, and entered the house. A little later, she came out of the house, with a fistful of salt in her hand. She moved her salt bearing hand in circles over my head seven times and murmured something. Then she threw the salt right, left, and backward. The black cat had disappeared by now. We started our journey.
It was before sunrise, that the train entered the platform in the Pune Railway Station. All three of us freshened ourselves in the Upper class waiting hall, took some breakfast, and embarked on the final stretch of our journey to Narshowabadi on a bus from Pune. The journey was literally tedious, as it took seven long hours for us to reach Narshowabadi. The hairpin curves, the Sahyadri hills and the endless sugarcane fields stretching into the horizon did very little to accentuate my nerves. I was practically scared every time I remembered the fiery eyes of the black cat that had stopped me from coming out of my house. It was a dry September evening when we reached Narshowabadi. Anita's spiritual guide had personally come to the bus stop to escort us to the Ashram. We took our luggage and followed him.
A double bedroom had been booked for us in the Ashram complex for a mere fifty rupees a day. Since all of us were tired from the long journey, we spread ourselves out on the beds. Anita's Guruji came about an hour later and engaged in a conversation with me. As Anita's husband, I was the chief guest for him. He treated me just like his newly married bride-groom. He asked me how I was. Then, my mother also joined in. Guruji's personality seemed to be of such high ranks, that, I was simply awestruck at the most friendly way he spoke to me and my mother. I was actually passing through a very difficult phase of my life, with no steady source of income. The events back home had completely caught me unawares. I was completely devastated by the behavior of Dibakar and his wife. I was overcome with a feeling of uncontrolled anger whenever the thought of Dibakar and his wife occurred to me. I felt betrayed by the very person whom I had helped in distress. My whole heart was striving for revenge, for, I never expected this kind of return, especially from him. As I have mentioned earlier, that, my belief in God had taken a wild beating after I had lost my sister. I had not yet recovered from that shock when those uncanny incidents at home had cast a spell of doom for me and my family. I was aching for revenge. Spirituality and God had no meaning for me now.
Guruji had been looking at me for some time. I realized this quite late. He was smiling. What a meaningful smile it was! I lowered my eyes, since, I knew, they were glowing with rage. He eventually spoke to me, "Do you want to ask something?" What should I ask him? How could he ever know, what pain I was in? My life had been shattered. My family was the only available property left with me. I wanted to save them at any cost. I did not want it to go as it did with my father. I wanted to take any possible step to come out of my penury. But, I wasn't sure, if Guruji would be able to solve my problems. It was only at Anita's behest that I had come here, but, I wasn't completely aware of what kind of spiritual help he was going to offer. Seeing me unresponsive, he asked once again, "What do you want to know? Tell me, what is in your mind. I can gauge what it is, but, you have to speak out. So, come on". I looked at him once again, and only one question came up. Astonishingly, the question had no relevance to my present condition.
I looked at him and asked, "Who was Lord Shiva? Was he a human being like us?"
He wasn't surprised by my question. He answered, "Lord Shiva is the epitome of all the energy in the universe. He can be assumed to be a Supreme Human being who possesses all the activated energy in the universe. At the same time, he can manifest himself as the most potent form of energy we can think of". At first, I was unable to assimilate what he was saying, since, he was speaking of an entirely different concept of the phenomenon called God. I asked him, "Who is God?"
He began illustrating, "God is the term that describes everything in totality. He is there in everything that we see, hears, or sense. He is also there in things that we do not sense. He is present in you, in me, in the tree behind this room, in the ingredients that make concrete, in all animate and inanimate things. He is there in the stone, in the boy throwing the stone, in the object at which the stone is thrown. He cannot be separated from anything, since, every speck that you find is a part of Him, and He means the whole thing, the whole world, the whole universe, everything". Very slowly, I started imbibing what he meant. I never thought that God could have so vast a meaning. I was stupefied by the explanation he provided about the concept of God. We always think of God as a Supreme Human being, whom we worship when we need and forget when we are satisfied with our material pleasures. But, according to what he explained, God happens to remain everywhere, whether we remember Him or not. That was a mind-blowing concept. How could someone of my stature ever fathom such complex matters? All my anger against God simply vanished. My agony of losing my sister seemed to have soothed. My pains, my sufferings, my humiliation at being without an income for such a long time, seemed to have been erased by his simple words. Still, I asked, "Why did my sister die at such a tender age? What was her fault?"
To this, he said, "Your sister had to forsake this material world, because, she was supposed to teach you all a very important lesson. She taught you to be self-reliant. She made you what you are now. If she hadn't died, you would never have understood the truth of life".
"But, why did she have to die for me?"
"That was the purpose of her life?"
"I didn't get your point".
"Look, son! Everything on earth has a purpose for which it is there. It may be helpful for you or it may be harmful. But, that is its purpose. It will certainly have to serve its purpose. There is no escaping this".
Though I didn't quite understand his words, I continued asking him questions, questions that disturbed me, questions that intrigued me, and he answered them all with ease. Finally, I asked him about the episode of Dibakar and his wife. I asked him, why they were being so rude to us when we had helped them with free accommodation at a time when they had nowhere to go. Our conversation continued till almost mid-night when both Anita and my mother were fast asleep. After I closed the door behind him and reclined on my bed, realization gradually dawned on me. As far as I could gather from his words, our present fate is not only driven by our deeds in past birth, but it also depends on what our family's ancestors have committed in their lives. If they have committed any crime against the weaker beings, like women, animals, then also we have to absorb the brunt of its result in the form of dishonor or treachery and in many other forms. If we curse someone in anger, then also the curse returns to us in a much larger and devastating form. I understood that Dibakar and his wife were betraying us as a result of some wrongdoings of me in my past life, or some unforgiving crime committed by any of my ancestors. As per our rituals, we need to seek forgiveness for our sins and those of our ancestors from God, by surrendering ourselves completely to His eternal will. My anger slowly retracted, and I gained the power and will to forgive Dibakar and his wife for playing in so incoherent a manner. After a long gap of some months, I had a sound sleep that night.
In the morning, we went to the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple beside the river Krishna, where there were innumerable people who come to relieve themselves of their past sins. Clad in a white dhoti, I accompanied Anita in a white sari, to the banks of the river and offered our prayers for the past generation. We took water from the river in our palms and offered it to the Spiritual Highness, seeking ablutions from our sins and a better life henceforth. The accompanying priest chanted hymns as we performed the rights.
In the evening, when all our rituals were over, I took Anita and my mother for a stroll along the river Krishna. It was quite surprising, that, not even for once did I recall the names of Dibakar and his wife, the way I always did earlier. Once again, I became the same believer in God, and never complained against any wrong-doing of others. I could sense a feeling of profound gratitude for the life that God has given me. I was again converted into the same happy-go-lucky person that I had been earlier.
After we returned from Narshowabadi, things became clear before my eyes. I suddenly realized, that, the letter and the phone call which I received prior to my marriage was orchestrated by none other than Dibakar himself, with the intent of jeopardizing my marriage, otherwise, who else could have known my address or my mobile number! However, with grace and magnanimity of heart, I tried my best to forgive him, for, I then realized that he was simply trying to acquire a piece of land for his future, since he had been rendered homeless by his own wrong-doings. He will also suffer for his crime, but, I should not become a party to it by cursing him for that.
Around six months later, Anita gave birth to a child. Now, she is the twinkle of our eyes. I too got an appointment in a job after that. Hopefully, God has forgiven us for our sins, just as I have been able to rediscover myself as a true believer of God.