He was a middle-aged man, talking with the Panwala. The Panwala, a betel leaf vendor, appeared to be acquainted with him. My attention was drawn to him for the secretive way he talked to the Panwala and the queer way he looked toward me while talking. There was a look of fear in his eyes. I was standing there at a bus stop. I was in Delhi in for a job interview. After appearing for the interview in an office nearby, I was waiting for a bus to go to the New Delhi railway station.
Perhaps it was not prudent to take an interest in a stranger in an unknown place but I could not help it. I continued to watch him.
Suddenly we made an eye contact. He came a bit closer to me and started talking.
He said, “Brother, I am too much afraid."
Before I could respond, he spoke further, “What will happen next?”
I was pretty surprised by that.
"What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of death?" I asked him in a joking manner.
“Better if I die," he said. "I think too much, but cannot find an answer. What will happen to my life?”
Having said that, he became pensive and remained silent for a while. Then suddenly he spoke again.
“Sir, can you help me?”
I became cautious and apprehensive that he wanted to exact some money from me. I doubted his intentions, but my curiosity about him increased. By his appearance, neither was he looking insane nor a crook.
“How can I help you?”I asked.
“Will you come with me to my house?”
I asked him, “Why do you want me to come to your house?"
“My soul is telling me that you can help me,” he replied.
I considered this: I had feelings of curiosity, apprehension, fear, and compassion. Finally, as has happened too often in my life, my curiosity won me over. I decided to follow him.
On the way to his residence, I talked to him and gathered some information about him. His name was Harendar. He was working as a clerk in a state government department. He had one daughter named Pummy and three sons: Bunty, Chhotu and Monu.
While walking along with him, I was cogitating about the situation which I might be facing upon reaching his home. How was I going to be received there?
I did not have much time to think about it; his house was not really far. We reached it in about five minutes.
We found the doors open. For a moment, I hesitated to enter his house. He first went inside and asked me:
"Please come in."
I entered his drawing room. Three boys were sitting there watching the television, which was placed in a corner. They were close to about fifteen, ten and seven years of age. Upon seeing me, they said, “Namaste," with folded hands. I responded in the same way. The two younger boys went inside. The eldest went on watching TV.
Harendar persuaded me to sit in a chair away from the TV and dragged a chair to sit opposite me. I looked around. The room was small but neat and comfortable. The walls were adorned with the calendars and photos of various gods, goddesses, and hermits. There were two windows opening toward the road in front of the house. There were no curtains at the front door and windows. There was a door backside opening into the inner portion of the house. This door had a curtain. Above this door, there hung a pendulum wall clock.
He was sitting quietly. His head down and looking at his palms.
Suddenly he jumped off his chair. Looking at the wall clock he asked his son “Has Pummy come?”
"No," His son replied.
He looked very concerned and worried. He said, “She should have come by now."
He went to the door, looked outside and came back to the chair.
I was feeling awkward. I was unable to justify my being there in his house for whatever cause. There was no strong reason of my being there except that the long period of my unemployment had given me a sense of being in a state of permanent leisure. I had nothing urgent to do and nowhere to go. I was a free man. He produced suspense by his unusual demeanor and talk, and I accompanied him there to know the reality behind his personality.
Out of the blue he said, “What do you think? Can the government catch the terrorists?”
Before I could say anything, he continued speaking:” Nothing can be done sir. They come like apparitions, put bombs anywhere and escape. They appear from nowhere, shower bullets and disappear. I have witnessed with my own eyes the charred dead bodies of two young children following a bomb explosion at a nearby bus stop.”He paused, “Bunty! Where are Chhotu and Monu?”He asked Bunty his eldest son.
“They are inside with mummy?” Bunty calmly replied without looking away from the TV screen.
He heaved a sigh of relief.
After a few moments, he again looked agitated. He looked towards me and asked,” Will the rapists get the death sentence?”
A few days ago, four boys had brutally raped and tortured a young girl in a moving bus and then thrown her out of the bus. Later, the girl died in a hospital. The whole nation was shocked and agitated. People were demanding capital punishment for those rapists.
I was just about to speak when a girl of about 18 years of age entered the room from the front door. She was Pummy, his daughter.
She hesitated for a moment, seeing me, a stranger there, then crossed me to go inside. Harendra asked her” Why are you late Pummy?”
She started explaining," Papa! A few days ago the dead body of a female classmate of mine at my university was found behind a boys’ hostel. There was suspicion of murder. No one has been arrested so far. So, university students were agitating against the inaction of the police. They blocked the road through which my bus runs. The Bus in which I came had to alter the route so it got late."
While she was telling the reason for her late coming, I was noticing the changing expressions on her face. She was a beautiful, dusky girl with sharp features. She looked tired, but her eyes were alert and watchful. While talking to her father, she had been scrutinizing me, too, with her side glances.
After telling the reason of her late coming, she went inside.
After she had gone inside I looked at Harendra. He was looking in my direction, but his eyes looked focused on some distant object beyond me. Until then, he had not introduced me to any of his family members. I too had not bothered about it. We were strangers only.
Suddenly, he addressed his son Bunty.” Bunty tell your mom to send two cups of tea.”
Bunty frowned. He reluctantly got up and slowly went inside.
More than half an hour had elapsed since I had arrived there. I had a feeling that Harendra wanted to tell me something but was unable to express.
Bunty delivered two cups of tea to us and disappeared inside. The TV was on. Harendar switched it off.
Now only we were there in the room. We were sipping tea and talking. I again started thinking about my status in his house. I felt like an intruder.
“Swamiji,” he addressed, setting his cup of tea on the table after his last sip.
The way he addressed this time surprised me, but I did not say anything.
He further spoke:” Last night I had a dream, which I want to tell you, please.”
“Please tell,” I said. Tea had made me a bit relaxed.
He said, “I saw four ferocious men chasing me with big naked swords in their hands to kill me, and I was running to escape from them. Thus, running crazily, I entered into a blind lane. I turned back and saw those men entering the lane waving their swords. I was trapped there. I felt that I had no chance to escape. Death seemed imminent. I closed my eyes and waited for them to attack me. But…”
He paused and looked into my eyes, perhaps to see my reaction. I asked him, “But what?”
” I waited for them to attack me, but after some time when nothing happened, I opened my eyes. Those men were nowhere there. I was not in the lane. I was sitting in a big field in a circle formed by Rudraksha beads. I looked around me. I saw a young yogi in a saffron dress standing behind me. He smiled and told me that he had saved me as I was innocent. He also told me that he would meet me again, and he disappeared. After he disappeared, I again remembered those ferocious men and started shivering with fear and then only my sleep was broken.” After telling about his dream, he became quiet and went into a brooding mood.
I was wondering at his memory of a dream. His account seemed to me as if from some mythological film. I could not recollect if ever I could remember any of my dreams so vividly, and in such detail as he had told.
Once again I examined him. His eyes were focused on my neck. I recall that I was wearing two Rudraksha beads on a black thread around my neck. I wore these to appease my grandmother. She brought them from Haridwar, a holy city for Hindus near Himalaya. She had requested me to wear this. She believed that wearing Rudraksha would help me in keep excellent health and land me in a decent job, too. I did not want to disappoint her, so I put them on.
Suddenly, it occurred to me, and I was afraid that perhaps that man was trying to identify me his savior as seen in his dream. I looked at him.
I found him gazing at me.
Then he asked me,” What do you think about me?”
I thought that he got imbalanced and carried away because of his over sensitive nature and anxiety. I felt like comforting him.
I told him in a soothing tone,” You look very sensitive. Dreams are just dreams. All have nightmares sometimes. Still, if it disturbs you much, you could consult a doctor." By a doctor, I meant a psychiatrist, but I avoided this term, lest he should think that I doubted his sanity. I had read somewhere that bad dreams could result from physical and mental causes.
I was sympathetic toward him, but I did not know how I could help him. Moreover, I had to return to my place by an afternoon train.
I said to him, "Sir, do not worry too much. All will be fine. Now allow me to leave.”
To my dismay, he grabbed my hands and started crying. He cried aloud like a child.
He uttered, "All are angry with me and leaving me. Even my guru has discarded me.”
This was a new revelation to me, that he had a Guru. He had not mentioned his guru till then. I wondered why he did not go to his Guru for advice when he needed it.
I had no personal Guru, but I had always felt a sort of attraction toward them. I always thought that there must be something special in them that they are able to draw thousands of followers. I was more respectful toward the followers of these gurus as I believed these were the innocent and pure hearted people, who could have such faith as to surrender to their gurus. I found followers of a guru always spoke high of their guru with great respect.
As he wept loudly, a fair and thin middle-aged woman came rushing into the room from inside. I understood that she was his wife. She looked at me questioningly. I wished her Namaste. She responded by saying Namaste and sat down on a stool kept near a window. Harendra became quiet.
“Are you working in his office,” she asked me.
I said “no.”
I decided to tell her about myself. I told her the whole story of my chance meeting with him and coming to that house on his request. I told her that I felt sympathy for him. As well, I apologized for my mistake, if any. She did not seem to mind my presence there.
I went on to say, "He just now mentioned about his guru.”
On hearing this, her facial expression changed. She looked very angry. She said scornfully,” He is not a guru, but a fake swami, thug. I do not know what spell he had cast on my husband that he had always been dancing to his tune. I never went to that guru and never allowed my children to go to him. His ashram is not very far. He had been exploiting my husband for a long time. Now, we have become financially weak. He has told my husband not to come to the ashram as he was no more a true follower of him. My husband does not see his ill intentions.”
She had ignored the fact that I was a stranger. She talked to me as a family friend.
Then she said to me,” Your family members will be waiting for you. Do not bother, he will be fine. Thanks, a lot.”
Harendar was sitting quiet, head down.
I patted his shoulders, said Namaste to his wife and left their house.
I rushed to the nearby bus stop. A bus had just arrived there. I hurriedly boarded the bus without seeing its destination. I found a vacant seat and sat down. I was thinking how much disturbed the negative atmosphere of the society can make a man like Harendra. I prayed for his well being in my heart.