I have encountered many people in my life but there are few encounters which have left a deep impression in my mind. Last year, one of such instances occurred in the state of Jharkhand, where I went to stay in an Ashram for a week. I arrived there in the Ashram in mid afternoon. On my arrival, I was provided with a key for my accommodation room. Before I left the counter, the person in the counter informed me that there was already an occupant and I needed to share the room with him. I didn't have any issues regarding that so I marched out looking for my room.
On unlocking the room I found it was not too big, but quite comfortable for two people. It had two beds at each corner. It was well kept, mopped, and things were in their proper place. I was well aware of the Ashram rules that the cleanliness of the rooms and buildings were the responsibilities of the occupants. But I was quite surprised to see not only the room but the bathroom was also kept absolutely neat and clean by my roommate. His bed was well organised, so were his trousers, sweaters, and jackets. There was a bundle of Hindi spiritual book kept in the shelf. My roommate was not there at that time.
That night, after the dinner when I went back to my room, I found a vertically short guy having dark complexion, with dense moustache and tapered chin with receding hair line. His nose was hawk like, eyes were small but had long well built arms. He was probably in his mid thirties. He greeted on seeing me. By his demeanour it appeared he was shy and meek. We hardly spoke because we needed to wake up early next day for our daily chores.
Next day, to my amazement he woke up as early as Three in the morning, and went straight for a bath with cold water. During that time, winter was at its peak with an average temperature of Four to Five degree Celsius. After his bath, he sat for meditation. Although I was half asleep but I was aware of his activities. Later, I woke up around at 5:30 a.m. and engaged myself in various Ashram activities.
Three days went like this. Apart from meeting at night in the room, and occasional greetings/gestures, we never talked. By nature, I don't look for a conversation unless somebody pokes me. I am a spiritual being, and I have always stayed away from long futile conversations. Thus, I never initiated any conversation with him. Most of my nights went in deep meditation. But it was on the fourth day evening, a random guy met me in the garden and asked me about my roommate. I questioned whether he knew him, to which he responded "Not very well but stay away from him, he is a dreaded criminal as I heard." It felt a little weird all of a sudden. As night fell, I went to my room. He greeted me with a smile then lied down on his bed holding a Hindi spiritual book.
"So where are you from?", I asked him jovially.
He softly replied, "I am from Orissa. And you?".
I replied in Oriya, "I am from Orissa too."
He was ecstatic to know that we were from same state. He put his book aside, and lifted himself up from the bed. We stroke a conversation starting from knowing each others name to discussing spirituality. He seemed quite a humble guy. But down the line in my head one thread was analysing his each and every behaviour. The thing that he could be a criminal seemed not only far-fetched but a distant reality. In the end of our conversation I told him, "You are organised, wake up early, do meditation, and give selfless service to the Ashram. You are a good human being." He got stumbled for a moment by hearing this, and fell silent. He got a bit reserved, and went into deep contemplation. I asked him the reason for his silence, to which he replied "You may see me as a good person but people have known me as a criminal which is also true. But that was my past." He came to an abrupt halt.
"So what's your story, if I may ask?" I questioned humbly.
"I was a horrible person at one point of time. I did terrible things." He paused then continued, "Honestly, I never had any conscience. I always thought whatever I was doing was right. But I never imagined their repercussions. I realised my sins when my parents went to look for a bride for me but nobody was ready to give me their daughter's hand because everyone loathed me." He sighed. "That was the time I reflected deep into my wrong doings, and all I could see was a demon in the mirror. I asked for forgiveness from the Almighty." He paused again, and continued softly, "Then one day, I got a proposal from a girl's father who was very poor, and ill. I knew that he was giving his daughter's hand not because he liked me but because he was afraid of his rapid falling health. Four years ago that girl came into my life as my wife. She embraced me in her open arms, and transformed me entirely. She filled my life with unconditional love." He was beaming with gratitude. I was spell bounded by hearing his transformation. Furthermore, I was astonished by his wife's role in transforming him.
"So is she currently in ladies accommodation or at home?" I queried joyfully.
"She died last year, while delivering our first child." He choked for a moment, "The child died along with her." He fell silent afterwards. The conversation fell drop dead at that point. I didn't have words to express the grief that I felt. All I could do was looked out of the window, stared at the stars, and mourned deeply. That was the darkest night I ever witnessed.
We never had any conversations after that night. On the last day, when I was leaving the Ashram I greeted him with a smile, he smiled back. I could never forget that genuine smile.