Friday, January 02, 2009

An Officer & A Gentleman.


This One Is For The Family
--------------------------------

A year has passed by since we last saw him in person.  How true is that we all tend to forget people within a year of their death. It has been a year since the youngest of my fathers was framed and garlanded in our ancestral home overlooking the once great river.

In a nation corrupt to the core, this officer was one of those rare gems. He never took a paise in spite of serving in over a dozen villages for twenty-five long years. Even voluntary donations were diverted to pay school fees for the deserving children in the village. 

He always did his duty to perfection, even writing the registers. When we went to obtain his death certificate, my brother-in-law pointed out with pride the four lorries parked inside the collectorate which were seized by beloved `chinna' (father's younger brother) the week before his death. 

He was not a man of many words. In fact, he hardly spoke even to us, the family. But his heart must have been full of unbridled love. For, when we opened his secret box a day after performing his funeral, we were in for a surprise. That small squarish tin of a box had nothing but photos. Of every one of us. As children, adolescent, at the time of marriage or with our children. A collection of hearts, always kept very close to his chest. Never expressed. 

Can words ever take us closer to truth? It may not. Still, dear daddy, this is an extract from the small tribute that was penned to that invisible yet shining truth that dwell in you, and that troubled you, perhaps.

----

Then came the much-awaited group of simple spiritualists. They are part of one of the largest groups in the country believing in the words of one of the saintly man to have stumbled upon a profound truth that space is god. He was a scientific spiritualist simplifying yoga and perfecting a set of standard exercises for healthy living. He taught his disciples, mostly simpletons, powers of blessing.
 
Without hatred, hurting anyone, helping a few on the way and blessing everyone on the way. It was his mantra. He had died about a year ago but had ignited in thousands of souls a quest for spiritual well-being. Here, there were three. Two women teaching the yoga in that locale and a man, another uncle, initiated personally by the saintly man.
 
Only, the woman, seated in the middle, spoke in a calm and clear ringing voice.
``We are here to mourn the death of a dear one. A life has been lost.
It must have been a wonderful life. Unfortunately, it had to come to
an end. It is inevitable, we all know. In this case, Mr Raman had died
young apparently. It is all the more sad. But there is no point in
mourning forever. We are here to give him a happy farewell.''

The small hall listened in intent silence. Only two kids were fiddling with a torch light. Outside, tranquility was descending on the skies of the temple town as the sun was setting deep into the dry-river. The day's rustle and bustle had died down in the town and the four towering gopuras stood in silhouette.

``As you all know, man lives his life in emotions. Like everyone, Raman uncle could not have been perfect at all times. He was a good man who behaved differently with different people at various points of time. We will have both good and bad memories of him. Let us leave the ugly images and hurt feelings behind in this hall itself. Please, think of him as a smiling, kind man. Imagine that face of him within you.''

Obviously, that evening's spiritual teacher was unaware of the self-sufferings of his wife and daughters in their childhood primarily due to his alcohol addiction. Not every alcoholic is a bad man. There is a strand in the spirit that stimulates good men troubled by the vice allaround them to take to drinking in a state of helplessness. They want the world to change and see beauty of living but as the skewed society is hard bent on being selfish, these heavy-drinking good men are also branded drunkards.  Uncle was one such tormented good man. He was the ultimate gentleman within the family and Mr Clean in the world outside. 

``We can't allow him (the ghost) to hang around the house as he might have unfulfilled wishes. The soul has to take its place in the vast ocean of truth. It should not be allowed to surf the surface of the earth forever. It is our duty to guide the departed dear soul to its real home. Please, focus and impress his smiling face in your self. We are about to begin our journey.''

There were a few practitioners of that particular form of yoga in that small hall. As they had already been initiated, they could relate to the sequence that followed. Others followed it word by word, blindly but blissfully.

``Now, hold dear uncle hand-in-hand. Let us lift ourselves and float in the atmosphere. Mind has the power to travel anywhere. So, let us begin a long journey. Imagine that we are leaving behind the earth. If you look back, you can see the blue planet. Now, we cross the moon and drift farther away from all the planets in the solar system and into the Milky Way. Expand yourself and let us drift along the galaxies of the universe. It is called Sakthi sthal. Remember that our universe is feminine. Stretch your mind and reach out to the borders of the universe. Now, slowly step beyond those borders. It is pure bliss. Let us leave Mr Raman there in that pathless land. May his soul rest in peace. Let us all return to where we belong.''
 
During their return journey, the mourners flew past the galaxies of the sakthi sthal, float around the moon and come back to earth's atmosphere and back in the small hall. It was unbelievable. The small hall had traveled where the world would not travel ever. ``Let peace prevail. Om Shathi, shanthi, shanthi.''

The small hall relaxed and the chattering began. Anand climbed the balcony facing the river. On the banks, a few age-old trees, witnesses to both the birth and death of Raman uncle, were murmuring to each other. Chanting mantras, the priest in the nearby temple was beginning the evening prayers. The Sleeping God, the presiding deity of the temple, was awake but still. Fragrance from flower vendors by the roadside filled the air. The tall temple towers resonated with chants and hymns of evening poojas. In silence, the river sang a melancholy.

***

Uncle, as you can see, will keep smiling from the frame, from both the visible wooden and the invisible cellular one. One word, though, might sound meaningful. Love.

2 comments:

The Ugly One said...

do leave a comment

avronea said...

your feelings on this are ambiguous. good man outside, mr clean. horror to the family. an officer and a gentleman. does one detract from the other? is one side a facade?

Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.