I met him at Kumbh mela.While some of us were clicking a footpath vendor couple engrossed in reading newspaper, he happened to be passing from there. He stopped and looked smilingly at us. Clad in white lungi-kurta and a thin cotton towel/gamchha over his shoulders, he looked like one among us. There was nothing distinguishing about him. With his sparse, salt and pepper beard flowing with the wind, well oiled and neatly combed hair he could have been easily taken for any common elderly pilgrim in the fair. But his softly smiling eyes set him apart. I can not exactly explain the expression and impact of his eyes but thats what prompted me to talk to him.
He came to Kumbh on Makarsankranti alongwith others of his ashram at Chitrakoot and was to stay there till Magh Poornima. His ashram had its own camp at the fair. At the tender age of 10 years he was handed over to the Guru of the ashram by his parents as a mark of their dedication and bhakti to Guru. Cutting all their filial bonds parents surrendered the child to follow the divine path. This act of renunciation and relinquishment must have definitely provided the parents a kind of satisfaction of being able to feel closer to the higher self but what about the little child? Did he not miss his home, mother, siblings and the freedom ?
He looked at me, his still smiling eyes fixed on me. “ I don’t remember how I felt at that time. I was too young to care and then it’s ages since then.”
“ Have you never gone to your home after that?” “No” ,he said ,” but my sister and brother’s wife come to meet me” he added after a brief pause.
“ Did you never felt that you have been robbed off something in life ? Did it never occurred to you that you wanted to live life differently or at least you should have been given a chance to decide it yourself ?”
The smiling eyes stood silent for a fraction of second and I could as if sense the pool of unsaid emotions trying to surface but within a miniscule the usual smile glided in gracefully—“ No, the way I have been brought up, the conditioning that has been done has no place for questioning . It is always the total faith, total surrender to God, to Guru. This is what God planned for me. This is my destiny that is why among all the children in the family I was chosen to be sent with Guru. The events in life follow a pre destined course.”
“ How easy do you make it sound ?”
“ No, may be not easy but the routine you follow, the kind of environment you live in influence your thought process. The elaborate daily rituals of prayers, havan, religious and spiritual discourses, the pilgrimage to sacred places keep our senses employed in the perception and apprehension of the higher power and it becomes easier to keep our mind and heart on track.”
“ So, your family members keep in touch but what about your mother?” this time perhaps it was the mother in me not ready to let it go.” Is she still there? Did she use to come to meet you in ashram when you were young?” for a very brief moment a far away look, a spark of pain flashed in those eyes. I felt as if that kid is still crouching somewhere in the deep abyss. But now he was a seasoned man who has not only learnt to quash his longings and deal with his fears long back but has reached the level where accepting becomes the norm while expecting never occurs.
He smiled indulgently , “ probing ! haan.”
“ No, not exactly, but yes trying to understand.. I have read and heard about the people whose inner calling instigate them to abandon all their material possessions, compel them to cut all emotional and social ties and they set on a journey of searching something beyond the mundane. There are others too who by the turn of circumstances are compelled to adopt an ascetic and austere way of living and surrender themselves to divine as that is the only recourse left to them. But cases like you are so different. It is like you are made to travel a path even though you are unaware of a goal or destination.”
“ Does a goal or destination really matters so much. Even at this age I can’t say with conviction that I am very clear about any final destination. I am not a haloed saint, seer or even seeker but now I am sure of one thing that my way of life has kept me away from many vices and deceits. My needs are limited and I feel a peace within. I am happy in the journey , the outcome is not my concern.
With that he turned away and walked into the milieu leaving me in a state of deep reverence.
pic by Sunder Iyer