The scent of the soil rose when the drops of impalpable rain drenched the coarse granules of earth. The petrichor was the symbol of primacy that marked his arrival, later the oozing wind with dust and leaves swirling around her home and sound of the eveningbells followed. And before the pleasant rain turned monstrous, his footsteps resonated in the hallway, dimlit with oil lamps that swung with the pace of the wind, her joy knew no bounds and her heart’s elation subsumed the entire home, and there was just pure love that surrounded. After the evening of cluttering cutlery, rustling cinder, leaves knocking the windows and the swoosh of the storm, both the lad and his lady perched on the table, she was eager to know all that he had revered the last week- the vistas,the monuments,the icons,the people and the food.
“So, how was your trip? Was it fun!” she chuckled in zeal
“A picnic is a fun, my love. What I had had these days was a divine experience, inexplicable and overwhelming” he gazed through the window, the buds in the pots were sprouting “you see, I feel like these buds, fresh and pristine, my dormancy has terminated”
“I fancy! You have seen so much, so profound that I can feel it in your voice!” she rested her pretty face on her arms that rested on the table, he began with his narration:
“You know why it is said that beauty lies in the eyes of beholder? Because what we feel inside is what we practice outside, this world is all an immense manifestation. But when we struggle to accomplish, our eyes become so tired that we start requiting the bounties and surmountable pleasures god has gifted us, the beauty thus perish. But it is eternal and immortal, it never dies and it never drowns in inanity rather we become oblivion.
“I’ll let you see the bank of the Yamuna!” Raghu said, he knew I needed him. With immense experience as a guide his eyes could catch any traveler who needed him. In no time, he had my bag kept in a rickshaw and I, like a devotee just followed what he commanded, that sense of surrendering to someone to lead you is so blissful and effortless.
It was my first day in Vrindavan, and I was exhausted. Therefore, he planned to make me visit the Ghats on the bank of Yamuna. It was evening, the sun dissociated its colors in the horizon, and stars came to illuminate the dusky sky. Thousands of lamps were lighted and were set to float in the all-encompassing Yamuna, the evening breeze cast a wavering rhythm in the Black Yamuna, and the lamps rippled up to the end of my vision and at once I glanced around to seek Raghu, but he wasn’t there. I recalled him saying that he would meet him at the same place tomorrow. I was so mesmerized by the hymns and lamps and the serenity of the Yamuna, that I forgot about him. She is the goddess and feeds the land that feeds the folks. Until next day I wasn’t habitual to the strict morning regime to be followed being in an Ashram, waking up early in the morning having wholesome and healthy meal and chanting hymns was to become a modus operandi. The guard at the main door of the ashram got my attention, his mellifluous voice serenaded a song which goes like:
The lamps that flicker in the brothel
Aren’t less holy than those in temple
To thee they offer pious prayer
At whose feet the world seems free from fear
The stars that shine at sun’s demise
Might not light the deceptive ground
But the sheen they lend to sky
Isn’t less auspicious than the dawn
The hopeful fog in the winter grave
Suspended with ash of cremating indolence
Drizzles on the moist ground
On which the lies may fall
The lamps, the stars and the fog
Give justice, tranquility and hope
With them Oh Lord! The life may lead!
Just like his song, everything there was extraordinary and resplendent.
Raghu came like the swift wind. “100 bucks first, then we would commence” Raghu exclaimed. No greetings and no salutations, just a mercenary remark. I provided him the thing he wanted and we began with our tour. I was annoyed by his consistent blabbering, he engaged with every second person and talked at length, he had kith and kin at every other place we landed. His mouth was red, he chewed betel all day long and whenever he spoke, I would smell the concoction of flavors he was tasting - honey, dried rose, saffron, cardamom etc. but we were still as strange as yesterday.
Vrindavan, is not a place it is a culture, an institution and an individual. It lives like an organism, everything is dynamic it is so dense that places seem to change their position - streets slither to new roads, houses change the shape, trees change the arrangement - when such an uncertainty is likely to strike then a guide becomes your mentor. By the evening I had learnt that Raghu, was cardinal for me to exist soundly here or I would lose myself baffled in the shrubs and trees that proliferate all around the Divine Vrindavan.
My enlightenment that had begun, was stunned by exhilarating excitement that the sublime temples filled me with. Lord Krishna had played in the streets and his peaceful aura and persona is saturated all throughout. Every single particle resonates with his vibrations. Theism-atheism is a separate matter of acceptance, but what segregates Vrindavan from other holy pilgrimage is the untainted spiritualism and piousness that pacifies your disturbed soul. Vrindavan is addictive and once you have been there, the place just homes in the heart, and you can never return wholly. I was unknowingly on a way to wash my sins away also I was unaware that I had found solace and a part of Vrindavan in Raghu, like a drug I needed him to help me to enjoy the vista and complete my journey successfully. While I was submerging in the air of Barsana, a man came to Raghu who stood behind me as I was getting us some juice.
“How much you charge to get booked?” he inquired
“100 bucks! I am booked for now, to tell you”
“200 bucks! And you are my guide from now!” he took out the note, but before anyone of us could bargain, Raghu jumped
“Raghu is man of words and not a thing that can be negotiated!” he was annoyed and the man was embarrassed enough to leave “come on Bhaiya! I’ll show the Govardhan”
I felt attacked, as I had judged him to be mercenary but the development just coerced me to feel even more embarrassed. His integrity and honesty have appealed me and his need was now overpowered by respect for him.
“What do you do?”
“Well! You can see, Raghu is a guide!” he said, he was proud of himself and loved to denote himself in a third person
“Don’t you go to school?”
“This is vacation time!”
“But children of your age jump,play and celebrate during vacation”
“They must be rich, I am not!” his cheeks turned pink in shame, I never meant hurting him but this turned out that way
“Nothing lies in riches, you are prosperous and that matters!” he didn’t quite understand what I meant, his confusion was akin to mine when my father told me this, he is no more but his teachings are wonderful. I have seen riches, the virtues and assets but this has never given me peace and now when I had gone to Vrindavan I have changed a lot.
“Do you work in school days?”
“On regular days, in the evening! On Saturdays and Sunday’s complete shifts”
“Why do you eat this?” I pointed towards the betel he had in his hands
“Once someone told me that this makes it look fancy and authentic, as betel is significant in U.P.”
“No, it doesn’t help. Such antics never help, your endless knowledge is the only thing that is helping you and will!” I smiled while I contemplated the exploitation young children have to go through just of the sake of earning some money, it pained me as one day this betel will be adorned with tobacco too
“You look like a wealthy man!”
“No, I am just rich!” I answered
Next day, my body woke up on its own, my lips chanted on their own and I did all the regimes spontaneously. I was eager to meet Raghu, and he jumped in front of me like a fruit[quite a raw fruit] he had planned to make me visit the final destination to fulfill my journey, the most iconic and important place - The Banke Bihari Temple - I remember nothing about that place except for the colossal monument, with people coagulated all through the way and giant bright gem eyes that illuminated and I just forgot everything in the world. Even now I can feel the warmth of that light in the eyes of the idol. It was my last day there, and I wanted to spend all my time with Raghu. Raghu was still the same it was only me who has changed for myself, him and the world. He was detached as yesterday and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Like a son I had embraced and caressed him all day long, got him gifts and ate with him in the restaurant. He as a little playfulness just stayed with me till the afternoon before I was to leave for the station.
While I was lurking on my way to the rickshaw, I turned to tell him goodbye but he was gone and I searched for him, but he was gone. The Man who guarded the Ashram told me that he went with a customer for the same 100 bucks. I took my bag from the Ashram, and left for the station, god knows why but tears rolled out of my eyes. How mean he was, to not even say a goodbye. He made my journey so divine and when I was going to reach its culmination, he just left me as disturbed as I was when I came there.
Ephemera and transience of humans had always plagued me. For a father to 2 children who succumbed to their weaknesses and left him to lurk in this world with a sorrowful yet hopeful mother, this pain was inescapable.”
“Would you go there again to meet him?” she asked while she sobbed, she looked at the picture of infants that hung on the wall in the marmoreal home
He opened his bag, and inspected something. A coin was taken out and he brought it close to her,
“It reads R-A-G-H-U” she rubbed the coin with her hands, and looked at him, her eyes gleamed as she gazed him, she smiled and the tears seeped in her mouth
“I judged him wrong, indeed again I judged him wrong!” he smiled while he turned towards the window
She ran into the room, and got a surprise for him. It was her pregnancy report and it read positive to their ecstasy. Rather a coincidence, that the boy who delivered her the reports was named RAGHU she said.