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East Asian Desi Inspirational

I have seen this black and white photograph of my Grandfather a thousand times. I don’t know why it attracts me today so much. A lonely Sunday with so much of household work to do. I left out a sigh of distress and went to the window of my cramped apartment in Bombay. Life is really black and white in erstwhile Bombay which now became Mumbai. Like the picture I have in my hand. I earn more than the income of an average Indian middle class. But still I live in this one room apartment. Same room to sleep, cook and welcome guest. Rich folks in Bombay also have modular homes with just a room with all arrangements in it. But the area is as good as a tennis court. My family does not belong to Bombay, I don’t belong to Bombay. I grew up in country side of Satara district. A historical town with open fields, roads and hearts. Sometimes life is difficult. If I show you my savings in bank and you ask me to describe it, I will say hard earned money with sweat, blood and self-respect. I am not really sure what I am doing here working for an IT firm day and night. I looked outside the window. Large billboard with beautiful picture of an actress on it and a caption –‘look for the answers and win’. I am not interested in television contests so I ignored it. Last week I listened online on my cell phone a lecture recording of Osho Rajnish on Zen philosophy. He said- “You find only when you don’t search and let it come to you”. Suddenly I thought I should try to apply this technique. I should let what is coming to me and let it give me answers. So I took a deep breath. Again looked out of the window. Again I saw the billboard with same caption “look for the answers and win”. I decided I shall not make effort. Just let it come to me. So I casually looked outside and saw nothing except the billboard, congested roads, buildings and hazy polluted air typical of Indian metros. Yes, we can see air in Metros of India. Alright, nothing striking, no answers. Then I noticed that I still have that black and white picture in my hand. I saw it again. Grandfather was standing with my youngest uncle in front of a temple gate. Fine, I agree, religion and Gods do have answers to all issues. I agree. Then I casually flipped the picture and saw back side of it. My Grandfather had written something in ‘Marathi’ language- ‘the place where I found all answers’. This struck me like lightening. May be this is the place where I will find all answers to my problems. I found by not searching, but just allowing it to come to me. Now the problem was I didn’t know where this place was as only gate was visible. Grandfather left us for heavenly above long back. Now only my youngest uncle can tell me where this temple is located. I got so excited and tried to call him. But his phone was out of range. He still lives in village. I got frustrated. I called again and got same recorded reply. I got even more frustrated and thought that this is my life, I cannot even get a phone call connected. I tried to call my cousin Nandu, his son and he did not pick up the call. It was irritating. “I might be doing something wrong”, I thought aloud, “or it is all imagination of an overworked lonely professional”. But, then I thought that I should not give up so easily. If it is all in my mind then it will be proven eventually. Why not go ahead with a relaxed approach. So I decided to go ahead with the mundane chores of the day. I got busy with my work and almost completely forgot about my endeavour. While washing clothes I discovered that I am out of washing detergent. So I decided to go out to market. By late evening I came out of my apartment. The stale, damp polluted air of evening was oddly refreshing. I realized I don’t want to go back to my apartment any time soon. Let’s go to Dadar, a great ‘Konkani’ food joint is there called ‘Gomantak’. Let’s go there and enjoy some Konkani Seafood dishes. My spirits were suddenly elevated. Or first I should go and have a beer and then go to Gomantak restaurant. Wow, my life is not that bad. I didn’t want to call my friends to accompany me. I took a bus to Dadar. As I was about to get down on my stop I felt my cell phone vibrating. I got down and saw missed call of my cousin Nandu. I completely forgot about him. I called back he didn’t pick up. Alright, no problem, why should I get irritated by that. So I casually started walking towards a pub. It was good one, I had been there couple of times, a decent reasonable place. All this while I sensed that whether I am at home or office or as on now when I am going to enjoy a good meal, there is some persistent distress in my mind. It is always there. I mean there is nothing wrong with my present state, I am expecting a great evening. But then why I am having this thorn pierced in my heart? Perhaps, a couple of beers will numb the pain. So deep in my thoughts I reached the pub and as I was about to enter my cell phone again started vibrating. What now? I saw my cousin was calling me. Now, do I need any solution of my problems when I am standing just in front of temple of ultimate solution? A good blend can dissolve all issues of life and solve all problems. Curiosity can kill a cat and also can keep a beer thirsty dry. So I picked up anyways. I said hello, and he replied “hello dada, how are you”? In Indian subcontinent the concept of cousin is not too relevant. A cousin is called a cousin brother. He calls me dada with respect as I am elder to him. “I am fine Nandu” I replied. “How is everybody back there”? “Dada all are fine. We are here at Swami Samarth temple, all of us. That is why I could not receive your call. Please don’t mind”. A pang of nostalgia hit my already aching heart. I miss my place. I miss the religious gatherings, marriage celebrations and festivals. I miss visits to Swami Samarth temple. He was a great saint who hailed from a small town called Akkalkot in Maharashtra state of India. People worship him as an incarnation of God. I worship him as God. One of his sermon “Don’t be afraid, I am following you” can be found very commonly in this part of the world with his pictures kept by devotees. India indeed is land of saints. Not so that saints are found only in India, but people have respect for the spiritually enlightened. And we get fooled so often. Too many fakes. I said “Nandu, why suddenly this family visit to temple”. He replied “Dada father was telling me that long back he and grandfather visited Swami Samarth temple. After that our family fortune changed. Suddenly this morning he had a strong craving to go to temple and offer worship. Then we all accompanied and came here to Akkalkot”. Now things were becoming clear to me. This is not ordinary coincidence. I was almost sure that picture must be of Swami Samarth temple. I have not visited that place for ages. I should plan a visit next time I go home. May be I should plan a visit to Akkalkot and then go visit home. I still wanted affirmation and asked cousin Nandu to give phone to his father, my youngest uncle. When uncle said hello in his vernacular accent from the other side I did not waste a second and asked him directly “kaka, I have a very old picture of you and grandfather in front of a temple. Only gate was visible so I could not recognize it. I will send a picture of it through cell phone, please tell me was it Swami Samarth temple”? He replied “I remember that photograph. On back of it is written-‘the place where I found all answers’, isn’t it”? I was really excited and replied almost shouting “yes, yes!” even inert people of Bombay did notice me for a second. Kaka said- “yes it was Swami Samarth temple. We visited that place during one of the worst periods of our family. Swami Ji solved all our problems and we became a prosperous family. I still remember we went to drop your father to Law College and before coming back visited the temple”. Wait, something is missing. My father is a big shot lawyer in our place and he studied law in Mumbai. I was a bit confused. So I asked “Kaka you went back home and from there you went to Akkalkot”. He replied “No boy, before we went to bus station we visited the temple. It was not too far away from there”. I asked astonished “you mean that the temple you visited is here in Mumbai”. Kaka replied “yes in Dadar and from there we straight went to Dadar state transport Bus station”. My obvious reaction was “where”? He replied “you don’t remember? Last month when myself and Nandu visited you in Mumbai and you wanted Nandu to have non-vegetarian Konkani food at some restaurant”. “Yes” I replied. Kaka said in a sarcastic tone “we went to Dadar together and when we were about to reach that restaurant I told that I remember there is a temple nearby”. A faint memory was coming back to me “yes”, I replied. Kaka said “there itself was the temple”. Now it came back to me. We refused to visit the temple as after going to temple we should abstain from meat or fish and definitely liquor. “Where was the temple”? I asked. “It was 2nd or 3rd gully left from the footpath we took after getting down on bus stop” he replied. “Then I will immediately go there” I said. Kaka started saying something from the other end regarding how auspicious this coincidence is and so on, but I was unable to concentrate. I agree it was a divine experience but I being just an ordinary human being was today again staring back at the entrance of pub instead of listening to my uncle or immediately turning back and running to temple. How fast can priorities of a man change? I was gloomy over my life a few hours back and made a spiritual quest for answers and now when I may find them, I am confused. When you have liquor in your system you don’t need answers. Where will the temple go, I will find it at same place tomorrow morning. Why not relax now and get all spiritual exercise tomorrow morning. Kaka was about to finish his discourse and last few words I could comprehend were “don’t miss out this time child”. Then we bid each other good byes and disconnected the call. Which one of the two is sign I need, the pub or the temple? Never mind I should stop searching and let things happen. Meanwhile I thought let me check how much cash I have with me. I searched in my pocket for wallet but found that there was something else. I took out both my wallet and the other thing and found that it was the same picture. Now this was conveniently orchestrated by divinity to stop me from enjoying tonight. I don’t know how it found way to my pocket. With heavy feet I started walking towards the temple. May be the temple is closed for night by now, then I can come back. There were two gullies side by side when I reached the place to take turn. Which one? I can ask any local shopkeeper around. They can tell me easily. But that will save time. My subconscious wanted to delay it as much as possible to reach there late enough. So that the temple gates may close down and I escape from this web of religious restrictions. The gloom and frustration came back and also invited their pal irritation to enjoy in my mind. I randomly turned to one gully and slowly started walking. Few blocks ahead I found a collection of foot ware in front of a house. It was no temple but like an apartment. I took out picture and found out that the gate of apartment was much similar to the one in picture. Little modified definitely. So that is why only gate but no other structure in the picture. This was it now. All enjoyments are cancelled. Only vegetarian food with water. I removed my shoes bowed down and entered the temple gates. As soon as I entered the temple gates all my gloom and irritation was gone. What? What is this? I was astounded. I immediately turned out of the gate and started panting. It all came back, I was again my natural miserable self. I looked back at the temple gate and entered again. That abnormal uncomfortable feeling of serenity again hit back in my mind. What is this? I saw people around me sitting on the floor meditating or doing silent prayers. I looked at the majestic statue of swami Samartha. There was severe aggravation of my calmness and tears appeared in my eyes. I went ahead bowed down. Searched for a spot and sat with my head hanging down. Tears kept flowing down my eyes. I don’t know how long, but my eyes cleared off all the accumulated water. Finally I decided to leave. After all I had to eat. I stood up bowed and was about to leave. Then someone stopped me. He said don’t leave, go to upper floor there are meals sponsored by a devotee today. Please have it. I was again astonished. I finished my dinner, thanked everyone, bowed again to deity and started walking back to bus stop. My mind was calm for some time but then the same original miserable condition started coming back as if the effect of medicine was fading away. I reached the bus stop and started waiting for my bus. There I realized. It is all in my mind. If mind is clear life is fine, if not then I am what I am now. My bus arrived. I boarded and sat on a window seat. There I decided my next quest, how to clear my mind. The damp stale air of Bombay was rushing on my face. I looked outside and saw another billboard, it was about a meditation training centre. That’s it, I know the way to clear my mind or at least attempt that. I smiled and took out the picture from my pocket. Turned it back and read again ‘the place where I found all answers’. Oh yes grandfather thank you so much, now I also feel the same.

July 23, 2021 07:53

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