“Baba, I have a news to share with you. It may be disturbing.” Sudhanshu told his father. Dash Babu replied, “Never mind that. I am so hardened by fate that nothing disturbs me, now. From the time Protima left us, I am half dead. Without knowing that she was the real culprit. I had gone mad with rage and unnecessarily banged my friend Panigrahi. How rude I was that day! I simply lost control over my tongue. To say ‘Get out and do not show your face again’ was too much. Words are like arrows shot. Gone means gone. Once uttered, cannot be taken back.”
He paused for a while. After a long breath, he continued. “How much I regretted later, you know? Almighty, Saakshigopal only knows my predicament. The way I had humiliated him, I am sure he would never forgive me. Fearing me, or in shame, I don’t know, he left the town I believe. I never saw him after that. Where he is, how he is, alive or dead, no idea. Wherever he be, let him be hale and hearty. Okay, okay enough of me. Given a chance, I will be ranting like this only. But you were about to say something. Come on, what is that?”
“Nothing in particular, nor anything urgent. We’ll see later.” Sudhanshu did not want to add to his father’s agony. Dash Babu insisted that let the cat be out. He was ready for any news --- good or bad. Sudhanshu said in a low tone, “It’s about our Protima only. She had posted a few photos on her facebook account. Baba, will you like to see them? She also made some comments. May I read them out for you?”
Dash Babu just nodded his head silently. Sudhanshu could not make out whether it was an approval or not. He decided to take it as an affirmative nod and proceeded. Her comments though addressed to God, were speaking more about justifying her action. It spoke volumes of her guilt feeling getting washed out. She wrote,
“Any amount of words of praises is to you oh Thakura, is too less. You have been so benevolent to me. Or else, how do I explain your divine blessings on me! You have bestowed your kindness on me by giving me a child who is ditto my father in every looks and smiles. All along I carried a guilty conscience that I ditched him. But you have shown that I treaded on right path. Oh Saakshigopala! You have been guiding me and you please lead me further. You are the witness to my actions so far. Please continue to be a witness hereafter also. You are truly omnipresent.”
Sudhanshu agreed that her son looked very much like Dash Babu. Xerox copy, junior version. When he wanted to show them to his father then only, he noticed that Dash Babu was listening to him with his eyes closed. Without disturbing him further, he left the place.
Next day, his father asked him whether it was possible to get anybody’s address from facebook of that person. Sudhanshu got the hint. He replied that facebook did not show anybody’s residential address, but contacts with the person was certainly possible. Without waiting for further queries, he did all that was needed to be done and got the address, phone number, email et cetera. He did not know whether his siter was available on Twitter and Instagram. Once phone number was obtained, rest were all secondary.
Dash Babu was holding the paper containing the phone number of his daughter. He had to admit that Destiny was laughing at him. Now he was holding a paper which would help creating a new contact with his daughter. Some years ago, he was holding a paper in the same manner as he was holding one now. But that simply broke the contact built over years. It was the letter written by Protima before leaving her father.
She wrote to convey that she was leaving him forever, much against her wishes. But she was compelled to do so. She had promised to Jagannath Panigrahi, that too in the name of Shaakshigopal that she would be with him forever and forever. Shaakshigopal was a witness to their promise and thus it naturally became a God Promise. Then how could she break it? That was why she had to desert her father. Others might consider her action as an elopement. But for her it was a call to honour a God Promise. She left the letter for her father and steadily moved on to fulfil her promise.
Dash Babu later understood that it was at his son’s instance, Peeyush Panigrahi met his friend Dash Babu and asked for her hands. Not knowing the background, Dash Babu saw his friend as an ordinary fellow of ordinary means and not worthy of an alliance with an affluent family. They were not on equal status. He lashed out his dirty loose tongue and used harsh words. Years of good old friendship broke off as a mud castle. His opulent ego took over him by burying the good virtues in him. Only after going through his daughter’s letter, he realised that he committed a great blunder. His friend’s family, his daughter all gone. Where they went, he was not aware.
After losing, he understood how valuable his friendship was. He also recollected Panigrahi was very helpful and kind hearted. There was an incident to remember and recollect. Once when Dash Babu was busy with his office work, he could not take his father on pilgrimage to Puri Jagannath and Shaakshigopal temples. Sometime later when Panigrahi had a chance to visit those temples and he remembered his friend’s anguish. He readily took his friend’s father also along with his family. He refused to take anything in return for that.
When flood of thoughts gushed, he could not control himself. He felt an urge to rush to the temple and fall at the lotus feet of Shaakshigopal and seek forgiveness. His divine blessings alone could offer solace to his wounds. Yes, Surely, he must go. Before then he must meet Panigrahi and plead for pardon. Once decided, he set out. He went with Sudhanshu to Panigrahi’s place. Needless to say, it was a great surprise to see Dash Babu at the doorstep. He in all excitement, came running to get him inside. Dash babu refused to step in. He said, “With my foul mouth I shouted at you to get out. Now how can I enter your house very freely? Unless you pardon me.”
Panigrahi, as usual, with all his humble gesture, stole the show. “I have forgotten all those things then itself. It was said in rash moment. You too ignore that incident. ‘Forget and forgive’ is the best policy for enduring friendship. First of all, who am I to forgive you? You did no wrong to me. Shaakshigopal is there standing as a witness above us and showering His divine blessings.”
Dash Babu instantly replied. “That is why I am here at your doorstep to take you along with me to the temple, right now.” He wanted to say ‘after seeking His blessings only my conscience will permit me to step inside your house.’ But he did not say, because his friend would not bother to listen to such utterings.
When Panigrahi was getting ready his son and daughter in law Protima said that they too would join. Panigrahi told, “Travel expenses at my cost.” Dash Babu did not agree. “Why do you need to pay for my family? My son, my daughter, my son in law, my little pygmy and my bosom friend --- all my people here. Then why should anybody else bear costs? I know earlier also you had borne travel expenses on my behalf. Now it is my turn.”
Protima with tear filled eyes fell at father’s feet and said “Baba, you are great. As it is, I had promised to myself that after delivery and steady growth of the child, I will bring this ‘pygmy’ to the temple and seek His blessings. Now that promise is getting fulfilled through you. You are great.”
Dash Babu said, “Say God is great. He is witness to all that is happening here. Jai Ho Shaakshgolala. Jai Ho!”