I am busy ~ Chapter 2
We all have some obsession in life which most often acts as a fuel to keep us going. Obsessed with a dream, a film star, looks, books etc the list is endless. Similarly our Subbiah also had an obsession - Obsession with Nirvana.
He felt he had completed all this duties and hence deserved the much coveted Nirvana. He has been a good son to his parents, a nice husband to his wife and a responsible father who educated his children, made them capable enough to stand on their own feet and got them both married. He felt this was the end of his all worldy duties after which he deserved freedom from this life.
He chased this dream rigorously for the past few years. Especially after he had got his son married and settled. He went to various tantriks, sadhus, seers and other religious sects to know the path towards Nirvana. He went from temple to temple looking for learned gurus who could guide him in this journey. He would read various books on it also in the local library where he went daily. Poor soul, did not realize that Nirvana is not so easy to get!
|The nearby temple|
Someone asked him to write 101 postcards containing some message and send them, while on other hand someone would ask him to fast for 51 Mondays praying to Lord Shiva for Nirvana. He had made huge donations when asked in form of gold, food items, clothes etc. From animal slaughter to doing rituals in cemetery to drive away all the ghosts – Subbiah had tried everything possible that was suggested to him. By now he must have spent a fortune on the ceremonies suggested by the, but to no avail. He was like a fanatic when it came to this. Anyone who could give him the answer to this would attain Godly status for him.
His world revolved around 3 things – his date, time and place of birth. The moment he saw any astrologer or came to know about someone, he would immediately fish out these details and ask about his death. Time and again people tried telling him death is not something that can be predicted. If it would have been so easy we all could have led easier lives. Death is still the most invincible power and no amount of knowledge or meditation can make you more powerful than it. But our dear Subbiah, adamancy was his other name.
|Kundali - Time and date of birth|
Needless to say Kanaka did not like this. She had tried driving sense in his mind many times but Subbiah simply would not budge. Initially she would fight with him trying to stop him from all this. But gradually as his madness increased (Yes!! Madness that is what she called this) she could not keep pace with it. She thought she would lose even the little bit of sanity that was left with her. Because as a counter argument, Subbiah had began to suggest her also to try these things to attain Nirvana. Tired of it all she had finally left it on God to show some way out of this.
It was a convenience based arrangement where Subbiah would continue his relentless search for Nirvana and Kanaka would not say anything as long as he came back home as his quests failed each time. It continued for many years without any problems for either of them hence there was no scope of argument or bickering over this. Kanaka saw no end to this and had accepted it as a part of her life. But the end did come. And in the most unexpected manner!
One day Subbiah did not come home at the designated time for lunch. Kanaka got worried as this very unlikely of him. The clock struck 1...and then 2… but still there was no trace of Subbiah. With every passing second her concern increased. Her panic stricken face looked gruesome with worry lines etched across.
|The kitchen at their house|
It was at about 4 pm that Subbiah made a hasty entry. Kanaka glared at him, but he barely noticed. He seemed to be in some hurry as he dashed towards their bedroom. Kanaka followed him there and inquired, ‘Where were you? I was so worried about you….what happened? Is everything ok?’ She stopped midway as she saw Subbiah taking his ocher robe from the cupboard. Subbiah generally wore this to religious ceremonies. She feared that today once again he was headed to another of his crazy rituals to obtain Nirvana.
Before she could react Subbiah had changed and now was removing his watch and other valuables as he talked to her ‘I am going….. I have found a Guru who knows the real path to Nirvana.’ Kanaka gasped ‘What? Where are you going? And by when will you be back?’
‘Perhaps never… I am so happy. This time I finally found a Guru who will lead me to Nirvana along with him. Am not I lucky? It seems worth the entire wait now…’
‘Are you out of your mind? How can you just go like this…? What about me? Our children? This house?’
'I had told you before also Kanaka…now please don’t start this again. You know how much I have waited for this day and wanted it so badly. I have already made my will bequeathing everything to you and left enough money in bank account FDs for your survival. You will be well taken care of….Don’t worry. Now just hurry up and see my Guru must be coming here to take me along. Anytime he will be at our door.'
|Subbiah walking away in his ocher robes.|
Kanaka wanted to scream at him but controlled her emotions. With tears in her eyes she went out to check at the door. She mentally decided to give a piece of her mind to that Guru and shoo him off before Subbiah made it to the door. There indeed was a sadhu standing at their doorstep. Very old, must be around 80-85 years old, but not a wrinkle on this face. He had a strong divine grace on his face radiating immense power from his eyes. Looking at him reminded Kanaka of Shakuntala’s story where she was cursed for disrespecting a sadhu. In a moment her anger vanished and she bent down touched his feet.
‘Akhand Saubhagyawati bhavaha…’ he blessed her.
‘No… amma… don’t say anything. I know everything. Trust me. I will not let anything happen to him. I will bring him back to you. You just have to trust me and let him go this last time….’
Tears rolled down her eyes as she heard this. She hastily wiped them as she heard Subbiah coming.
‘Namaskaram Guruji…I am ready…let’s go….’
Kanaka folded her hands to do a Namaste to that sadhu as both of them left. She followed them till the extent her eyes allowed her to, half hoping he would turn around and come back. Once their silhouettes were out of sight she ran towards her puja room and collapsed there. She started crying there unbearably as if asking God why?
|The temple at their house|
She continued crying for hours together. She did not realize when she fell asleep thee on the floor in a foetal position. Her sniffles filled the air making it heavier. It was a strange situation. She cried because she did not know what to do next. She mentally decided to call her son the next day immediately before things went out of hand. She had trusted that Guru and all she could do was to wait. But deep inside her heart she was scared. She feared that Subbiah might never return and she would have to exist in a state of constant denial over his death. Such thoughts scared her and she would start crying more. Slowly sleep took over her senses as she drifted off to slumber land.
She realised it was morning when the bright sun rays fell on her face. She opened her eyes for a moment and closed it immediately as she was unable to bear the sudden light. Her entire body ached and she felt feverish. She did not feel like getting up but did so reluctantly after sometime. She opened the front door to collect the milk packets delivered by the milkman when she saw a strange figure sitting there.
She got scared and dropped the milk packets there to run inside. She came back with a wooden stick in her hand thinking it might be some thief. She tip-toed behind him slowly and was about to hit him with the rod when the figure turned.
‘You????.......’ Kanaka dropped the rod in disbelief as she saw Subbiah staring at her. ‘When did you come?’
‘You should have woken me up.. .’
‘It was around 2:30-3 hence did not disturb you.’
‘Nothing… I will freshen up and come. I am too tired to talk right now.. .’ saying this Subbiah got up and marched into the house.
Looking at his soiled clothes and disheveled hair she could make out something was wrong, but she dare not ask him for the fear of inviting his wrath. The look on his face was answer enough. She picked up the milk packets and rushed to the kitchen to start preparing his coffee. The entire day Subbiah did not utter a single word. He did not go out of the house and seemed to be lost in some thoughts. It seemed as if something was weighing on his mind constantly, as to have witnessed something unexpected.
Kanaka remembered what that sadhu had told her and never asked him again as to what happened that night. Subbiah also never brought it up. There was a sea change in his attitude though as he never broached the topic of Nirvana again. What Subbiah saw that night left him shocked; something which he found difficult to express and painful to remember.
Subbiah and his guru left for a nearby town. As told to him by his guru, there was a fair being conducted there. This fair happened once in 25 years and attracted a huge crowd owning to the same. It was renowned for the miracles people had witnessed there as a lot of famous seers and sadhus also visited it. This fair took place near a village called Selur which was famous for its Lord Shiva temple.
|Lord Shiva Temple at Selur|
Every month on the full moon day people would throng this temple walking all the way barefooted to get their wishes fulfilled. It was said that this temple had blessed people miraculously. Anybody who prayed here full heartedly never returned empty handed. Subbiah was very happy with all this as he felt finally he had found Nirvana.
After walking for some distance they stopped a tempo full of pilgrims which was going that way. Finally at around 9 they reached Selur. The lights, the crowd, devotional songs blaring from speakers, the festive look of the fair – it had transformed a sleepy looking Selur to a high activity place. You could see hawkers trying to sell their wares, screaming children, people thronging stalls, some eatery outlets set up by the rich for all the pilgrims.
Subbiah and his guru went to a nearby food stall and had some food as they were tired after such a long journey. His guru had told Subbiah that after dinner they will proceed towards the backside of the fair where people practiced the art of achieving Nirvana. Secretly smiling at his luck, Subbiah gobbled up the food quickly.
After a while both of them got up and proceeded towards the fair. Subbiah was trying to observe everything around him as if it were for the last time. His mind was almost singing ‘Good bye world….. ..’ But his jolly mood did not last very long. Once they reached the backside of the fair the sight that met Subbiah’s eyes shook him.
There was a huge pit covered with hot burning coal pieces. People were taking turns to walk on it. He could hear the shrill cries of people as they walked on the burning coal. Some of them collapsed once they were done with the crossing. The blisters on their feet proof enough for the pain they would have undergone. People were sprinkling water on their faces to bring them back to their senses. In one corner there was a lady who had got her tongue pierced and was walking around like a zombie with the rod piercing out of her cheeks. To his extreme right he saw a huge crowd but could not make out what it was all about. Time and again he would only hear a whoosing sound. He slowly approached that crowd with fear in his heart. He could almost hear his heartbeats as he stepped closer.
There he came face to face with a man bare chested, with a hunter in his hand. Suddenly the man picked up the hunter and hit himself as the crowd echoed Har Har Mahadev. He continued to do this and turned around. Subbiah gasped as he saw multiple marks on his body. He was bleeding profusely because of the constant beatings.
|Man beating himself with a hunter|
Subbiah looked at his guru inquiringly, when the later smiled and said,’ This is the way to Nirvana. You need to pay for all your sins before you can embark on this journey. And these people here are doing it in different ways. That lady there, she had a very sharp tongue and was of abusive nature. She has now decided to repent about it in this manner. Similarly all the other people are showing their repentance by undergoing these things. This tests their tolerance and also punishes them for all the wrong they have done throughout in their lives. As our Bhagavatam says ‘You have to pay for everything here and then go…’ this is that paying….. So now tell me which way you would want to show your repentance. Would you want to start with walking on those burning coals first?’
Subbiah was shell shocked as he heard this and his expressions were not doing a good job at hiding his emotions. He got really scared. He was not expecting this. He told his guru ,’ But I have not done anything wrong till now…’ though he wanted to convince his guru, he knew his voice was ditching him in confidence. He was barely mumbling.
‘Not possible… no single human being is like this…each one of us has done something or the other wrong… .Come…. let’s go that side and start this journey...’
Subbiah followed him but his mind was running in various directions. I cannot be doing this… this is not Nirvana…he thought and finally mustered the courage to ask his guru, ‘ Guruji..What is the other way to show your repentance? I mean apart from this….’
‘You have to continue leading your life.. You will go through all that you are destined to before you die. This also includes your repentance… but as you think you have already undergone everything I brought you here…..’
Subbiah stopped in his steps. The realization dawned upon him that there was no shortcut to Nirvana. Only after grihasthashrama could one venture into vanprasthashrama and then further into Nirvana. As he was busy thinking all this, he suddenly realised that his guruji was lost somewhere in the crowd. He jumped to his feet and tried to look for him. But he could not locate him. All of a sudden he decided to head back home and made a run for the exit gate.
It was in a state of daze that Subbiah took lift from a truck driver back to Kandaripattnam. He was lost in his thoughts when the familiar looking lodge made him realize he had reached. He walked down to his home through the deserted streets and sat down on the patio waiting for it to be morning so that Kanaka would open the door.
Though Kanaka never knew what happened that night, she knew something sinister had happened which had changed Subbiah so much. Everytime she thought about it she never forgot to thank that sadhu alongwith God as she knew he was truly God sent for her. As for Subbiah, earlier his obsession would keep him busy while now he seemed to be on a lookout for something new.
P.S: This has not been written with the intention of belittling anyone's beliefs or any traditions and customs. With due respect to each of them, this is just an attempt to see it from a layman's view who has never witnessed such things ever in life.