God's Inn

by

Jayamurali

 

Volume 1, Issue 1, Pg 23-25

He skilfully jumped to avoid the numerous red spit, which looked like patches of blood scattered all around on the holy street, and dodged the seemingly dried but still half-wet cow dung.

The dusty street was fanned by a mesmerizing breeze, which dashed the dancing dew drops into small pieces that splashed at Anatman’s wide open eyes. The splendid sight of the morning landscape seemed to blur for a moment, but soon, young Anatman resumed capturing the delightful charms of the smoggy dawn.

He started very early from his hut to meet his Goddess, who stayed far away from this pious village, caged in a little dark room that was abandoned by the Sun god. Though Her residence was full of eerie silence and gloom, it was the most trusted place for any devoted heart to find comfort and even calm ecstasy. Everyone in the village often found the temple an apt place to unburden themselves of their innumerable unsolved, probably never-could-be-solved crises.

Young minds spend hardly ten minutes at prayer, for the ten thousand-things they want to beg from the Almighty. Anatman’s was also one such craving heart, and it could not be easily satiated, not even with any astonishing boon. He, having risen unusually early in the morning, was attentive to not dirtying his feet.

He skilfully jumped to avoid the numerous red spit, which looked like patches of blood scattered all around on the holy street, and dodged the seemingly dried but still half-wet cow dung.

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An auto rickshaw driver—who usually would drive at a speed of 50 km an hour — had, on this very day, slowed down his speed to 30, for he was, to Anatman’s good luck, not under the reign of liquor. The man somehow managed to stop the auto after a threatening jolt, just a few inches away from Anatman’s forehead.

It is not uncommon to find auto drivers in Tamil Nadu, who consider themselves no less than superstars. They paste pictures of their favourite heroes on the transparent windscreens of their three wheelers, often blocking their vision, considerably; it leads, naturally, to many accidents, even fatal ones. They worship their heroes as gods, which is good in a way because they believe in keeping their gods and their abodes tidy—this belief makes them clean their autos regularly.

Obviously, the man abused Anatman. Unwilling to bow to the garland of filthy words, Anatman shut his ears tightly, as if he had come across an exploding Diwali bomb. He was determined to not let the unholy, non-parliamentary words intrude his ears, for that would have spoilt his spiritual mood for his Devi. The rain of abuses pouring down came to an end when the auto driver became absolutely exhausted. Anatman had already anticipated such words from this gentleman with great wrath, and when these ceased, he rushed from the place, his figure vanishing from the eye-balls of the drained throated man.

It was then that he came across the mysterious smog—a ring of smoke coming out of a petty shop, polluting the otherwise enchanting breeze. It entered the healthy nostrils of Anatman and made its way into his windpipe, making him cough. Suddenly, he collided with a man, who was smoking, and barked, “Don’t you have any manners? Can’t you see a man passing you by, ah?” The man was mute for some time and seemed to be seriously examining Anatman’s countenance.

“You fool! I’m speaking to you only. Are you deaf, you rascal?” abused Anatman.

The man simply smiled while confessing, “Yes, you speak truly. I’m deaf.” Anatman intended no further argument as he realised what a waste of time and energy it would be, and at once hurried to the temple.

When he almost reached his destination, he nosed the fragrance of roses and, instantly thought of the offerings for the Goddess.

We are often shopping at the spectacularly furnished super-markets, where flowers are kept imprisoned in distinct glassy covers, and are used to abiding by the price tags of such convicts, without any dispute; but we somehow feel that there is always a chance for bargaining at an open-to-sky flower shop. Anatman approached a flower girl and enquired, “How much does a bunch of roses cost?” Before she uttered a letter, Anatman decidedly said, “It’ll be given for ten rupees.”

He handed her the only ten rupee note he had, saying, “Ok, take this, and pack it up in a long leaf. Hmmm….hurry.”

Anatman whirled around and headed for the entrance of the shrine, while the flower girl was convulsively chasing behind him shouting, “Brother, please, could you give five rupees more? Please consider my plight; I myself bought it for ten. What profit could I get out of it if I sell it to you for the same? Do consider, please.” The poor girl would call everyone ‘brother’, irrespective of their age and relationship. Anatman replied with a ridiculing smile, “I can’t help it, Sister.”

“No one does anything deliberately in the world. Moreover, I’m too old for you to do anything deliberately with me. Tolerance is everything, child.”

Neglecting the mourning of the flower girl, Anatman entered the temple, bidding a morning wish to the gate keeper, as was his usual practice during his unusual visits to the temple. “Good morning, Anatman Ji,” greeted the gate keeper, who seemed enthused by Anatman’s arrival. The gate keeper longed to wish everyone who came in, so that they could wish him in return, and considered their greetings to be a sign of concern for him. He would respectfully add the suffix ‘Ji’ to everyone’s name.

In his flight, Anatman collided with the overworked right shoulder of an old lady who seemed to be a regular visitor to the temple. Instead of abusing Anatman, she compassionately embraced him, saying, “Oh! Lord! Save this child.” She further enquired graciously, “Has anything happened to you my child?”

Anatman could trace the divine spark in her eyes, and became speechless. He slowly recovered his composure and confessed, “Extremely sorry, dear old lady, I did not deliberately dash into you,” to which she replied with a witty smile, “No one does anything deliberately in the world. Moreover, I’m too old for you to do anything deliberately with me. Tolerance is everything, child.”

The lady walked on, and was soon out of sight. Anatman, still contemplating her words, exhaustedly approached the queue and realised that it would take a long time to enjoy the dharshan of the Goddess. He, with a sigh, joined the serpent-like queue. Everyone was pasted firmly with each other, and the queue made a good motion by a mere push from behind.

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Anatman was standing last but one. When he, at last, made it close to the main shrine of the Devi, he felt a ray of hope that he would see Her holy face. Suddenly, the gate that guarded his Goddess’ idol was shut half way. That was a sign of closure. Anatman started pushing the enormous man before him, shouting, “Hurry-up! Man, don’t you have any desire to see Her? If you don’t, then let me go before you.”

The man snorted at his statement, and Anatman pushed him again. Annoyed at Anatman, the man said, “How dare you push me from behind? If you have the guts, touch me now while I’m facing you, coward. Come on, do it if you dare, you idiot!”

Temples can sometimes become battlefields, and this is not surprising , diverse people assemble there with their diverse demands, hoping God would fulfil them. They wish to communicate with God in peace, in a relaxed state of mind. Any interruption or disturbance in this ritual or process makes them lose their composure.

Anatman at once calmed down, just like a submissive puppy does on encountering a gigantic, powerful, and majestic creature. Before the issue could settle down, the door to the sanctum sanctorum was completely shut. The huge man left the spot disappointedly, but Anatman, equally disappointed, stayed on for a few more minutes, and exclaimed sadly, “I don’t deserve to get Her blessing today.” He had moved only ten yards when he noticed the man he had fought with standing there to catch up with him for a sensational second round — as a boxer seeking his second chance to knock out the opponent.

Anatman looked back innocently, like a baby who asks her mother to beat or punish the ground after a bad fall. He almost sobbed and surrendered, “Sir, you seem to be angry with me without cause. I deeply apologize for my misbehaviour.”

Aware of the man’s gigantic physique, Anatman stood at a safe distance from him. The man responded magnanimously, “Hey, you, I set you free because I am standing in this holy place. Run and save yourself.”

“That is very polite of you, Sir,” Anatman managed to stammer. Taking advantage of this partial relief, his legs randomly turned towards whatever path they could take. The frightened and disturbed Anatman retraced his steps from the temple back home. He did not pay attention to the gate keeper who, with great concern, asked, “Anatman Ji, had your darshan ?”

Anatman passed the flower girl on his way out, who stated with dismay, “Why, Brother, you have not even opened the knot of my bundle of roses?” He remained silent and accidentally stamped on cow-dung. Ignoring the smell, and feeling no disgust, he kept walking towards home in deep thought.

The same auto-rickshaw driver, who had earlier showered him with the filthiest of abuses was waiting near the stand, and approached him politely saying, “Sorry, boy. I have abused you a lot.” As the driver was under the influence of alcohol, he spoke the truth, right from his heart.

Anatman simply smiled back at him and turned his gaze towards the smoker who he had run into earlier, in anticipation. The smoker walked up, almost next to Anatman’s shadow and whispered in its ear, “I’m not deaf, but blind.”

Anatman felt enlightened! All the anger, aggression and unpleasantness he had encountered on his way to seek the Goddess’ darshan, had transformed into surprisingly pleasant encounters on his way back. A sense of shame overcame him all of a sudden. He hugged the blind man and wailed, “I’m extremely sorry, my brother. I admit my ignorance. I’m defeated in my desperate endeavours in search of ….”[Sobbing]

About the Author:

Jayamurali is currently serving as an Assistant Professor of English at Sri Sankara Arts and Science College, Kanchipuram. You can reach him at jayamuralidhar86@gmail.com.

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