27 September, 2017

Flight of Fancy

The writer of this account had a life threatening accident. He was riding home on a two wheeler and was hit on the highway. Luckily some good Samaritans picked him up and hospitalized him quickly. Here after 3 intricate surgeries and 40 odd days of being bedridden under observation he was discharged to only spend a further two months at home before he could be up and about. The blessings and goodwill of loved ones played its part in the recovery. But this hit and run incident wiped clean off the memory of how and why it happened as he had surfaced to consciousness a clean 5 days after being bumped off. This is a flight of fancy ... a reconstruction of what may have transpired during then

The flight...

Gee, it is really cold, brrr, almost chill and I wrapped my arms around myself. It didn’t work. The wind whipped my hair around, entered my ears. I tried to open my eyes but the lids were dull and heavy. I fought against their weight and just about managed to sneak a peek. Oh!!!!  My!!!!  God!!!!  Is this real? It must be…but how??? …was I flying ?  I was flying.

This certainly was not the flying by free will that one's dreams are made up of. I was whipping through the air and clouds like a misshapen projectile shot out from a giant catapult. The phrase that popped up inadvertently into the mind drew out a smile. How could it ever have been shapely? No particular gym had seen this body subjected to workouts for long, ever. Then the mind got back to what exactly was happening here. Is this a dream, it asked? But my eyes were now partially open and not even watering. Then again if it was a dream wouldn’t I be flying gently, gliding or soaring and not go like this? Bammmmm ... came a sound, it was loud yet curiously, and my ears did not hurt. Had I broken the sound barrier now? One logical part of the same mind acknowledged this possibility as well. I was shooting up and then it happened, Cleaving through a rather thick bank of clouds I landed outside the gates of a rather largish estate.

The landing and the wall ...

The landing was soft but now my eyes could open fully and it was cold, not extremely chilly anymore. I got up and looked around. This was a curiously familiar ethos. This looked very much like the mist of some of the places I had been to and even read about. It was bright with light though the sun was not to be seen yet the visibility was no more than 15 to 20 feet. It could have been Ladakh in winter or Ireland in summer or even a

Kodaikanal in late November; it could be any of these places.  I was closer to the estate hence its wall and gate was all that was apparent to the eye, the mist obscured the topography of the terrain around me.

I approached the gate and he came out smiling. I was so glad to be warmly received. Having no clue on how long the ride was wherever that I had landed it became apparent that the people here are of a friendly disposition. The bearded face that looked at me was sun browned and the eyes were darkly piercing yet warm. His white gold bordered Jellabiya shone purely. The flowing jellabiya is a garment that I had last seen worn in Egypt so was this Egypt? But it was too cold to be that country. Was this some other place in Arabia, I wondered?  Looking beyond him at the gate there was a small tent on which I could make out a poster design of a young girl, fresh, beautiful with a number written alongside her. On closer observation I saw that it was the number 72.

My mind jumped back to a memory of the number and its absolute certainty in my financial life. Yes, 72 for me stood for the rule of 72. Divide the number 72 by the rate of interest and one arrives at the period in number of years when ones money would double and vice versa. Kooky and wild though the thought was it did make sense for the number, though I could not figure out this advertisement or the lovely damsel’s poster. Maybe here was a travelling salesman who sold financial products.

 I raised my eyebrow and the man smiled gleefully and said “Welcome to Jannat”. “Whatttt ??? Jannat as in … Heaven??? It was as if he heard my thought and preempted all the additional questions that would have naturally followed. Yes, the man answered, this is Jannat and that what you see is my tent and yes there really are 72 virgins for pure souls when they enter here. This just blew my mind. Incredulously, I asked him are you for real? And he looked at me closely from head to toe as if all of me was visible to him even with my clothes on. He said gently, son this is Jannat and since you were not a Muslim, let me ask you something, Have you lost your way again, like you usually do? This man sure was full of surprises and it was really puzzling; how does he know that I lose my way often? He said you seem like a Hindu hence this is neither your gate nor destination. He pointed with a finger saying follow the wall and go to the opposite side of this gate. There you would meet Chitragupt the man who may know something about your being here.

Educated and how...

I again looked inside the gate and saw that the estate had many gates cut out into this one wall that circled it. I thanked him and asked curiously, Heaven, Jannat, Swarg or whatever that is inside these walls are they housed in separate buildings like dormitories or is it a common condominium like a co-operative housing society with different wings? He asked me is this confusion that is residing in your mind about faith and religion? I nodded in the affirmative. He looked amused and asked did you expect that Swarg and Jannat or Heaven would be different from each other? I again nodded a yes. Are all religions different, he asked me? And he could read the yes in my eyes and continued. Suddenly his energetic lively eyes sparkling with vigour attained a very sombre but wise hue as he talked. He said at the very core of the practice of faith lies a thought. This thought is a morality and morality by itself is not different in any religion practiced by all you down there. The reason I looked at you and you noticed my Jellabiya robe is the second moot point of religion that you need to understand, which is, identity. This in a nutshell is what all religions or faith is all about Morality and Identity. Faiths are united by morality and separated by identity.

Then he smilingly said everything inside is common, it is the same deep inside. You guys who live in the kingdom below could never digest the uniformity or the sameness. There everyone wants to be different, to be seen different and you formed these sororities or clubs. You named them Faiths or Religions.  Then for administration and differentiation you made guidebooks, rules and conduct manuals for each club. Some became bestsellers without being completely read like the Bible, the Gita and the Koran. This segregation limited your understanding and hence for the rite of passage when mortals complete their journey and come here we adopted the approach of you our customers. Having lived by one manual all your life how will you know that you have come to the right place? It is for your ease and comfort that we have made these different gates. The supposed good souls find their way here else for the others there is Dozakh, Hell, Pataal etc. It’s only different at the entry point and our record-keeping roles got divided, what we had envisaged as a role for one guy is now split into many. You mortals have created excess employment up here. I am in charge of the Islamic entries. Before you reach your Hindu gate to Swarg manned by Chitragupt, you would pass the pearly gates of Simon Peter who is in charge there for the Christians. I asked him “Your name is hardly ever mentioned by my Muslim friends only a fleeting reference was made once by an old uncle who had mentioned Ridwan. Are you Ridwan? He smiled and I found myself in this strange place, outside a wall and a gate that had a tent just inside, talking to a man who surprisingly quoted the great bard “What’s in a name, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet”.

The transit towards ...

I was rather enjoying our conversation but since I was not on his catalogue he seemed to have lost interest in me and he turned to go back to his position. I thanked him and started walking in the direction pointed out by him. The pearly gates had a bright shiny neon sign announcing HEAVEN. One just could not miss it. The sign glowed brightly and colourfully like a casino signage from Nevada, Las Vegas, so dazzlingly brazen was it. As I walked by, a spotlight caught me and a kindly looking gent sitting on a high seat inside the gates in a starched white robe raised a hand and shouted ‘Howdy’? I nodded back with a smile and a thumbs-up and kept going on. The spotlight followed me for a while and then it was gone.

I kept walking and soon saw a grand wooden carved gate similar to that of a few temples I had seen and been to before. The word Swarg was inscribed on it in various languages. I just could make out Devnagari and Sanskrit, the curls on a few letters indicated a south Indian language while one of the others was unmistakably Bengali. A perverse part of me was convinced that it would be Bhodrolok written to improve the feel good factor for the Bangla’s. What relationship does Class and being genteel have with heaven, absolutely nothing for any other Indian but a Bengali? For him, it is imperative that he is a Bhodroloki.

The gates were closed and there was nobody around. I knocked on the gate which created a dull thwack and before I could knock again letters started rearranging themselves on the door. I could not believe what I was reading. They said, you have reached us in our siesta time which is between one & four, kindly take your token and stand in the line if there is one or wait for the hour. My mind instantly jumped to the conclusion and even as I tried to brush away the scandalous thought, the possibility of its truth would not go away. Like the brash guy I was, I found the words slipping out from my mouth not of my own volition. “This dude Chitragupt must be from Pune.”

CG & the heavenly chatter...

I too sensed a languor creeping up on me and I sat where it indicated that a line must be formed, leaned back against the wall and dozed off. Reaching here had tired me and had not realized it. Before long I was fast asleep and curiously the chill absent so far crept back into me. Just as the cold got uncomfortable, I felt a tap on my shoulder that woke me with a start. I was being stared at by a fair face that had mischief written all over it. The blue tinted grey eyes that looked at me were amused. Apologetically smiling with a sheepish look I got up and folded my hands in the traditional salute, Namaskar.

He too smiled back and said”I am Chitragupt. Why don’t we go into my chamber?” Befuddled with sleep I got up and followed him without question. Quite unlike Ridwan’s tent or St.Peter’s box in the sky, Chitragupt’s quarters at the gate were really spacious. He led me through a large assembly hall into a room that looked onto another conference room which had an attached library. From there he walked into a small private meeting room where he gestured for me to sit. A table and two chairs, he took one and offered me the other. Looking around I saw a framed portrait of a dark skinned mustached man on a buffalo who could have been none other than the god of death Yama. “Your chambers are pretty snazzy unlike the tent or the cabin I saw, back there at the Jannat & Pearly Gates”. He nodded laughingly “but then I am answerable to 33 crore beings in here and a few billion outside”.

I was seriously intrigued and asked him the question that I had been avoiding for a long time.

“Hey CG”, I said and he looked up with a start interrupting me right there, “What did u call me?” I smiled back and said “CG… SeeGee isn’t it cooler than calling you Mr.Chitragupt or Shri.Chitragupt or Maharaj Chitragupt, what say you?” He nodded and said that Maharaj would definitely be inappropriate as he wasn’t a king, Mr.Chitragupt sounded incongruous while Shri.Chitragupt made him feel like a baba with an ashram on earth which wasn’t right either, had I been there could have been a candidate for an arrest. So I asked him how the people before me addressed him. To which he answered, nothing, they were too awed and simply passed him by when their name was confirmed in the register. So I asked him where this register of his is.  He gestured towards a filing cabinet full of scrolls that I had not noticed earlier and said the older ones are in the archives. Then again I asked him aren’t you going to check mark my name in that, why did you bring me here for this discussion? Do I belong here at all? He smiles back and replies in my exact diction “No dude, you don’t.” This cleared a few lines on my forehead and I nodded, I knew it was too good to be true that I would find a place in heaven. Looking at my crestfallen expression his face softened and said no dude, I do have both the registers one of Swarg (heaven) and the other of Narak (hell) and your name figures in neither. I slapped my forehead in disgust … this was happening to me all over again.

It had taken me back to the time I was looking for my result on the engineering polytechnic notice board. It was the first year examination result displayed. I had started searching my number in the list of numbers that had cleared the examination. Cockily I had started from the top most category of “Passed with Distinction”. Not finding my number there my glance had reluctantly started looking down towards the First Class, then Second class and finally Pass class. Not finding my name there, I stoically had searched for my number in the list of failures only to find it was not there either. Right at the bottom of the displayed result sheet was a small asterisk marked number, it was mine and it said “Result held in reserve”. Not understanding the meaning I had gone and found that the examiner had erroneously marked me absent, instead of the candidate ahead of me on one examination paper. When I had proven that I had indeed attended, the result was revised and ended up with my expected distinction, but it had taken a painful 15 days. That result did not give me as much pleasure as the pain felt because of the procedural anomaly. I looked at CG and he said smilingly no…it is not anything like that case. On my raised eyebrow he said “It is because you aren’t dead yet. This was not your time.”

I was zapped into silence for a moment but only for a moment and CG patiently allowed me the time to compose myself and spit out the question that formed on my lips. Am I not here? What is this then that is here, I demanded an answer? He said what is here is your incomplete soul. Unless your soul is all complete no one finds that their time has come. As to why are you here and before you ask me what of you is incomplete, I shall tell you. This would not and could not have been cleared at the gate hence I brought you here for our tête-à-tête. You speak French too? And he said we do have Hindu’s all over the globe and those who grow up wherever they are born end up speaking that language. I am a linguist, as a gatekeeper host I have to be one don’t I now, he said without any modesty. But this is not about me let us talk about you. Why are you here? Well..he sighed and remarked ‘you were in a hurry. You may not remember and this episode of ours later would also get erased from your mind from starting off as a faint memory. You have had an accident, where your two-wheeler got knocked over in a hit and run. But it was just that, an accident, it was neither your fault nor that of the vehicle that brushed you and sped off. You got knocked over and your mortal remains are lying below in the hospital being reassembled together by a team of very excellent surgeons. The force of the knock dislodged the soul from your body and it simply speeded up here.

As to why are you not eligible for admission here, is not because the roster of your deeds are so dark that you would be denied a seat. It is only because you are not a complete soul. We have had a case like this some centuries ago and that case went into a discussion of right and wrong in the heavenly courts and that guy he pointed out to Yama’s picture on the wall lost the case. He blew his top then because being a god and in charge of the dual functions of Death and Justice he could never envisage nor stomach the loss but lose he did. Ohhh, so you guys make errors too, I chortled gleefully. He smiled ruefully, chuckled and said in a conspiratorial tone. He is my boss, Yama. He is in charge of this department of assigning numbers to people on their journey’s end on earth and also looks after the transportation logistics of souls. Rarely there comes a case like yours who is here all by himself. Normally the soul comes along with Yama riding pillion on the mighty buffalo Paundraka. The buffalo also had protested once that Yama must not be eating all the high calorie sweets that he is fond of and the humongous quantities of meats he gorges with starchy accompaniments like Nan’s , Butter Roti’s and Paratha’s. He has gained enormous weight. I looked at him and said I like Yama already and to my utter surprise the god in the picture on the wall winked at me and smiled. The last time I had seen this happen in a photograph was in the photo frames hanging on the walls of Hogwarts, the school, in the movie. There was a Harry Potter’ish kind of magic happening here in the reception room of Swarg and now I had reached a level of acceptance where nothing surprised me any longer. Hmmm continue I said and CG started saying Paundraka is a he buffalo and very quick because he is born out of the thighs of the Rudra avatar of the mighty Shiva. Buffaloes are normally assumed to be senseless and this one is dark because ‘death is unknown’ said I completing his sentence and he was surprised to which I told him, some of us on earth too read sometimes. The Rig Veda I said, says that Yama’s Buffalo is symbolically dark and senseless like the death that befalls every being irrespective of age, gender, class, time or even reason and CG nodded so I asked him ‘ don’t you have animal activists here , like those PETA fellows, who protest for Paundraka being overworked and overloaded? To which CG smiled Paundraka is capable of handling himself pretty well and while Yama feels he is in command most times it is the buffalo who rules the logistics. If Yama acts cocky and arrogant then Paundraka is known to have bucked and thrown him off and never let him get back on till he right properly is apologized to. But why are we discussing his buffalo, we were discussing the case. 

The case that Yama lost ...

I nodded and he said it was that of Satyavan the soul who was identified by Yama to be brought here. I listened with rapt attention. This was the case that brought into focus the chapter of the complete soul as defined by the 8th avatar of Vishnu, the naughty Krishna. Krishna he said thrice had to show his Vishwaroopam or the fact that he is a god on earth to his kin and family. The first time was to mother Yashoda by widely opening his mouth when he had gobbled up her butter and she was quite pissed off. The second time was in the court of Hastinapura where Duryodhana wanted to capture him when he had gone there as the messenger & emissary of peace. It was in his third attempt, when he showed his form to Arjuna and spewed out the Gita that explained and crystallized the definition of a complete soul. Satyavan’s lawyer was his canny wife Savitri and she challenged Yama who had already picked up Satyavan’s soul and was mounted on Paundraka to be on his way back. Now look at the case. Savitri and Satyavan was a young couple in love and I still don’t know what made my boss pick his name as a candidate to be brought here. Savitri served Yama a notice and told him that she would take him to the divine court and sue him. My boss scoffed at her and she hauled him up right there. There in an assembly of the mightiest she demonstrated a legal skill that has been the stuff of legends here in swarglok. Yama was the defendant and he defended his side well but Savitri was someone who he had not bargained for. The lady quoted the Gita and asked Yama for evidence of the soul in his possession. Yama produced the soul of Satyavan and Savitri challenged him stating that how did he assume that the soul was completely Satyavan’s? Yama showed the assembly of gods Satyavan’s likeness and again Savitri asked him whether he would let her accompany Satyavan? To which Yama flatly refused stating that he absolutely would not as her time had not come.

By saying this Yama had unknowingly fallen into the lady’s trap. She challenged Yama and beseeched Dhanvantri to act as the pathologist for the prosecution and examine the evidence presented by Yama in totality and requested him to check specially whether Satyavan’s soul was complete in all aspects. Dhanvantri examined the soul and said that the soul is complete as all parts of it were present. Yama roared with triumph accusing her of wasting the court’s time. Then Savitri asked Dhanvantri to examine the heart of Satyavan in the soul and establish whether it was indeed Satyavan’s? Dhanvantri re-examined this time in detail and came back to give evidence. Yama and the entire court looked at him in anticipation and bated breath. His voice rang out clearly the heart in Satyavan’s soul is not Satyavan’s but Savitri’s. The wily Savitri then requested the court that Satyavan’s heart beat inside her and hers was with him and since Yama had categorically refused to let her enter Swarg it not being her time, it was then by the law-of-entry of full and complete souls not Satyavan’s time either. Both of them should be returned back. Yama was humbled and graciously then accepted his defeat at the hands of a master practitioner of the law.

This was the case that happens to be the precedent to your lack of eligibility. Your mind and soul body is here but your heart beats in someone who is standing at your bedside waiting for you to open your mortal eyes. So go with god my friend said he and escorted me back to the gate of swarg. I was astonished to find Paundraka the black buffalo standing there waiting for me. CG said he is your ride back. I smiled at CG, and folded my hands in a namaskar and bid him goodbye. I stroked Paundraka and the huge black buffalo looked at me nuzzled me and purred like my fat cat. As I mounted him he leisurely loped at first then broke into a gallop and then took off and within a blink of an eye he had dislodged me on bed no.6 of the Fortis hospital in Mulund, Mumbai. 

Back to to the where it all began ...

My soul just seamlessly entered the body ... and something kicked inside of it with that entry. I started to ache but my eye opened and was looking into the warm brown eyes of my woman. The strength in her flowed into me as did my life and zest. People started running around my bed; nurses, ward boys and even a doctor. He came closer and shone his torch right into my eyes. The contracting pupils told him the medical story he was searching for. Then he commented, “it was five days back that you were brought here and now you surface, good, you never intended to really die did you?” I looked at him strangely and told him but I did talk to Chitragupt. That started him on a furious head shaking action. Before he walked away, he whispered to my wife, “the knock on his head has been pretty severe, he may ramble senselessly like this for a few more days, so don’t worry. I just held on to her hand, closed my eyes and went off to sleep. 


Patsy Bobby C said...

Wonderfully written.
Loved the line abt. Faith/morality/identity

kau kau goes the crow said...

Thank You Patsy.

Was thinking about this silly thing called faith deeply and as one peers at the very core removing the chaff and husk from the wheat grain, religion to my mind crystallizes into these tenets/postulates/verticals/processes call it whatever. Am glad you liked it.

Kimaya Joshi said...

So finally your Savitri got her Satyawan back.. superbly written.. theme is powerful and you have captured Yam va Savitri battle in perfect logical sense.. keep writing dear