Some years ago, being disappointed and disillusioned with myself and being low in self esteem, I decided to leave it all.
With some thirty thousand rupees, I left my city and drove north east from Chennai. My idea was to reach Calcutta.
Maybe drive into obscurity.
I passed through many cities, Guntur, Vijayawada, Vizag, Bhubaneswar, meaning to drive to Behampur. But at Badrak, a cyclone hit the town and I was forced to stop there.
I checked into a hotel on the high-way and waited for the storm to subside.
When calm prevailed, I hit the road again. There was this guy, who asked me for a lift.
As we drove along, we began chatting. I opened up to him and poured out my woes, knowing fully well that I would not meet this stranger again. He understood the plight and confusion I was going through. He did not advice me or analyse my problem.
“You need the intervention of a higher being,” he said and suggested that I go to this temple town, where the residing deity would show me the right way.
I dropped him off at one exit to Paradeep, and looked up the road sign there. The board pointed to the temple town on the left and Bhubaneswar straight ahead. I took the road going straight ahead . Meeting the lord of the holy town was not on my agenda.
I climbed the flyover and after some twists and turns, I noticed that I had taken some wrong turning and my car was not heading for Bhubaneswar, my original destination. I was in fact going towards the temple town which the man had suggested.
I was jolted for a moment.
I broke into goose bumps. A twist of fate wanted me to pay my obeisance to the Lord there and own up to Him all my fears and doubts. Who am I to go against the working of the ‘higher-being?’
So I drove on into the holy town and checked into a hotel.
I went in search of the deity. But the temple had closed for the night.
I started to walk along the sea front, savoring the cool breeze.
As I kept walking not able to decide what to do, I landed up at a crematorium right there on the beach. A corpse was being burnt in the open and the sea breeze was flaming the pyre into a big flame. The man in charge of the cremation of the body had a long stick, with which he was beating the body as it burnt.
(Sometimes the burning body would move due to some relaxation of the muscles as they burnt under tremendous temperature. So in open crematoriums, there was always a man with a stick to beat the body down into the fire.)
Even as the man beat the corpse, he was mumbling and talking to himself.
Seeing me observing him from a little distance away, he said loudly, so his voice carried over the sound of the waves and the scream of the winds:
“However great a person may be, he ends up like this only, sir… In the meantime, look at all the mischief he gets into.”
Hearing his words, it was as if a spear had pierced into my heart.
My whole life flashed before my eyes. What dreams! What aspirations! What mistakes! Finally, it all ended like this.
Each blow on the burning corpse began to hurt me, opening my moronic mind to the bare facts of life. We come with nothing, and go with nothing. Life is the most precious gift we have been given. It was wrong to throw it away when we wish.
I stood alone that dark evening a mute witness to someone’s cremation, watching the fire burn the corpse completely till only embers remained.
I cried. Oh, how I cried. Like I had never cried before.
My sobs were shaking my body, my tears mingling with the salty sprays from the waves and my supplications rising above the flames and carried no doubt to the deity who had brought me to his portals.
I had driven too far and got this close to the exit. But the Lord had driven me to his holy town, not to die. But to find peace.
So I found peace and courage also to face life.
I thought of my wife and children who would be in horrible trouble if I went missing. I regretted what I had contemplated doing. I decided to turn back.
I returned to my hotel room and rang up my wife and told her where I was.
The next morning I paid my respects to the Lord of that holy city, who had saved me. I drove back the way I had come. This time with a destination in mind.
Back to my family.
Back to LIFE.
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