[Continued from Cindered Dreams (V)]
It sounded sensible, inevitable and so completely RIGHT, it just took my breath away! How absolutely perfect was that…!? In an instant, her dream took root in my heart. It possessed me utterly. I continued to work on my novel, but I knew my heart was not in it. I thought about that school with each breath I took. All day I wondered where to gather resources, all day I planned and schemed. I still don’t know why the thought of the school drove me with such an all consuming passion. I have no idea why it seemed such an imperative to me, like a command from God. Maybe you know, gentle reader…?
I said nothing of my obsession to Anu. She had told me she was skimping on her own comfort to save money for the school. The first time I notice her oft repaired pair of cheap footwear, her worn through clothes kept painstakingly clean, I was almost glad she was blind. I don’t have to cross the Ts for you, do I..? You know what I am saying, right..? Yeah, I was glad she was blind and couldn’t see the mist in my eyes.
I had been meditating for over three months under Anu’s guidance. In the beginning, it was very difficult. My mind kept wandering. My self-talk kept up non-stop. It was frustrating. I felt like giving up in annoyance every day. Yet, I did not. Anu told me it will take time, but I must persevere. And so I did.
All that week I remember I had been able to get into a trance fairly easily. That day was no exception. Within seconds I felt I was sans body, floating. Complete and deep silence engulfed me- inside out. The ‘Aum’ symbol I visualized on my forehead glowed with a pure white light that seemed to breathe like a live thing. My indrawn breath seemed to fill every crevice of my being. When I breathed out, the ‘Aum’ glowed brilliantly. I felt energized, I felt one with the universe; I WAS the universe. I experienced a causeless joy like I have never experienced before. In depth, intensity and power, it was far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I experienced utter bliss. It was an intensely moving experience.
Just when I felt it could not bear it for another instance before I would disintegrate into a thousand pieces, such was fullness of my experience, a disembodied voice boomed silently in my mind.
“Use the money you walked away from”, it said.
Then something shifted within me and my trance broke. I couldn’t move for some time. I sat stupefied, unable to connect with reality. By degrees I came to myself, still in a half-trance. While a part of me lay somnolent, my practical mind furiously began reckoning the pros and cons of the suggestion- looking for holes in the idea. There were none.
The money I had walked away from had been sitting untouched in my bank account for over a year. It was the ‘allowance’ the Pishachas gave me to support my useless and decadent lifestyle. I had called it blood money once.
I had disappeared from my old life and haunts. The Pishachas had no idea where I had gone, though I am sure they must have looked high and low for me. I was sure however, that they would have continued to deposit my allowance into the account hoping I would keep using it. I was also sure it would have accumulated into a sizable amount. The idea of using THEIR money for building a blind school- to be run by Anu, one of their victims- was SO perfect, I was astounded. My soul danced with mischievous joy.
All day I went about in a daze. I felt I was carrying a large jar of the finest, most delicate porcelain which might disintegrate even if I took a deep breath. I felt as if I had to walk on eggs, so that I wouldn’t upset the delicate balance within me. All day, I took care not to touch people or be jostled by them. I felt tenderly bruised and on edge- together. Have you ever experienced something like that reader..? I hope you have, because what I felt was the fullest joy a human being can experience.
Anu was none too sure using that money was a good idea. I rolled over her objections like a tidal wave. She didn’t stand a chance against my exuberance. She gave in ultimately, as I knew she would.
We planned meticulously. We allocated budget for different things. I decided we will inaugurate the school with fan-fare and that the publicity will begin in tandem with the construction work. I wanted us to have processed the admission applications and the formalities completed by the time the school building would be ready. At last, Anu too got caught up in my excitement. She cast her initial skepticism aside and became as excited as I was.
The next three months went by in a whirl. We had to continue with our work, she taught her Braille kids while I worked at my job. We decided that every penny of my accumulate allowance would be spent ONLY for the school. We wouldn’t touch a penny of it for our personal use. We both felt as if we were preparing for a huge yagya (elaborate prayer ritual in the presence of purifying fire). It was only in the evenings that we could sit and plan forward. Oh, but we were gloriously happy..!
We brought the land and the ground breaking ceremony and puja were performed. The publicity campaign began. Anu’s name was mentioned by the reporters who picked up the story. Everything was going smoothly, perhaps too smoothly.
A week later, out of the blue, Anu was murdered.
Apparently her house was broken in during the night. She was murdered and her one gold chain snatched from her throat, leaving a brutal angry welt in evidence. She was stabbed repeatedly in the chest. She lay crumpled drenched in her own drying blood when she was found early next morning.
I don’t know what happened or why. They called me when they found her in the morning. I remember looking down at the body and wondering how she’s going to get those blood stains off her clothes. Then I notices the tears where the knife had been plunged in. So many tears…! In a way, I was happy. She WILL have to let me buy her some new clothes now. I told her so categorically. Strangely, she didn’t reply. Stubborn woman…!
I don’t know when I woke up from that one. I mean, I wasn’t asleep or anything. They told me later that I performed her last rites with an abnormal precision. The only thing I remember- though vaguely- was that I got peeved with them was when they dressed her in white clothes for her last journey. I remember expressed my views on the subject pretty freely- though I don’t know what I said.
When I woke up, I began to think. I thought long and hard. The only conclusion I came to was that there was no earthly reason for anyone to harm Anu. She was a beautiful soul. The chain snatching was just a red herring. I was restless. I told God I wanted answers.
Three days after her cremation, suddenly the Pishachas landed at my door. I was almost expecting them. They hadn’t been able to find me all this while they said. Now with our small town newspapers ringing with the recent tragedy, they managed to trace me. They begged me to come home with them. She cried and sobbed, even he was in tears. I refused. It was not anger against them, I hope you believe me. It’s just that I had turned into a stone- cold, unresponsive and unapproachable.
My refusal annoyed them. She got upset and began ranting. She shouted and begged me by turns. It was so strange to watch. She, who had been so immovably firm, was turning to jelly right in front of my eyes. The more I refused, the angrier she got. She was beside herself with frenzy. He tried to placate her and to get her to quiet her down. It was like trying to hold a massive waterfall in a tumbler. Suddenly she broke all her inner dams and screamed, “But we paid her father, it is not our fault he was killed..!”
That was all. Her own words shocked her. She choked, her eyes flying to him. He looked petrified. Abruptly, they got up and left before I could say a word. They need not have bothered. I wouldn’t have said anything. I knew they were beyond salvage. I knew also I would never have to wonder about punishment or revenge. The hell I had seen blazing out of their eyes was retribution enough for me. What more was there to say..? They were Pishachas after all… confined to their own personal fires… eternally…
I don’t know why they panicked. Maybe they thought Anu would tell the world how she became blind. Maybe they couldn’t bear to see the evidence of their own evil whenever they opened their newspaper. You may say it is an assumption on my part. But reader, I looked into his eyes, I saw her panicked belligerence. This is not a figment of my imagination. It is the truth. They engineered Anu’s death as surely as if it was their hand that plunged in the knife in her body.
Do you imagine that I hated them, then or now..? If you do, let me hasten to assure you, I do not. I feel sorry for them. I wonder if they realize the burden they’ve taken on their souls. I wonder if they are aware of the set-back they’ve perpetrated upon themselves. I am sure they had no idea how many miles they had back-tracked in the journey of their soul’s evolution. It is like watching someone cut off an arm so that they can excite the pity of others when they go begging. Monstrous, isn’t it..? It is such a bad choice..! Surely a man can earn more, all limbs intact, than he can with one arm severed..? One feels sorry for the man who thinks so little of himself that he can take a misguided and blind decision of this kind. One sends up a prayer for such a man, shakes one’s head at the futility of such a life, and moves on. With my parents, that’s exactly what I did. I became absolutely indifferent to them. In a way, that was worse than hating them.
Isn’t it so strange that two people, who brought vision to thousands, stumbled so blindly through the journey of their own souls…? I wonder sometimes at God’s sense of justice. Tell me gentle reader, is there anything more ruthlessly fair than that..?
It took me a few weeks to rally myself again. Now, more than ever, I wanted that school to become a living, breathing reality. I couldn’t let evil have the last laugh, I REFUSED to let it win. I felt as if I would let Nani down, more than Anu. I couldn’t let my pain stop me and betray the good. What was it poet Robert Burns said with stoic wisdom…?
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley.
And so it was.
To be continued…
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