Bhagwan Vishnu was in a positively foul mood. Even before setting his divine gaze on this strange celestial being, who claimed to be his chief informer Narada, the whole Baikunth Lok seemed to have turned upside down. Ever since he had woken up, he had found nothing but trouble. The problem started as soon as he opened his eyes. Mahadevi Luxmi was no where to be seen. As far as he could recall, whenever he had opened his eyes, he expected her to be patiently waiting by his side with a jewel encrusted flute of Somras in her fair hand. But today, instead a mere Gandharv boy informed him perfunctorily that Mahadevi was busy interacting with some of her Prithvilok bhaktaa on something called Skype. “A mere Gandharv boy informing me, not even an Apsara, how rude,” grumbled Bhagwan Vishnu. “You can Tweet her,” the Gandharv boy had suggested politely.
Before a confused Vishnu ji could ask him about this “Skype” and “tweet” business, another Gandharv boy (“oh for crying out loud, have all Apsaras been abducted by Asuras?” a disquietening thought crossed Vishnu ji’s mind), approached him apprehensively and informed in halting Sanskrit that Kshirsagar, the ever pure sea of blissful milk and rice concoction, surrounding the heavenly abode of Bhagwan ji, actually is now full of something which resembles milk but is in fact what they call synthetic milk. It seemed that Devaraj Indra had been doing this surreptiously for some time while Bhagwan Vishnu had been asleep. “Kuch Kariye urgently”, the Gandharv had implored him in a strange language (which Bhagwan’s aides would identify as Hinglish on later transcript analysis).
(Author’s note: I am sure that my knowledgeable readers will recall that Bhagwan Vishnu ji’s one nap is worth several thousand years of us mortal human beings. Also since there is no day or night in Baikunth Lok, so all Vishnu ji does is to take periodic naps in between his various engagements like drinking some Somras and then drinking some more Somras. As a result his circadian rhythm never got a chance to develop. Also since last Dev-Asur war he has not taken up any other new hobby, so napping is all he has been doing lately. Another issue I would like to clarify to my esteemed audience is that since Right to Information Act has not yet been extended to Baikunth Lok, many details of his personal and official life are quite hazy to me and other details are positively opaque, so please pardon many gaps and errors in my mostly fact based narrative).
So presently, an in and out disgusted Vishnu ji turned his attention again to this strange being who claimed himself to be sage Narada. His pate of course was still shaved clean. However that probably was only thing left of from Narada of past. His face sported a tuft of hair under his chin, which he stroked lovingly and referred to as his ‘soul patch”. He was not attired in his usual saffron dhoti, nor had he his famous veena in his hand. Instead his dhoti has been replaced by what he referred to as Bermudas, instead of his wooden kharaon, he had smart Nike loafers. His veena was nowhere to be seen, instead he had been fidgeting with something called iPod with wires sticking to his ears, on which he claimed to be listening to Vishnu Chalisa. And surely he held this shiny white rectangular object with a half bitten apple sign with such reverence like his whole life was dependent on it. Most annoying was his mannerism though. Instead of sticking to his usual Narayan-Narayan, he insisted on referring Bhagwan ji as “Yo Bro”.
Any way, controlling his increasing anger and taking the initiative, Vishnu ji asked him politely “O celestial being, you claim yourself to be Narada. If that is true, O all knowing celestial being, where thou you had been. Did you go to Prithvilok? Did you visit my beloved Bharatvarsh? Are people there doing their Sandhya and Hom regularly? Are they doing their prescribed duties to their capacity? Are they following their Dharma? Tell me everything. I am waiting eagerly”.
All eyes in the hall were now riveted to this person who claimed to be Narada. He took a bow with great flourish and started “Yo Bro, I know how eagerly you must have been waiting for news. You don’t seem to be having a landline internet connection, leave alone 4 G. I would have taken you to a virtual tour, any way I will improvise and give you a PowerPoint show (actually it is a Keynote show)”. Saying so he flipped open his shiny white rectangle which he had referred to as I-pad.
“O Preserver of whole universe, since you are so eager to know about your Bharatvarsh, let me give you a power point presentation about your beloved place, which people prefer to call India these days. O Visvam Visnur (Supreme personality), let us see together, what reality is and where Bharatvarsh is heading to”.
As on que, at this point the cavernous room darkened and a giant screen appeared on one end and the first image was a collage. It showed tall skyscrapers, shiny cars , majestic airports, soaring rockets, people filling the malls, leaders congratulating each other on the good work they have done, workers working happily in factories etc. etc.
Narada’s deep sonorous voice provided the background commentary, “O Vasatkar (Who worshipped in all Vedic sacrifices), O Bhutabhavyabhavat Prabhu ( Supreme controller of all phases of time), since I see in you a deep desire to know the well being of your bhaktaa, let me tell you the truth and truth only. My external appearance may have changed but inside I still remain the voice of conscience. I may not speak sweet but I speak the truth. Much has changed in the land which is so dear to your heart. In fact the whole Bharatvarsh has turned upside down. Let me start from the top”.
The image on the screen changed to what appeared to be a person in turban. However he was dwarfed by another lady like figure who hovered like a colossal in the background.
“O Bhuta Krt, O Bhuta Bhrt (who creates and maintains all cosmic creations), you will be appalled to know that the land today is governed by rulers who are hidden from the public eye. They are neither elected directly nor are they answerable to the ordinary people. The puppet rulers are totally cut off from people on the street. The feeling in the street is that they listens to and are answerable to vested interests only. So a person who is fit to be an advisor only has now become the ruler and real rulers call themselves advisors. In the process nobody is answerable to anybody else. Loss of accountability of the rulers to the people is the biggest calamity”.
Next picture was of an army general. Narada continued, “O Bhutabhavna (Supreme wellwisher), the Senapati, whom they refer to as General now, is behaving more like a politician, with intrigues all around him, throwing discipline away, hobnobbing with media like a sulking child. Many people think he is planning to become a full time politician once he retires. Minister of Defense on the other hand is behaving like a soldier, hiding from media, being secretive and claiming that he is bound by the discipline. The laymen are behaving like they know all about defense matters and real security experts want to keep their mouth shut. O Bhava (Master of all spiritual and material potencies) country today has more to fear from inside than outside”.
Now an image of a person who looked like a corporate honcho addressing a hall full of students came on the screen, juxtaposed to this picture was a big hoarding of a coaching center assuring entrance into prestigious institutes.
“O Bhutatma (Supremely Pure)”, Narada continued, “There is role reversal everywhere. Business people are educating students and teachers are behaving like businessmen. If you have money you can buy the best of education. Worse you can push any trash labeled as true knowledge down the throats of gullible people. Students these days learn about only what sells in the market and how to sell it, irrespective of their innate talent or liking. Education these days can provide you everything but enlightenment. Humanistic qualities are neither taught nor encouraged; instead money making is the ultimate goal of education and this concept is sold in the garb of various degrees and diplomas. O Aksara (Infallible), a land where teachers once were revered more than Kings, now they have been reduced to mere knowledge traders but we keep on referring them as teachers”.
Narada paused for a minute and took a sip out of his Bisleri bottle. “O Paramatma (Supreme Soul), next slideshow is even more hilarious.” Now there was a sequence of images on the screen showing various saints and babas and holy people, as evidenced by their saffron or red or yellow robes, big flowing beards and all external signs of piety. But strangely all of them were either seen travelling in luxury cars or sitting in posh air-conditioned offices. Some were seen hobnobbing with politicians, some were seen making speeches full of political agendas, some were counting heaps of money, and some actually had gold bars stacked right next to their sleeping quarters. Some were even seen in objectionable postures with members of the opposite sex.
“O Muktam Param Gatih (Ultimate goal of Liberated souls), holy people are doing most unholy things. They are behaving like businessmen, politicians, louts, on occasion even as actors, appearing in third grade reality shows. Their acts are as worse as criminals. So vast majority of holy people of your beloved land are anything but spiritual. A society which relied on ascetics for moral and spiritual guidance now has these people as their guides. Some of these people themselves are not corrupt and may want to do something good, but their platform is hijacked by vested interests. These social workers claim that all politicians need to be shot at the first opportunity but next day they want to become politicians themselves. So confused masses are being led by even more confused people.”
Next slides were full of many beautiful ladies. Narada’s voice also became extra melodious, “O Avyayah (Eternal), the females of this land are even more confused. Marital discords and divorces are common place, reflecting inner turmoil and clash of values. Distinction between right and wrong is blurred. House wives are acting like street girls. Actresses are behaving like social workers and ironically many of these social workers are actually anti-social workers. Mothers, who are supposed to prepare a strong and wise future generation, actually are putting all the wrong ideas in their mind. Superstition, lethargy, disregard of elders, envy, lustfulness, these are the defining characteristics of so called middle class these days. Piousness, contentment, educating children about their traditions, hard work, and these traits are now looked down upon in India.”
“O Purusha (Supreme person), condition of young people is even more deplorable. As I showed you earlier, youth today is totally confused. Real education is not available to them. All top positions are reserved for the scions of oligarchies, be it business, politics, entertainment or literature. Disease of reservation is ruining both the reserved and unreserved categories alike. O Narsimha-Vapu (Half lion- half man slayer of Hrinyakshipu), powerful young characters like Dhruva, Nachiketa, Prahalad, Bharata, Abhimanyu, Guru Gobind Singh are found in comic books only”.
O Sriman (Best of Men), I saved the saga of men of Bharatvarsh for the end. The so called ordinary people now are behaving in most extraordinary way. They want best leaders but do not want to take the trouble of finding or nurturing or voting for them. They want best of the administrative, legislative and judicial systems. They want them to be free of corruption and nepotism, based on meritocracy but they themselves indulge in these activities all the time. A so called ordinary person of India, who says that he is free of bias on the basis of caste, sex, color, social strata etc is either telling a lie or is in no position to exert any of these influences. Men are full of hypocrisy, claiming to venerate women, elderly and downtrodden but lose no chance to exploit or demean weaker people. O Kesava (father of Brahma and Shiva), my conclusion is they are getting what they deserve.
“Stop, Stop here O Narada”, Bhagwan Vishnu anguished voice filled the still darkened room. However a divine light soon started to fill the space. Bhagwan Vishnu was seen with his lotus eyes closed and his brow knotted in deep thought. His ever peaceful composure seemed to be a little ruffled. He seemed to have gone into a deep reverie. There was pin drop silence in the room. After what seemed like an eternity he opened his eyes again, however this time he seemed calm and composed again. People noticed that Devi Mahalakshmi had once again assumed her rightful spot on his left. The Chakra which was previously trying to spin weakly had once again resumed its whirring with all its might. His majestic mace was shining with the brilliance of hundred suns. It seemed that Kshirsagar was again being filled with nectar as its heavenly scent lifted the spirits immediately. When Lord Vishnu spoke, his deep voice seemed to resonate throughout the universe.
“O Narada, I am now convinced that you indeed are our old celestial sage, as nobody else has the audacity of saying such words to me. These are harsh words but I know these are true. You have indeed given us all a glimpse into the reality. The Bharatvarsh you have portrayed so well seems to be going through a dark phase and future looks even darker”.
“I did my duty O Purushottama (Supreme Person)”, Narada bowed his head deeply. He too had transformed into his old self.
“However”, continued Bhagwan Vishnu in his somber voice, “Let me remind you that nothing in this world is for ever. Good or bad, everything has to come to an end. The cycle of Kala leaves nothing untouched. The present may be dreadful and immediate future may look even horrible, but remember this will come to pass too”.
Narada still seemed a little perturbed. “O Prabhu (Supreme spiritual Master),” he started with folded hands, “There must be a way out of this rigmarole for your true believers. There number is decreasing day by day by sheer hopelessness.”
“Do not loose hope, O Narada”, Shri Vishnu consoled him with true empathy. “As the preserver of life, I know that the only puja mankind is supposed to do in Kalikaal, is to do their prescribed duties to the best of their abilities. Other things will take care of themselves. In Kalikaal, Karma actually becomes real Dharma. If my true Bhaktaa remain steadfast in their faith, stay away from hypocritical behavior, try to do as much good as they can, they will definitely change their own microcosm. They should not expect from others what they do not want to practice themselves. All true revolutions start from within. Don’t try to change the world with slogans, whether against corruption or exploitation. Look within and you will find the answer, in essence you will find me”.
“Tirath, Tirath!!! Are you napping again?” somebody was shaking my shoulder rather violently. I woke up with a start and found much to my embarrassment that I had dozed off again in the middle of this important meeting. I mumbled some excuse and saved the situation somehow, however in my heart I promised myself that I will be trying to do the best of my abilities from now on, on all occasions and every time.