I was sitting near the Somnath temple. Something about any place of reverence the peace that suffuses is indescribable. I am a devout Hindu and devout bhakt of Shivjee. It was late in the night. I was sitting on a small bench near the temple the people go by. Mostly they were beggars, sadhus and people like me visiting and praying.
I could hear the sea in the background and I was praying in my mind. I firmly believe that God is our ultimate destination and I felt doubly blessed that I was in the divine presence of Shivjee.
Feeling hungry I went in search of place to eat. Some how my stomach could not agree to the idea of food. I picked up a couple of ice-creams to take it for my mom and her friend. I had come with them to visit Somnath temple. I ate my ice-cream. The one for my mother was already melting and feeling too lazy to go to the hotel my mom was staying. I looked around to give the ice cream to someone.
I saw a Sadhu with a monkey. I called him. Very snootily he refused to take the ice cream.
I watched the ice cream slowly melting in my hand.
I thought of life. I was grateful to God for what he had given me and yet, maybe I wanted more. I knew in my hearts of hearts that whatever I had wanted I had got and what ever I had not got was because it was better for me in the long run. But that never refrained me from asking for more. I know I am shameless but then whom else to ask for.
My reverie was broken by a soft voice "Excuse me can I have that ice-cream."
I looked around. There was a crippled Sadhu standing near me asking for the melting ice cream. I immediately gave it to him. Something about the post colonial Indians that we get so impressed by impeccable English. And here was a Sadhu, a beggar actually speaking such English.
"I am very hungry and I hope you do not mind."
I looked at him. I saw a thin frail man .I could not make out his age. Something about the face of poverty, it makes everyone look so same. He was wearing a faded saffron kurta and lungi. His hair was all matted and he was carrying a jhola and he was walking on crutches.
He said he had come to Somnath Mandir that evening. Though there was a place where they fed these poor Sadhus but he was dying to eat something sweet and he had seen me offering that ice cream.
He seemed to be enjoying the ice cream.
He smiled a sweet smile and said thank you in the most perfect accent. He did not seem embarrassed or shy. He was willing to hang around and chat. I looked at him and asked him, "you seem so educated why did you become a Sadhu."
He laughed and said "nothing really earth shaking like discovery of myself or oneness with God but a necessity. It is the most lucrative and most satisfying profession."
How come," I asked him."
"I was injured in a car accident."
He pointed to his crutches and said, "I still cannot walk without these crutches."
"I was working in a big company but all those operations cost a lot of money. My company paid me compensation, the accident tribunal paid me money but that was not enough for me. I had a wife a child to support. My wife is a teacher and we all lived so frugally and my medicines cost a lot of money. We had fights every day. My wife was so irritated. One day I upped and just left. I was desperately unhappy. I missed her, I missed my child, but sitting in front of a temple used to give me solace. And I joined some sadhus. We were nomads. We never stay at a place for more than a week. But now I am on my own."
"Did she never try to find you," I asked?
He laughed a sad laugh and said, "I do not think so."
"But she must have complained to the police."
"I had left a note that I am becoming a Sadhu. Any way it has been over three years and I am sure she has got on with her life."
"Do you want any money," I asked him?
"You will not believe it but being with God, I really do not feel the need to harbor any kind of worldly goods or money. You know since I have been leading this nomadic existence, whatever I want I get immediately. Like today the food we got at the temple was good but there were no sweets and I wanted to eat sweets. And there you were offering your ice cream. I did not become a sadhu to discover myself but because I was fed up. And now I feel why did I not do this long ago. I have no desires and I am happier than I can ever remember. Maybe when I saw the face of my newborn son my happiness was indescribable but now my happiness is not indescribable but there is peace and joy."
It was getting late and time for me to get back to the hotel. I knew my mom and her friend would get worried.
"Can I know where you lived before you became a sadhu," I asked him?
I was surprised when he named the town because that is where I lived.
"Can I meet your wife and tell her you are okay"
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "There is no point, what is the point of raking what is over."
But I persisted and finally he gave me his address. The next day I did not see him when we were leaving Somnath. I tried to make a couple of hurried enquiries but no body knew what I was talking about or whom I was talking about. I had reached home.
One day I took courage and went to find the house where the Sadhu used to live. It was a very tiny house. On the gate was a woman heavily pregnant and a small boy played nearby. Do you know this person I asked her as I named the Sadhu. She looked at me straight in the eye.
"He died in a car accident four years back. He was my husband and as you can see I am remarried", and she banged the gate and went inside the house. I was amazed at her lack of curiosity and interest. I wondered too if she was lying or I had seen an apparition. The ghost, who had not found peace at home, looked forward to finding peace at places of worship.