Once, in a land not so far away from the setting sun, lived a highly successful entrepreneur- Mr. Consumerism. A divorcee & a workaholic with two kids, Mr. Con. loved his children a lot. Marlboro and Motorola, the two apples of papa Con's eye were your regular teenage high-school rebels. Marlboro, the lean, lanky ,lad was the macho cowboy roughing it out with the guys at a game of soccer or hockey. The chalk to Marlboro's cheese was brother Motorola, the short ,stocky yuppie-in-the making who preferred dapper suits and expensive cars to other things.
With schools closed for summer, the two decided to take a trip to the mystic east. They booked their tickets to a land known as Bharatvarsha.
Sadhu Ram Prasad Tiwari was a bhakt of Lord Shiva. He had left home to attain enlightenment at the young age of 7, when he saw an image of Shivji in his dreams. The 'ditto, same-to-same foto' of his dream that he had seen at the local Bhang shop was seen as a divine message of sorts by the villagers who convinced Hari Prasad Tiwari to send his son to 'Psycho Baba' .The Baba was a well known god man in the region who would conduct weekly discourses on Aldous Huxley and the Bhagwad Gita. The huge gatherings of people who came from near and far to hear his words were once described as a “Psychotropic Mela” by ‘Lonely Planet for Dope heads’.
Ram Prasad's duties at the Anandmaya Ashram included cleaning the Jim Morrison poster in Guruji's room to gathering hemp leaves from the surrounding wilderness .When he turned 21, guruji sent his disciple out into the world to explore learn for himself for his days of learning at the ashram had ended.
"Go Son, Go...The Truth is out there" exhorted the Baba, oblivious of an American disciple overhearing the conversation...
...the disciple named Dave Duchovny would be soon on his way to America ..on his own search for the truth ,albeit of a different kind
So set forth RP ,wandering from village to village, town o town. Searching for truth ,wisdom and a lot of other words from the Oxford Pocket Dictionary that was Babaji's parting gift to him.
Months went by, wanderlust waned but uff!!... no sign of the ultimate truth.
He had reached, what is known in Ulimatruth parlance as, the 'Mid-Search Crisis'. He realized that he had lost direction and needed to get back on the right path as fast as possible. Sitting on the steps of the Ganda river ghats with such deep thoughts occupying his mind, his attention was suddenly brought to a Honeymoon couple who were sitting close by. The husband tossing those 5Rs.-a-packet fish-food atta pellets into the Ganda water to see the fishes play 'survival of the of the fittest'. The wife, with her head resting on Patideva's shoulders gazed emptily across the river ,all the while dreaming about how her married life was going to turn out..*Fridge-AC-Flat-2 kids-one boy one girl-public school-good husband for girl-son might become doctor...*
"Why do all gods always carry something in their hands ?" said the husband, interrupting her thoughts.
"What ???... Why do you want to know ?" she shot back ,staring hard at the Shiva statue across the river.
"No..was just curious...Shiva with a Damru...Vishnu with the Chakra..Brahma with the Rosary...even the Greek god Zeus has a scepter in one hand and Nike, the goddess of victory in the other"
"...ohh...thats where those shoes' name comes from...Hai Ram..how horrible..didn't the Greeks sue that company for putting their goddess' name on a piece of footwear..had they made a Lakshmi Hawai Chappal or a Saraswati Sandal, we would have taken them to court.."
"..ya..forget it...anyways, what do you want our son to be ?..Doctor or Engineer ?.."
"A Doctor would be fine...but iv heard Chartered Accountants earn quite a lot.."
..and so the topic shifted to their yet-to-born intelligent, hardworking, religious, dutiful, dollar-earning son, but somewhere, the weird question about Gods with their hands full stuck on...somewhere in the bottom-left part of RP's brain.
*Why do Gods always come with those handy accessories ??....surely they can carry a rucksac or a shoulder bag to keep the stuff in....would keep their hands free for other more important things...*
Trivial as it seemed, the problem persisted....soon it became sticky as fresh nose-pleghm on a schoolboy's hands..refusing to leave him...
So this chance overhearing of a piece of honeymooning curiosity came to be the signboard spelling the way out of RP's crisis and thus providing him with the much needed direction. The question had started to haunt RP day and night, no amount of meditation proved useful..discussions with other Sadhus inevitably led to superfluous answers, ego clashes and heated arguments that yielded nothing...that is ,until someone dropped the name of Ultimate Baba.
Like a panacea to all the problems plaguing the discussions , a distinct pattern emerged, progressing through chaos and disagreement and culminating in a consensus that the ultimate answer to the question coukd only be found with Ultimate Baba.
The hunt for Ulti Baba as he was known to followers, proved to be a brief affair. Not that RP hadn’t expected it to be , what with his widespread fame, ashrams all over the world, and links with the most bulimic models in the western world.
So, after a tiring journey to Pukepur ashram, he was put up in a bare kutiya with nothing but a charpoy and some beedi stubs inside.
"Babaji will meet you at 0730 hours tomorrow", said an Ashram help, bringing in the bedding for RP's charpoy.
Exhausted as he was after the long trip,RP decided to skip the dinner and hit the charpoy. Sleep came fast. Interruptions followed soon. He thought he had heard some people vomiting. He went back to sleep. He dreamt of his father's wedding ceremony where 12 guests had died of food-poisoning and an entire village admitted to hospital.
Waking up to find that he had overslept, RP hurriedly washed his face, changed his clothes and made it to the Baba's Durbar just in time.
Here he found, that he was just one of a multitude that had arrived at the durbar with their reasons for coming here as diverse as their backgrounds. Most, like RP came to seek answers to their problems. Villagers from far and wide came here to have their wailing infants blessed. Reporters and journalists from reputed magazines patiently waiting for material on a cover feature on the Baba.
Entry was on the basis of orange tokens that were actually Carrom Board strikers with numbers scrawled on them with marker pens. These were given to you after you filled in an entry in the register . The register that was full of illegible entries reflecting its perfunctory significance. "Purpose of Visit", one of the column heads said. RP looked down at the other entries for ideas on how to compress his Purpose of visit into a column 1.2 inches wide. Then, quite miffed with his stupidity, went ahead to write "official" on his column-just like the rest of the entries on that page. A sudden urge to get his Oxford Concise from his kutiya was quashed by the harsh sound of a bell that meant, the Durbar was about to be opened for the public.
After what seemed like ages, RP's turn came and he was ushered into a room redolent with chandan agarbatti smoke.
"Come in my child...don't be afraid"
"Tell me , what brings you here ?"
"Babaji, why do all gods carry something in their hands ??"
Babaji fixed his gaze onto a point on the wall behind RP.
On finding an answer.
"The Gods", said Ulti Baba after looking back into RP's eyes, "have their powers concentrated into these handy accessories, and ultimately it is these powers that separate them from mortals like us.Each of these handheld devices signify one power that the owner possesses."
Ram Prasad looked at Ulti with an expectant look, waiting for more enlightenment on the subject. But as is wont with great men, they speak no more than is required of them.
Thus came to an end the meeting that ended RamP's quest for enlightenment. But in the relay race of life, as one phase passes on the baton to the next, Ram decided to efface the line that separated man from God.
Having already identified that line, RP took the path taken by many a sage to achieve what is beyond the layman’s ken. In a cave in the deepest recesses of the Himcream mountains, he started his prayers to Lord Shiva.
0 Degrees looked on ..like a tennis match spectator, as mercury came in from one end ,ran to another and went back again,as if swinging on a giant pendulum.
Tearable Month Pages from calendars ended up as cones for chana-jor-garam.
New Years came, each bringing with it its own fresh predictions of Nostradamus and World War III and apocalypse..
..and RP prayed.
..prayed to Lord Shiva.
..prayed for his very own Hand Held Devices
..Handy Devices which would make him God of Small Things
..Devices which would give him the power to conquer this world.
Then one day, impressed with RP's devotion, Lord Shiva Appeared.
"RamPrasad, I am pleased with your efforts. I can grant you one wish. Ask whatever you wish for."
"Bhagwan...I want to be like the powerful gods and have handy power tools of my own"
"But child...do you really think that it is so easy for mortals to enjoy godly privileges ?"
"but Bhagwan...I'm ready for any sacrifice that it would take "
"If that be the case then I will have to test your patience"
"I'm ready for the test"
"Then you will have to wait here for as long as it takes for your wish to come true"
"You will have to lose your earthly form until your wish comes true"
"What powers do wish to have in your portfolio ?"
"Communication and Destruction"
Lord Shiva smiled and raised his hand towards RP. From the lord's hand came a flash of lightning and a smoke cloud appeared from nowhere. When the cloud disappeared, Shiva was already gone and where RP had stood, a lake had appeared, of water so blue that the sky suddenly looked faded in contrast. Faded ....like Marlboro's blue jeans.
The M&M brothers had come to Bharatvarsha for the first time. Backpacks stuffed, they traveled to the remote recesses of the Himcream Mountains. Undertaking arduous treks with their guide ‘Bisht’, they would often camp by the banks of a rivulet or near a lake. But this day was different. Bisht had told them that on this day's trek they would be passing a beautiful but haunted lake called Raptaal. The legend, as it went, was that the lake had suddenly appeared out of nowhere some years back and that its waters were so holy that even drinking them was forbidden.
Intrigued by the mystery surrounding the water body and fascinated by Bisht's description of the lake's unparalleled beauty both brothers eagerly awaited their visit to the lake.
The moment arrived.
"Isn't it beautiful ?"
"PARADISO...this is it."
"Lets go near it"
"No Sir, it is not allowed, there is said to be a curse attached to this lake."
"C'mon Bisht, do you really believe all that mumbo-jumbo ? I mean gimme a break... a man's gotta be nuts if he comes so far and doesn't have a drink from these pure waters."
Before Bisht could think up anything that would make them stop, the brothers turned around and walked towards the lake. He decided to keep sitting on the rock that was a short distance from the edge of the lake.
"I'll be sitting here sir, if you need anything just call.." he shouted to them.
Resting on the rock, Bisht took a drink from his water bottle and started to think about his life and how at 24, this was the right time to marry. He hadn't been able to sleep well for some time with marital insecurities gnawing at him. Dreaming about a perfect partner, he fell asleep on that rock.
The guide slept for an hour and a half, before a lost red ant decided to explore that amphitheater of hearing popularly referred to as the human ear. Waking up with a start, Bisht found himself in the midst of a whiteout. The descent of clouds, although a common sight in the hills was something unusual for this area as Bisht had never seen this happening before.
"HEllooo Sir-log...where are you ?.... Malbo.…Moto…."he shouted as he ran towards the lake.
Carefully finding his way to the edge of the lake, Bisht soon found out that there was no lake and no edge.
Through the fog, he could make out the figure of a saffron-clad sadhu holding something to his ear with his right hand. The stance reminding him of the cricket crazy city people he had seen carrying pocket transistors with them. Between the fingers of his left hand, the sadhu had a small white stick that glowed on one end. A faint wisp of smoke emanated from it, disappearing quickly into the cloud that enveloped the two men.
"Yes Ma...I'm coming home..Gimme the Railway enquiry number....ok SMS it to me..." were the last words that Bisht could catch before the figure disappeared into cotton-air.