Mar 28, 2023
Mar 28, 2023
by BS Murthy
Continued from “Domain of the Devil”
Chapter 4 Book Two – ‘Dharma and Moksha’ of Jewel-less Crown: Saga of Life
Stirred by Subba Rau’s intellectualism, Suresh pondered over his right to live after having snuffed out Shanti's life.
‘What does my killing her really mean?’ he thought. ‘By ending her life what I deprived her were the possibilities of life. Oh, the poor thing, what dreams she might have had and what life would have offered her! How happy she would have made her man and their children! Who knows what difference she would have made to the people around her? Why wouldn’t she have enriched the society at large and contributed to the world even? But my senseless act ruined all that, didn’t it? And being featured here what does life hold for me either? If only I were hanged, I wouldn’t have to endure all these despairs of denial. She is dead and gone, and as they say, the dead have no problems, but my crime has made me a lifeless corpse! Wouldn’t it be burdensome living in the denial mode? It serves me right for depriving the possibilities of her life!’
‘What about all these who are locked up here?’ he began to wonder. ‘What possibilities of life do they really have behind the bars? Don’t they realize that by slaying whom they hated, they compromised their own life forever? But, isn’t revenge a mad emotion, and murder its negative outcome? How naïve it is to imagine that the threat of the gallows would deter one to resort to murdering! It is man’s negative mindset that makes him go after someone’s throat. In his mad rage, would man ever envision the noose around his own neck? Having avenged himself, possibly, he wouldn’t even care if he were hanged then and there. If only one realizes that by killing the other, he was burying the possibilities of his own life, won't the sense of self-preservation obliterate the urge for revenge? And the law, instead of stressing upon the dangling by the rope, would serve well by highlighting the despairing aspects of life behind bars. Then, wouldn’t it be a case of saving a life to save lives?’
It too dawned on him that since the possibilities of his life were within Tihar, he should be alive to the reality of it all. With the appreciation of the situation of his life thus, he began to see what possibilities it held for him. And as the empathy he developed for the fellow prisoners gave him a new insight about himself, he found solace in helping the troubled. Thus, as he tried to make life easy for others, he was relieved of his own pain as well.
Soon it occurred to him that it took more than sympathy to solace the troubled when the anxieties were monitory. Ironically, it was the immense wealth that the father accumulated to his own grief that came in handy in his son’s endeavor to help the hapless. Realizing that the kith of the violators were as much the victims as the kin of their victims, he began to assist the needy from the crime divide. Espying the signs of relief in the visages of the beneficiaries, he felt that their easy breaths might soothe his mother’s troubled soul. What's more, the progress reports he regularly sent to Vanaprastham about his own crusade at Tihar insensibly lightened Gautam’s burden of guilt by degrees. And the messages of peace he received from his father, in turn, gladdened Suresh’s ethos no end.
But, the thought of atrocities against women continued to weigh upon his consciousness. Privy to the pains of rape, women became the Achilles’ heel of his tranquility. Applying his mind he reckoned that woman were more susceptible to molestation within her home than to her rape without. And he racked his brains to help those thus threatened in precincts of their own dwellings. Besides psychological guidance and emotional support, he realized that these hapless women needed legal help to fight for justice. Thus, he thought of a home for women in distress and wrote to his father to build one under the auspices of Vanaprastham.
As Sripada Swami gave his blessings to the novel venture, Gautam took it upon himself to fulfill his son’s wish. In time, the progress of the works at Annavaram became the focus of Suresh’s attention in Tihar. Having been enthused by his son’s obsession to his project, Gautam doubled up his effort to hasten its completion. Besides, he posted the pictures of the work-in-progress to his son to enable him to visualize his dream in the making. Soon, Suresh began craving to meet his father to express his gratitude in person, but Gautam didn’t relent from his vow never to set foot in Delhi again.
When Suresh received the news clippings from the regional press about the inauguration of Shanti Sadan by Sripada Swami, he had a feeling of reprieve from his sense guilt. Meanwhile, his zest for life and zeal to be of help to the needy was not lost on Rakesh Tiwari and the other warders. Convinced about his boundless potential to contribute to the society as a free man, they made it their mission to earn him an early remission. Thus, it was only time before they succeeded and Suresh was all set to leave Tihar.
That noon when the sun on Lutyen’s Delhi’s skies was at its zenith, Suresh was led out of Tihar that destiny had made it his home for seven youthful years. And he stepped out of the imposing gates to explore life as a free soul in the same world where he had failed before. But he couldn’t help staring at Tihar’s facade as though to grasp the reality of his release. As he set out to walk into the waiting Ambassador, he felt as though the burden of freedom bogged him down. When he got into the back seat, he felt as if he were sinking into the upholstery. When the car moved towards Misty Nest, he lowered the panes as though to remove the barrier. And inclined as he was to savor the sight of freedom, he asked the chauffeur to slow down. In time, the change in Delhi’s skyline made him feel alien in the city of his origin.
The sight of pretty women on the way troubled him all the way. It dawned upon him that the prospect of not finding a bride would confound him no end. Why should any girl, privy to his past, ever consent to marry him? What if some parents with an eye on his wealth were to brainwash their daughter into marrying him? Won’t that lead to an uneasy embrace to her and a cold kind of nuptial for him? How constricted could be life inhibited by his past? Would he ever come across a dame who would accept him for what he was? Oh, how his life seemed to hinge upon this chance occurrence! What else could he do than daydream of his dame! Of what avail would his freedom be without a loving wife in life? But would he be able to engage a woman with his benumbed mind? Oh, why didn’t he think about it before?
Before he got an answer, he was at the gates of the Misty Nest. As the thoughts of the past returned to the fore, he could think no more of his future. Thus, he got out of the Ambassador as though to cross the threshold. To the silent welcome of his father’s trusted men and his mother's clan who came to see him, he responded with wetted his eyes. But, his gesture of bowing before the bungalow, treating it as his mother’s mandir, brought tears to the indulgent gathering. When he perambulated the dwelling taking her room as sanctum sanctorum, all followed him in equal reverence. But as he ventured into his mother's hallowed quarters, others held back to afford him the privacy of the momentous occasion.
Entering Sneha's room languidly, he prostrated before her revered painting as he would before a deity and, with damp eyes, he was lost in prayer for her troubled soul. And, touching the frame at her feet, he vowed to fulfill her last wish to uphold the cause of her sacrifice. Even as the maternal memory triggered his filial impulses, he was impelled to reach his father forthwith. But on second thoughts, he felt it was easier to feel easy before his mother's portrait than in his father's presence. So he decided to go by train than catch the flight to reach his father.
After informing his father by wire about his changed itinerary, with a sling bag for his baggage, he got into a packed unreserved bogie of Dakshin Express that day. Finding the place brimming with life, in spite of the inconveniences, he saw the power of hope when man was free. Noticing that a young woman on the platform glanced endearingly at him, he thought she might scorn him if she came to know of his crime.
After two days of arduous journey, made light by the thrill of newfound freedom, he reached Annavaram by bus but not before changing trains en route. As he neared the town he sighted the hilltop temple of Satyanarayana Swami and felt as if his weariness was on the wane. Alighting from the bus at the temple steps, he hired a rickshaw to take him to Vanaprastham all the way eyeing the temple. But, once he reached the ashram, dotted with the thatched huts, his eyes longed to espy his father. When he revealed his identity to the first comer, he was led to his father, whom all revered there as guruji.
Entering that parnasala, Suresh saw his father in his resplendent beard. Gazing at him with a sense of affection, he felt that his father looked every inch a venerable guruji. Thus overawed by his father's aura and pushed by his own emotion, Suresh fell at Gautam's feet. And a gratified Gautam found himself crying over his son’s head even as Suresh began washing his father’s feet with his tears. But the father, wanting to size up his son as a man, readily helped him to his feet. Soon, propelled by his admiration for his son's persona, Gautam took Suresh into his arms, but finding his eyes welled up with tears still, he stroked his lad's head for mutual solace and as if to celebrate their reunion in unison, he too began shedding tears of joy in profusion. Thus, as they both felt their emotions were at conversation, they did not attempt to utter a word for fear of distraction.
When they were lost still in satiating their emotional appetite, Sripada Swami walked in, and in a gesture that none had visualized, he hugged Gautam's prodigal son. What was more, the swamiji kissed Suresh’s forehead and that surprised the onlookers even more. Beholden, father and son prostrated at the swamiji’s feet and washed them afresh with the tears of their souls. Urging them to their feet, the swamiji said that Vanaprastham was blessed by the presence of two blessed souls in them.
By the time the call came for the community lunch, the swamiji was closeted with Gautam and Suresh for long. Thereafter, in an unprecedented gesture, holding them both, the swamiji led them into the dining hall creating a sensation in the ashram. Before the ashramites could gather their wits, the swamiji stupefied them all by asking Suresh to sit beside him. Sizing the import of the moment, Gautam took to serving the swamiji and his blessed son. It was a moment that feasted the eyes of the ashramites and the visitors alike. When Suresh took his turn to serve his father, the swamiji invoked that his hands be forever blessed to serve humanity at large. That poignant moment, all agreed, would be etched in their memory for posterity. And that cherished day at the ashram became folklore in time.
Later, serene with a sense of spirituality that he never before experienced, Suresh went into a siesta. When he woke up, eager to go to Shanti Sadan he reached his father's parnasala to take leave of him. Finding him engaged in conversation with a young woman, a hesitant Suresh stood at the entrance. When Gautam gestured him to enter, the woman instinctively turned her gaze towards Suresh at the entrance. As their eyes met, they instantly sparkled with mutual attraction.
When Gautam introduced her as Vidya Rao, the woman in-charge of Shanti Sadan, Suresh was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude as well. As he thanked her for her dedication to his cause, she told him that she owed him more for being a beneficiary of his vision. In time, seeing Suresh’s impatience, the guruji asked Vidya to show his son how his dream had turned into reality in Shanti Sadan. But Vidya suggested to Suresh that they might stay on to hear the guruji’s discourse that swamiji himself was wont to attend. She further said to a proud Suresh that people flocked to Vanaprastham to hear guruji’s talks that the swamiji hailed as the gems of Hindutva.
At that, an overwhelmed Suresh touched his father’s feet impulsively, and said he was blessed to be his son. In time, having heard his father with rapt attention, the son realized why so many thought hearing his discourse was like waking into the dawn of enlightenment. At the end of the discourse, as Suresh went to fetch his handbag, Vidya waited for him in contemplation. By then, Annavaram’s horizon had turned orange.
More by : BS Murthy