Chapter 17 - A Visit to The Jalonee Monastery

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 17

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Judy and Heather spent a lot of time dressing up for the occasion. The housekeeper helped Judy drape her thuli around her. She also helped Heather tie her sarong securely around her waist.

The housekeeper had a suggestion for Heather. ‘Why don’t you tie a belt around your waist so that your sarong does not fall off?’ she suggested.

Judy thought that it was a brilliant idea and decided to follow it herself. It horrified the housekeeper. ‘But you are a big woman. If people see the belt, it no look good.’

‘That’s fine. I’ll take care not to lift up my arms or wave them around,’ Judy gaily told the housekeeper. The doree came to a few inches below the navel, while the sarong was tied just above the navel. Unless they lifted their hands, the belts would remain invisible.

Mash wore a pure white cotton kiree for the occasion. Mash had briefly considered teaching Heather the Akbar Eenum, but then abandoned the idea. Heather knew just a smattering of Keenda and it was too much to expect her to learn the Akbar Eenum. The Akbar Eenum, a reiteration of faith in Guardian Akbar and the basic tenets of Deelahee, is the most basic of Deelahee prayers and all Deelahees learn it when young. The programme at the Jalonee monastery was bound to include prayers – after all, they were ostensibly going to the monastery to pray and seek blessings.

It was just a week ago that Horan suggested that Mash take Judy and Heather with him when he visited the Jalonee monastery. The Jalonee monastery, which fifty miles from Hepara, was at the precise location where the ship carrying Wasim Khan and the rest of the fugitives from Moghul India had landed. It was the most famous of all Deelahee monasteries and its Chief Sage was one of the most reputed Sages in the whole of Tawa. A visit to the Jeelonee monastery by Mash was always on the agenda. He had already visited a couple of monasteries on his own. While touring the Central Hill District, he had visited a sacred hillock venerated by the Seedas. But with just three more weeks to go for the elections, Horan and other TFP members felt that the TFP would gain a few brownie points if Mash and his family visited the Jeelonee monastery. Also, in order to make sure that they did not appear to be biased in favour of the Keendas, Mash was to take his family to a sacred grove of Konan trees much revered by the Seedas the next day.

Judy was not too keen on exposing Heather to the media or getting her involved in the campaigning. But if it helped Mash win his election, then why not? Even at home, politicians did parade their families in front of cameras, didn’t they? Also, it wasn’t as if Judy had no clue about Deelahee. After her parent’s marriage started to break up, her father began attending Deelahee prayer meetings organised by the Tawan community in London. He had taken her along a few times before her mother kicked up a ruckus and prevented her from going. Judy had a vague memory of lots of incense sticks and flowers being kept in front of the portrait of a man. Her father had taught her the Akbar Eenum when she was young. She had forgotten it due to lack of use, but it was not a very lengthy prayer and Judy only had to read it a few times to remember it. It was quite funny the things one had to do to win an election. Given a choice, Judy would have stayed in Watford and continued to teach at the grammar school there.

The Jeelonee monastery was located on a cliff overlooking the sea. When they got there, the tide was in and spray from the waves which crashed against the cliff was carried into the monastery’s compound by the wind. The TFP had invited the press to hang around when Mash and his family offered prayers at the monastery. A reporter and cameraman from Beemava, the government run TV channel, were also waiting for them to arrive. As soon as Mash, Judy and Heather got off their car, they were surrounded by a swarm of press photographers. They got off the car and slowly walked to the monastery, accompanied by the flash of light bulbs. They were met at the entrance to the monastery by the Chief Sage and a few other Sages who looked very austere in their white robes. 

Mash bowed to the Chief Sage. Judy and Heather followed suit.

‘Alakom Maheshdas-raan,’ the Chief Sage said. ‘Blessings in the name of Guardian Akbar.’

‘Alakom Akbarmani-raan,’ Mash returned the greeting. All Sages were considered to be agents of the Guardian and hence were addressed as Akbarmani.

‘Please come,’ the Chief Sage led them through a corridor to a large hall, which in turn led to another hall and yet another. The monastery was built of stone and had very high ceilings. There were no paintings or drawings on the walls. However, prayers and teachings of the Guardian and various Guides were inscribed on the walls in Keenda.  People sat on the floor, scattered all across the prayer halls, their eyes closed in meditation. Since Deelahee believed that Akbar was only a Guardian and not God, there were no depictions or pictures of Akbar anywhere in the monastery. Finally, they reached the main prayer hall which held a number of white robed Sages.

‘Shall we pray to the Guardian?’ the Chief Sage asked.

Mash nodded. They all sat down on the floor; their legs folded under them. Judy found it difficult to sit down with her legs folded. After a few seconds, she stretched out her legs. The Chief Sage ignored her and started to recite the Akbar Eenum. Mash and the other Sages joined him. Judy too mumbled the prayer. They soon moved to other prayers. Mash knew some of them. Judy remained silent. After ten minutes of praying, the Chief Sage stopped. They all got up.

‘Why don’t you stay here and pray for as long as you want?’ he told Mash. ‘I wish I could spend more time with you, but I need to carry on and finish off my chores for the day.’

‘Thank you so much for welcoming us and spending time with us Akbarmani-raan,’ Mash told him.

‘If you were to go to that hall over there, you will find many teachings of the great Maheshdas-raan on the walls. If you do not know the prayers, you could read them from the walls. Can your wife and children read Keenda?’ he asked Mash.

‘No Akbarmani-raan. Unfortunately, they do not,’ Mash conceded.

‘So they can’t really say our prayers, can they?’

‘My wife Judee can.’

‘Your daughter cannot?’

For a second Mash wondered if he ought to claim that Heather could pray in English. The Tawan community in London did have a prayer book in English for the benefit of children who grew up there. As long as his mother was alive, he had attended monthly prayer meetings and had seen the English prayer book being used by some of the children who had grown up in the UK. But then he decided not to lie to the Chief Sage, who might call his bluff and make things look even worse.

‘No Akbarmani-raan, she cannot,’ Mash admitted.

‘Well, you ought to teach her. If you are going to rule this country, your wife and daughter ought to be able to speak in our language and say our prayers, shouldn’t they?’

‘Yes Akbarmani-raan, they should,’ Mash told the Chief Sage with all the humility that he could muster. 

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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