Friday, December 07, 2012

The Plunge - A Short Story

The Plunge

It took a couple of days to reach Cape Camorin. It was a long and tiring walk but the exhaustion gave a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. The sights and sounds of the southern tip of India where the three seas lashed against each other mesmerized me. It was like a vividly beautiful dream. But yet the sheer sensuality of it was not enough to prevent my mind from incessant thoughts. I classified the mighty oceans to three different entities, when in reality it is the same water everywhere. It was the powerful force of maya in action, making us create patterns, constructs and models. It makes us get carried away in  thoughts and forget our real selves.

I was standing at the tip of my motherland, the cradle of civilization whose brilliant sons and daughters have reached far in thought and philosophy. The land of the spiritual, wherein lies the origins of the grandest of theories which even science with all its tools have not reached yet. And yet as a test to her philosophical grandeur, her children had the challenge of facing a life of contradictions each and every moment of existence. The biggest among all of them is her heart wrenching poverty, laid bare as wretched and miserable livelihoods in front of all our eyes. The challenge was so immense that I had turned pain embodied. What is the purpose of the grand philosophies, metaphysics and highly evolved concepts of the ideal, so elaborately captured in our literature and poetry – when our poor are starving and our kids are dying hungry? What is the point of philosophy in a feudal and fragmented society where rife and conflict reigns supreme amidst glaring differences and diversities. What is the point of spiritual learning and teaching where the high and mighty are immune to higher callings in life and are busy chasing short term gains. Oblivious to the fact that their gains are at the cost of eternal glory, they go about their lives corrupting the society, treating the poor and the downtrodden with disdain and impunity.

I could see the buzz of activities around, that of the playing children, vendors selling snacks and toys and that of the fisher folk getting ready to set sail in the early morning. They were the drivers of economic activity, engaged in their daily struggle in the jungle of living, unable to afford high thoughts and philosophies, yet finding out sense in their existences in a way which is in no way inferior to that of the Brahmins and philosophers. There might be contradictions that they see everyday, tearing up their mental models asunder daily – yet they resign to those so efficiently, absorb and assimilate them to their evolving models of reality – all part of the great game of maya, which the lord of the flute keeps on playing immaculately. The gentle sea breeze stroked my face bringing me back to the far more real world from that of thought my mind was conjuring up.

Thoughts were lashing furiously in my mind like the waves in the ocean – arising from nothingness, rumbling in its seemingly ever building potentiality and then diminishing all its energy in wasteful froth. I wanted to conquer them. I have come to believe that the powers of the mind are like rays of the sun – they illumine when concentrated. But regardless, I was more confused than ever – none of the readings and no contemplation till now had given me clarity. I felt like I was in shackles and yearned to understand the truth to set me free. The questions were stronger than ever. In the far distance in the ocean stood the massive rock where according to local lore, Devi meditated upon the Lord. It stood there nonchalant as if my predicament did not matter. My fierce pain arising out of confusion and the burning passion to do something was not of any consequence to anything in this world. I felt a powerful urge to jump into the ocean and swim to that rock. If there was an ideal atmosphere where one can meditate – this was it.

And then I saw him. The monk, he stood among the rocks with folded hands, his robes swaying in the breeze. His gentle, reflective eyes were locked on a gaze on the same distant rock. I had not seen a more handsome and serene face. His steady stance and gait waxed eloquently his purposefulness. As if he noticed my attention, he turned towards me and gave me an omniscient smiling glance. I was sure that he had read my thoughts that have been raging in my mind and was in perfect empathy with me. In that brief moment, I saw strains of pain in his eyes and a faint shadow of agony in his face. No words had to be spoken, for I was sure what his pains were. As I looked around I realized that the monk had an entourage of friends and followers with him and he might have taken just a moment, away from the group, for silent contemplation. As I was studying his entourage, a sudden commotion arose. The monk had taken the plunge into the ocean and was swimming towards the rock in the distance. His friends pleaded with him to come back and use the arranged ferry but it all fell on deaf ears. Neither would the easy way attract him, nor would shortcuts to truth, I reckoned.

It was just a moment ago, that I had harbored desires to meditate sitting in that rock and now the very same divinity in me was going there in search of itself, in the garb of this monk. Something had held me back, I had business to do here in Cape Camorin; I had mouths to feed, waiting back at home, but he was not in shackles. He was free. Witnessing what I just did, my pain dwindled down; I knew that my land was in safe hands. There are still people ready to take the plunge for truth. The sound of the lashing waves and the smell of the gentle sea breeze lingered on. I took another look at the monk who was swimming away. He was by now just a speckle in the distance. I took another full breath of the fresh sea breeze and turned to slowly walk back.

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