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THE Eyes of God

It was sometime during the hot month of June. The drama unfolded itself in a small street corner in the city of Cuttack, Orissa (a state in eastern India). Do I have to quote the date? It could be any day, and anyplace, where men have a tryst with themselves.

I was returning home from college for a late lunch. I did not have classes in the afternoon, so I thought I could afford to eat a little late that day to save myself from coming back in the grueling heat. As my mind was running away to home for a curd rice and saag bhaji, my favourite in summer, I was looking around in search of a fruit stall to buy a couple of bananas for puja. My wife specifically wanted them, for it was Thursday.

The street looked almost deserted, every dog taking a nap in some shade and every puddle in the street simmering under the unrelenting Sun, struggling to hold on to every drop. Typical of human life, I mumbled on. We are in love with life, but hardly bother to add value to living. I discovered a small shop tucked away in a corner near a banyan tree in its last lap of life, not because it was too old to exist, but because men were too greedy for space to let it exist. City streets are now barren, forfeit of trees, in the excuse for expansion. But, are we really expanding?

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I got down from the cycle rickshaw and went near the shop to buy a few bananas. On my right, a little away from where I stood, was unfolding the first scene of the drama. A blind beggar was sitting in the shade with the tell-tale tin in front of him. A vendor stepped into the shade and against the trunk of the tree, rested his wooden frame on which hung many little novelties. In villages and city side streets, we see these vendors selling a thousand different things, each not more than a rupee or two.

They make a cross-like bamboo frame with three or four bars tied across a vertical pole. Then they arrange typical women’s trinkets and cheap jewellery on them. One can find ribbons, balloons, tooth-picks, ear-picks, nail-clippers, hair-dressing items, locks, and a hundred other things hanging from those crossbars. They walk the street, stand in a corner, and ring a hand bell. Customers come to choose whatever they need. These vendors often lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

I overheard the conversation that ensued between the two, the blind beggar and the street side vendor.

Vendor: Rahim bhayya, kya kuchh mila? (Rahim brother, did you get anything?)

Rahim: Kaun… Hari bhayya ? Allahki mehrbani, ek paisa bhi nahin.(Who is it? Brother Hari? By the grace of Allah, not even a paisa.)

Hari: Hmmm… to kya khaoge ? (Then what will you eat?)

Rahim: Allahki mehrbanise thoda pani milegi to achha hoga.(By the grace of Allah if I get a little water to drink, it would be alright)

Hari: Allah karega to panika sath aur kuchh bhi miljayega Rahim bhayya. Aj mujhe do rupayya munafa mila. Isi do rupayyame char puri to hoga. Tum baith raho. Mein abhi char puri lekar aata hun. (If Allah wants, we can get something more besides water. Today I got two rupees as profit. Two rupees can buy four puris. You remain seated here, I will go and fetch four puris.)

I kept on standing there pretending; I was afraid to brave the Sun. In fact, I was struck by the piece of great humanity unfolding before me. The street vendor came back with two packets made of leaves, each containing two puris and a little chutney. Hari had brought a tinful of water too. He sat down and passed on one packet to Rahim. Both ate the puris with great relish, drank water from the tin, and fell to their inconsequential daily gossip. They did not talk about the purpose of life, of new technologies, international politics, fashions and films; but of simple living. I left the shade, washed by the lyrics of life, by the quintessential beauty of an inconsequential life.

But that was not all. God had something more for me before the end of the day.

As I said, it was a Thursday. So after a short post-lunch nap, I washed, and went to a bhajan centre. Those were the early seventies, and bhajans were held in devotees’ homes. It afforded a beautiful get together in homely environment. Now, mandirs (temples) have sprung up everywhere as public gathering places, and organized formality has cruelly replaced informal conviviality. I hailed a rickshaw and arrived at the centre before time. I was standing before the gentleman’s house waiting for a friend. This was when the second part of the drama unfolded.

There was a big gate opening to their compound. A garage faced the gate and on the other side of the house was a sprawling balcony. The ground floor hall started under it and spread inside the house. That was the bhajan hall. The lady of the house and a daughter were standing in the balcony, probably looking for a known face. A couple of beggars appeared near the gate and asked for alms. There was a blind woman amidst them. She was middle aged, held a cane and was led by a girl of ten or twelve years, probably her daughter. They chanted a prayer a couple of times.

The ladies on the balcony were watching them with some disapproval. When they heard it a fourth time they realized it was a bhajan day and that these people should be disposed off quickly. The lady of the house went inside, got a coin and tossed it to her from her overhead balcony. The coin fell on the hard floor below with a tong and rolled down the street. The blind woman bent down and groped for the precious coin, her little girl helping her. While both of them were frantically searching for the ‘heaven’s gift’, the two ladies found it quite amusing, and laughed. Finally, they got the quarter-of-a-rupee coin, blessed the giver, and left.

I entered the hall and chose a spot at the rear of the congregation. The bhajan started, but I couldn’t concentrate at all. The faces of Rahim, Hari, the old woman, and the ladies on the balcony kept disturbing me. I looked at the life-size standing picture of Bhagavan Baba on the pedestal. Suddenly, his eyes became alive, and in their place I saw another pair of eyes.

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A few months earlier, during the puja vacation I had been to Prasanthi Nilayam. One day, I was sitting in the second row for darshan. A middle-aged man was sitting in front of me with his sick child, palsied limbs struck by some wasting disease. After some time, Bhagavan came along and stood before him, looking at the father and the child. He waved His hands, poured some Vibhuti into the hands of the father, applied the remaining Vibhuti on the forehead of the boy, and walked away. I had the good fortune of looking into His eyes. I felt the dewy eyes of Bhagavan reflected all the suffering of humanity, and all the compassion of God. It was such a soul-stirring vision.

I now saw those eyes, soft and glassy, so delicate and supple, yet they encircled all existence. I couldn’t sing a song that day, for there was another song overflowing my heart. I remembered Wordsworth, “…for the vale profound / was overflowing with the sound...”

~ Mr. B. K. Misra

Illustrations: Ms. Vidya, Kuwait

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Vol 6 Issue 11 - NOVEMBER 2008
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