Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Sadhu on the highway near Mhow .....

I think this incident must have happened in 1984. I and my friend Prem had cycled 17 kilometres on the Agra Bombay Road from Mhow towards a lake named Yashwant Nagar Talab. A few kilometres outside Mhow the hilly terrain became green with forests. It was a beautiful sight. It was nice to be young and physically fit. On the way we stopped at a dhaba, where the truckers stop for food and rest, and had tea and some biscuits. We didn’t want to finish the stuff we were carrying with us. We passed various villages with quaint names. Gawli Palasiya, Jamli, Kuti, Yashwant Nagar. The lake or talab as it is known is due to a small dam which may well have been built before independence. I say this because it seems to be named after Yashwant Rao Holkar who was a ruler of the erstwhile Indore state.

When we cycled up a slope to reach the lake I kept quiet. I hadn’t told Prem where we were going. He was visiting his sister and brother-in-law who were posted in an Army establishment. He belonged to
Trivandrum and he liked the change in scenery when he shifted from Kerala to the Malwa Plateau. We would often cycle into the countryside or go walking into the hills with other friends. That day when we climbed up the slope on our cycles and got a first glimpse of the lake I could hear Prem gasp. I wasn’t surprised. It was a beautiful sight. Forests, hills and a lake. It could have been heaven.

It must have been winter. There was a slight chill in the air. The lake was bathed with sunlight. So it was very tempting to stand on top of the dam and take a dip in the water. We did just that. As I was a non-swimmer I kept close to the dam for safety. But Prem had a nice swim. Drinking coffee from the thermos and eating the snacks we had brought made us feel on top of the world. While we were enjoying ourselves we saw a flock of wild birds swimming just above the water. They seemed like wild ducks to me. But as I am not very good at identifying wild birds at a distance I cannot say for sure. But I do remember this: As the flock turned in mid air they did so in such a way that each bird’s wing struck the water. The sound it generated was like a machine gun firing. Only there were no deadly bullets, just a lovely beat.

After spending a couple of hours there we started cycling back. On the way we came to a sadhu’s hut. We stopped to chat with him. The Sadhu, or holy man, looked very impressive in his saffron clothes. He was lean and thin nad had a long flowing beard. As Prem's hindi was weak I also doubled up as a translator. The Sadhu took us inside his small and clean hut. It had been constructed in a very simple and down to earth manner. I wasn't sure whether it could withstand a storm. He told us about how he had given up his family and his worldly wealth. He was fascinated to learn that Prem was from Kerala and that I was from an Army family. He was curious to know about Kerala and the Army. After a few minutes of chatting he took out his chillum (pipe) and filled it with tobacco and started puffing at it. Prem also took turns with him. I asked Prem whether it was only tobacco. I knew Prem loved grass. He winked at me and asked me if I wanted to try. “No thanks,” I replied. I have never connected to tobacco and grass. While they were smoking the chillum the sadhu kept speaking about how potent a force love was. He kept on and on about love and its power. We listened to him with rapt attention. He had almost hypnotised us with his powerful words.

Suddenly the tone of the Sadhu's voice changed and before we knew he was spewing filthy abuse and throwing stones. We turned to look and saw a stray dog running away. “Sala mera khana kha jata hai,” (“The damn thing eats up my food”). We were too shocked to say anything. Was this the same man who had renounced the world and all material possessions and had been giving us a long feel-good talk about love? It was a hilarious sight. It was clear that his sermon was over. The mood swing from one extreme to another had drained him. Once we had recovered from this verbal assault on the dog we decided to say goodbye. We were back to normal a few minutes after resuming. Once we were out of his hearing range we burst out laughing. We laughed so hard our stomachs ached.

As we cycled back home we kept laughing loudly. The change in mood had been so fast we had found it hard to believe. And the sweet, flowery language had become extremely abusive in a second or two. When we reached Prem’s sister’s house we sat on the verandah and enjoyed a cup of tea. Our aching muscles reminded us of the long cycle ride and the Sadhu’s invectives kept us in splits. As long as Prem was in Mhow all I had to do was to ask him whether he wanted to visit the dog-loving sadhu and he would burst out laughing and try to imitate the sadhu’s bad language in his broken hindi. I am not sure that I have seen the sadhu the past few times I have crossed that area. But these trips are generally in a car or bus. One of these days I must take my cycle and go down that road again. I may meet the same sadhu again. Unless he has got tired of renunciation and has returned to the big, bad world.

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Blogger vi said...

funny :))

2:53 PM  
Blogger alok said...

I see no contradiction here. The sadhu has renounced the world, not his life. The dog frightened his very existence by "giving a kick in his belly" pet par laat maarna (in Hindi). Another way of looking at this situation is to appreciate the "professionalism" of the Saadhu - to lull and soothe you with his talk.

3:19 AM  

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