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“Did you see that baby and her laughter? That laughter is not touched by anything worldly, not aware of fear. The trust in her guardians made her do whatever she wanted to do. Sydney, I was like her then, trusting that you would take care of everything else. I went after my wishes leaving the rest to you. But it brought me no happiness or contentment, but unrest.” He admitted honestly.
“What is spirituality? Is it necessary in everyone’s life? Has it got anything to do with age, as Murali felt? Under what circumstances does one get attracted to it? Is it aversion for the world, or introspection? Or is it the courage to see the world objectively? Is it permanent or temporary?”. My mind was full of questions.
“Excuse me, just one question.” I shot my question to him. He turned to me. “Ms. Nirmala, I was groping in the dark for a long time. My teacher was, strangely enough, Sydney who guided me onto the right path. She can answer you better.” Sydney gave me a shy smile.
“I was haunted by the fear that Steve was growing distant from the family. I met an Indian colleague then, and soon we became friends. Once I met her mother who was visiting her at that time. I shared my fears and anxieties with her. She was a well-read person and used to tell me many things. My doubts went on and on, and so did her answers.
She used to often refer to Bhagavadgita, the Hindu text. Gita has a solution for any problem, according to her. She said that Steve’s behavior stemmed from his lack of clarity regarding what he was seeking. Spirituality never meant running away from the world. Though one is fulfilling worldly duties with full devotion, one should keep the world at an arm’s length. The mind, which wavers between good and evil, needs to be tamed. As one broadens one’s perspective, one can attain the strength to react to anything with control. She also told me that the joy, peace and love naturally present in us should be shared with the world around us. I was glad to see that things are simple. It was she who introduced me to Yoga and meditation.
In the beginning, Steve never believed these statements. He used to brush me off saying that these things were his realm, and I was a novice. He refused to accompany me to visit her. Then she returned to India. I settled for a long and lone battle. I continued sharing my lessons with him. I started training my children in Yoga and meditation, along with my own practice. I sensed a growing peace in me. It took about a year for all this. By then Steve also came around. He used to listen to me without contradiction. He realized that the people to whom he handed his bakery started to sideline him. His helplessness brought him closer to the family. As he took matters into his hands and started belonging to his world, contentment, self-esteem, and peace grew in him. Now he has no complaints.”
Sydney’s long explanation ended with her arms around me. My eyes became moist.
I thought that Murali was lost in worldly pursuits, and was blind to my values and ideals. But his dedication to his values was lost on me. While we both were right as individuals, we never tried to see from each other’s perspectives. I longed to brief Murali on all these.
Honda uncle grudgingly lived with his disgruntled wife until the end. Though he claimed to love her, he never tried to mitigate her discontent. They remained strangers even after five or six decades of marriage. He could not belong to the world which he watched so closely. I felt sad for him.
The next morning I invited Sydney and Steve to our home in Delhi before boarding the bus for the return journey. I told Murali on the phone that I had a lot to share with him, especially Sydney’s story.
This getaway from the crowds of Delhi to Haridwar brought me new enlightenment and joy.
(Writer’s note: I was somewhat influenced by Sydney and Steve during my US tour in the summer of 2018 when I first met them. Their unshakeable faith and love towards Indianness, The Ganges, The Himalayas, and spirituality surprised me. Those memories lingered on long after my return to India, and inspired me to write this story.)
The story is translated by Mr.Chebolu Subrahmanya Viswanatham. He is a retired scientist from the Dept of Atomic Energy. He enjoys listening to Ghazals and reading on a variety of topics including science and fiction.
Thank you, Viswanath. You brought the Atma of the story from the original.
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