“Now, drink your milk Sonu!” shouted Reema. Sonu didn’t quite like milk so he was pushing it away. Angry at his stubborn-ness she slapped Sonu loud and hard. Uma was standing near the door – she had come to ask for some sugar as usual – and was aghast. “Reema, he is handicapped and still you don’t spare him?”
“But that is why he needs the milk!” Reema said in tears. “This milk is not cheap… you know that! It is only for him… He needs the strength in his legs..”
“Haan… that’s true.. What does the doctor say?” Uma enquired.
“What will he say.. Its polio.. Its for life now.. ” Reema said matter-of-factly.. “but Guruji is coming next Sunday.. I will make sure we meet him after his Satsang, so he can bless Sonu. His love is very healing.. I am sure he will heal Sonu also.” Hope was the eternal medicine known to mankind… and it often found its most potent culmination in the faith in divinity, irrespective of its deliverance.
“What is it about the Guruji that takes you all there?” Uma enquired. She was a Tamilian who had been living in Mumbai for a long time. The Chawl complexes make interesting neighbors. Reema was from UP.
“Our love for him, what else? We love him as he is enlightened and divine.” Reema said with a sense of reverence on her face.
“Hmm… I can understand that….” Uma replied and wandered off to her room.
Sunday was a morning of a lot of hustle-bustle. Everyone was on his/her toes. Pandeji, Reema’s husband was at the receiving end, as he seemed to be the delaying factor for everything. He did not really believe in Gurus but could not really tell Reema much. Reema got Sonu ready.. Put on the tilak and was ready for the journey.
Somehow, they reached the vast pandal (tent). Reema wanted the front seat.. She wanted to have the darshan (viewing) of her Master from up close. His beautiful face full of aura and light was a sight to behold! She believed her love for her Guru was from the day she was first initiated by Him. But would she have felt that same love if she had met him before the “initiation” into the congregation? Or if she had not ever known him as a Guru? If not, then was this love for “Him” or “His power”? We only love divinity, as we describe it. Or in other words, we love our own divinities. Others’ divinities are not worth that love. After all our love is not for free! Our love is not the love of the Sun – equal and same for all – but our love has a “Purpose”. Purpose is euphemism for selfish love. When our love and passion is directed towards someone or something, it is also directed away from someone or something. It is purposeful and has a direction.
She pushed her way as much as she could – given the obvious discomfort that Sonu was facing ploughing through the crowd. Somehow, pleading about Sonu’s condition and handicap she got to reach the front row.. From here, her Guruji was the closest and she could easily have his “darshan”.
Guruji walked in on time, clean shaven, with a cap and white robe. As he sat down to give his lecture on Gita, he looked at the people in the front, and God knows how he looked at Sonu and Reema. “Kaisi ho Maayi?” (How are you, Mother?) Reema was pleased beyond words… she was shivering at the stroke of her luck! She knew that this was her moment to ask her Guru for the blessing. “Guruji,” she started off with tears rolling down “My son has polio… please give him your blessings”.. “That is always there, Maayi”, the Guru replied with unusual calm… “We just need your kripa (blessings), Sir.. And thank you for visiting us …. We love you so much but we didn’t get this opportunity for last 3 years.” The Guruji started laughing very uncharacteristically. “What do you mean you love me?”, he asked.
Reema blushed and was taken aback.. What kind of question was that? “Well… we can do anything for you Sir.. You are God incarnate.. Our love for you is as deep as anything. Since you are our Guru, we all have to love you, Sir!”, she added without much thought.. almost naturally.
“Oh, you have to love me?” Repeated Guruji with special emphasis on the word “have”. “Don’t you love your kid more?”
“Yes, but…. “. Reema was embarrassed. .. And could not finish her sentence.
‘Thank you, Maayi, I am blessed. Let’s start the Gita paath.”
Today’s lecture on Bhagwad Gita was good, but Reema’s mind was constantly on that question from her Guruji and it would keep going back to her husband. “What was he doing? “. Hope he had gone to get the wheat flour.. Or there wouldn’t be any tonight to make the food. In the middle of the lecture, Reema’s cell rang and embarrassed again, she saw it was Pandeji, so she obediently took it and ran outside the pandal.. As far as she could go so she would not disturb the others.
Pandeji was lost and couldn’t find the flour shop. The usual one they used to go to was closed today and now she was explaining to him the other one.. “Ohfo.. Pandeji… the lecture is going on.. And you are making me late.. ” But Pandeji was undeterred. Suddenly there was some noise and she couldn’t hear Pandeji properly.. So she moved further.. Somehow, she was able to explain to him and as she turned back.. A body came and hit her from behind!
She fell down with a thud. As she looked in that direction, she grew pale! The pandal was on fire.. And people were running out. “The stage caught fire….” someone shouted.. “the lamp..” She didn’t have time to think.. “SONU!!!” she shouted and ran inside.. Against the tide. The stage was in flames and smoke..
She could barely make out the white silhouette of her Guruji behind it.. Sonu had fallen down… but was still ok.. She quickly grabbed him and pulled him as hard as she could.. He was all of 13 and young now, but somehow, the urge to take him out of the fire, gave her strength she had never known. By the time she realized that she was in pain as well.. She and Sonu were out and safe.
People were pouring water on the stage.. Panting volunteers had brought in the fire extinguishers… but the blaze was strong.
She suddenly realized her Guruji was probably engulfed in that flame! “Oh” she cried… “GURUJI!!”… she started crying inconsolably.
Guruji was no more. Everyone who loved Him was safe though. The “need to love” is not the same as love. Nobody had taught Reema to love Sonu. No instruction was ever given to her by any scripture.. No Prophet ever extolled its virtue… not even her Guruji ever mention it to her.. She was never asked to repeat her own son’s name so many times so her love for him could be so much. It still was. She could have died while she attempted to pull Sonu out… as her Guruji looked on engulfed in flames…
Love cannot be taught, but every faith still tries. And fails. And people kill each other over the proprietorship of their unique brand of love… the love that always “has” to be taught.. But never has been.