Sometimes, I feel our mind is a dangerous machine. Throughout the year, the season changes; with it changes the appearance of this world. How various is this appearance!
Sometimes one sees the dry, barren field, with the thousand cracks all around. A crazy wind blows over that hard and broken field. One feels as if the desolate earth is trying to suppress her silent cry. The sky is emitting waves of fire. There are no leaves on the trees, no chirping of the birds. It is
as if the whole universe is burning.
Again one sees torrential flood of water coming down from an unseen source. The flakes of cloud are scattered in the sky. The field is flooded with water; her breast is full of green paddy. It is as if a well-loved pregnant wife is laughing and shivering in cold brought by the sudden gush of wind.
I look inside my mind. There is a void there. People say, it is hard to find a soulmate. Is it true? I have never come to an understanding with my mind. We often run after variety with an empty mind. We are crazy about finding something, though we do not know what we are seeking.
Someone has said, ‘It’s futile to search for him in this earthen Vrindavan.’ Someone else has said, ‘If you know yourself, you can know the unknown’. And still another has said, ‘Whatever I desire, I desire it by mistake, whatever I get, I do not want it.’
The search for variety is in reality a search for our own mind. In the guise of seeking a man, we seek a compatible mind. So, when a friend asked with a touch of sarcasm, ‘Why are you going to the Kumbh-mela? For religious purpose?’ I replied, ‘Just to see.’ I am not a religious person in the common sense of the term. But I am not anti-religion either. I am like that hero of Manikbabu’s story, ‘Level Crossing’.
The friend persisted, ‘To see what? Lakhs of people blinded by faith?’
Blinded by faith! If lakhs of people are blinded by faith, then why not search for the reason? What is that celestial blinker which can blind lakhs of eyes?
I remember an ageing Bengali widow. She was sitting on the bridge over the Ganga in Kumbh-mela after finishing her evening ablutions and rituals. Dusk was setting down. I was also going towards the
river. Inadvertently, my feet touched her body. I begged her forgiveness and extended my hand towards her. She took my hand, touched my cheek and kissed her fingers as a gesture of affection. Naturally, we talked. I would narrate here one part of that conversation.
She remained silent for a moment and kept gazing at the fair crowd with deep fascination. Then she said, ‘Look, the fair is of the people. When I think that I am also one of the lakhs of people here, I feel so ecstatic that tears of happiness roll down my eyes.’
I remember these words now. For, I had also told my friend, ‘I don’t know if they are blinded by faith, but I am going to see the gathering of people. Our desire for other things may be satiated, but the desire to see and taste humankind is insatiable. What is more strange than humankind in this world?’
My friend was not convinced. His lips curled in ridicule. Then he argued a lot. There is no point describing those arguments now. We are always eager to see and to achieve what we have not seen or achieved. The unknown, and the unfamiliar always beckon us.
True, we keep living with people all the time. We see their different types and forms. But there will be much more people of much more nature and hue in the place where I am going. We see our neighbour year after year, but we may not notice any special trait in him. When we see the same person in a different atmosphere, we are surprised to see a new light falling on him. How strange! In fact, we do not know our mind. So, we constantly look for beauty outside. As the poet said,
I have been observing beauty since birth
And yet my eyes never got tired.
Why do we look for beauty in everything? Because we search for our minds. We try to discover our own strangeness in the mirror of the beauty of lakhs of people. This strangeness is the touchstone. Draw a line on it. You will at once know if it is gold or iron.
No, no further delay. My mind is already on the move, now let me move my feet too. Let me dive in the Kumbh – ocean of a lakh of hearts. I had a jhola, a large cloth-bag, on my shoulder and a regular bag on my back. But the sea of multitude at the Howrah station was overwhelming. Still, I managed to get in. The train also started at a point of time.
A small compartment that could accommodate around eight people. A six-member family of Uttar Pradesh, living in Calcutta had occupied two benches. There I also got a little space. Four more persons were seated on the upper berth. What better arrangement did one need? The lead passenger of the six-member family was a young man. He pushed three large steel trunks near thedoor facing the platform and flashed me a heroic smile. The meaning was clear, so I had no other alternative but to smile back.
Pointing at my long black overcoat and hat, he told me in Hindi mixed with English, ‘You are looking like an army fellow. Just look at the door sternly. Then, nobody will dare to—’ The rest of his statement was clear from his meaningful smile. Thus I was appointed the doorkeeper of this compartment. Perhaps he had his doubt about the efficacy of his own timid looks.
This is our nature. We become unhappy if anyone points it out, but we often indulge in these little bits of acting for petty comfort. Who knows if we do this acting with ourselves too. In course of conversation, one got to learn that this six-member family originally belonged to Azamgarh of UP. But
they lived in Calcutta as their business was there. Present destination was Allahabad, Kumbh-mela. What about me? Well, I was also going to the same destination. Really? Very happy to learn it. The young man climbed upon one of the trunks and covering himself with a blanket, almost immediately started snoring.
The mother of the family, having taken care of her daughter and daughter-in-law, leaned against me without any hesitation and dozed off. I was almost smothered like a sack under her huge bulk. The orchestra of snoring started. No one cared for the glory of my overcoat and the stern fauji look. I did not know that even the young women with nice nose rings could snore in such fashion.
Like the fast beat of a ghazal, the express train ran past the Bengal border. I pushed my face out of the window. Thousands of tiny lights were shining in the darkness, like the laughing eyes of a child.
Lights of Mihijam. Then the industrial city of Chittaranjan at the border of Bengal. As a typical homesick Bengali, my first thought at this juncture was that my motherland was gone. Now I was onto the greater world, towards the great congregation of mankind. That unimagined strange appearance of lakhs of people was calling my every vein and nerve. Who knows what was there on the way.
Excerpted with permission from In Search of the Pitcher of Nectar, Kalkut aka Samaresh Bose, translated from the Bengali by Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, Niyogi Books.