A lesson of humility;
We had hired a car to take us to Monteshwar and the destinations beyond.
It was a clear sunny day. We had left behind the hustle bustle of the Bordhoman town early morning. Our short stay at Monteshwar was over and we were travelling though the open countryside. Beautiful lush green fields stretched over the horizon. I liked the fresh breath of village soil and the cool breeze.
I belong to to wb – rather my parents belonged to WB. We now stay in a city in western India. Every year we spend there a month or so in Bordhoman – the place where my grandparents live. I eagerly wait for the vacations to arrive coz every time I visit Bordhoman, I get to stay with my grandparents. I say, I ‘m my grandparent’s doll! My grandfather, the sweetest of all, never refuses to anything I ask for. He leaves no scope for me to complain except the case of getting early morning at 6:30 AM which is considered as noon there. However whenever I get out of my grandparents house at , I got into a state of shock. Bordhoman is a big town with numerous lanes and by lanes, -- one could forget the location of his own house. Each of them packed with houses in a haphazard manner with small kucha houses sandwiched between them. Twenty –four seven there is cacophony down the road ,be it the early morning hawkers(who act as alarm clocks for localities),the rickshaw puller, or men quarrelling in their monotonous voice.
My grandma, decided that she will take us to a place which she thought would be different. To start with, she planned to take us to Monteshwar, a small sleepy village where her father lived. However, her plan did not end there. Our trip iternary included visiting a temple and another sacred place whose destination was not perfectly known. Personally, I don’t like visiting temples and travelling all the way just to offer worship to God...But I never felt like to voice my opinions as my Grandma was keen on visiting the temples she had last visited when she herself was a kid. I agreed in hope to find something interesting.
We had just come out of the village of Monteshwar. Monteshwar is the birthplace of my grandmother. There her father, my great grandfather, lives in a big mansion with his eldest son. My great grandfather, a brilliant doctor, continues to practice his profession. Age never seemed a barrier for him. His efficiency of work has never waned. I had come to know that people all over the village respected him coz he had worked selflessly for the village people and he became one of the most respected man of his village and it’s surroundings.
Soon our driver took us to our first destination. I found myself gazing at a huge dome like entrance by a narrow uneven road. The place was exactly as my mother described, she used to visit with her mother to offer worship to Shiva. Of course, it looked old -- there was a small shiv lingam placed in the middle of the simple rock temple .The stone of the lingam had worn out and was uneven. Many holy threads had been tied around it to fulfil their wishes.
The second destination was as my Grandma described ,a very important place for devotees of Chaitanya Dev, Vaishnava saint and social reformer in eastern India in the 16th century. The place was also Vrindavan Dasa Thakur’s birthplace. Vrindavan das was the author of “Chaitanya Bhagavata”- the biography of Chaitanya dev which was even read by Chaitanya Dev himself. Even the origins of the great saint, author of “Chaitanya Charatamrita” ,Krishnadasa is also believe to be the same. It was a place where Kesava Bharti bestowed sannyasa on Chaitanya Mahaprabhu when the latter requested it.
A local folklore –I thought,
The location of the house where disciple of Sri Chaitanya lived was not exactly known to us so we had to depend on localities for direction and information. The local villagers were reluctant at first but once they got to know about my grandma’s true identity i.e. she was the daughter of a famous doctor, they readily showed us the location and bestowed their hospitality on us.
The temple had a very shabby appearance. The floor was made of wet mud and walls of cow dung cakes. This was the only thing I hated about villages-the numerous discoveries and experiments carried out with cow dung!!! The place was not at all pleasant. And the worst part I was walking barefoot on that rocky, muddy floor!
My grandma, on the other hand seemed overwhelmed to be there. I was fascinated by my grandma’s dedication and devotion- she was having a terrible backache and knee pain yet she prostrated in both the temples leaving me to watch her in awe.
On our way to the temple, the locals of the village had claimed that the scripts of original biographies by Vrindaban Das really existed. I considered it as a bluff. I thought the scripts that are about 600 years old cannot be there practically. The national museum would have taken it by now for its display collection or must have been sold in some auctions. Besides maintaining such an antique piece is not just a cup tea for an ordinary man.
There was an old, hunchback, lady there who seemed to take care of the temple. She was nearly deaf and weak. My grandma and grandfather were curious about knowing more about the scripts while I searched for an excuse to run away. We had a tough time making the old lady understand our intentions and directing us. After trying for some time, the lady could hear some of our words. She looked perplexed when she realised none of her answers could satisfy us. At last, she raised her hand and pointed us to a direction and said- “scripts!”
Soon we were standing in front of a big old house with a dilapidated appearance. The walls made of dried cow dung cakes and the smoke of charcoal burning was almost choking me. I was really disgusted now..I began to wonder..What am I doing in this horrible place investigating on useless things!!! My day-gone down the drain! Phew !...
We entered a house with open doors...by this time, my eyes had started watering.
A girl in her mid teens came out. She had a dark complexion and seemed to be a college going girl. She looked at us suspiciously. My grandma disclosed her identity to the girl. Frankly speaking, whenever grandma disclosed her identity it worked like some magical words and the listener got wood easily. Same happened here, the girl beamed and blushed. She bestowed all her hospitality on us. Her mother was cooking food in the in a charcoal fuelled stove. She was watching us all the while and was busy in the house old chores. The girl touched my grandma and grandfather’s feet and offered us a seat on a mattress laid on a platform of the house. She talked to us as if we had known her for years. She said amiably”mother, your father had cured my father of an ailment which was nearly impossible to recover from. Grandfather was such an excellent doctor that under his medication and care, my father recovered pretty quickly. As my father was a local priest of the nearby temple, money was scarce; Grandpa never asked us for money he just wished our welfare. Since then, we have remained in a debt to your grandpa not in terms of money but his kindness. He was such a wonderful person as a kid I used to wonder.”She meant what she said, he eyes showed that...
Out of curiosity, my Grandma asked,” do you know anything about the scripts. Do they really exist?” The girl replied “Of course it does!!! And it is right here in this house. You want to see it? Sure, I’ll show them to you.”
That was something of a shocker. I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that such an ancient, antique and priceless thing could belong to this shabby looking place. “How??!!!!” I wondered... Numerous questions stormed into my mind. I was in a total confused state.
Her brother maybe a bit younger than her came out of a room dressed in white dhoti and the Hindu sacred thread. He went into a heavily locked room and came out...
We were gazing at the masterpiece in awe...There it was before us, two beautiful ancient scripts completely sealed in a wooden glass container. I could see the rectangular strips of yellowish brown paper with uneven sides. On them, Sanskrit verses were written in a beautiful handwriting. They weren’t fake at all, one could easily make out from its appearance, they were indeed the real, original texts of Chaitanya Bhagavata and Chaitanya Charatamrita...placed neatly in two columns. The girl pointed- that was written by Vrindavan Das and the small notes written below were added by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself. I could see the small notes written in an equally elegant handwriting at the bottom of the ancient pages.
The girl added, “Once the ISCON devotees, some foreigners came and visited us. They offered us three lakh rupees for these scripts and were willing to pay any amount for it. But we could never-ever sell these unique things as long as we stay alive. These scripts have been passed on to us from our ancestor Vrindavan Das. We couldn’t have been so selfish and giving this treasure in lieu of money was out of question. We simply declined their offer.”
A kind of pride and defiance shone in the girl’s eyes. She never showed any sign of regretting her decision instead she looked as if she had done just the right thing. I was thinking of taking a photograph and tried to open my handbag. Suddenly, she got alert and said politely ,”no pictures please”.
It took some time for me to recover from the two consecutive shocks. The girl certainly knew the value of the manuscripts, and she knew certainly how to preserve such invaluable artefact. She certainly was far from rich, and yet she preferred to preserve those scripts, rather than do what any other man of the modern world would do, sell it in an auction. That would have made her perhaps the wealthiest of all families of the village but she had been protecting those scripts from getting robbed, from getting spoiled or being found either. In that small village which hardly any knew, in that small mud hut smelling of charcoal and cow dung, in the eyes of that very ordinary sari clad girl, I saw something that I had never seen in the multitudes of the city. I saw the light of patriotism and a pride in our past heritage that makes our country so great, so different from others.
I relaxed and comfortably settled myself on the mattress. I closed my eyes and thanked God for everything I had and everything He had given me...