“Ramayan talks of Pushkar and says that Vishvamitra performed tapa here.” The old sadhu said as he picked at a scrawny foot that dribbled out of orange fabric.
“Tapa? I’m not sure I follow…”
He brought his face close to mine. One eye bulged out at me. It was like I was looking at him through a fisheye lens. His breath fanned out across my skin, mixing with the hot wind off the sand. His dreadlocks chukka-chukka’d like a rattlesnake.
“We can spend our lives following shadows of snakes and [unintelligible] to bring us to madness. This madness can be the portal – the gateway – to other things.”
I had no idea what he was saying, but his voice hummed like a drone. As I listened, my thinking turned to nothing and everything. I felt the ground under me. The parts that were out in the sun were tangy with heat. Gravity pulled at me like an annoying friend. I felt the full weight of the earth. I felt the pulse of the universe. As he talked I felt like everything and nothing. My rational mind thought, “he’s talking gibberish and yet… and yet…” I liked the feeling of surrendering. I liked the fact that I didn’t care about owning – or losing – anything. I felt adrift, but not lost. As I lay there, half of the questions that had plagued me since childhood were answered. I knew the meaning of life. And then… and then… I dozed. I felt hotter and heavier. Things became clearer and foggier at the same time. I heard the howling banshee in the background, but through a filter. Pushkar pulsed at a distance. The energy circling round the lake in a mad dance.
The sadhu sang a song about “a fish who stopped living in the water”. His voice croaky and sweet. Time was elastic. I could imagine myself staying here forever. Being still. Just being. I heard him say that Brahma would perform a “grand yagna” and then there was nothing else.
When I woke up I forgot everything. All the truths I had discovered – all the insights – trickled off before I could grab them.
It was late afternoon and the holy man was gone. I sat up groggy and heavy with sleep. I had dribbled on one side and it mixed with the sweat and the dust.
Like a heart that never stops, the lake pulsed.
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