A gandharva, a celestial being was to befall the wrath of nature for his negligence. Raja Simha was drunk. He had been drunk for days. It is more appropriate to say he is always drunk, no matter day or night, happiness or sorrow, occasion or not. Nonetheless, there was an excuse this time. He was instated as one of the dikpalakas, one of the keepers of the eight directions. He just attained eternity with his position. It did call for a celebration, indeed. His country was rejoicing. There was music ringing in the air, there was dancing, there was gambling, there was fireworks, there was sex and what not. Madira, home brewed spirit coursed the country as thick Brown River quenching everyone’s thirst, both rich and poor alike. Everyone was beyond a state of intoxication. The night calmed down and slipped into slumber, in the wee hours of the night.
Nature does not make provisions for you to sober up before it begins awakening the world. As always, Surya Dev, the Sun God rode on to the horizon in his golden chariot drawn by seven golden horses, gently blessing the universe with a thousand shades of color. Everyone woke up in a jolt, hearing his horses trod. They were consumed by hangover, but did not miss bowing to him. They knew the repercussions to their non-compliance and disobedience.
Depending on the class they came from, they showed their respect. Few stood bending their heads down to their knees, a few sang the morning praise, a few prostrated before him making a carpet for him to ride over, while others folded their hands above their heads and made way to his might and power.
Surya Dev rode gleaming with conceit over to Raja Simha’s palace expecting a grand welcome. He found closed doors instead. He was outraged. He was one of the Panchabhutaas, five elements that make nature. Their position was equal to Trimurthis themselves. He roared letting fire out of his mouth and kicked the door open and barged in screaming calling for Raja Simha. When he did not hear a reply, he was angered even more and lit the place on fire cursing – ‘You will turn into Astha-Vakra, a human, with your body deformed in eight places and be doomed for eternity, dwelling on Mount Meru.’
Raja Simha slobbered into the court yard, held steady leaning on his daasi’s shoulders, was unable to comprehend the gravity of his deed. Raja Simha’s wife came running to Surya Dev to rescue her husband, fell at Surya Dev’s feet weeping aloud, washing his feet with her tears, asking for forgiveness. She requested him to take his curse back. That was not possible even for Gods – Once the words are out, there’s no retreat. However, moved by her repentance and her accepting his power and bowing to him, Surya Dev calmed a little and made a provision in the curse. He said, ‘Your husband will regain his original form when THE DEBATE between HEART and MIND in the human body ends! And you my dear will dwell as a pearl around the neck of Goddess Saraswati’s vehicle – a white swan, until you reunite with your husband.’
‘Thank you for your kindness my lord’ she said, as Surya Dev rode away as if he had done his part in balancing the cosmic equation of creating semblance between the two halves of the universe. Astha-Vakra fell to mount Meru. His wife adorned the swan’s neck. Little did she know that that was an eternal debate, never to be resolved!
About 12,000 years later – Mount Meru.
Mt. Meru, abode of Lord Brahma appeared like a massive king standing erect in its position on a chess board, from outer space. It appeared like it was made from a three triangular Lego pieces, stacked accurately above one another, forming a giant pyramid. The mountain was symmetrically lit in nine places along its circumference and was decorated with a lotus flower tip with a nine diamond pillared Gazebo built on the top of the flower on a bed of pollen. There was ocean on all sides of the mountain. Also there were mini mountains attached to Meru on three sides creating a habitat for people. In the center of the mountain was the train track laid between thick over growth of greenery. The mountain had many colonies among which, the enormous Tranquil Valley at the left center was the largest and most prominent. It was the economic district. All trade activities were conceived and executed there. Also, all complaints from the inhabitants were heard in the court there, by Lord Brahma himself and amicable, mutually agreeable resolutions were reached between the victims and the victimized. However, some privileged members were allowed to meet the Lord at his residence – The Chatur-mukh Mansion named after his four faces indicating four directions and four Vedas.
One morning, the mountain was swaddled in white mist, roaming aimlessly scaling one area after another, seeming weightless, gliding effortless drifting as a holy maiden running reclose with her robe dragging after her. It robed everything twirling around crooked tree trunks, making its way between tender leaves and petals of flowers waking up from the wetness of mini dew drops on their cheeks as they curled up in their mother’s laps. Birds were chirping singing laurels to a new day of hope. Grasshoppers, butterflies and honey bees were already at work.
Ashta-Vakra sat on the old, discolored wooden bench with moss breathing life through its tiny cracks. He was waiting for a train to take him to his destination. Everything around him was green and had an odd smell of life. Even the tracks and platform were green from over growth of weeds that lay blooming with colorful pinks, whites and purples, questioning their existence, for being tagged – unwanted.
Astha-Vakra had an expression of inertness and frigidity over his face from knocking on doors of justice time and again. He had visited Brahma numerous times and always came back with the same answer – Nature will take its course and you’ll have to wait until such time. He hadn’t found his peace, yet and was nearing exhaustion. How could he not feel tired fighting Lord Brahma himself! Nevertheless, it was not all debits from Astha-Vakra’s life account. There were a few credits as boons received from Brahma that were feathers in his cap. He was a privileged member allowed to visit the Lord any time at his residence; he was allowed to meet his wife once every month on the full moon night, in their original form; and although a human, was allowed to dwell on the mountain of the divine beings. However, he hadn’t gotten what he wanted. Once you have tasted life, it makes it so much harder to resist not having it. It is so luring that your desires dig deeper and deeper into you leaving a permanent mark. He patiently waited all this while and compromised with what was given to him. He was hoping for a positive result soon, like he always does, every time he visited Brahma.
The driver waved and said, ‘Hop on Mr. AV. Visiting the Lord again huh?’ He nodded and walked, dragging his left foot to the door limping, got in and looked around. Most of the men and women were dressed in work clothes. Men were reading the day’s papers while women looked at themselves in the mirrors or gossiped. Rush hour traffic he thought. He found a window seat and as he was about to sit, the vehicle moved forward and he fell back into his seat with a thud.
The journey picked up pace. AV sat quiet and looked out of his left window. He saw shades of lavish greens and yellows with poker dots of various flowers dressed in crimsons, pinks, yellows, oranges, blues, violets and purples, interwoven into the mosaic of pine trees. It was a well-colored and shaded landscape. He watched the day progress catching a glimpse of the horizon through the breaches between flowers. The sky had many shades of colors – yellow, orange and red, radiating, breathing life into everything with its touch. Slowly the glow from the sun spread across the mountain until it finally engulfed the entire length, breath and height of Meru. After a few more minutes of travel, the train reached the ‘tunnel of love’ with tall aromatic trees twined together in an embrace, growing on the sides of the tracks as their flowers leaned over the train forming a rainbow overhead. Legend has it that if one wishes for true love under the ‘flower rainbow,’ they are bound to be blessed with it. Many people come to wish for true love! A young couple got off. He smiled thinking, no wonder this is a popular tourist spot. The train moved again. After an hour the smell of spices traveled into the train indicating its next pit stop was approaching. It reached Tranquil Valley. Most of the train was empty when all the folks going to work, got off. The next stop was his. He got up and dragged himself limping to the door and waited mutely. Fingal caves read the name-board on the platform. AV got off and made his way out of the station. He walked three kilometers and reached the mouth of the asphalt caves. There was a stream flowing inward washing the guest’s feet before they enter Lord’s home. He waded through the water holding on to the mini fifteen inch long hexagonal steps dug into the colossal walls of the cave. He reached the main east entrance, of Chatur-Mukh Mansion.
The doors flung open as if they had sensors attached. He stepped into the courtyard of the home. With every step he took, he heard musical notes from exotic instruments. There was an intoxicating lavender aroma from blue lotuses. There was mist inhibiting his vision, wandering the roofless diamond pillared gazebo. The silk curtains were swaying to the notes of Veena performing mellow acrobatics in the air. Goddess Saraswati dressed in white, looking pure seated on her swan, eyes closed was playing her Veena welcoming dawn. Lord Brahma was seated on his blue lotus throne and was delivering destinies to people while his white hair was let loose to dry, after his morning ablution.
‘Maataa, Pitaah, Mother and Father, Salutations’ said, Astha-Vakra.
‘Ah, AV blessings. It’s you again. What bring you here so early’ asked Brahma.
‘The same reason I’ve been coming here for centuries my Lord. I am exhausted.’
‘I told you already, it is for nature to decide which of the two is superior. I cannot do that’ignoring his mockery.
‘You are the creator. What is beyond you?’ came his angry retort.
‘You gave body parts free will? When did this happen? How come I wasn’t informed of this amendment? I want a resolution to my problem right now and I am not moving an inch until I get what I want’ AV replied, hearing the news. He didn’t come prepared to take Brahma head on but the situation demanded that he put his foot down at once. And he did squatting on the floor looking at the Lord asking ‘what now?’ with his eyes.
‘I am sorry, I can’t help you but ask you to wait.’
‘Then I use my free will to end this life’ said AV, and started banging his head on the floor and was gushing blood from his brow. Goddess Saraswati came running to him, held him in her arms and said to Brahma, ‘My Lord, I cannot see this happen to my son. If you cannot help him I will.’
Brahma looked helpless.
‘At least please place him in a state of trance until this debate is resolved and he has been punished enough for one small mistake’ she said nursing his wound.
‘Alright. Since you are making a special request and I too agree that he has suffered enough will give him his last boon.’
Brahma closed his eyes, placed his hand on his chest and said, ‘From this day forward, you will have the capacity to see what is going on in your body once every year on the day of Guru Purnima, in the month of Aashaad, between June and July.’
Saraswati closed her eyes for a fraction of a second and said ‘It is seven month and eleven days until next Guru Purnima. I’ll make all the arrangements for your viewing.’ she gave her assurance.
Although not too happy with the outcome AV got up, took leave of the divine couple and promised to comeback the following Guru Purnima.
Finally, the day had arrived and AV was asked to lie down in the middle of the Gazebo while the moon was shining right on top of it, radiating through the diamond pillars, meeting in the center, intertwining into a spider’s web and the light focused deep into Astha-Vakra’s body.
AV closed his eyes and slipped into a state of trance but he could see the goings on in his body. He lay still with only his sub-conscious awake.
Goddess Saraswati and Lord Brahma smiled to each other and leaned back in their seats ready for the show.
A lean man dressed in baggie pants appeared and said, ‘The world calls me Introspection…’
A lean, young man dressed in baggie pants appeared with his hands held together in front and said, ‘The world calls me Introspection…’
He paused and continued.
‘There are three kinds of men’ my good friend Mr. Minds says, ‘One who learns from others mistakes and applies the learning to his life, second is one that makes mistakes and only then learns but does not apply the learning and the third kind are those that neither learn nor apply.’ I never understood the true meaning of it earlier. Now I know. The first kind make laws, the second kind abide by them while the third kind break them and become deviants. In simple words, one becomes rich, the other becomes middle class and the last becomes the poor class.’
‘However, there are some similarities and differences that apply to all three classes. First similarity is that economics plays an important role in every ones’ lives; second is that there is some moral code of conduct and rules for what is right and wrong. The difference is that, the rich class gains power an adage of higher economic status and defines the rules, including those of morality. If they say ‘save trees’ or ‘save animals’ everyone listens. Their economic + power = ‘economic power’ gives them the required nudge and places them above everyone else and others just listen in awe. One other important difference is that poor class lives are driven majorly by need; the middle class by some need and some greed and the rich class by dash of need and plenty of greed. Also some say, need driven actions should be defined good and greed driven, bad.’
He paused again for a second and continued.
‘The differences between good and evil were noticeably stark in earlier Yugas, with complete personification as Ram and Ravana as opposite ends of the spectrum, of good and evil. That was Tretaa Yuga though! In Dwapar Yuga however, the differences got a little muddy with Pandavas and Kauravas having scheming characters like Shakuni and Sri krishna on either side of good and bad. Also, in that Yuga the numbers of ‘evil’ increased (there were 100 Kauravas and had a legendary army). With changing Yugas, numerous mindsets evolved. In Kali Yuga the differences got murkier and illegible, gaining many emotional shades and complexity. It is humanly impossible to tease out all the variances.’
‘Where all this gets real complex is, when we find good and bad people in all classes! How does one recognize good and bad? How do we identify ones’ greed? It is known and felt only by the one that possesses it. Its repercussions nevertheless are felt by everyone.’
‘Also, everyone is in a rat race and is driven both by need and greed. But, when circumstances become indelible baits, man is forced to cross the line. How much the balance of morality tilts and in which direction will define the consequences. The end may either be an astronomical rise or a quick, steep fall. There are many such characters in history and around us and in this story is no exception. So, without further ado let’s begin.’
‘I am called Introspection by the world. You can call me Ai. This journey of mine is woven like a braid with three solid strands of hair layered in arguments, points of view interwoven and tied together with a ribbon of climax. There are no heros or villains in this story but only characters that side-step to fulfill either their need or their greed.’
‘It was the summer of 2013. One stormy night it all began unfolding right before me – The conspiracy, the cheating, the romance, backstabbing, murder, not necessarily in that order and eventually, of course the epic outcome.’