Unexpectedly the clouds burst. Maybe, it was not so unexpected; I had ignored the gathering clouds. I have a way of deluding myself that life will treat me well since I am a person with no malice in my heart. I am kind of a Narcissist, if you like.
The clouds burst anyway. I had no choice but run into the nearest building which looked dilapidated. Not in ruins really. It looked like someone had pulled it down intentionally before its time had run out. Not a terrorist attack; not so random. It looked like a planned attack. Destruction part by part. Slow ruin. Painful ruin.
These thoughts were running in my mind when I noticed someone sitting at one of the many doorstops that led to endless emptiness in that ruined building. He looked like a lunatic. He had a stubble, unkempt hair which was dripping with rain water, and a burnt-out beedi stub between his fingers. He sucked at the beedi stub occasionally though it was drenched with water.
He grinned at me when I looked at him. I felt a little scared because he looked ghostly. It was a desolate place though not unfamiliar to me. I used to walk the nearby streets every evening in obedience to my doctor’s orders. It was after a long time that I had taken this particular street. There was something in me that prompted me to avoid this street though once in a while I had challenged the prompt. The building was not in ruins the last time I came by, though it was not occupied either.
“What are you doing here?” The beedi man asked me. His voice sounded eerie. Like steel grating against steel. But the grin was still on his lips.
I ignored the question and looked into the rain as if the answer lay somewhere there.
There was not a soul anywhere near. Total desolation. In this remote part of the village no one could be expected and that too in this heavy downpour.
The beedi man repeated his question.
“Who are you?” I put another question to him since I didn’t know what else to do.
Ha ha ha! Steel against steel again.
“I am the Baba of this temple,” he waved his hands indicating the dilapidated building. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I create and I destroy. I will build again from the ruins. I will build the heavenly kingdom. The paradise. A global temple will come up here,” he waved his hands majestically again.
I decided to ignore him thinking him a lunatic. But there was something in his eyes that drew me to him. I couldn’t take a step ahead.
He seemed to have sensed my thoughts. “Do you know Gandhi?” he asked.
Which Gandhi? I wondered. Right from the Mahatma down to Rahul, we have so many Gandhis, a whole scale of degradation.
“He fought a whole empire with nakedness,” said the beedi Baba. “When the British stood armoured with their three-piece suit daring the heat of Indian summer, Gandhi stripped himself of all gentleman’s clothes and told them that the truth was very bare. Gandhi had nothing to hide, you see. Those who have nothing to hide win in the end.”
“But he was killed,” I blurted out in spite of myself.
“Die, man,” spat out beedi Baba. “Unless a grain of wheat falls in the soil and dies, it cannot be reborn.” He sucked at his soggy beedi greedily.
I felt scared that he would get up and start sucking at one of the veins in my body somewhere.
“A global temple, a global temple,” he muttered to himself shaking his head like a lunatic, looking into the rain as if the rain was going to build his temple.
“Who is the god in your temple?” I heard myself asking.
He stared at me. There was fire in the stare.
“I am the God. I am Alpha and Omega. I am the worshippers. I am a legion.”
The clouds thundered. A lightning struck and the eastern corner of the building collapsed.
The lightning entered my heart. The beedi Baba roared with laughter.
I ran out into the rain. The rain welcomed me.