Sunday, June 15, 2014

Maya


Fiction


Her face made my heart skip a beat.  Was it really her?  I had not met Maya for over thirty years.  But the perfect symmetry of her thin but mysteriously seductive lips could not have escaped me.  I was walking up towards the Hanuman Temple on the Jakhoo Hill in Shimla when the perfect symmetry on a wrinkled face beneath a silver shock of fluttering hair hit my heart like a perverse Kamadeva’s arrow.   She was wearing a saffron robe.  A rosary of fairly huge rudraksh beads lay on her breast.  The fire in her eyes had not burned out yet though melancholy was threatening to overpower it.  She had entered a narrow trail from the main road. 

“Maya,” I called.

She halted but did not turn back.  I called the name again.  This time she did turn back to look at the person who had uttered a sound that she did not apparently want to hear.  I walked closer to her.  She stared at me.  I smiled. 

“Sam!” She said concealing her surprise with practised expertise.  “Why are you here?”

“As a tourist,” I said matter-of-factly.  “But I seem to have struck a goldmine, I ran into you.”

I assured her that I was not searching for her at all.  Our encounter was a pure coincidence.  But a lucky one, I added.

I followed her to the hut where she said she lived all alone all these years.

Maya was my classmate in college during our undergraduate years.  Indira Gandhi had declared Emergency in the country.  Maya opposed the Emergency with all the spirit of a true Marxist.  Well wishers warned her to be cautious.  Many people who had questioned the Emergency had already disappeared under the sycophantic reign of K Karunakaran.  Nobody knew what happened to the arrested.  “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees,” Maya dismissed the friendly warnings.  I was always struck by the way her beautiful lips moved when she spoke passionately.  Whenever she spoke I would occupy the front row, not to listen to her but to watch her vivacious lips whose movements rivalled the gracefulness of a Bharatanatyam dance. 

“I wish I could hang on to your lips more than metaphorically,” I once told her half in jest.

“What do you mean?”  Her eyes burnt into mine. 

“Just a kiss, nothing more,” I was not intimidated.

She caught my head in both her hands and planted her lips on mine.  More than a flirt but less than a commitment, the kiss was the first and the last physical contact we ever had and its sweet shock remained in my veins like a restless neuron for many years.   

“My marriage is as fixed as my destiny,” she told me immediately after the kiss so that I wouldn’t nurture any illusion.  “A family commitment.”

As soon as she graduated she married Rajan Namboothiri, an eccentric scientist at ISRO, Trivandrum.  A few years after the marriage, Dr Namboothiri gave up his job and became a pujari at the local temple.  He spent all his time reciting the Vedas and the Upanishads and teaching the meanings of the shlokas to whoever cared to listen.   His family members blamed Maya for the situation though nobody knew how she was responsible for any of it.  Eventually Maya vanished.

“Varanasi, Haridwar, Badrinath...,” Maya spoke in a voice that was uncharacteristically subdued.  “I searched for meanings.  Or joy.  I don’t know what.  Finally I reached here.  Away from crowds and the noise of spirituality.”

“Rajan Namboothiri passed away last year,” I said.  She looked at me but without any particular emotion.  His life was consumed by the scriptures. 

“I left him because I could not accept what he was doing,” she spoke after a long silence.  “I accused him of escapism.  Finally I became just what he had become.”

“Do we become what we hate?” I asked without realising what I was doing.

“Love and hate, virtue and sin, revolution and counter-revolution, all poles vanish when you arrive at the truth of Param Brahma.” 

She paused and then said, “Please do not visit me again.  Please do not tell anyone about me.  I want to be alone.”

I knew I had to keep the promise.  Maya had planted a renewed neuron in my veins and it would continue to be restless for many years. 



32 comments:

  1. Do we really become what we hate? This makes me think for I have seen people who are what they hate....

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    1. Namrata, the very fact that you asked this question speaks volumes about your capacity to understand humanity. I hope you will go on to study literature.

      Yes, many people become what they hate. That's one way of overcoming the devil within and without.

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  2. Is Maya for real?She sounds very intellectual?And did you keep your promise not to tell anyone?

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    1. Saw the FICTION on top later,sorry!

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    2. It is pure fiction, Nima. I have seen a lot of ascetics during my various journeys including places like Badrinath. But I didn't meet any such ascetic in Shimla :)

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    3. hahahaa ofcourse you didn't.Really enjoyed reading this.

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    4. Truth is stranger than fiction, Nima. Don't laugh at me like that.

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  4. Really a good story.. Do we become what we hate.. a thoughtful line..

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    1. Some people do, Lancelot. Some people do become what they hate. I have seen it.

      Some people become what they eat. Trash.

      Some people become what they think. Great.

      And some people become what they hate, tragedy.

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    2. This is so true.. I believe we hate someone because somewhere we loved the one and our feelings get betrayed leading to hatred..

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    3. You've hit the nail on the head, Roohi. Love and hate are just two sides of the same coin. You hate something because you are not able to love it although you want to. Strange! But true!

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    4. Yup.. Its my favorite philosophy. I invite you to read my story I wrote on this few weeks ago: Mirror on the wall

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  5. Just love your stories.. But tell me one thing isn't it really escapism to live alone somewhere no one recognizes you? We all yearn for it at some point of time when we are depressed. I think like that many times and it gives me complex for thinking that way..

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    1. Individual choices, Roohi. There's no logical explanation to them. Every individual is a mystery.

      Escapism, you say. Isn't money the best way of escapism in today's world? And we have a Prime Minister who promises to make more of that! Well, I don't want to bring in politics here. But the reality is what it is. Created by those in power.

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  6. Loved the story Sir. Do we really become what we hate is the food for thought I am taking along with me from here.

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    1. Not necessarily, Jyotsna. There are other options too. For example, we can become what we read. For more options, read one of my comments above.

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  7. What a thoughtful story sir... do we really become what we hate ???? I truly hope not :)

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    1. Thoughts come from experience, dear Shruti.

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  8. We go searching for joy in places and in ideas and theories when it resides in our minds. Loved the story Mr Matheikal. Will be following your posts henceforth. :)

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  9. It was nice reading your story...' u become what u hate'...this thought will now linger in my mind...

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  10. This makes you think....hard....great write! Sadly most people do become what they hate....they get so obsessed with say an attribute that they hate that unknowingly it becomes a part of their character... I have seen this around me!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Aditi. What happens, I think, is that we try to conquer what we hate and end up assimilating some of the vices that we fought against. The vices become our tools, eventually part of our character.

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  11. We don't hate what we become. We just don't understand what we became and how. It may sometimes come out as frustration but most of the times it is just confusion.

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    1. We don't hate what we become, but we may become what we hate. Anyway, that's not the central theme of the story. The protagonist in the story has gone beyond the poles of love and hate, and reached a level of awareness where feelings don't play much role and the bifurcations made by traditional morality vanish....

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  12. I just hope, not to become what I hate the most :)

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    1. Not everyone becomes what one hates, Raja. There are a lot of other options available to us.

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  13. I agree... we become what we hate, detest.. perhaps because we keep on brooding about it.. I have seen it in reality more then once. I am one of the in-between.... At times I have to do a conscious effort NOT to do certain things I detest in others or some-one particular. An I have realized that to avoid being that is to vaporize the 'hate' ..slowly it turns in to detestation turns to bothering turns to indifference turns to correction of the other person turns to salvation ..of myself.

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    1. Your self-awareness if commendable, Kokila.

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    2. I have to work hard to keep it that way ...constantly. Only yesterday something happened and I snapped ...within 2 seconds gained control but am embarrassed and sad .... i knew I was not wrong but with self awareness self control should have been there :( so, am not worthy of praise .

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