It was years since I had met Siddhartha. When I heard that he was sitting under a peepal awaiting enlightenment, I was curious. I embarked on the metro train that would take me near to Kapil Vastu Estate.
Kapil Vastu Estate was a huge complex developed by Siddhartha’s father, Shuddhodhana Gautama, one of the most successful industrialists of neoliberal Hindustan. “Profit is the dharma of the trader,” was Shuddhodhana’s motto. He had graduated from the London School of Economics before doing MBA from Harvard University.
Siddhartha and I were classmates. Not that my father could afford to send me to the same public school as Siddhartha. Since my father was Shuddhodhana’s personal assistant and a close confidante, the business magnate decided to put me in the same school as his own son. Probably, it was his way of monitoring his son indirectly.
Siddhartha showed little interest in academics or co-curricular or extra-curricular activities. He came and went back by a chauffeur-driven air-conditioned car. The school was centrally air-conditioned. Siddhartha didn’t have to see the world outside. But he longed to see it, I think.
Shuddhodhana was alarmed by his son’s increasing melancholy contemplativeness. He decided to do some cleaning up. Starting with the library, he removed all serious literature and filled the shelves with books of Sidney Sheldon and his Hindustani avatar, Chetan Bhagat, as well as other such stimulating writers. “Burn all the books by intellectuals and subversives,” ordered Shuddhodhana. “Bring in our classics like Kamasutra and Arthasastra.”
Nothing worked. Neither the ancient classics nor the ultramodern metro reads stimulated Siddhartha’s soul. It hankered after something that all the fabulous wealth of his father could not buy.
In the meanwhile, I completed my post-graduation and teacher training and became a teacher in a fully residential school which occupied me body and soul round the clock. I was not aware of what was transpiring in the walled world of Kapil Vastu Estate. But when the news of Siddhartha’s contemplation under the peepal tree reached me, I applied for a casual leave from school and rushed to meet my old mate, son of my benefactor.
The ten feet massive steel gate opened before me. I still had some contacts with people inside, you see.
“There is death, I learnt,” Siddhartha told me. “Human life is wretched. There is illness. There is much evil. The air-conditioning is an illusion. The Estate is an illusion.” He went on to give me a long lecture. All desire is evil, he said. He was going to found a new religion, he said, to help people overcome desires. Live without desires and attain nirvana.
“Can you arrange one nirvana for me free of cost?” I asked. After all, I was his closest friend at school. He could do me this simple favour. It was then I noticed the book lying near Siddhartha’s meditation mat.
“What’s this?” I was stunned. “You’re reading Dostoevsky?” I picked up The Idiot. “This is as outdated as Das Capital by those two nuts.”
Sitting under the peepal tree with Siddhartha Gautama, I became enlightened. Nirvana is living out of joint with time.