Professor woke up hearing the sound of something falling in the backyard of his two-storey house. He switched on the lights. It was three o’clock, still a couple of hours to his wake-up alarm. A groan rose from the yard. He went downstairs and opened the backdoor.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” He asked the man who was struggling to get up.
Professor helped the man to get up and led him into his drawing room. He gave him water to drink and offered to prepare tea.
“You have a fracture in the foot, I think,” said Professor having examined the man’s leg. He picked up his phone and called for an ambulance. “Let me change my dress. Relax here until the ambulance arrives.”
“Why are you doing this to me?” The man asked Professor while they were in the ambulance. He was lying down on the stretcher. Professor was not a fool; he must have understood what had happened. The intruder had fallen down while trying to get into his house through the upper storey by climbing up a tree.
“Did I have an option?” wondered Professor. “You come to my house and break your leg. What else could I do?”
It was only after the man was admitted in the hospital that he revealed his identity and the purpose of his nocturnal visit to Professor. He was a terrorist assigned with the duty of cutting off Professor’s palms.
“You shouldn’t write anymore, that’s what we wanted,” he explained. Professor’s writings hurt their religious sentiments, he said. So they decided to stop his writings. And thus give a warning to other such potential writers. No one should dare to question religion. Holy cows should be above the questioning of silly rationalists like Professor.
“But did you read my writings?” Professor asked. “Any one of you whose sentiments are so brittle, did any one of you read my writings?”
Professor knew the answer even before Terrorist answered him.
“Has any one of you ever read the scriptures of your religion?”
Professor knew the answer even before Terrorist answered the question.
“What is religion?” Terrorist stared at Professor. He did not know the answer.
Wasn’t it the magic wand with which we subjugated people? The magic wand which elevated some to the higher classes and relegated others to the lower? It created myths and enshrined them as eternal truths. It created holy cows. It burned alive the seekers of real truths after labelling them as heretics and witches, infidels and blasphemers. Gods have always been blood-thirsty. Religion is a history of divine thirst that stretches from Prometheus to Kalburgi, from Achtaeon to Akhlaq.
“Your leg will take at least six weeks to heal,” Professor told the man. “You will get ample time to read the Gita, the advice of the god of your holy cow. Read the whole Mahabharata and see if that god is worth amputating people’s arms for. You will get time to read more and I can give you the materials if you wish.”
Was this Professor’s revenge? Terrorist asked himself. Is he mocking me? When my father was shot dead in a railway station by a man who came from across the country’s border carrying a machine gun, where was this Professor with his counsel?
No, Professor, the enemies of our gods deserve death. Nothing less. What are we without our gods? I don’t need your books. I need my gods.
When Terrorist was discharged from hospital, Professor took him home.
“Why don’t you leave me alone? I’ll go back to my home.” Terrorist almost pleaded.
“But your mission is not accomplished.” Professor went in and came back with the knife that had fallen in his backyard along with Terrorist. He kept the knife above a book shelf and said, “The day you are able to use it again, you can accomplish your mission and leave happily. In the meanwhile, these are the books that you may read.”
When Professor went to college, Terrorist pulled out one of the books after looking at many titles. Jokes. That was the book he pulled out. He opened a page randomly.
“Dam fish, dam fish,” a boy was shouting trying to sell the fish in his basket.
“Why do you call them damn fish?” asked a pastor who passed by.
“I caught them from the dam,” said the boy innocently.
Pastor bought some fish. He told his wife that they were special fish as they were dam fish.
“Damn fish are special?” wondered the woman.
“This is the problem with you people whose minds are dirty,” sermonised Pastor. “I say dam and you hear damn.” He explained that they were dam fish.
Later, at dinner, he said to his wife, “Pass me the dam fish.”
“Ha! That’s the spirit, Dad,” said his young son jubilantly. Then turning to his mom he said, “Mom, pass me the fucking potatoes.”
Terrorist laughed. Then he realised that it was the first time he laughed in many years. He read more jokes and laughed more.
When he laughed flowers bloomed in the garden outside. “Why didn’t I ever notice this beauty earlier?” He wondered.
Slowly he learnt that there was so much beauty in the world to be relished.
“Do you see the bird sitting there? And the tree? And me?” Drona asked Arjuna.
Terrorist was re-writing the Gita.
“I see the bird,” replied Arjuna. “I see it clearly.”
“Aim at the eye,” said the Guru.
Arjuna lowered his bow and arrow. “I can’t,” he said. “I can’t shoot.”
“Why?” The Guru became petulant.
“I see, Guru. I see clearly.”
“Don’t you want your knife?” Professor asked when Terrorist’s foot was liberated from its plaster cage and he was ready to walk away.
“Haven’t you made me incapable of wielding it?” Terrorist asked. “Haven’t you taught me that the word is more powerful than the knife?”
“Compassion is the most powerful weapon, my friend,” said Professor. “What the religions have always preached but never learnt. Compassion. Try wielding that weapon. No enemy can fight that for long.”
Compassion. Was it compassion that his Arjuna felt for the bird when he refused to shoot it? He had still to learn that. He would learn. Soon, he hoped. He could feel his lips longing to kiss someone and whisper, “I love you. I love you.”
Sreesha Divakaran's review of my book, The Nomad Learns Morality: HERE