Insights — 12 February 2014

Naina recalls an event that occurred during her childhood in Assam.

Lying in the hospital bed by a huge window, his eyes were watery as he remembered his old helpless parents and the fact that he would not be able to walk again. They were still oblivious of the fact that their most infamous son met with an accident the evening before and that both his legs had to be amputated.

He remembered his carefree childhood spent in a little village set in the rural parts of one of the north eastern states of India. Born in a family of the farming community, he did attend the village primary school and studied until 5th Standard. Travelling down memory lane he remembered his five siblings and how they leapt, rolled and swayed under the sun and rain, the breeze carrying them to whichever direction it was blowing as if they were hairy kohuwa [Assamese for catkin] flowers. He dropped out of school when he grew wary of his teacher’s reprimands and beatings and started to move around with friends who were equally labelled as vagabonds. As a youth with no formal qualification for a job or any skill to earn a livelihood, he spent his days loafing around with his good-for-nothing friends.

Lying in the hospital bed,
for the first time he felt…
something moving in his heart.

He never understood society nor did society need to understand him. For nobody paid any attention to him. With time he fully developed into a goon, terrorising the entire neighbourhood. Rarely a day passed without him thrashing somebody or breaking a bone or two. The more society blamed him, the more he became adept in making lives miserable for others.

Now he would have to live without his legs, unable to walk on this earth again. Now he reeled under a different kind of pain, not physical but more of an agony. Lying in the hospital bed, for the first time he felt… something moving in his heart. Moving through the dark alley of memories is a painful journey; All he could understand was that God punished him for being a sinner. The people he had harmed cursed him and now he was paying for all his sins.

Brahmaputra River

Brahmaputra River

Back in his village, he felt like a burden on his old parents. His siblings, who were all married, had no time for him. He had become a dependent who could not even move an inch without help from others. A pair of crutches had become his permanent support.

A year or two passed – he sometimes grew impatient of all the bickering and rudeness meted out to him by his family members, but now he was helpless and was surviving on the mercy of others. Sometimes he screamed out and blamed God for letting him live. How could God be so cruel?

Or is God cruel?

One rainy afternoon as he sat in the mud-plastered porch, he watched his mother trying to mend an old bamboo basket. He asked her to hand over the basket to him and to get him some bamboo sticks. As he started to mend the basket he was surprised at the way his hands were working, so creatively, not as if he were doing it but it was flowing through him.

That instant – born out of the moment – creativity never left him for the rest of his life. From morning till evening he weaved cane and bamboo and as he weaved along, he started to sing in the glory of the unknown one who held the thread of his life in his hands. The beautiful pieces he created soon became popular with the local people and his fame spread wide enough to attract a few students who lived and learnt with him. He was a transformed man, now his heart no longer wept with guilt about his past misdeeds – rather he had become a devotee full of gratefulness; a devotee of the unknown one who was working through him. His students loved him because of his loving and gentle nature.

The whole village started to look up to him as a spiritual man though he never claimed it. He was just happy being alive, and creating wonderful things that gave him joy and peace. A few years later, while crossing the river Brahmaputra, his boat sank and took him along. Some say even when the boat was sinking, he did not seem panicky but there was a wonderful glow of content in his face. And his lips full of a song in the splendour of the river Brahmaputra.

Article by Naina – dedicated to the unknown one she met in her childhood in Assam, who gave her a beautiful cane peacock

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