I met Bhagwan  in a most unexpected place in the most unusual way imaginable. I met him after fifteen long years and by that time a thick dust of oblivion had already settled over my memory of him. When I met him he was the last person I was searching for. Actually, why would I search for a man in a  sprawling Government  hospital  who was neither my family nor a friend nor even  a near or distant relative? Actually I was there to see a relative who was ailing. But when I reached there on getting the news of the sickness of the relative I found him already discharged and gone. I met Bhagwan  when I was  about to leave the hospital. I could easily have not noticed him as he was lying on his bed indistinguishable from  scores of other patients lying on their indistinguishable beds. But sometimes miracles do happen, someone or something quite ordinary too catches your attention  and then you wonder  for a while if you are living in a small world. When I saw him my mind suddenly got unclutched from the tension of searching  from ward to ward and from bed to bed  after a  sick relative a little while earlier and finally being told of his departure. It now got latched on to Bhagwan’s reclining body on a hospital bed. I went nearer and  found  an elderly woman  with him sitting on  a corner of the bed. He was  asleep. So  in order not to disturb him in his sleep I waited at a little distance till he was awoke.

I watched him mindfully from that distance. He looked old  and tired and most of his hairs had turned white though he couldn’t have been more than  forty or forty five. One of his ears had a torn lobe and that was there when I first met him fifteen years ago. I remembered him as a young man of  twenty five or  thirty,  fair complexioned by Indian standard with that unmistakable torn lobe on the lower portion of his left ear, the type of  deformity you occasionally found with women whose heavy  earring had been forcibly snatched away. I don’t remember how he got that. But I remembered some other things about him. He was a  vendor  selling boiled peas and grams by the side of the road passing in front of our school. There was a large banyan tree under which he sat. During the recess time students bought his boiled grams and peas. He used to take a  sal leaf and with a ladle he scooped up the boiled peas or grams, in the quantity and kind as desired by the student, on to the leaf and after  garnishing  it with some sliced onions, a few  coriander leaves and a dash of salt and pepper  he handed that over to the student who had ordered for that.

I was among the poorest of boys, so I could afford this luxury  only once in a week. But the way he served and did the whole operation from start to finish with his dexterous and agile hands never failed to intrigue or fascinate me. So I spent half of my recess time loitering around and watching him and his movements from a little distance. That one day in the week on which I could buy his wares was a very joyful day for me. The richer students probably could not have imagined that such paltry confectionary as boiled grams or peas could really mean  the moon to someone among their class mates.  Bhagwan might or might not have noticed my surveying him like that. He never offered anything free to anyone. I didn’t expect anything free from him either. It was a thing well understood from  childhood that  there was nothing free in this world. Either you paid in money and got something or you had none of that. You had better forget about that. There were no free lunches, not even free boiled peas. That was a fact of life, nothing to be bitter about. Nothing against Bhagwan, not even against your parents, you saw how hard they were in the midst of daily  battles for making a living for all of us. We were five brothers and four sisters; so my parents had even harder  battles to fight. I saw everything and understood everything and never demanded anything. Added to that I had to always live up to my image of Mom’s  good boy, her favorite, her pet.

While I was lost in reverie I noticed Bhagwan opening his eyes. He saw me but I found no sign of recognition. Probably the effects of the sleep had not completely worn off him. I went even nearer and stood beside him, introduced myself and asked him how he had been. Probably my voice did the trick or by then he was fully returned from the world of sleep. A look of comprehension and lucidity passed over his face and presently it was filled with a cherubic smile. He exclaimed in joy, ” Oh, you !” as he slowly rose up to sit on his bed. There was no seat to offer so he motioned me to sit on the bed itself. There was already the woman sitting on a corner of the bed. I politely refused but assured him that I was fine standing. He introduced the woman as his mother- in- law and I said Namaste to her. He introduced me to her with some glowing terms which I had never expected. I was a boy of eight  or ten years when we had last met  and he was perhaps twenty years older than me. I was just one boy among sixty or so students of the school and yet he remembered me in such vivid glowing terms was  remarkable for him.  I told the woman that her son-in-law was a good man and always lived by the sweat of his brow. He cheated nobody and all the children of the school liked him. The woman, whom Bhagwan called Mom  and a little while later I too called Mom, seemed to be pleased and smiled. At this moment the woman remembered something to be done and she excused herself away.

I asked Bhagwan what was he suffering from and how long he had been there in the hospital. He said while he was admitted to the hospital four days back he was incapable of urinating. He had great urge to urinate as his bladder was full, yet he could pass urine only in driblets. It took him half an hour to pass urine and when he finished it seemed it was incomplete, as if a lot remained inside. He was in great pain and thought he would die. With two or three men of his village he covered twenty kilometers in  bicycles, as that was the sole means of relatively rapid transport in our area, as a pillion rider in great discomfort and reached hospital in worst condition. He sent for his mother-in-law to remain by his side as his attendant. Only when she came in, the men from his village left him. The doctors first tried to make him urinate by administering  drugs but as he was not responding finally inserted a catheter or a tube of some length with small diameter  through his penis into his bladder and with a syringe drained the accumulated  urine out. Thereafter they performed some operations on him in that area and kept him in the hospital under observation. He slowly took off a fold of his cloth at the loin and showed me his penis with a tube hanging out. Suddenly I had the sensation that as if a bullet had passed through my chest and  I felt all my romantic notions of love, romance and sex drained out of me at the sight of that limp, flaccid penis with a catheter hanging out  of its tip. I felt excruciatingly uncomfortable. I was a young man of  twenty two  then and I had a lot of romantic illusions to grow out of. Bhagwan’s instrument of joy(my illusion no 1,if I may call that)or its pitiful condition, as it turned out, would soon  prove fatal for some of them. Strangely  after a little while as the uneasiness  passed away I felt overwhelmed with a surge of empathy and love towards him at his complete openness and display of unusual vulnerability. I felt a deep sense of protectiveness and compassion towards him and thought ways of being some use to him in his grim battle for survival. He was so week and exhausted that even this little effort of sitting and showing me his suffering had tired him out. I told him to lie down and he obeyed. I could see the heavy tolls of the passing years and this unfortunate illness had taken on him.

His mother-in-law had returned to his bed. I was wondering why didn’t I think of connecting Bhagwan with a family of his own during the time I read in school and enjoyed his wares as the world’s number one delicacy. I had never thought that even the street vendors, the lowest of the lows, had a life and family of their own to which they returned at the end of the day with day’s earnings. Now I knew better. The sight of  his mother -in-law  prompted me to wonder about his wife and children. I thought to ask about them later. I promised him to visit him next day too and took leave of them and returned to my hostel. I was doing my final year of graduation in a nearby college.

That night I awoke from my sleep in the middle of  a nightmare. A catheter  was being inserted through my penis  through the urethra to the bladder. I was  in excruciating pain and wondering how did they think of inserting that pipe into that almost nonexistent fine hole which was only meant to accommodate some passing fluids. How could they not feel my pain? Why did they not give some anesthesia  before inserting that cruel pipe? I woke up as the pain became unbearable and saw that nobody was there in my room. I was only seeing a dream. I thought of  poor Bhagwan for whom it was not a dream, it was real. For the last four days he has been bearing that pipe in his most sensitive part of the body and depended on doctors and nurses for as simple a thing as urinating. I wept for him and prayed God to bless  and cure him soon. I went back to sleep, fortunately, again with tears in my eyes.

In the morning as I awoke I  was filled with a great desire to visit him  as soon as possible. I prepared myself for classes and as the last class was over I returned to the hostel, took my meal and straight went to the hospital to visit Bhagwan. He looked a little better and said he could now urinate without the help of doctors or nurses, though the urine passed through the pipe a bit slowly. The doctors had advised  him to continue with the medicines as he was now responding well. This time his mother-in-law insisted on me  to sit with them on the bed itself and she offered to stand  herself as she said she needed some movements too as she was not a patient. I thought  she was cheerful  or as cheerful as one could be in the situation she was in. I complied by sitting on the bed. She left us to ourselves and went for a stroll in the hospital corridor. This time I could not contain my curiosity any longer. I asked Bhagwan why his wife was not with him. He was reclining on the bed with one end of the bed raised under his head, supporting his head comfortably. I felt a certain sadness enveloped his face at my question. He said he had lost his wife a decade back. To that I expressed my surprise. I expressed my desire to listen about his wife and her death.

I  could clearly see he became an altogether different man as he narrated his story. His face gradually lost his senility and he looked much younger, even younger than his actual age. It was largely a happy story with a sad ending, as if  with a sting in the tail. Theirs was a fairy tale like marriage and like most Indian marriages arranged by the elders. Both were young  and they fell in love instaneously. Their chemistry and vives were great. The newly wedded girl loved her husband like a god. She never ever  ate or slept before him. His every wish was like a command for her and she would always try to fulfill that. She would cook only those things that he liked. He could never know what she liked. She would only be pleased by feeding him the food he liked and the way he liked. That woman had a strange habit of  receiving  joy and happiness only by giving them  to her husband. She wanted nothing, demanded nothing for herself. When he offered her money to buy things for herself she always  smiled and promised him to buy something for herself next time but never bought anything for herself. Not even a  jewelry piece so fond of by other women of the village. At the slightest hint of his need for money she always gave back his money, not a penny spent on herself. Her sole mission on earth consisted of only pleasing her lord, her husband. She never compared her husband with anybody, however high, rich and mighty he might be. Riches, gold, money never counted much in her eyes. Her  roadside vendor husband, to her, was  a king by himself. No king ever matched him in his glory, in her eyes. He could do no wrong whatsoever. Her loyalty to him was cent per cent. Service to her lord was her only worship, only puja, she worshipped no other god. She would be the last to sleep and first to wake up lest her lord wanted something of her in the morning. She would be there in all his needs. Once he fell ill  and she served him day and night and nursed him back to health within short time. During nights  in the village, where no house had latrine or bathroom inside the house and everyone including the women went outside to urinate or defecate, she would accompany him in all his nightly excursions  and  with a torch in her hand she would select and inspect the spot her lord would use for his  evacuation jobs, lest some lurking snake or scorpion in the grass bite or sting him. To this unusual and extraordinary woman Bhagwan had the good or bad fortune to marry and now as he narrated all these he was finding it difficult to hold back his tears. Bad fortune because his wife died only within five years of their marriage. During these five years she had never left her husband even for a day. She died of cholera in his village in one outbreak which claimed ten lives including hers. They had no children. He was inconsolable, disoriented for a while. Later he gathered himself up and went out to the street for vending. She had requested him not to scatter himself away, not to despair, not to commit any foolish acts like suicide but to hold his head high and begin again from the scratch; that was to marry again. But Bhagwan  did not remarry, how could he find a wife like her ?Nothing less than her would satisfy him, for he had  now  known what love was. She was not only the best wife any man had ever had but she was also his greatest teacher too. She taught him how to love and how to die loving.

Bhagwan was now openly weeping for his dear wife who had departed a decade back. He wanted  to have a pee  after  this long narration and I offered to accompany him to the bath room. But surprisingly he refused my offer and instead insisted on me to sit there and look after his things. He said too many varieties of people came to hospitals and nobody should leave his things, money etc. unattended. He assured me he would be right back soon and marched away like a young man. Probably the talk about his dear wife had charged him with fresh vigor and energy.

No sooner had he  gone his mother-in-law returned and finding  him not there asked me about him. I told her not to worry as he had gone for a pee. She looked at me askingly, with questions in her eyes and surprised. I told her it was as per his wishes, he  felt strong enough to  do the job unassisted. I also said that she could expect an early discharge from the hospital as Bhagwan  had recovered surprisingly. She was happy to hear the news as she wanted to be back in her village as soon as possible. On a sudden impulse I  asked her, ” Mom, your daughter had died a decade back. Yet  you came here to attend him in his hour of need. Ten years is a long time to forget any son-in-law  when your daughter  is not there to keep the relation alive. Most people would have found this kind of request,  for attending their ex- son-in-law in hospital,  preposterous and yet you conceded  to his request. Will you kindly tell me what made you come here and attend him single handedly and unassisted by anybody else for the last four days?”

What she said in reply would remain in my memory till I die. To me it was as mysterious as the universe itself. They say you cannot explain a mystery, you can only live it. Well, ever since I had heard her reply I have been living a mystery. I have not been able to solve it. So I am just quoting her reply in verbatim so that greater heads than myself would have a go at it to crack it. First she wept a little and then said, “This man Bhagwan is not as simple as he looks. He harassed and tortured my daughter a great deal. Still she loved him  much for reasons best known to her. In her place nobody could have tolerated him. But she never let us utter a word against him. She even threatened to cut off all relationship with us, her  own parents whom she dearly loved, if we proceeded to harm him in anyway. So we remained shut up. Later she died. Her death was unexpected and unfortunate. It was devastating for all of us. We lost our dear daughter.  Bhagwan never remarried thereafter. We forgave and accepted him as our son and even tried to make him agree to remarry, but he won’t. So when he sent us message to come and take charge of him in the hospital, how could I say no to him. I have left my husband, an old man, in village all by himself  to come here. How he is cooking for himself I don’t know. He has never cooked in his life. So my mind is with him too while my body is here. If I didn’t come here then who would have? Bhagwan has no one else to nurse him, to look after him. I am just doing my duty”.

Somehow I could not associate Bhagwan with harassing or torturing his dear wife. Probably her self- sacrificing love for him was misunderstood by her  loving mother as perpetration of tyranny over her. I didn’t know nor I would ever know. Didn’t I say something remained as mystery, never to be solved. Within a day or two Bhagwan was to be discharged from the hospital. Thereafter we were never  to meet  again. But I was wondering how love was manifesting in peoples’ lives and prompted them to behave in the ways never imagined by themselves before. So many forms of love, so many appearances rising in love.

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    •  

      Steven Steensels

       

      Oh yes, Paresh, the ways we relate to and love other creatures are indeed a mystery. Thank you for sharing your inquisitive feelings, so deep and sensitive…
      Have you read ‘Eleven Past Lives’ among my notes ? A similar experience: wonder wi…See More
      August 27 at 6:32pm · Unlike ·  2 people
    •  

      Picky Curmudgeon

       

      Paresh….. Thank you for this. Your stories point out the great meaning that exists within our everyday experiences. You have a sensitivity that appreciates meaning where others would not see it.
      A collection of your stories in the form of …See More
      August 27 at 7:37pm · Unlike ·  5 people
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      Jill Richling-Thesman Wonderful, Presh. I was moved and entranced from the first paragraph till the last. Thank you. 

       

      August 27 at 8:17pm · Unlike ·  3 people
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      Adriana Hill Oh, did I forget to mention that Paresh is going to publish? Stay tuned for more to come..it gets better with each installation! 

       

      August 27 at 8:19pm · Unlike ·  5 people
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      Unity Walker Paresh–Your stories are from the heart–your own experience. They say we should write about what is familiar to us. You are obviously familiar with the heart. Namaste. ~♥~ 

       

      August 27 at 8:42pm · Unlike ·  6 people
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      Robin Zak ‎”They say you cannot explain a mystery, you can only live it.”…lovely truth, and an enchanting story which enhances the “… many forms of love, so many appearances rising in love.” Thank you Paresh 

       

      August 27 at 8:48pm · Unlike ·  5 people
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      Elena Bourunina If you live your lives on the basis of what you believ, what you love in your heart- it means to be truly human and it is the way of living in the wisdom of God. Paresh, great thanks for sharing! 

       

      August 27 at 9:28pm · Unlike ·  3 people
    •  

      Miriam Strauss

       

      Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return.
      Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-be…See More
      August 27 at 10:04pm · Unlike ·  3 people
    •  

      Kia Pierce Dear Paresh, I very much enjoyed and was moved by your story ~ thank you. Life and love are a sacred mystery indeed, and on occasion time serves to illuminate glimpses of unexpected realities behind the veil. Very grateful for your sharings, and for the tag. Thank you. ♥ 

       

      August 27 at 11:46pm · Unlike ·  6 people
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      Irene Bradle What a wonderful story, Paresh. The workings of the heart will always remain a mystery. Love is given and recieved in so many different ways. Everyone has a different perception of what love entails. Your love, my dear friend, is filled with compassion, the greatest element the heart can hold. I am very elated that your works will be published. Thank You, as always, for sharing. Namaste! 

       

      August 28 at 12:46am · Unlike ·  4 people
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      Hélène Lalaire ♥ Thank you dear Heart 

       

      August 28 at 2:21am · Unlike ·  3 people
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      Elaine Mouton Flanagan Thank you 

       

      August 28 at 4:21am · Unlike ·  1 person
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      Beatriz Dantzler You are such a talented and sensitive writer, dear Paresh. Very beautiful story! Thank you! ♥ 

       

      August 28 at 6:10am · Unlike ·  4 people
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      Neelam Sethi Pareshji, ur story asks us to be grateful for one of nature’s greatest blessings- good health. Secondly, it brings to light the fact that the good that people do lives after them and it is human nature to think of the past as very very good, even tho’ it wasn’t so.And, thirdly, we find that even the poor are cultured enough to feel duty bound to a relationship which is really no more. Thanx, very touching story. 

       

      August 28 at 11:30am · Unlike ·  4 people
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      Ishvari Lockhart Thank you dear Paresh, you fill your words with Love ♥ 

       

      August 28 at 2:23pm · Unlike ·  1 person
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      Richard Kogerup Thank you dear Paresh , your stories fill my heart with love … Just Beautiful … 

       

      August 28 at 9:13pm · Unlike ·  2 people
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      Daniel D. Woo Paresh: This is a beautiful story. Thank you. 

       

      August 29 at 6:13am · Unlike ·  3 people
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      Kaila Kukla love is given equally to everybody whether rich or poor…why not? God is Love and we are all his heart 

       

      August 29 at 8:39am · Unlike ·  3 people
    •  

      Carmen Pentek

       

      Dear Paresh, you are a very gifted short-story writer, please continue! 

       

      The narration about the loving wife reminded me a lot of my mother who tolerated a great deal of my father’s difficult behaviours…
      I think in her case it had to do with…See More

      August 30 at 4:54am · Unlike ·  1 person
    •  

      Julia Day Selfless service ~ to go where we are Called ~ beautiful ♥ 

       

      August 30 at 9:52pm · Like ·  1 person
    •  

      Carmen Pentek Obedience needs no intelligence. All machines are obedient. Nobody has ever heard of a disobedient machine. Obedience is simple, too. It takes the burden off you of any responsibility. There is no need to react, you have simply to do what is being said. The responsibility rests with the source from where the ord…er comes. In a certain way you are very free: you cannot be condemned for your act. OSHO 

       

      August 30 at 10:58pm · Like
    •  

      Irene Harvey

       

      interesting. when reading the part of the story about the seemingly selfless acts of the wife, i immediately grew suspicious. it seemed pathological to me. no one is anyone’s god. why was she behaving like a doormat? real love is possible o…See More
      August 31 at 5:33am · Unlike ·  2 people
    •  

      Paresh Chandra Mangaraj

       

      Neelam,Carmen,Julia and Irene,You have raised very good points of your own after reading the story.They are your genuine responses.They also show the story engaged you at some deeper level and moved you to record your insights,interpretatio…See More
      August 31 at 6:21am · Like ·  1 person
    •  

      Paresh Chandra Mangaraj

       

      I might add here that but for this spectacle of selfless love I would not have been moved to write this story at all.Of course,what is perceived as selfless love by someone can be perceived as sentimental or machine like behavior by somebo…See More
      August 31 at 7:41am · Like ·  3 people
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      Nana Trianasari Thank you so much Pareshji, for tagging & sharing..it’s such an inspiring story…Thank you… 

       

      August 31 at 9:03am · Unlike ·  2 people
    •  

      Renee Knight Wow, what a story! 

       

      October 5 at 2:38am · Unlike ·  1 person
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      Paresh Chandra Mangaraj Renee,thank you for reading my story.I could not be as courteous,civil and humble as yourself always.But in my own way I have tried to offer my genuine respect to a rustic woman who symbolised for me selfless unconditional love.As my friend,philosopher and guide Julia Day very aptly described it as “Selfless service ~to go wherever we are called”.I am moved to accord you a very special welcome to you here. 

       

      October 5 at 8:11am · Like ·  1 person
    •  

      Renee Knight Yes, that is what I felt when reading the story. Namaskar, Rani 

       

      October 5 at 6:31pm · Unlike ·  1 person
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      Oriah Myriah Rohr wow ! …” ‘rising in love’, so many forms” ♥ 

       

      October 7 at 10:25pm · Unlike ·  1 person
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