A Guest Post by my Hubby Manoj Mohapatra.
Rajesh woke up from his sleep on the call of the bed roll staff. The train had reached Bangalore city. He had booked a MERU cab to go to his destination. He was joining the regional headquarters of his company after being trained at the national headquarters at Mumbai. He was new to south India. But he thought, to start with, Bangalore is the best place. For a man born and brought up in eastern part of India, south India, always presents a challenge. The food is different, weather is different even the culture is somewhat different. Meanwhile he had boarded the taxi and zoomed on the roads of the IT city. Several random thoughts were churning in his mind. Why the hell there are no superfast trains connecting the IT capital and the business capital of this country? Even a bus journey will take less than 16 hrs to cover the distance but there are no trains taking less than 24 hrs between these two mega polis. Though longer than a bus journey, train is always comfortable, even the so-called super deluxe luxury buses also give you such bumpy rides that one requires more time to recover from that.
Rajesh was distracted by the voice of the cab driver. Where in Chamrajpet sir? K.G.nagar-told Rajesh, here is the complete address-he handed over a chit to the driver. His company has arranged a fully furnished flat for him near to the office. Rajesh got the keys from the owner and settled down. It was a Sunday so there was not much to do, so he just lied down on the bed and fell asleep.
When he got up from his deep slumber it was 3.30 in the afternoon. Rajesh cursed himself-now where lunch will be available at this time? He rushed to the nearby street. Wondered for some time, asked some strangers and somebody told the name of ‘Sarvana Café’. So he went there and surprised to see so many people having lunch at the time of siesta. So he thought he is not the only lazy one out there. He occupied an empty table and ordered plain rice and dal. He didn’t want to take any risk. It was when Rajesh was taking his first bite, he saw ‘her’. She was sitting across three tables. Her first glance enchanted Rajesh, he felt like time had stopped at that point. Actually she was waiting for her bill. She left in a hurry. Rajesh was still dumbstruck trying to figure out who this angel was and hoping to see her again.
The next morning Rajesh woke up early and got dressed. Dal-rice did the job; he did not take any dinner and got up early, went to the same café hoping to have just a glance of her. He ordered dosa, because this is a universal breakfast and one can find it even in his home state, Odisha. While eating his breakfast, he was thinking about her, she was not sort of a beauty queen but there was something in her that attracted him. She was far from fair, kind of dusky. Her doe eyes were the most striking aspect of her face.
Rajesh finished his breakfast and started to walk towards office. His office was very close by -5 min by walk. That was the most lucrative offer for Rajesh. He didn’t like the huffle and buffle of Mumbai life. Back in Mumbai he was travelling daily from Chembur to Andheri by the 8.12 harbour line local train. If by any chance he missed the local then he had to change two trains to reach the destination. Similarly while returning also; he always used to rush to catch the 7.10 Panvel local. For an easy- going guy like Rajesh this was very hectic and he could not cope-up with it. He often fell sick due to this schedule, he always used to think, how on earth, these Mumbaikars are managing this!!! Forget about Chembur, people are coming to Andheri from far off places like Ambernath and Vasai. Even people are there who are daily commuting in between Pune and Mumbai-a straight 3.5 hr journey if not more, hoooffff…. Rajesh uttered a long breath remembering the busy life back in Mumbai.
Life was now very cool for Rajesh as he is an easy going guy. While wandering between his past thoughts, Rajesh could not notice that, he had reached his destination, his office building. As he was just about to enter the office premise, his eyes kept fixed on the bus stop in front of the gate. There she was standing. Her dream girl, the same girl he had seen in the café. His heartbeat got faster seeing her; he tried his best to control his emotions and not to do any silly thing. He just kept staring at her. She was looking very pretty in a white dress. She was not wearing any ornaments barring a small bindi. Her hair was waving in the air as if swinging in tune with the gusty wind. Rajesh thought he would go straight to the girl and ask her name, but then controlled himself as he was new to the city.
The day went very well, as it is said-well begun is half the work done- Rajesh was very happy that everybody in the office liked him and his work. The next day also Rajesh saw the same girl on the bus stop in front of his office. This time he thought, today I will talk to her-he gathered courage-clear his throat and crossed the road went near the bus stop and stood just behind her. But before he could ask anything, the girl asked, ‘Excuse me, what is the right time, it seems my watch has stopped, I might get late for my office’. Rajesh’s heart was now beating at its top speed. He was numb for a while, he could not figure out what to say. This was like straight from the bollywood movie. Just at that time a bus came and the girl boarded that, Rajesh was standing there at the bus stop still thinking and trying to say that it is now 9.30 am.
The next morning Rajesh could not locate her on the bus stop. When he was entering his cabin, the security guard told him, sir, this lady is waiting for you for 10 min pointing out to the girl. Rajesh was awestruck. The girl came straight to him and said ‘hi I am jenny’ with a naughty smile. Do you feel like having a coffee? Asked jenny, Rajesh had no option but to agree, so they both went to the cafeteria of Rajesh’s office. Rajesh could not believe that he was actually having coffee with her dream girl.
While sipping the coffee, they both were silent, jenny first broke the ice- so-why you were staring at me-Rajesh was shocked at her straight to the point question, after a few fumbling words he said I don’t know why but I always wanted to talk to you. Jenny was listening carefully. She said-then why you did not said it on the first day you saw me in the café? Rajesh was surprised on hearing this. They both laughed at this point. It was getting late for office, so they decided to have lunch together at the same place and continue their conversation.
It was now a sort of ritual for both Rajesh and jenny to have breakfast and lunch together. They shared their feelings, their family background with each other. They liked each other’s company. For both of them during those short conversations time flew like anything. Jenny-was actually Jennifer Thomas, a catholic from Kerala. Her father was working in some shipping corporation in the Middle East and she and her mother were only there now. She came to B'lore after she got the job of a receptionist. Rajesh- Rajesh Digambar Acharya, a Hindu Brahmin boy from Odisha, the only son of a temple priest from Puri. Jenny used to tell Rajesh - we are like two sides of river, never meant to be united through running parallel to each other. To this, Rajesh used to protest, no jenny, I wil make a bridge across the river. They did not tell about themselves in their respective family. They both knew that nobody will understand their feelings. There was a remote chance that jenny’s parents may agree but Rajesh’s father – forget that.
One day, jenny got a call from Rajesh at 11 am in the morning. It was very unusual time, they just had breakfast and left for respective offices, may be an early call for lunch-jenny thought. Rajesh on the other side of the phone seemed tense and wanted to meet her immediately at M.G Park, 12th road. At the park, jenny was surprised to see Rajesh with his bags packed. Rajesh’s uncle had called, his father was counting his last breath and his wish was to see his son. Rajesh had already booked the flight ticket for Bhubaneswar. Jenny felt really bad that Rajesh did not inform her before booking the ticket; she could have come with him. But then she thought, this is not the time for complaining, and came with Rajesh up to the airport.
Rajesh could not think anything during the flight; he just wished that he could see his father for the last time. When he reached Bhubaneswar airport, his uncle’s son was already there with the taxi. After reaching his village, he saw some crowd gathering in front of his house and could sense that, his father is no more. Rajesh rushed inside home but his worst thought had come true.
After the cremation and last rites, his uncle, read the will of his father that he had left for Rajesh. Rajesh was dumbstruck after hearing this; his father had given all the charges of the temple to him. Rajesh first thought he will delegate the duties of the temple to his uncle and went ahead with his job. But it was not possible. According to the rule books, the delegation of the temple duties was only possible if Rajesh’s father had no son. As Rajesh was the only heir, he has to take charge of the temple and its properties.
Rajesh could not think of anything. He was developing a strange kind of hatred for his father now. If he had to take up the charges of the temple, then what is the use of his study, he studied hard to clear the tough CA exam in one go. Why did he toil in Mumbai traffic for one year? Why did he spend sleepless nights going through the tutorial books of Shah’s CA coaching? Why did he spend a year as intern with salaries like peanuts? His promotion was due next month, why should he forgot his 11 months hard work?
He was on a threshold. On one side, there was his village, the people of the village and the temple. On the other side there was his job, career and above all Jenny.
Several days passed, Rajesh thought about everything but could not arrive at any conclusion. He was lying on the veranda on a mattress made up of coconut leaves with eyes giving blank look to the roof when his uncle came to him. Rajesh betaa- uncle called- your father was a man with a far sighted vision, a man truly dedicated to the cause of the village. Have you ever wondered why he wanted you to become a CA, when he knew that- after him you have to take care of the temple? See Rajesh, the temple has a lot of properties, land, ponds, orchards, mangroves, paddy fields. And your father was a simple man; he never understood the complicacies of today’s business world. But somehow he managed people with pure faith. But your father has made you a CA so that you can take care of the estate properly with a professional touch. With the temple, you have the aspirations, the wishes of the whole village.
But uncle-Rajesh said in between- I have my own wishes-how can I suddenly give up on them and leave a new life- only to serve others? How can I serve others if I can’t serve myself? Rajesh, you know when your mother died, you were only 6 months old, had your father wished, he could have done a second marriage, but he did not, you know why-only because he regarded your happiness more than his personal happiness. Your father has sowed seed of his trust in you. Now it is your turn. You can give fruit of the seeds or you can destroy them.
Rajesh felt like the whole world’s burden has come on his shoulders. He decided to call jenny. But her number was not giving any answer. He called jenny’s office; they told jenny had not come to office for last two days. He felt helpless and threw away the phone. He felt miserable and felt like running away from everything. His feet moved towards the temple automatically. He entered the magnificent old temple of Radha-Damodar jee; looked at the beautiful idol of Lord Sri Krishna holding the flute in an enchanting manner as if mesmerizing the whole world with its tune.
Why you are doing this to me- murmured Rajesh; “BECAUSE IT IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD”, Rajesh took few steps back suddenly—did I hear some voice or is it my inner voice-or is it that you are speaking to me-he kept looking at the idol. There was a faint smile on Lord Krishna’s face as if telling don’t worry, I am there, go with the wind, and let the river flow.
Almost one year has passed now. But within this one year, Rajesh has matured generations. He now heads a registered trust called- Sri Radha-Damadoar Jee Trust. With his professional touch the trust has grown into a professional organisation like any other big temple. He has now a team of priests to take care of the daily rituals of the temple; cooks for cooking the mahaprasad; gardeners to look after the gardens and orchards; fully fledged office staff to manage the office work. Rajesh now oversees all the work personally bit by bit. In this way he not only managed to generate jobs for the village people but also for his professionalism, the temple is now a major destination for devotees across the state.
On a Sunday afternoon when Rajesh was going through the weeks’ ledger's uncle came to him and said- Rajesh beta, you father’s first shraadhha is coming the next week. Suddenly, Rajesh’s memory went back a year-how he could forget this day- this was the last time she had met jenny. This was day he lost his father.
Jenny- Oh! Yes, Jenny- Oh! He could still feel her sweet voice in his ears, the smell of her hair, her large doe eyes, the naughty smile, the Kerala accent. Suddenly all these were in front of his eyes as a flashback. Rajesh-Rajesh-what you are thinking-Oh! Nothing- Rajesh was jolted by uncle’s words and came back to his consciousness. Wednesday is your father’s first death anniversary and we have thought to perform Anna Dana that day. We will donate food grains to the underprivileged that day. As you wish-said Rajesh-but see to it that the money is spent my account-not from the temple account.
The next day afternoon, however, a worker informed Rajesh that, due to a strike of the truck transporters, it will not be possible to distribute food grains on Wednesday. Rajesh was very upset after hearing this, so he decided to donate cash to some NGO’s working on providing food to the underprivileged. Rajesh did a quick search on the net and got the information that-an NGO named ‘Akshya Patra Foundation’, literally meaning never ending food, is engaged in providing food for underprivileged children. Rajesh decided to donate the amount to the foundation on the day of the shraadhha. He went to the local head office at Puri with the cheque next morning. At the office desk a middle aged man welcomed him and guided him to the cashier in the next cabin. As soon as Rajesh, entered the cabin, he was awestruck, in front him was his jenny, his own jenny.
Both stood silent for some time, and along with them time also took a pause. It was again jenny who started the conversation, Oh, Rajesh, where have you been, I have been looking for you in every possible temple in and around Puri.
That day Rajesh took jenny along with her to his village and on the way-jenny told what had happened to her after he left B’lore. The very next day, news came that the ship carrying Jenny’s father’s has sunk in the gulf sea near UAE. Both jenny and her mother went to UAE to receive the body of her father and buried there. Jenny told her mother everything about him and she encouraged her to find him and be with him. Jenny tried to call Rajesh after coming from UAE but his phone was not responding. Jenny had only the idea that, Rajesh might be in some temple as a priest near Puri in Odisha. And in an endeavour to search him, she joined the NGO working in Puri and neighbouring areas. Every day she would go to some nearby temple and enquire about the temple priest, but could not find him. Now she is with him, going to his village. Rajesh told his uncle everything and uncle was very happy to see jenny. Irrespective of her religion, everybody welcomed her to the Acharya house.
As per today Rajesh and Jenny are happily married and live in Bhubaneswar. Both have kept their respective religion. Rajesh is now not involved in the temple management. He runs his own CA farm. Sri Radha-Damadoar Jee Trust now elects its office bearers from the common villagers through voting. Rajesh visits the Radha-Damodar temple every month just to see the charming smile on the Lord’s face and to feel his presence around him. The following words kept ringing in his ears- “BECAUSE IT IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD”, don't worry, I am there, go with the wind, and let the river flow.
And yes, the two sides of the river have met finally and how! Lord Krishna is the bridge himself joining the two sides.