There are happenings, events, incidents, call them what we will, that can arise very suddenly and unexpectedly in our day-to-day lives, but which prove to be defining moments that have the potential to change the way we view life and the world in which we live, forever...
These events can be subtle or startling but they have one thing in common, they give us such a jolt that they momentarily stop the mind and therefore subsequently, our world. Those moments in which mind is not, are very special. They hold the potential for recognizing what always is. Normally we move through life without any awareness of what or who we really are. But then awareness comes knocking or in some cases, crashing in on our cozy little preconceived world, turning it upside down and inside out. Forcing us to re-evaluate what is and what is not.
No matter where we are on this planet and no matter how well educated or how little educated we may be, we are all, nevertheless, conditioned by our minds. Most of what we do throughout our lives, is preconditioned in some way by the habitual tendencies of mind and yet we are given opportunities to take stock. Some crumble under the challenge, others rise to it and are enriched thereby.
The incident that follows happened in the village where a friend of mine grew up in Andhra Pradesh.
When he was young, Akash was living in a small rural hamlet in which some forty other families were staying nearby. Every one knew everyone else and their business too. In such a close knit community, it was difficult to keep anything a secret.
One day, one of the village men was on his way home from his fields and following the dusty path on an embankment above the river canal that passed through and watered all the farmlands of this region. It was almost sunset and the huge orange ball of the sun cast a fiery long shadow over the green and verdant fields. White egrets flew in flocks above his head, eager to find their roosts for the night and small groups of cattle and goats could be heard making their way back to the safety of their stalls, the calls of their owners echoing in the fading light. For the farmer, it was an ordinary evening in every respect. The village sounds, the golden hues of sunset, the scenes; all were deeply familiar to him.
There was a certain spot just before entering the village where he was accustomed to go down to the canal and wash before heading to his house which was nearby amid a grove of coconut trees. Following his usual habit he climbed down the steep embankment and began his daily ablutions, standing on the shallow step at the edge of the canal and while this was going on he suddenly looked up. Something had caught his attention. It was the form of something floating down the river.
The waters in this canal were fast-flowing and anything that was caught in the current tended to move along with considerable speed. It was not uncommon to see a corpse every now and then, as in these village areas, accidents and suicides were rather frequent. Most of the peasants could not swim. Those who slipped or who were pushed or who themselves jumped into the fast flowing waters, seldom ever survived to tell their tales, and, unless snagged along the way by someone or something, their bodies were swiftly carried out and lost to the open sea.
This particular evening, the man in question could just make out, in the fading light, that the corpse heading towards him, was that of a woman. He caught the flash of golden ornaments amidst the folds of her sari and the strands of her long black hair.
He could see that she would pass quite near him. Just near enough that he could snag her sari with his long bamboo pole with its hooked knife attached to the end. He used this knife during the day to clip branches high up in the trees and these shavings would feed his goats. But now he put it to a very different kind of use and managed to snag the fabric of her sari at the precise moment that she was passing. Quickly scanning the banks left and right, he saw that no one was in sight, so he drew her in. He recognized the victim, a middle-aged woman from a wealthy family that lived further upstream in the next village.
Suppressing his surprise, he remained as focused as he could determined not to miss this 'golden' opportunity, but nevertheless his hands were trembling. Quickly he began to remove all her golden ornaments. Firstly the earrings, then the bangles, then the nose ring. She was wearing a lot of gold. Finally he tugged at the chain around her neck at which precise moment a loud and peculiar guttural sound issued from the pallid, lifeless corpse. 'How dare you take my gold', it seemed to utter in strange muffled, gasping tones. The farmer froze and almost passed out with terror. He nearly lost his balance and could have fallen into the turbid waters, but in the next instant he let go of the body and with it all of her gold which fell and tumbled into the torrid brown waters. He scrambled like a mad man crazed with fear, up the side of the embankment and ran, screaming and howling to his house.
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