I was quite restive to be home after a long duration of ten months of corporate life and the festive season further added to this excitement. I had not been to my ancestral place for few years, and was getting impatient to breathe in the air of my homeland. I was waiting for the boarding call in the airport lounge. It had been eight years since October 26 got a significance in my itinerary. And then, my eyes fell on the very reason for this significance, and I waved at him.
He came towards me and got seated. ‘I was expecting you’, he said. The first time I met him was eight years ago on this very date in a train. I was going home for the festivals. We had a very constructive discussion on various things, and his words were quite inspiring for me. He had a complete command over so many varied fields and imparted lot of knowledge to me, as well.
‘October 26 is the date again‘, I said.
‘Oh! Stop talking about dates. It feels very creepy‘, he stopped me.
Since our first meeting, mostly unknowingly, we have met every year at some train station or airport, going home. The most ironical thing is that we have not yet exchanged phone numbers or email addresses, we do not communicate on any social networking site either. It is merely a happy coincidence.
‘Ah! I do know I am quite younger to you but why do you always keep a stick in your tongue? Dates definitely have some meaning‘.
‘Well, all of that is a creation of man. Who taught you the days of week? Definitely, not God. This is how you are molded in the ways the society wants, but this was never inside you inherently. Anyways, I will have a burger. Do you want anything?‘, he said in his typical way of replying philosophically, diverting the conversation to some other direction.
He was very short and lean for his age. His blue kurta, he wore, looked like hanging on a stick. The first line I spoke with him, eight years ago, was, ‘child! Get me that cup of tea‘. And then, an amused look, I got from him. I was bemused, where I made a mistake. It was only later, in a conversation that I realised my mistake, and that I was younger to him, not the other way round. His words at many instances make me feel like a child. And when I say that, he replies, ‘may be I am too intelligent for your subjects‘, with a subtle smile on his face, the very meaning of which I am yet to fathom.
‘Train journeys are more comfortable than flights. I would always prefer a twenty-four hour rail journey over a three hour plane journey‘, I tried to revive the flow of that prattle.
‘child! do you really know the value of time? I guess, you need to develop some sense of maturity before making such statements.’
‘Leave it. You can never speak one word in my appreciation‘, I decried.
‘How did you spend the holidays?‘, he queried, only to mollify.
‘I had a great time at home, visited so many places. I visited the tomb of Sher Shah Suri…’
‘these kings and emperors need a palace while they are alive and another castle when they die. Ironical apex of the fear of death!‘, he interrupted.
He talks philosophy most of the time, thereby, I call him ‘philosopher co-traveller‘. I rarely understand what he usually means; but I must say, he has been able to make a difference in my opinions and impart some knowledge in this field. Probably, he is the first person, I have met who has this kind of viewpoint.
‘Please elaborate on the fear of death. I find it tough to understand‘, I poked.
‘See, while a man lives, all his actions are aimed at aversion of death. If a king builds a tomb, it is because he wants to stay alive in history. Fear of death drives most of the rituals and practices. This is how things have always been. Probably, the first suffering man saw was death. He put all his means to delay that, and went on putting faith in things by chance and coincidence, rather than reason. These beliefs are now called superstitions. The early science developed to buttress man’s life. It was only after a certain age that science started talking about luxury. Whatever you are taught, are some version of this very thing’.
‘What makes you so much anti society or societal norms?’, I could not refrain but ask.
‘I am not against anything. I just dislike manipulations. You should not force others to believe what you believe in. Society is your mirror image. If you show hatred and anger, you will get only that in return. If you show patience and tolerance, you too would be pardoned for a gargantuan unpardonable mistake. Society is you, me and us. It is no extra-terrestrial entity. The whole world is sitting out there to offend you, to criticise you, to bring down your morale. The best of your friends would leave you in the worst of times. And this world is you in somebody else’s context. If you go out like a crusader, you would get what Ashoka got after the Kalinga war, hatred, blood and violence; but if you show compassion and tolerance, you might get what
Ashoka got from history after he imbibed these ideals, a legacy revered by the entire world, let alone a nation. Everybody acts normal in normal condition. If I speak politely, you would reply nicely. The thing that matters is your reaction when I shout at you for no valid reason. Child! it is your choice to not have a choice. Do not ever let yourself feel that you have a choice to get angry or feel disgusted. And remember, commitment has its meaning only in absence. If you need my physical presence or some tangible object to remind you of my existence to make you faithful to me, I feel sorry. A very small action of yours signifies some of the very important traits. Better, be errant. Every time you fall in a situation, you will be tempted to have a choice, and with one ‘yes’ you will surrender. The whole purpose would fail. I do know, you will struggle a lot, throughout this phase. That pain, however, will inspirit your fight. Nothing is more addictive than success.’
His thought process probably accepts every new thought, finds a justification or a flaw, and then he vindicates or criticises that. I, for one, appreciate this latitude of mind.
‘Anyways, how are things your side? New place, new people. Got a crush on someone?’, he quipped.
‘Bhaiya, leave this question. Why are you always after this?’
‘Why should I not be? You know everything about me. I too should know about you’
‘I never asked you anything. You told me on your own.’
‘Fine, child. And yes, be there at my wedding, I will send you the card’.
That was the moment we exchanged email addresses.
And then came the boarding call for my flight. I was a bit puzzled to see him not leaving the seat.
‘You are going home, are you not?’, I asked.
‘Yes, I am. I shall see my parents at sister’s place this time‘, he replied with the same smile.