Every Boat has a Hole

Ref: TRIVENI (Estd: 1927), India’s Literary and Cultural Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 4, Oct.-Dec. 2014, p. 52-54, ISSN 0041-3135, RNI No. 25269.

 

                               EVERY BOAT HAS A HOLE

  1. P. Arora*

 

“Don’t blame only the poor.”

“Why not? They are ready to sell their vote for a bottle of desi wine or a few hundred rupees. It is no democracy. They make a mockery of this democracy.”

“No, not only they. Everybody is ready to sell his vote for a consideration here. The only consideration is consideration. How much? Or what kind of consideration? We are all corrupt or corruptible.”

“No, not everybody, Vivek. There are always exceptions.”

“Very few. And even those who are at the top and have everything in the world, they too are subject to temptations. Man is like that,” I said.

We were discussing democracy, elections, and the fate of our nation. Big things. Small people discussing big things.

“No, Vivek. Everybody is not that bad. There are many…” Before Ashish could complete his sentence, Guruji walked in and sat on the bench.

“Look at Guruji. Such a simple man. No wants beyond the minimum. Always smiling and helping everybody. Teaching yoga and pranayam to every seeker without asking for anything in return,” said Ashish forcefully, excitedly.

I folded my hands as usual.

Ashish wanted to score the point. “Do you think Guruji can ever be subject to any kind of temptation? No, never. What a graceful and self-negating man! What an epitome of godliness!”

I smiled. “My respects to Guruji. With due apologies, I would only say: Man is a strange bundle of contradictions. You are never sure when even the best of the men might fall a prey to the devil of temptation.”

“No, no, impossible. There are always people who resist all sorts of temptations, and are the saviours of human race.”

Everybody there said, yes, yes, and as usual, they asked Guruji to recite the Gayatri Mantra and begin the daily prayer and pranayam.

Guruji, in his melodious voice and inimitable style, started the daily prayers. Everybody closed his eyes and got engrossed.

In the summer we went to England. My daughter lives there. She had to attend some summer course, and she insisted on our coming to her place and be with the kids in her absence. They couldn’t be left alone, she said. We found it was our duty to take care of the kids. When we returned, we thought of everybody and brought some small gifts. Everybody was excited and thanked me profusely. When I gave one tee-shirt to Guruji, he smiled and said, “What shall I do with it. You know I wear only kurta-pyjama. I have never worn these western dresses. I am a simple man.”

“I am sorry, Guruji. This too is a simple dress. However, if you don’t like it, you can give it to someone else. I shall bring a shaving jell for you.”

“No, no, I don’t need anything. But in case you have a spare shaving jell, that will be a good idea. You can take this tee-shirt back.”

“No, guruji, you can keep this too, and give it to someone you think would like it.”

Next day, I brought a jar of shaving jell and gave it to Guruji. He was extremely pleased and immediately put it in his ‘jhola’.

It was my birthday. As was the custom, I brought a pack of sweets like everybody always did.

“Take a big piece of burfi, Raman. Your favourite.”

But he said, “That won’t do. We want a feast.”

“Why so? That is how we celebrate everybody’s birthday here,” I said smilingly.

“No, no, it’s a special birthday. Birthday after your England visit. You went abroad for the first time. A treat is certainly due,” said Naren.

Everybody shouted, yes, yes.

“OK. What do you want?” “Costa Coffee. The simplest treat,” shouted Vijay. A new Costa Coffee joint had been opened recently in our area and everybody had been excited about it. We had all been eagerly waiting for an opportunity to have our first cup over there.

I smiled and instantly said, “Done.” Everybody was delighted and shouted Happy Birthday in chorus.

I turned to Guruji, “I would be happy if you also come. Please join us.”

“No, no, please forgive me. I can’t come. I never go to restaurants. Moreover, I don’t take coffee. Please go ahead, and enjoy yourselves.”

I didn’t insist. Next Saturday, we all met at the Costa Coffee. Everybody said, it was good. Everything about it was pleasing. Furniture, counter, cups… above all the ambience. Paintings on the walls,   aesthetically satisfying, marvellous.

“But I don’t understand,” said Ashish, “why you invited guruji. You know he never goes out; at home too he sits on the floor for his dinner.”

“Well, I didn’t know that much. I thought it would be discourteous on my part not to invite him. But once he said, no, I neither insisted on his coming nor made an issue of it. He is free to live his kind of life.”

“Good that you didn’t force him,” said Ashish. “He would never have agreed. It would have been embarrassing for him to say no again and again.”

“I would never like anybody to do anything for my sake, something that goes against his grain,” I said emphatically.

Naren quipped, “But what is there in it? Once in a while, it should have been OK for him. That would not have disturbed his spiritual balance.”

Everybody laughed. Ashish grew serious. “He is not an ordinary person. He is a disciplined man, and cares only for the higher things. He has some kind of divinity in him. Small, ordinary things don’t attract him. He is beyond them. In fact he is an ascetic.”

“OK, enough of Guruji,” screeched Gaurav. “What about coffee?” ” Ye a h , ” everybody shouted. As I stood up to place the order, I saw someone walking towards our big table. The light was dim, and I couldn’t recognize him immediately. Everybody looked at the figure amazed, eyes wide open. The figure gradually sank into me. “Guruji, you! Here!”

“Why? Vivek, aren’t you glad to see me here?”

I said haltingly, “Guruji, I am delighted. But…but…”

Ashish was dumbfounded. But Naren handled the situation. “Guruji, you look wonderful in this tee-shirt. Trousers too. Great, Guruji, great.”

Guruji smiled. “This is the same T-shirt that Vivek brought for me from England. And I thought I must join you all to celebrate his birthday. It would be odd if I don’t.”

“But Guruji, how about the trousers?” Said Vijay, his eyes brimming with naughtiness.

“Oh that, it is my son’s. A bit tight perhaps.”

“No,no,” said Naren, ” that is perfectly OK. Latest fashion. You should always wear such bright, tight clothes. You look so youngish, and smart too.”

“Really! You like it!” said Guruji, pleased.

I looked at Ashish. He was really sad. I didn’t want to spoil the party.   I turned to Guruji, “We are delighted to see you here. I am particularly grateful to you for joining us here on this occasion.”

“No, no, no need for thanks. I am glad I got this opportunity of coming out and looking at the world.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Ashish’s eyes clearly revealed his disgust. “OK, guruji, what would you like to have? I know you don’t take coffee. Some cold drink or ice cream or something else?” I said hesitatingly.

“No, no, I too would take coffee. Let me have a taste of this world-renowned coffee. I learn that they specially brew it. Once in a while everybody should have some fun too.” They all shouted in chorus: Wow! That is the spirit.

Only Ashish couldn’t raise his eyes.

*   Poet, Writer, New Delhi

Ref: TRIVENI (Estd: 1927), India’s Literary and Cultural Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 4, Oct.-Dec. 2014, p. 52-54, ISSN 0041-3135, RNI No. 25269.

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