“I miss him so much. I miss being joyous and light hearted. Why has he gone so far away from me?”
“Can’t you see my child? It isn’t him, it is you who has gone away from him. You have turned away from him, towards the darkness within.”
“But I like to be with him. Can I pull him back to me?”
This conversation was ringing inside Sundari’s head, as a part of her dream. And all the while, there were images of pots of cleaning water, brooms, scrubs and mops that were filling her head. Sundari’s sleepy head was trying to make sense of the dream when her mother’s shrill voice woke her up!
“Sundari!! Sundari….you are late again! How dare you sleep off lazily during the day,when you know there is so much stuff to be done!!” Sundari woke up with a start and decided to just scoot over as soon as she felt her mother’s voice to be coming dangerously close to her. The effort of pondering over her dream and making sense of it would have to wait for another time.
“Sundari…stop! stop! Can you just come back this very moment?” hollered Sundari’s mother. But to no avail! Be it the 15th century or the 21st century….the element of disobedience in children was not something that seemed to have changed over centuries. Sundari ran. There was no looking back for her…no ways! She would rather go tie herself to a tree and spend a ghostly night alone tied to that tree, than go back to mother who would make her clean the house (with pots of cleaning water, brooms, scrubs and mops, at that..) !
“Sundari, You are a growing girl! High time you learnt some housechold chores now!” Sundari and Deva broke out into a riot of laughter as Mala impersonated Sundari’s mom trying to put some sense into her daughter.
“True Mala, true. Who will marry her otherwise?” That was Deva pulling Sundari’s leg amidst the laughter. Sundari shrieked at him and answered animatedly “Shut up Deva! If you tease me any more, I will go and tell my folks, its my revered friend Deva whom I would like to get married to. They need not worry then about nobody marrying me just because I cant clean the house. ”
As Deva continued his act as if he had just heard the most fearful news of this millenia, the friends laughed and then decided to proceed towards the local temple. There was a lot of cleaning and decoration activities going on at the temple. The annual chariot function was going to happen the next day at the temple. They wanted to check out the festival as their school project this month required them to do something related to culture. The chariot function this month was timely enough for them to take it up as their school project.
“Isnt that the coolest pic of the chariot that I have clicked? I love these Indian festivals of ours. They are all just so colourful.” Mala was excitedly capturing the preparations for the festivities within her camera lens, many for their project and the rest as life keeps. She was one of those souls for whom a hue here and a tint there of colors and shades was enough to fill her simple heart with uncomplicated joy.
Sundari was not one of those souls though. She knew herself to be much different than her dear friend Mala. Simple joy did not come easily to her as it came to Mala. She seeked more depth in matters of life, more meaning, beyond mere colours,or so she thought. Sorrow and anguish came easier to her than cheer. Her thoughts wandered to her dream earlier in the day. She wondered who it was that she was missing in her life and wanting to pull back. It did give a nice feeling though, that she could pull back into her life someone who returned with the simple joys, happiness’s, a light that could dispel the heaviness that hovered forever in her heart. “Oh” she moaned at her ever tormenting dark contemplation’s. She didnt want them to clog her mind now and disturb her albeit superficial yet fun time with her friends!
“They call it a festival of feelings.” Deva was reading out from his phone. He had googled to find out the nitty gritties of the festival they were putting up pictures of into their project.
“Yes,” chirped in Mala. “I had seen a dance performance once , of this chariot festival, the rath yatra festival that originally happens in Puri. It seems that our local temple is doing a smaller version of it. Pull, pull and pull a rope is what they showed in the dance show. I was naturally intrigued about all that pulling. The lady in my neighbouring seat kindly explained to me that the show was about the dancers trying to depict The Supreme Lord, seated on a chariot with His kin , and His loving devotees to be pulling their beloved Lord back into their hearts. The ropes of the chariot were what they were pulling at. They had sinned by forgetting him. They had been suffering all this while in gloomy blackness. And now they wanted him back. The rath yatra is a festival of feelings, she had said too.”
Sundari was blank, both in her looks and in her thoughts. Was this what her dream was about? “Can I pull him back to me” was what she had asked in her day time dream earlier that day. Was this going to be a beginning for her? A beginning of the return?
Days later the three of them stood beaming on the stage after their presentation on The Festival of feelings – The Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baldev and Lady Subhadra. It was well received, and they had known it would be!After all Sundari had led them all into a profoundly extensive research into the topic before they could present it to the audience in school.
A hand arose in the audience, “Can I ask a question?”
“Thank you for this unique talk, about Puri, the temple and its very interesting Lord. You explained pretty succintly what the festival stood for. But you also made a subtle mention in your talk about the activities in Puri on the previous day. They clean up the destination of the chariot to be pulled the next day, along with the pathways , is it? With pots of cleaning water, brooms, mops and scrubs?”
“Yes, sir. You got us right”
“Does the external act of cleaning stand for cleaning up the within of all dark thoughts? After all, the return of anything divine sure had to be preluded with efforts of purification, of removing the rot?”
Sundari was already lost in her trail of thoughts. Deva and Mala could handle the answer. She rejoiced within herself. She rejoiced at the joy of the boy answering his own question…the joy that came from sharing the fruits of her toiling efforts in finding out the truths of the festival of feelings…the same uncomplicated joy that she was yearning for. Surely, the return had begun for her.
Yes, it had all started with the dream. The dream that told her that bliss awaited her in her getting connected back to the Absolute Spirit, with Jagannath. By pulling Him back into her life. Yes, the cleaning of the temple on the previous day of the rath yatra stood for the path leading one to pulling the Lord back to one’s hearts. The path involving the cleaning of the heart….how she relinquished digging out details of the processes of the cleaning…details of what symbolised the pots of cleaning water, of the brooms, of the mops and of the scrubs. A lot of reading about meditative and other practices she had spent time on in the last month.
And a lot more she intended to do in the future. She had found her path, her joy.
As the three of them bowed respectfully to the audience in gratitude of their appreciation, Sundari caught her mother’s eyes naughtily twinkling. She was proud of her daughter. Not only because she mentioned pots of cleaning water, brooms, mops and scrubs in their presentation, but because she looked a whole lot simpler and happier.