Knowing is death
His closest friend Satyanarayana accompanied him like a shadow
everywhere in Berhampur. The two of them went everywhere on an old
bicycle with him riding on the backseat. In the evenings they sat in
the paddy fields away from the city breathing the fresh air of the
fields. Together they experienced life through the colored glasses of
his own imagination. Satyanarayana listened in wide-eyed wonderment
as he let go his fantastic imagination and invested ordinary events
with a complex mysticism which left his companion entirely
breathless. Deep inside he was enacting the stage-play of a most
frightening loneliness behind apparent cheerfulness. There was no
sorrow in his eyes but only bewilderment . During the Shivaratri
night he and his friend would visit the Nilakanthaswamy temple near
the cremation ground to experience the mystical power of Shiva who
presided over death.
On hot Sunday afternoons he heard the heavy footfalls of several
people on the road beside his house as they were carrying a marigold-
decked dead body to the cremation ground and stopping near his house
to lay the corpse down for a minute as part of the ritual. Their
shouts of Ram Ram pierced the still afternoon air and slowly faded
away as the procession disappeared behind the Ketaki bushes .
Years later, in 1986, he saw Raghavan, a dear friend of his , wrapped
in white cloth that smelled of formaldehyde , staring into the blue
sky of the Vadodara crematorium. The defiant smile on his lips was
unmistakable as his brother lit the fire that reduced him to
nonexistence. He himself refused to believe that Raghavan no longer
existed. A very bizarre theory took shape in his mind .People said
that Raghavan no longer existed . How could any body's existence be
wiped out from the cosmic space once he had come into existence ?
Till Raghavan was born he had not existed but once he was born he
began existing in Time and Space . Later ,in 1986 he ceased to exist
in Space but did Raghavan cease to exist in Time ? Once a person is
born he continues to exist in the vast space of Time with a clearly
defined y-coordinate of time .
Adjoining the Neelkantha temple the cremation ground was home to
several ghosts ..As dusk fell he looked through the opaqueness of the
dark night for a fantastic display of weirdly floating flames rising
from the bones of the dead. In the eeriness of the moonless nights
Shiva drank poison , little by little, and as it sank into His Cosmic
Being darkness overtook the world .Once when he was walking on the
road to his house he saw black death overtaking an ancient lady , as
if it was the most natural thing to happen to her. At the precise
moment when he passed her by . an electric shock from a table fan
touched her soul and lifted her up as if to complete the electric
Suresh , his friend in Berhampur, laughed all the time at the
silliest joke that went around in his group of friends . When he
laughed he sounded pretty silly but underneath the flippancy lay the
most serious concern for the world and a ludicrous unfounded tension
about what was going to happen to the world. The world mattered .He
of course mattered . Otherwise who would worry about the world ?
Years later the world went around searching for reasons for his
decision to embrace the waters of the Bay of Bengal in Gopalpur when
there was nothing apparently wrong with the world The world hardly
cared . But it was curious to know why this gentleman had to walk
into the sea . To prove what ? To save whom ?
Sridevi looked straight into your eyes. At the Venkateswara temple ,
during a classical music concert her eyes challenged his intellect
from behind a pillar. When she looked at him he felt miserable and
totally inadequate . Why did she have to make him feel puny and
insignificant in God's scheme of things ? Her large eyes were mirrors
to his own nagging inadequacy. Love ? Love meant nothing for him .
There was something utterly absurd about falling in love with Sridevi
. She knew that and the way she looked at him it was clear that she
meant it. But he needed her . He needed her more than she needed him.
But this excruciating realization that she need not have to be loving
him hit him each time she looked at him through the corner of her
eyes. He tried to make her look at him through the corner of her eyes
so that she will bruise his fragile ego in a most delicious
fashion .It is a pity that she did not oblige him.
Rajeswaramma , the spiritual mentor of his mother , had her own
reasons for living and dying. When she lived she explained no reasons
why she lived but nobody asked her that . But when she walked into
the unknown one of those days everybody wanted to know the reasons .
The sea did not ask her anything . Perhaps she faded into nothingness
, not even the sea .Was this or was that ? Her disciples tried to
demystify her because it was very disconcerting to have a guru who
cannot be explained .The process of elimination began . Neti, Neti.
Nothing worked .Ultimately everyone gave up. A much easier thing is
to worship her as an explainable guru in a picture-frame . That was
what they all did. God has no attributes .He is colorless and
formless. He is Conscious and Unconscious. In the ultimate analysis
Knowledge is Death .Nachiketa wanted to understand life and ,in the
process, embraced Death . Year later, he wrote the following poem:
What is death?' asked Nachiketa
Experience viscous nonexistence
Which is mockingly immanent
Embrace death in order to spite it
The raucous laughter of Yama
Resounded in the Hall of Death
The laughter of self-exterminating
It is dangerous to know death
For knowing is self-annihilation.
Nachiketa's father sent him to the
Land of Death from where none returned
For in his death lay his salvation
Nachiketa saw death in the glassy eyes
Of his father's old sacrificial cattle
In their death lay their deliverance
Nachiketa sought knowledge
Dangerous knowledge which is death
And cessation of all knowledge .
Sitapati ,a distant relative, went bonkers. He had tried to
understand the world through the use of mathematical symbols. The
world cannot be explained in symbolism because the symbols are only
fronts for something much deeper, much beyond the finite world. He
tried explaining God in esoteric symbols and fell flat because the
symbols were all the handiwork of his fellow-human beings. How could
one explain the Dream, the exquisite Dream of which he himself was a
part ? All the questions seem to be right but where is the key ?
Sitapati tried finding the key and broke his sanity .It was a
wonderful thing to look at the world through a mad man's eyes. An
engineering graduate , Sitapati went bonkers trying to explain the
world on pure engineering principles. His question was if a bridge
can be explained this way why not the whole world ?Where did he go
wrong ? How can the dream be explained in a purely cause-and-effect
sequence based upon a finite understanding of the world ?
Bharati, his classmate in B.A., accepted him in a most phlegmatic
way. She never questioned him. In return he made her uneasy in a most
undignified manner questioning the very basis for her continued
existence. Still she never questioned him . She was like a tiny wild
flower on the hillside bush asserting her white floral existence in
the rocky landscape .Her fragrance haunted him through dark inky
moonless nights .She was an exquisite soul whom he worshiped from a
distance .The more she refused to acknowledge him the more he adored
her .How could she accept him as a part of her mundane life without
touching the very core of his inner being ?