‘Don’t worry about me Ma, I am safe here.’ Aarush beamed over the phone. The joy on his face was inexpressible. It seemed as though he was locked down somewhere in heaven.
I looked at him feeling disgusted.
I will be locked down with him for twenty-one days…. in this *ashram. Why the hell did I agree to come with him, in the first place. I cursed myself.
‘Aarush, come what may, I am leaving.’
‘Bro, all modes of transport have been cancelled. Besides, you will be all crammed up in your hostel room. Just think how lucky we are to be present in this pristine atmosphere during the lockdown.’ He said inhaling the air, feeling the bliss as though every particle in the air was permeated with nectar.
‘Twenty-one days! Do you realize … what are we going to do here?’ I vociferated.
‘What we are going to do? Rajesh, we are so blessed to be here with *Guruji. This is a life time opportunity to soak into knowledge and wisdom.’
Talking about knowledge and wisdom, eh! I don’t know what was wrong with my friend. How he fell into the trap of these *Baba jees. But I was adamant. I will not get influenced by his talks.
Since there seemed no way to go out, I decided to stay back.
Aarush took me to a hut in the ashram. It was going to be our abode for the next couple of days. Reluctantly I settled myself in the room. Setting up my laptop and connecting it with my mobile data, I made myself comfortable watching Netflix before going to sleep.
Dawn had just cracked. I got up hearing the birds. For a minute I was befuddled, looking at the mud baked walls of the hut. Pulling aside the sheet, I turned to see Aarush. His bed was empty and neatly made.
Where did he go so early in the morning? I pulled up my sheet covering my face, trying to go back to sleep again. But the birds seemed to challenge me, that we are outside enjoying the beautiful morning and you are still sleeping. Taking the challenge head on, I got up.
Outside I could see a couple of people sitting near the pond. Aarush was there too. As I walked towards them, I realized Guruji was also there. Aarush sat adorning a wide smile. People were sitting near him maintaining distance.
Damn it! Why is Aarush so fascinated by this godman. Be on your guards Rajesh. They will try to indoctrinate you too. Just be careful. You are not going to be a part of any religious cult. I reaffirmed as I walked towards them.
I stood in the farthest corner, trying to maintain a social and spiritual distance.
‘Welcome. Why don’t you sit down with us.’ The Guru said gently.
Ok I will sit. But I am not going to be swayed by his soft-spoken demeanour. He cannot convert me.
Aarush smiled looking at me. At this moment, I felt as though he was literally conspiring with his master to include me in his believes. But I was aware and adamant. I would not let myself be influenced by anyone. I was here only because of the lockdown. Else I had no interest whatsoever to hear any sermons or practice any rituals.
The morning rays of the sun reflected in the pond, making the water shimmer with its golden hue. The birds seemed to play an opera. From parrots to peacocks, sparrows to myna, all were busy weaving melody in the air. No doubt, the flora and fauna rendered the ashram a paradisiacal hue.
‘We are all quarantined here. Let me tell you, this is one of the safest place to be. During these days, I will guide you all to develop better health and immunity.’
Yeah yeah… So, he thinks he is a doctor too…These people, they have a remedy for each and everything. What does he know about COVID-19?
‘Today the entire world is facing a threat from an invisible enemy. The only way to defeat this enemy is to let the chain break. By maintaining social distance, washing hands and not touching our face we can help in not spreading this contagious virus.’ He went on talking about the pandemic in his mellifluous voice.
Hmmm…he sounds quite informed.
‘Now let us do some meditation.’ He said with a smile.
There, he is setting the trap for me. But I am not going to get caught.
‘Let us all sit comfortably and close our eyes.’
I sat there, and deliberately kept my eyes open. I saw Aarush, sitting diagonally opposite to me. His eyes were closed and he wore an ecstatic smile on his face.
As the Guru went about giving instructions, for a moment I thought of indulging in it too. After all I had heard great reviews about meditation. It was highly recommended to keep stress low and immunity high. A much needed comrade to fight the pandemic.
Closing my eyes, I automatically started following the instructions he gave. Slowly I drifted into deep meditation. The soothing voice of the Guru took me to some implausible realm. Tears flowed all throughout, cleansing my heart and soul.
‘Feeling your surrounding, you can open your eyes.’ He said softly.
What was that! As I opened my eyes, I was absolutely blank. My mind had become calmer and quieter. The experience was simply mesmerizing. Some kind of harmony replaced the anxiety that was within me.
The Guru looked at me with a smile. ‘All well?’ He asked amicably. Surprisingly I noticed myself folding my hands and bowing down before him in gratitude.
Dropping all my prejudices, I sat in anticipation of exploring new dimensions. It was the first day of the lock down. We were not allowed to go out, but I was now ready to go in. Ready to open up during the lockdown.Glossary:
Ashram: A hermitage
Baba Jee: Priests
Photo By: Motoki Tonn
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