Print Edition - 2016-02-20  |  On Saturday

THE LONELY FATE OF LOVERS

  • Sufis have the tradition of addressing God as the beloved. Ordinarily, such sentiments are applied only to lovers. But the love affair with the master surpasses all other love affairs
- SWAMI ANAND ARUN
I felt the enormity of the absence that ate her heart. I felt her pain of separation. I realised when one sees the glimmer of love, how everything else in the world fades to its comparison

Feb 20, 2016-

In 1969, I spent four days with Osho who was then known as Acharya Rajneesh.  He had accepted our invitation to give talks at Patna University. His fiery and libertine speeches had made a deep impression on me. But when I met him in person, he exceeded all my expectations. He remains the most loving and the most compassionate person I have met all my life. Within those four days I had realised that what I had with him was the single most meaningful relationship in my life. In such a short span of time so much had changed inside me. A lifetime had gone by. Acharyashree’s presence, his love, his blessings had seeped into me like fluoride in water. Each bone, each tissue, each cell of my body felt deeply nourished. I wasn’t the same person that I was before. Just as a piece of iron temporarily becomes a magnet in the magnetic field the same way in his presence we were all transported into a different space. The town was the same, the smell, the people, the colours, the trees were the same and yet in his presence they all acquired a deeper meaning. The trees appeared more alive, colours came out more vivid and there was new sweetness in the air. The entire nature seemed to revel in his presence, exposing the most intimate and beautiful part of herself. 

It was only when Acharyashree left town that I gradually became aware of what we call reality—the open gutter by the roads, the heaps of garbage, the bustling city-dwellers, moving frantically around town like the caravan of ants, the waft of fried samosas and Indian curry that interspersed with the thick froth of winter mist and pervaded all corners of the streets. It took me a while to adjust to his absence. To understand and reflect upon the profundity of what had happened to me during those days I started strolling around the city aimlessly. These strolls gave me solitude and insights, even in those places where I was least expecting them. The story I am narrating to you is from one of those strolls that had led me to the Patna Railway station one particular evening.

I was in my early twenties and had had a few experiences of romantic love. But I had never known the intensity with which the beloved’s absence undoes the peace of one’s heart until that day. Sufis have the tradition of addressing God as the beloved and they sing and dance to his glory. Ordinarily, such sentiments are applied only to lovers. But the love affair with the master surpasses all other love affairs. Acharyashree had opened those chambers in my heart that I didn’t know existed. And with him gone, his absence was asserting itself like a huge void, which made everything else in my life seem insignificant.  

I kept watching the passengers, the bogie and the beggars in the platform listlessly. I wondered where so many people were going. What destiny awaited them at their destinations? Just as I was caught in my own web of solitary musings, I caught her glimpse again. She must be in her early thirties. She had become an intrinsic piece of the mosaic that the Patna Railway station was. I had seen her numberless times in the same tattered clothes, the same unkempt, matted hair running frantically when any train arrived at the platform and inspecting each compartment with strangely animated eyes. This animation brought a new lightness in her feet and dilated her pupils. She would pry into each compartment scanning each passenger and run into another compartment disappointed. Countless times I had watched her scanning the trains. Each compartment left her more disappointed. By the time she managed to scan the entire train she would be engulfed by a disappointment so huge that it bloomed around her like an invisible halo of gloom. Tears rolled down her cheeks unchecked. It was heartbreaking to watch her thus. There was a strange beauty in her face, the beauty of melancholia, of the defeated, of the one who had given up on life. It didn’t arouse passion but it demanded to be seen. In her face the suffering had acquired its most penetrating expression. She must have come from a good family. Her frail and dainty body bore a certain nobility of manners.  

After having seen her many times, I had enquired the local vendors about her. What I heard left me in daze for days together. She came from a well-to-do family from a suburb around Patna. When she was still a young girl of around 20 she had eloped with a man who went to the same college as she did. The man had assured to marry her and she must have left her home behind in the great hope of spending the rest of her life with her beloved. By evening they had arrived at Patna. The man had taken her to a hotel, where they must have consummated their love. They spent a few days in the city enjoying their new-found freedom. One fine morning he woke up early and told her he had to go back to his house to fetch some money as he was running out of cash. They had come together to the station and he had left with the promise of coming back. She sat down in one of the benches waiting for him to arrive back anytime. A day passed and then another day and another and another. At least a decade had passed by but the man had still not arrived. The desolation got the best of her. Someday, she would be seen in torn clothes and blue marks on her flesh, which mutely testified the cruelties of her predators. I was told she had been sexually abused repeatedly over the years.  But despite it all, she continued watching out for her beloved to return back. 

I had never seen her beg though. People would just take pity on her and leave some food by her side. When she was done staring vacantly she would pick up whatever was left around her and ate it listlessly in a mechanical attempt to preserve her body. How could she die before he returned? 

It sent shudders through me when I thought how she had forgotten everything—her name, her home, her history, herself—and yet that through that ocean of dementia, she retained the memory of that promise. The promise of the beloved. The promise of meeting. The promise of togetherness. The promise that had been betrayed. And betrayed so ruthlessly. My heart welled up. I watched her crouching by the pillar. She sat motionless with the resignation of a corpse. How cruel the man must have been to desert her thus. And how unfortunate! Just how unfortunate. 

Just then, a train came looming. The long locomotive came by slowly like a giant reptile, emitting faint heat making the platform a few degrees warmer. Something stirred inside her. She looked at the train and her pupils dilated again. One could see the rush of blood in the green veins in her forehead that suddenly swelled. She clutched her blouse with her right hand and stood up expectantly. That instant her body alighted with a new hope. 

How could destiny be so cruel? How could the train carry thousands of passengers every day and just not that man? Even before the train stopped she jumped into the compartment that was the closest to her. Through the bars of the window, I saw her hustling through the compartments. The passengers, who were deboarding saw this crazed creature with disdainful eyes. Children shirked in panic and women scanned her torn clothes and her young, beautiful body and twisted their lips in disgust. I just kept watching her. She scurried through them like a rat. People reluctantly made a passageway for her so that she wouldn’t touch them. And she ran past them untouched. Untouched by their disdainful stare, untouched by their cleanliness, untouched by their judgmental sneers, untouched by everything. Her faith in love was so virginal. Nothing else existed except that promise. That moment she appeared to me like a mythical character, a Majnu, whose story was yet to be written. The world would someday read her story and weep to her agony. But that moment as she ran past them they dismissed her like a freak, unworthy of their attention, let alone sympathy.  

This has always been the fate of lovers. 

My eyes were teary again. A turbulent storm was brewing inside me. Acharyashree had made no such promise to me and yet I was beholden to him. I knew just as river seeks to merge into ocean, I would find no peace until I met him again. I had seen that mad woman many times but that day we were tied together by a strange fate. I felt the enormity of the absence that ate her heart. I felt her pain of separation. I realised when one sees the glimmer of love, how everything else in the world fades to its comparison. Although it is convenient to prune the branches of love from the very early age so that none witnesses its glory and therefore can settle down in the mundane world with dull complacency but how meaningless a life that would be! True, love will bring agony, love will bring separation but it is only in that violent pang of melancholia life reveals its most intimate secrets. In those four days, Acharyashree had shown me the otherworld, the ecstasy of falling in love, of rising in love, of evaporating in love. Now it seemed foolish to go back to that dull complacent life again. I had been touched by the fire of love. And just like that woman, and all the lovers of the past and present, I was destined to walk alone, misunderstood. Some would pity me, some would be enthralled by my story, some would dismiss it off as obsession. But it takes a lover to understand the story of a lover. There might not be many left, but I will feel fortunate if just one of you will read this and see that glimmer. 

(Extracted from Swami Anand Arun’s upcoming book My Days With Osho)

 

 

 

Published: 20-02-2016 10:02

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