Tribhuwan N. Bhan

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Fantasy and Reality

By Tribhuwan N. Bhan

Last Sunday, I boarded the local train at Churchgate. Being Sunday, the compartment was almost empty and there was absolute silence. As the train was about to enter the next railway station i.e. Marine Lines, I could hear someone shouting, "Thief, thief ...". Out of curiosity, I alighted at Marine Lines and walked in the direction from which the sound of the words 'Thief, thief' could be heard. I reached Marine Drive and saw a tall old man wearing a long Kaftan-type outfit standing on the parapet of the drive. His long silvery grey beard and hair were being tossed about due to the sea breeze. He wore a hair-band round his forehead to keep his long hair rather orderly. In his hand, he held a long staff, which was at least a foot longer than the height of the man. He was looking in the westerly direction and shouting loudly "Thief, thief ....". I went close to him. Looking at his face, I could see his deep sunken eyes and felt as if penetrating beams were emanating from them. He with his weird countenance and attire did not seem to me an inhabitant of this planet. I had to sum up all the courage and strength and ask him, "Where is the thief?" "There is the thief", he said and pointed towards the west. As I could see no one except the setting sun, I told him, "I do not see anybody except the setting sun." "That one, the setting sun is the thief. He is going behind the horizon after having robbed a day from the life span of every living being. He is the biggest thief !!" He held my hand firmly. His grip was strong like a steel grip. It was astonishing to realise that despite being so old, he had so much physical strength.

I tried to wriggle out my hand from his grip but he would not let go of my hand. As he walked briskly with long strides, I had to run by his side. To keep pace with him was not an easy task. It fatigued me. He then showed me a place of worship with serpentine queues of devotees outside it. "Do you see these people? They are the people who have absolute faith in God. They will perform all their religious rituals, worship their deity and ask God to protect them all the time. According to them, God is 'omnipresent'. They believe, He will be by their side always irrespective of what they indulge in. Their misplaced faith means protection to them. Remember the heartless and ruthless dacoits of Chambal valley. They would begin their day by performing puja and worship their deity, put a long black Tilak on their foreheads before indulging in loot, plunder, arson and murder. It was their faith made them believe that they were receiving protection from their deity , had a divine mandate and thus lived a charmed life. Ravana too was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He thought he was invincible due to Lord Shiva's blessings. But then he met his Nemesis in Ram whose Sita he had abducted."

Saying this he made me walk a long distance more and pointed out to me a group of people who were being tempted and brain-washed by a few religious fanatics, in the garb of preachers. They were being coaxed to indulge in nefarious and questionable activities, create anarchy in the name of religion and thereby they would benefit monetarily and otherwise too. This group of people heard the so-called preachers but turned their backs on all the temptations they were offered. "My dear, did you observe this scene? This group of people who did not want to do anything wrong despite all that they were promised, were the ones who have fear of God". The old man summarised all that we had seen by saying, "There are basically two kinds two kinds of people, some have faith in God and others have fear of God. The former believe that by making offerings at places of worship, rubbing their foreheads at the entrance and by performing all the religious rituals regularly, God will provide divine protection to them, even when they may deprive other human beings of basic necessities of life. But the latter think that God is almighty and will not spare any wrong-doer, be he strong or weak, rich or poor, low or high. This fear prevents them from indulging in anything questionable, unethical or deprecatory. It is the latter ones who are nearest to God, who dwells in their hearts. While the former are farthest from God."

Saying this, he loosened his grip on my wrist, which had become numb by then and suddenly disappeared, as if he had made himself air into which he vanished mysteriously.

Source: Milchar

  

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