The story untill now …
” Perfect. Let’s introduce ourselves.”
I was nodding at her ‘free-bird’ boldness and smiling of pleasure at having as frank an interlocutor as she was … of amazing mettle. I was again abrim with gratitude and gladness.
The suggestion seemed to have finally broken the ice, in a manner. We spoke with some familiarity, then animatedly, as friends would. She was Pam : for Pamela, a professor of humanities. I very truthfully bared the mystique : I was Vam, for Vamadevananda, a nomad. That, I had retired early and did nothing for livelihood. I did things that served my peace, truth and happiness.
Kalka was not my destination and I did not know what was. I would be taking the connection to Shimla but would head for the bus stand, for proceeding to Kalpa. The district administrator, a younger man who knew me, had arranged for my lodging in a village nearby. But right then, sitting in the coach a thousand miles away, it was all tentative. It was somehow tiring to speak of myself.
She wowed, looking wistful. I looked at the fields passing by, at the transient objects afar as they gradually came in and receded from the view. The being, of which they arose, brimmed in my heart.
” I’ve decided to spend the summer interlude with my sister, in Shimla. I expect to finish these essays during my stay and hope they would yield their truth to my contemplation. Do you think they will ?”
” I wish they do. Sincerely. They might too.”
I knew, that transforming featureless fullness seldom happened with reading and thinking. It does not impact us enough to self-inspect the station we are at, along our inner journey : the purity and extent of love in our heart; and the knowledge at source in our eye. But everything helped … if the drive to restore our self, to the self in its solitude, was intense enough.
” You’ve done well till now, Pam, through over half a century, if I’m not wrong. Why are Vedanta truths so important for you at this late stage ?” I saved the thought to myself, ” Especially since you seem well off, and without any apparent crisis that might occasion the necessity.”
Truth, our truths, do not have a formal form. It is too tied up with ourselves. The subject could not be discussed from our surface. It needed informal communication of what we were perceiving in our mind just then, without also causing it. I was hoping to know her, in order to understand her words more fully, more accurately.
The introspection process does take its time. It demands that we wait. Time was essential to effective and efficient communication.
” Vam, I never married. When I looked about, after finishing my doctoral studies, I couldn’t be listed in the 20’s column of matrimonial pages. Too, I discovered, I wasn’t keen to hitch on. Life was engaging in the university, in the classroom and in my chamber, where I wrote scholarly papers that got noticed and always lead to more work, research and papers, more conferences and seminars.”
Concise, deliberate, critical and frank. Filled with truth.
” The campus was quiet, simple enough for my pleasure, liberal and liberating. I wouldn’t have given that up for anything just then, much less for playing second fiddle to someone who had priorities for himself, his career or business. The fullness I was living meant everything to me. I was happy.”
“As was I, to have met her,” I told myself.
” There was money enough, which meant little to me except when it enabled me to travel. Have never been a shopper and had felt no need of more property than I’d already inherited. Investments other than some tax-savers like insurance policy, mutual funds and fixed deposits were completely off my radar…
“There were men who saw a future with me but no one I felt over time whom I could admit into my life for all time, into my house and in my decision making.”
” Does that make you sad, today ?”
” No … but I am seized by the need to make amends for not having a companion I could call my own, who would speak to me, be with me during my solitary departure from the world. Someone who would hold my hand and miss me while I breathed out my last. Having lived in the present all my life, I cannot ignore preparing well enough for what I am walking into, at the eve of my journey’s end.”
It showed in her eyes. A developed intellect that had sincerely fashioned a values system for all matters, moral and ethical. The moment was pure and fascinating.
Reflexively, I picked up the water bottle and drank to a thirst that seemed unquenchable. It was still in my clasp, while I assessed the need for more, when she reached for the bottle unasked, without a word. Our relatedness could now be categorised as informal.
” I sense that you need the skill to complete yourself in solitude, by and to yourself, and the capacity to choose emptiness than abhor it, even more than something intimate and substantial. It will likely free you from the need of having someone by the death-bed.”
There was nothing I could add right then to what she was already doing to fill on her want.
“Telescoping our sight on our being does bring much of our life into focus. They reveal our ego-emotion-being for us to know all that we, in truth, are not. It is what we want in it that which roots ourself in it, and lets it defines us. The want is the error when we need to be free of it…
“What is ours is the curiosity, the quest to know. Spot it and resume with the being in quest. Move on to knowing, and persist with moving on. There really is nothing here to hold on to. We could give to it, but give up we must because there’s nothing that would accompany us through our great departure, except what we are to ourself.”
The distance must have shown on the visage, as she gravely pored over my face for the longest moment, with a strange firmness of resolve.
This was an unknown, unpredictable domain. I picked up the book but soon snoozed over it. The oblations had been poured in the crackling fire within her. The result would arise.
End of Chapter I. To be continued …