I couldn’t put my car in the old garage anymore. The owner had suddenly decided to buy a car; so I had to find a new place to shift my car.
One of my friends helped me with a good suggestion. In their locality, people put their car on the roadside; local club charged a few amounts which was much less than the garage rent. It was safe and secure too. I agreed instantly, it seemed to me as a good idea, although I didn’t know what a bizarre experience lay in wait for me.
In the distance was a solitary building. An old structure and the appearance of the roof was fearsome; it looked like it might fall in any time. Trees grew on the wall. An old signboard, discolored, hung precariously; an advertisement of a tantrik astrologer.
Beside that ramshackle building, there was a duck pond. A small playing ground.
I liked the place for a different reason. On the opposite side of the road, there was a tap which was connected to the main supply of the local water system. I decided to come in the evening and wash the car; I always loved to keep my car shining.
One day between the end of the afternoon and night, when the sun was going down, and on the east, a faint moon was appearing, I met the man; he lived in that building. He came to take water.
An old man, indeed. His loincloth dyed with red ochre; a flowing white beard covered his chest. He stopped near the tap and asked me, “Would you like to take it first.” He showed his two pots and said, “It will take time, I think.”
I said, “No problem, please you take. I have no hurry.”
He smiled, “Well said, my son, we should we hurry? After all, we all would end up in one place, sometime before or after!”
I noticed that he was struggling to take the pot filled up with water, it was heavy for his age. I wanted to lend my hand and said, “Let me carry it to your house. Please give it to me.”
He smiled, “No way, my son, without recourse to self-help I cannot live. In fact, I have no hurry, too!”
I had never heard any old man laugh like that – a real belly laugh. I liked him, it was instant and I felt a strange attraction.
We met quite frequently. Whenever he saw me in the evening, he came out and we had long chat. His life-story was very interesting – his wife died while giving birth to his only son. His brother-in-law had been childless, so he decided to adopt the mother-less child.
He said, “I didn’t like the domestic life anymore. I renounced the world and traveled the whole country in search of peace. I met many hermits in strange places and found most of them were fraud, they take red ochre to deceive people, for earning their living.”
He stopped, took a deep breath and continued, “At last, I found a true hermit, my GURU in a burning ghat of Varanasi. I stayed with him for nearly forty years and traveled to everywhere, Nepal, Bhutan, in the distant snow-covered valleys of the Himalayas. He was a true hermit. He could turn dead to life, I saw in my own eyes. He could disappear completely but stayed with you, you could feel his presence. I still feel his presence around me, he said, we don’t die, we only change our appearance, we started from zero and end up at zero. Nothing stays, money, fame, greed, hunger for more power…nothing, my boy.”
One evening he took me to his room. In his past domestic-life, he was a professor of philosophy, the room was staffed with books. There was no cot, except a chair. On the floor, there was a skin of a tiger and a skull was placed in the middle. A skeleton stood in the corner; as if it was watching us.
I didn’t like the atmosphere. He requested me to take the seat. I said in a dried voice, “It’s okay. I am fine.”
He sat on the skin of the tiger and said, “My son bought the chair. He comes pretty often to know whether his old father is dead or not. I told him, I will never die. I will come again and again in this world.”
“Your son, what he does for a living?”
“He is a doctor, staying in a distant place. Although he has a doctor friend living near, a nice person, he takes care of me.”
“But, how do you contact your son?”
“I have his number written in this diary and he bought me a mobile. But, I can’t operate it, I always request somebody to connect.” He burst into laughter.
I thought I had never seen such a jolly, old fellow in my life. Probably he found peace in this strange indifferent world.
He stood up and said, “Come, see my four faithful followers.”
We entered the next room and I was shocked, blood patches, and bones were strewn across the floor. In the dark, I saw four pairs of shining eyes, watching us intently.
He threw pieces of meat across the floor and the four black cats came out from the dark, they made a strange sound, took their daily hunt and disappeared in the dark.
I had enough for a day and I wanted to go home.
Coming outside, I breathed and decided not to go inside that room again.
After a few days, one of my colleagues invited me to his marriage and I came back late at night to park the car. I was in hurry to go home. I locked my car, took the bag and started walking. Suddenly, I heard a call.
I looked back and saw him standing on the doorway. He looked pale in the faint moonlight.
The Tantrik and Other Stories