Gautam remained silent, hesitant as to whether the words he would utter might reveal his uncertainty about the place he’d arrived. “How many days have you been practicing?” said the man opposite him.
“For two years… Only intermittent practices. Sometimes, there was even a break of three months. But in spite of my regular stints at the practice, I wasn’t able to enjoy its benefits.”
“What do you expect as benefits?”
“I certainly didn’t get into meditation expecting supernatural powers. I’ve got no desire in attaining them. My mind refuses to be under control. It wanders restlessly all the time. Holding its tail, I too am wandering behind it. I hoped I could focus my mind through meditation.”
The man did not respond but simply kept looking at the Ganges. Gathering the yellow light of the evening sun, the Ganges swirled, and swelled and flowed furiously. The river-borne wind slapped Gautam’s face, and, stubbornly penetrating his clothes, chilled his bones. Evening aarti had just begun beyond three stair stations. Bells kept thinly ringing. On the other side of the narrowing Ganges, lanterns were shining from Paramarta Niketan. Across the river, people rocked Ram Jhula like a cradle as they walked over it and passed it on motorcycles. A cow walked complacently in their midst, chewing her cud. In the darkness that hurriedly spread over the bridge, the people on it appeared like dark beetles.
People here referred to the Ganges as their mother. He was confused initially when the sanyasi, meeting him at the entrance of the ashram office, said, “Come! Let’s go watch the mother for a while,” but followed him nevertheless. He understood who the mother was when he saw the man, who stood motionless behind the barricades with an unchanging smile, watching the Ganges flow. In the Southern part of India, only in writing do people revere rivers as mothers. He was somewhat shocked and astonished to see even the illiterate here hail the Ganges as their mother.
The sanyasi suddenly turned to his side and said, “Just look at the mother for a while. There is no greater meditation than that.” Then he turned to the river and, as though demonstrating what he just instructed, closed his eyes, breathing deeply. Gautam stood gazing at him. He did not know the man’s name. He did not remember seeing any notes or pictures of him on Ashram’s website. As though mimicking the old saying, ‘There is no need of a shaven crown, nor of tangled hair’, the sanyasi had a thin beard and a mustache. Behind the heavy eyepieces were marble-like eyes. He had a Stout body with a protruding paunch. He wore a faded saffron-colored shirt and a dhoti, the tip of which was blackened with grease. If he hadn’t observed the way the old man conducted himself, he would’ve thought the man to be the ashram cook. When he first saw him, the car driver ran up to the sanyasi and, hurriedly taking off his sandals, bowed to him.
“Why don’t you visit me after supper? I have a Satsang at nine. I’ll be in my room until then. You can calmly lay down all your grievances to me,” said the man. The kindness shown on his face when he laughed, showing his buck teeth, and the dim evening light shining on him made him look dreamlike.
During supper, in his remotely familiar Hindi, Gautam enquired Rahul, who served him lentils, about the Sanyasi. The sanyasi did not belong to this ashram. He had brought his long-time Vedantic students for a camp in which he taught the first kantam of Mundaka Upanishad in the Gujarati language. Since no English classes took place at the time he sought permission to visit the ashram, Gautam had come here with the intention of staying alone on the ashram premises and spending his time in meditation.
When he returned to his room after dinner, he was relieved to find that there was no monkey to be seen on the opposite porch. On the afternoon of his arrival, before he could enter the room allotted to him, a monkey sitting on the opposite porch had troubled him a lot. For a long time, it would not let him enter his room. Ever since he entered the town, he’d been fascinated by the number of monkeys he’d spotted, only next to humans. On the roofs of the railway station, near the roadside trash cans, jumping across trees, flying down to descend on compound walls… On his way to the ashram from Dehradun airport, he witnessed the aftermath of an accident. Two youngsters, who came on a bicycle, had collided with a van. Gautam saw a monkey pulling the hair of one of the youngsters who lay unconscious, with blood oozing out of his right leg. It must’ve been one of those monkeys that stopped him from entering his room. He tried to chase it away by standing at a distance for a while and saying, “Shoo! Shoo!” But the monkey sat staring at him with a fixed gaze. He took out a packet of biscuits from his backpack and threw it toward the monkey. The monkey picked up the packet slowly, tore it open, and chewed on the biscuits, but did not move from its spot. Each time he tried to chase the monkey away, it spread its lips widely, frightening him with its teeth. Suddenly the monkey jumped onto the window of his room and hung on to its bar. After waiting for fifteen minutes, he went back to the ashram office and brought the guard. The guard chased the monkey away with his stick. The people who stayed before had thrown excess food into the trash can and kept it outside their doors. That was what the monkey came for. The guard went back, mumbling about the audacity of the residents, who never followed the instructions on the note posted in all the rooms, asking them not to keep trash cans outside. Gautam could enter the room only after the guard’s help. From then on, every time he returned to his room, he would come with the fear of a monkey standing outside. On this occasion, no monkey stopped him at the door. However, the monkeys still kept wandering on his roof and on the branches of the peepal tree that spread its branches like a huge umbrella.
Gautam left his sandals outside and entered Guru Abedananda’s room. Guru sat on a red, cushioned seat, leaning his stocky body to his right. He greeted him with a smile. Gautam went near him, hesitated a bit, then bent down to touch his feet. On a small stool on his right side were piles of fruits and nuts such as cashews and almonds on a plate. Next to it, a tumbler kept capsized on top of a small copper pot, closing its lid. On his left stood a bronze sculpture of Dakshinamoorthy, wearing a garland made of well-blossomed oleanders and bael leaves, and smiling behind incense smoke. There were long sofas on either side of the room, wrapped up in white cloth. The Guru smiled at him and signaled to him to sit on the right-side sofa. Gautam hesitated again. He looked around for a few seconds and decided to sit down cross-legged on the floor.
He struggled for a moment on how to start. He said Namaste to him, joining his palms with respect. He noticed a path leading to another room on his left. Through its open door, he saw fruit baskets stacked on top of another on the floor.
“First, you must find a taste in meditation. You have to practice sitting in a quiet corner for several days. Then you can gradually increase the duration of meditation. Sitting in a corner without moving your body is in itself a great achievement. It’s sufficient to start with fifteen minutes. But it must be done daily. Can you do it?”
“But the moment I sit for meditation, my mind starts to wander. It refuses to allow my body to sit still.”
He smiled softly. “Arjuna made the same complaint to Krishna in the Gita. He says controlling one’s mind is like trying to get hold of wind. The great teacher also accepts it. Krishna only gives two techniques to get the mind under control. Abhyasa and Vairagya. Constant practice and a detachment from sense pleasures. As you attain these two qualities, the quality of your meditation will improve.”
“I do understand them as concepts. But when it comes to putting them into action, it becomes hard to win over the mind. The moment I sit in meditation, my mind becomes immersed in unwanted fantasies. It just goes behind them. Within a few days of practice, the mind begins to think of reasons to forbid sitting in meditation, and the meditation itself becomes completely dismissed.”
“I guess you haven’t properly followed the first of the two tactics I mentioned. You say the mind is immersed in fantasies. But isn’t just watching them as they emerge called meditation? What else do you expect in meditation? By constantly looking at your thoughts, you are gradually freed from their shackles and you begin to realize the fundamental truth that you are not the thoughts but the fulcrum and the witness of those thoughts. The peak of meditation is not the thoughtless state as one would think. It is a state in which you lose all attachment with your thoughts; the state in which you realize yourself only as the witness of your thoughts. When that state is reached, even meditation is unnecessary. Every moment of your breathing becomes meditation. In the beginning, meditation functions as a mental activity that you plan and execute. But the truth is meditation is your nature. When the unwanted fall off, what remains is your true nature, like the sculpture remains when you remove the unwanted chips. What do you think of the second technique? Have you attained some vairagya?”
“I’ve even quit my computer programming job. I’m determined not to engage in anything else without resolving this dispute with myself. I’m determined to know what’s all this and what the meaning of all this. I’m not bothered about the pleasures of this world and its recognition.”
“Vairagya does not have to be understood as hatred for worldly things. It is a state of being naturally detached from worldly things through the realization that they will never completely satisfy one. However, practicing it initially as an exercise too will pay off eventually,” said the guru. Gautam looked for any excitement in the man to have to go to the Satsang in an hour. He had leaned back in his seat, surrendering his whole body to it. His breathing seemed to happen superficially and with difficulty. He was interrupted by a heavy cough when he tried to continue his speech. He coughed twice, and relaxed. Then coughed again. He continued to cough non-stop. Gautam pondered if it was appropriate to make him speak more. He made an effort to get up. The guru waved his hand and motioned for him to sit down.
“This frequently attacks me. You don’t have to leave. We’ll settle the account for you today,” guru laughed. “Do you have vairagya about your thoughts? What do you think are the weaknesses of your mind?”
“I… I don’t know if I can say this… But somehow I have a feeling I can share this with you. I’ve attended several Yoga retreats. In some classes, we were tasked with sharing things that bother our minds. Usually, the thing most people share is the lust that constantly tortures them. Some people share about their people’s betrayal; some talk of their inner violence. My problem too is the lust that constantly bubbles in me and uses me to her advantage. But I’ve never shared this anywhere. Because I was shy, reluctant, and proud. Although at first, I took this trouble as natural to youth, as years went by, I came to experience the extent of torture this has given me. I feel free to share this now. But even now, I don’t know if sharing this will be of any help. You’ll leave for the Satsang in a little while. I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon. I don’t think in one day, I can get a final answer to this problem that bores me out all the time…”
“You’re saying you always wander around carrying another body on you,” the guru said.
“Not one. Many. One after the other. Sometimes more than one at a time…” He wondered if he was talking appropriately to a sage who had completely renounced the world. ‘Have I talked to anyone about this yet? No. Not even to my closest friend. What stopped me from doing so? Did I think that others should consider me holy? Did I think that my intellectual image shouldn’t be scattered? Is it because of the sense of freedom, given by the loneliness of the lustful thoughts, that enables me to roam freely around in my own little world until anyone knows my secrets? Is it liberating or am I bound? This man has renounced completely. Is it possible that he has completely cut off his lustful thoughts? Or is he just struggling on the inside as I am?’
“Have you read Masoch’s Venus in Furs?”
Gautam had no reading habit. Except for some booklets that were given to him at the places where he registered for yoga and meditation retreats, he didn’t read much.
“In it, a man called Severin asks a widow, named Wanda, to enslave him. He surrenders his body to her to be put under torture. He finds pleasure in the violence she inflicts on him. When lust is taken beyond the basic biological desire, it naturally becomes violence against another body.”
Gautam waited for him to continue.
“Isn’t lust just the violence that men inflict on women? Naturally, sex has to occur as softly as a feather. Beyond that, the lust that is constantly being rehearsed by the mind is nothing but violence. Perhaps Severin must have given himself to Wanda as an atonement for the age-old enslavement of the female body by the entire male race… Moreover, we define the Sanskrit word kama not only as the desire for the opposite sex, but generally as the attachment to other beings, and to material things. We become addicted to anything due to habit. That habit can be gotten rid of through rigorous practice. Make an effort. Train yourself. You can achieve anything through practice. Understand that you are under the influence of something because it has your blessing. The Gita says Upadrashta and Anumanta. You are in the form of witness to everything; you give permission for everything to happen. With the help of your intellect, you can change the course of your mind. Not only during the time of meditation, but you can also do it at all times. You must do it. That is why Krishna says you must engage yourself in karma yoga. What is your nature? What naturally induces you into action? Is that action in accordance with societal norms and the righteousness of your conscience? If so, do it regularly. Not for any benefit; not due to compulsion. But to lift yourself; to purify your mind. Meditation isn’t possible without purifying your mind at least to some extent. Without meditation, standing firm in your self-knowledge isn’t possible. This is the only way. All you have to do is to know what your nature is and indulge in that action.” From the rapidly falling and rising of his chest, Gautam could sense the guru’s difficulty in breathing. It also appeared to him that the man did not care much about this difficulty.
“Thank you very much, Swamiji. I’ll try,” he said.
The guru looked at the time on the watch in his left hand and said, “I’ve still got twenty minutes. Let me tell you the story of a friend of mine.”
“Twenty years ago, when I was a monk I met Roti Baba here in Rishikesh. He too was just a monk then. People still hadn’t recognized him as Roti Baba. We stayed at the Brahmavidya hut behind this ashram. Roti Baba wanted to spend his whole day in meditation. He never talked to anyone. Since we were acquainted when we both learned Brahma Sutra together from Nirbhayananda Saraswathy, he’d prefer to talk only to me. He’d speak just a word or two; during meal breaks. That too had since faded. He’d only take one meal, his lunch. He came out of his room just for that; meditated at all other times. Whether he slept or spent the entire night meditating was a mystery to those of us who lived in the hut. One day, he was sitting beside me during lunch. Suddenly he turned to me and said he was going to leave the hut. People said it was the first sentence he’d spoken in months. I was astonished. I asked him why. He said the noise in this town had increased and was an obstacle to his meditation and had become a barrier to being able to raise to a certain level. He was going to sit in meditation in a small cave above Vashishta Gufa in the mountains. The mountain temple priest had assured him he would take care of his food and other needs. Roti Baba must have been in his fifties at the time. I asked him: Swami! Why don’t you stay? Aren’t mahatmas living here? Isn’t spiritual education happening here at its fullest intensity? Beyond all that, isn’t mother Ganga here? But he never listened to my argument. He was firm in his decision. He was convinced that meditation must occur every moment in order to be established in what he learned. I tried arguing that in case of sudden illness, there wouldn’t be any medical help up in the mountains, but all facilities were here. Nothing could stop him. In two days, he left the hut. One day, a month later, while I was reading the Ashtavakra Gita, I heard that he’d returned. I went and saw him sitting on a rope cot outside his room, watching monkeys and crows. He’d grown unbelievably thin. His eyes got narrowed and looked buried in their cavities. His beard looked as if black and white lentils were sprinkled all over. I asked him the reason for his return. Health concerns? Any inconvenience? Are there insects or poisonous bugs inside the cave? None of these. The reason he came back was birds. The reason for his departure was the relentless screeching of birds from early morning until late evening. He said that the flow of meditation was cut off due to the screeching of birds. He proclaimed he would wait in the hut until he could find the quietest place for his meditation.” The guru laughed softly as he finished the story. The coughing sound too was heard, mixed with his laughter. “To meditate and reach a higher level in spirituality is in one’s own hands. Uddared Atmanatmanam…the help of external circumstances is only to an extent. How long will you be here?”
“Three more days. Then I leave for America. My friend is in the software business there. He has called me to help. I will be back in fifteen days. Can I come and see you again?”
“Absolutely. I’ll be in Gujarat next month. All the details are on the website of our ashram,” he said, naming his ashram. He asked him to take note of his email.
Gautam exited through the front gate of the ashram and walked toward the narrow lanes. The Muslim elder who ran the petty shop on the front looked at him and waved. He smiled and waved back, as he moved forward. At the front of the small shops, Whites had gathered to make reservations for trekking and surfing on the Ganges. A man who had put on the monkey god’s costume, walked on the opposite side, making noise with his anklets. As he raised his right hand as if to offer a blessing, one of the whites gathered there bent his head reverentially to accept it. Posters for yoga and meditation classes were all over the walls. Children wandered and played around at the entrance of the houses. Men returned home on bicycles after work.
Leaving the narrow lane, he walked toward the bazaar. The acrid smell of puris and samosas fried in mustard oil in street food shops, the piquant smell of pav bhaji and pani puri, the fragrance of fully ripened mangoes piled up at the back of open tempos on the street mixed together and stirred in his stomach. Street stalls were selling clothes with a huge OM printed at their front, beads, and metal sculptures. Even at that time, people stood in crowds in front of those stalls. Gautam was amazed to see people and cows indiscriminately roaming the town. Even then, a cow with her two calves was walking nonchalantly through the crowd. The old man, who was standing at the front of a shop bargaining for a Rudraksha mala, did not seem to notice the cow rubbing his back on her passing him and the cow too did not seem to care.
He reached Ram Jhula’s entrance. At the sides, auto-rickshaws were lined up after their ride time was over. On the right, a white man was sitting on the ground, carrying a vessel for alms. He had long, straw-colored hair that hung braided. His beard of the same color touched his navel. He raised his head and looked at him with his dreamy, blue eyes. ‘What do they come here for? Why is he sitting here, begging in Rishikesh where no one goes hungry? Perhaps he needs money to buy drugs?’ As they drove to the Kunjapuri temple the previous day, the driver pointed to the banks of the Ganges below while crossing a bridge and said earlier the Whites used to come and stay in tents on both sides. Singing, dancing, and smoking weed would continue all night. He said with a pride unique to the people of that land that the new prime minister had gotten rid of all those atrocities soon after he assumed office. Isn’t Ganga our mother! At that time, the banks of the Ganges were uninhabited, and on both sides of the swirling mother, only stones, weeds and bushes were shining in the scorching sun. He did not remember looking at the Ganges with crystal clear water. She always flowed muddy. It was unintelligible that the same people who swell with pride whenever the mother’s name is mentioned are the ones who mindlessly pollute the river. He remembered the Ganga Aarti he took part in Hardwar’s Har-Ki-Pauri. They were compelled to take a vow, in Hindi, not to pollute the mother river. Tens and thousands of people had already gathered on the banks of the river two hours before the event, which lasted only for half an hour. He too had gone earlier on the advice given to him. There was a building on the other shore that looked like a temple. Many men either clad in white or without wearing a shirt were preparing for the aarti with elongated bronze lamps. Thousands and thousands of people! Everyone’s heart was concentrated on one thing despite the noise, the clamor, the jostling… He could feel every soul waiting with a fluttering heart for the commencement of the aarti. An event that had been happening for hundreds of years in the same place, at the same time, and in the same way. Many thousand bodies with a single, giant mind. He’d been transported to a dream plane when the aarti started in the enchanting evening, during which the lamps illuminated the Ganges and the chants of Hara Hara Mahadev! Ganga Mata Ki Jey filled the air. He particularly did not feel any devotion to the aarti. But astounding questions came to the fore. What makes so many people soothed, dissolved, melted? What makes them destroy their identity as a small-minded man and make them feel like a giant existence? How is it possible for these simple-minded people to be utterly unconscious of their identity? Why don’t they have questions like mine? Holding a poha packet in his hand, he kept staring with amazement at the people who scattered on the endless staircases on the left and on the right, at the panditjis who stood on the other shore, swirling the bronze lanterns, fixing a steady gaze at the trembling torches. Right now, standing on the bridge, he was just remembering the surprise that had overtaken him during Aarti the day before. He thought he’d treated the event with a sneer. ‘Pollute your rivers as much as possible; Drain your wastes in them. Let the corpses of your elders, who desired to go to heaven after death, float along with them. I’ve no idea how many factories on the banks of the Ganges still discharge their effluent into the river. On the one hand, turn the river into a sewer and ruin it! On the other, light a lamp to it and sanctify it. Of these two diametrically opposite acts, which one is true? Which one is your real face?
The bridge was still bustling with crowds. People were crossing it, walking fast back and forth. Motorcycles ran over it, making loud noises. The bridge was shaking or trembling because of their movement.
Gautam climbed over the bridge and walked forward. He had to jostle through the crowd before reaching the center of the bridge. The wind that rose above the Ganges slapped everyone on the bridge and made them stumble. Gautam stood holding the rope railings of the suspension bridge. If you ignored the people (and cows) who were passing by behind your back, you could witness the magnificent flowing in front of your eyes! The light from the lanterns of the innumerable ashrams on both sides, including the Paramartha Niketan and Swami Dayananda Ashram looked like embroidered flowers on a dark carpet. The stars looked like white stones encrusted in the dark blue blanket of the dark sky. People were lighting lamps in the distant stairwells. What do these people want? Or do they just express their gratitude by lighting up lamps? The bridge jumped up and down. The river flowed furiously below. The wind touched the surface of the river, rose above and embraced the bodies.
When he returned to the ashram, he noticed several sandals left at the entrance of Swami Abedananda’s abode. All the lights were turned on. It was ten o’clock. Satsang should be over by now. Why are there so many sandals at his entrance at this time?
Rahul came out of Guru’s room. He was the one who took care of all of Guru’s needs. He explained what happened. Guru had coughed a lot during Satsang. Halfway through the class, he was brought into his room in an almost unconscious state. The doctor who examined him asked him to take some rest. But Guru still could not sleep. The cough did not let him sleep. The ashramites were still standing around with worrisome faces.
Gautam slowly walked toward the entrance. He could not see the swami from the entrance as he was surrounded by people. The guru spotted him a few minutes later when everyone dispersed. He signaled Gautam to come inside.
The guru was lying on the side of the bed with his head on high pillows. He had a heavy book in his hand. He gestured to him to sit down. When Gautam sat on a nearby seat, he asked, “Haven’t you gone to bed yet?” and coughed.
“Please don’t speak. Don’t bother!” said Gautam. “I’d gone out. On the way back to my room, I saw a crowd in front of your room and came here to see what happened. Please get some sleep. I’m leaving. I thought I’d leave without seeing you. I’m happy that I’ve seen you now. I’d pray for you but I’m an atheist. I wish you a speedy recovery.”
Guru smiled feebly. In a soft voice, said, “I don’t know when we will meet again. If we can’t meet, just remember what Krishna said. ‘Yatha ichasi tatha kuru.’ After saying this, he closed his eyes wearily. The book from his right hand slipped and fell to his side with a slight thud.
Gautam did not understand the meaning of what Krishna said. He found the book disturbing to the guru’s lying position. He took it and put it on a nearby stool. The guru’s breathing had become heavier and deeper. Gautam sat there, staring at him for a while. He took the book from the stool and looked at its cover that said Karamazov Brothers. It was written by Fyodor Dostoevsky. He opened the page bookmarked by the guru and read the entire page patiently. Father Zosima dies. People stand around him. His corpse starts to exude a rotten smell. The crowd begins to doubt if he really was a saint. A mentally retarded monk named Ferapont enters. He says there are ghosts and demons in that room and they need to be chased away. People are utterly confused now. Ferapont is taken away from the scene.
Gautam trembled within. Will the guru die like Zosima? Was he reading this book from the beginning or did he open this page by chance and read it today? What did a renunciate look for in literature?
The guru was sleeping peacefully. He must have been really tired due to his persistent cough. Gautam placed the book back on the stool and came out. Rahul was standing at the entrance. With a smile, he said, “I’ll be here all night. The guru may need help any time.” Gautam recited to him the Krishna sentence uttered by the guru and asked him what it meant. Rahul looked up at the sky, lost in thought for a moment, and said, “Krishna says, do what you desire to do.”
Upon returning to his room (There was no monkey to be found at this time), he checked his cellphone for information. There were seventeen missed calls from an unknown number. In one of the text messages, his friend from the United States had asked him to call immediately. Gautam’s WhatsApp had been corrupted, which explained why his friend could not reach him through the common app used by both of them. Gautam emailed his friend, asking him to call. The call came the very next minute.
“Gauti! How many times I’ve tried to reach you! Where have you gone?”
“Just tell me what the matter is. Aren’t I leaving tomorrow? What’s the hurry?”
“It’ll be at least two days before you reach here. Now there is an emergency situation with Tremlin University’s Hopin application. People keep invading its boundaries when the Tremlin people are in their stage or sessions. They’ve even infiltrated the networking! Must be hackers. A workshop is going to take place, starting tomorrow. I want you to create a firewall for the application. Who else would I know other than you who can create a program with Erlang? Can you do it for me?”
“Why so urgent! Aren’t I coming tomorrow?”
“Look! If we can accomplish this, we can lay the foundation for our next project. It’s three million dollars!”
“How long have you got?”
“Sixteen hours. Had you taken my call at the first ring, it would’ve been eighteen.”
“Alright. Let me see.”
“Please do try. I’ll be glad if you finish it. I know you’ll do it. It’s okay if you can’t travel tomorrow. I’ll postpone the ticket for two days.”
He put the phone down and took off his clothes. The room was extremely humid. His own nudity aroused his lust. He went to the bathroom, took a quick shower, and changed into his nightdress. He sat up in his bed and opened his laptop. It was eleven o’clock. The uninterrupted speed of the internet gave him hope. Sixteen more hours. The task must be completed by 3 pm tomorrow. He did not think he would require that many hours. If he wrote without interruption, it would not take more than ten hours. But if there was a problem with the coding somewhere, it might drag on for days.
Gautam gathered the required information from an email sent by his friend. He was able to go under the umbrella of Hopin’s operating system easily. He monitored the functioning of the operating system for some time. Without stopping its operation, he renewed and inserted a few codes. As a standalone command, he sent the compiled codes to those who had Tremlin University’s email. He rewrote new programs for the runtime debuggers and added them to the operating system. The fan running with a persistent noise overhead kept pushing down the hot air. Constant exposure to the air blocked his nostrils. He sat on the floor away from the bed and leaned against the wall. One-fifth of the codes already written were either out of date or unsupported. He removed them completely and replaced them with new codes that were reversibly written in Erlang. There would not be any necessity to rewrite codes anymore. He ran the system again for a while and checked its performance. When he woke up to use the restroom, the clock showed two-thirty. He smiled to himself softly. ‘I will finish it soon.’ When he came back and examined it once again, the newly written codes had given the structure the ability to handle and prevent extreme errors. If something went wrong, it would be removed immediately and a clone would be created instantly. He installed a facility for immediate reporting and registration of the error. He also created an automated application migration in order to move a particular part of the system to a new cluster once its utility is over. Finally, Gautam ran the system yet another time and checked for errors.
By then, he was completely soaked in sweat. He kept checking the codes several times at various points, crevices, and corners. Everything had formed perfectly. How many days since he had written computer codes? Months? But everything seemed to have come to his fingertips now. Or were they always in his fingers, waiting to get materialized? An emptiness devoid of questions filled him now. Was it due to the fatigue of the sleepless night? No. He was a little disappointed that the task was completed so quickly. He longed to work on the program a little longer. He sent an email to his friend stating the completion of the work and asking him to confirm that everything was in order. Once again, he checked for corrections in the written codes. With a start, he realized that his mind was still engrossed in that task. It was three-thirty in the morning. He usually got up at five and would start meditating at five-thirty. His eyes were burning due to loss of sleep. He didn’t think he’d be able to sleep. His stomach was slightly burning with hunger. He drank some water from the bottle.
Coming out of his room, he looked at the Rishikesh sky. It was still dark with a few twinkling stars. There were scattered lights on the windows of the buildings. Someone coughing somewhere reminded him of the guru. Wearing his sandals, he went downstairs. Only the night lamp in the guru’s room was burning. Rahul was lying asleep in a cot at the entrance. Other than the rustle of tree leaves, there were no sounds. Even the cats and dogs were asleep.
Suddenly he was curious to know what the Rishikesh streets would look like at this time. Offering a smile in response to the night watchman’s amazement, he went out of the ashram. The same intersecting lanes; shopping streets. Every place was soaked in silence. Everyone was rejoicing in sleep. On the streets, people and dogs were sleeping side by side. Darkness wrapped everyone in a heavy blanket. Despite walking slowly, Gautam felt he had reached Ram Jhula quickly. On either side of the bridge were rickshaws, trolleys, and the men sleeping in them.
He climbed the bridge and walked on it, treading each of his steps carefully. The biting wind entered his nose and stunned him. His shirts and pants fluttered. From under the bridge came the noise of a rushing flood. He arrived at the same spot where he’d stood the previous night. It was almost at the center of the bridge. A No-man’s bridge, with the furiously flowing river below. Gautam closed his eyes and enjoyed the movement of the bridge, which was swaying ever so slightly. Why was the bridge swaying even when there was no one walking on it? The bridge moved him, pulled, and pushed him as if a mother would lull her baby to sleep. There appeared a little smile on his face. He opened his eyes to look at the river below and suddenly discovered that it was the flowing of the river that caused the vibrations and movements on the bridge. Until the sky faded to allow the early morning light, until the first man of the day stepped foot on the bridge, he stood there, watching the flowing river below, while adapting to the little movements of Ram Jhula.
Jegadeesh Kumar is a student of eastern philosophy, Mathematics teacher, writer, and translator, raised in Southern India, now living in South Carolina, USA. He lived on the southernmost island of the Republic of Maldives for ten years, teaching Mathematics to high school children. On his blog, he writes, both in English and Tamil, short stories, poems, and on eastern philosophy. He is currently working on a dystopian novel set in an imaginary Vedic land. His stories have appeared on Prometheus Dreaming and Indian Periodical. One of his short stories will be published in the Academy of the heart and mind.