From a child’s eye – it is love.
From a man’s eye – it is fear.
Where has the child in us gone, I wonder?
There was a distraught look on the child’s face, as a shooting pain spread from his shoulders to his back. His back and his legs were hurting too. The hit may not have been impactful for an adult but for the five year old Shiva, it felt to be the most severe form of beating his father had given him. The impression of the five fingers on his face felt like bright red dents on his right cheek.A moment of confusion followed by a sheath of fear that had begun to cloak his face. And yet, he wondered – “What did I do wrong?”
The burning sensation lingered on as he was still reeling from the shock and confusion on why his father had got so angry when his son had placed the bright white tinged with yellow ketki flowers on the Shiv Ling. Apparently, his father believed that he had reserved his right to get angry because he was Neelakanta Shastry, the temple priest of the town.
The boy now looked at the Shiv Ling and started speaking slowly – “Why? What did I do wrong? You only said you would accept anything from me if I gave it with whole heart filled with love and devotion. You said – even a pebble offered with utmost devotion is nectar to you. And, on my way to the temple today, I saw these bright flowers. I thought you would love them. I placed them on you thinking you will love them and be happy. And then, my father came and saw those flowers. He got very angry. He slapped me and beat me with a stick because, those were the cursed ketki flowers and that, I should never have put them on you. He further said that, now you are angry and will punish us all for this grave mistake of mine. Will you, dear God? But, did you not create those flowers too? Why would you hate your own creation? And, if you had not liked them, you could have told me. I talk to you everyday….even as my father thinks I am mad to talk to a stone. But then, I don’t see the stone. I see you in the stone……”
The weariness caused by the crying was making Shiva drowsy. He sat next to the Shiv ling and slowly, his eyes began to droop. His tiny head now rested on the cold smooth arch of the Shiv ling. His tiny hands hugged the masculine emanating Linga. He was falling asleep. And then, all of a sudden, he felt calm. The pain seemed to be going away. It seemed as though some light had entered his battered body and, peace was transcending upon him in the form of milky white waves of light. He seemed to hear a voice from far. And, now it seemed to be approaching towards him. It was a baritone voice and yet so soothing. It felt like soul for the ears.And, the voice whispered softly
– “My dear child, cry, you must not! The world is a beautiful place despite the traditions, rituals, ignorance and all the negative aspects that make it. And, it is believed that certain traditions shall appease me. Do they? I will not answer that. But does your pain make me sad? Yes, it does. Do not worry, my child. The path to understand me is never easy. And, this was just a small obstacle that you have crossed with grace. Remember, I am also walking with you every second. Your pain is my pain, my child. So, do not fret. Just have faith in me. I am always there for you and, with you.”
And then, the aura began to fade. The sound was becoming feeble. Little shiva felt as though he was falling down fast and then, all of a sudden,
“Hey shiva! Common get up! How long have you been sleeping here. Amma and appa were worried when you did not come back home soon. See, it is almost two……”
He looked up and saw his doting elder sister Rukmini hovering over him with knitted brows. He got up and looked around. There was no one there. For a second, he felt a bit surreal. He could not recollect much except that he had fallen asleep.
While walking down the temple steps, Rukmini quipped – “…..And, father was feeling bad for having hit you so badly. He told me not to tell you.. but he has got your favorite halwa from Ayyanar’s shop! By the way, Shiva, what did you do this time?”
And then, he remembered it all. Suddenly it dawned on him that he felt no pain. He touched his cheek and the five fingered impression of his father’s hand on his cheek was gone. He held his sister’s hand tightly and, stopped for a moment to look back.. Just as he was about to look back, a beggar on the steps hummed loudly – “Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambo Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambo…….” Before he could glance at the linga, Rukmini cupped the young boy’s face in her soft hands and said… “Shiva, there is a whole life left to finding answers for all your questions on the traditions that we have been following since ages. And, I am sure you will find them and enlighten the world. But for now, just remember – We all love you. Ok!” Lil shiva was once again the naughty prankster as he tugged at the long plait of his sister and began to scoot. However, that day was also the day when little shiva reached home with a mind that had experienced a peace that only a higher spiritual awakening could trigger.
Later that evening, when Neelakantha shastry came to the temple for conducting his regular pujais, what he saw baffled him. There was an imprint of five fingers on the shiv ling and, parts of it were chipped. The shock on his face remained frozen for a few minutes. And then when he touched it, in a flash of a second, it all dawned on the 40 year old man as tears welled up and, his face turned crimson…..He prostrated before the Lingasaying, “Oh God! I saw you as a stone and my son saw the stone as you!”
And, the beggar out on the steps closed his eyes and smiled – “Har Har Mahadev”
P.S: The above is a work of my imagination that is often torn between religion and spirituality. Of course, I am more drawn towards the spiritual side. And if any of my readers are hurt, kindly bear in mind that it has been written as a fiction…..and you can always choose to believe in it or, not to 🙂