Bamboo Flower – A Novel
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Rajen had never thought that he would agree to the marriage proposal as quickly as he did. Bharati had been a good friend. But he had not seen her to be someone he would wed. Was it “Think of your future ! You are alone. Don’t you want to have children” of his mother that persuaded him?
All went so quickly. Negotiations, ceremonies, anguish, happiness and adjustments he was not aware he ever could make, all fell in place and here he was a family man. His mother grew in stature and began talking of a big family. Grandchildren must be what were hidden in her mind. But she never mentioned except once when he was alone and she only asked if they husband and wife ever go for health checkup.
‘Do you think we should consult a doctor?’ Rajen asked his wife one morning, some days later. Two years was what the neighbours were giving for his family to grow because he could already hear them.
‘Let us wait for some more time.’
He did not pursue. However, he could not help remembering how the elderly women blessed him and the new wife for early strong son minutes after the wedding.
So it had to be about life, a new life as created by union of two humans. He did not know what was in the wife’s mind. He knew he could not be privy to that. So he could think whatever he wanted and chuckled.
O, One Who Never Dies,
O, One Who Knows what,
We mortals do.
O, One Who we remember today,
As we call upon every living being.
The words intruded him. He would have had heard a lot more if he were a little more attentive. The PA system was loud enough but he did not hear the early announcements.
The season of festivities, Lai-Haraoba (Rejoice of the Gods) of the beliefs in Manipur as celebrated in many places of worship of the “Deities of the Land”, which became to be referred as “Sylvan Deities” was here and demanding attention.
These “Sylvan Deities” dot all over the place and there must be at least one every one square kilometre.
He could now faintly hear the longer “invocation”, as delivered by the Maibi (Shaman, Priestess), for the “Ruling Deity” of the locality.
With those first sounds from the mike, his mind drifted and he knew that the Priestesses camping at the village temple must have cleaned the place and fresh flowers must have arrived. The head Priestess in her white dress must have spoken little but all others with her must have known what exactly were to be done.
There was something in them that drew his attention. The words “living beings” did not leave him. Yes, he got it right. There were other living beings around. Weren’t rats in his garden living beings as well after all?
‘These are of the past.’ It was the wife behind him.
He had thought he was alone. So there was someone else who had also heard the Priestess, he noted.
‘Why? They have survived all the religious invasions of the past.’ He stated more to himself than as reply to her.
‘No. How many things can you believe in?’ The wife said
‘Isn’t it true that the “Puyas”, the Old Scriptures were burnt when Hinduism was made the “State Religion” during King Pamheiba’s time?’ She added
‘Well. Don’t forget that a lot of the “Puyas” also went “underground” during that time only to surface later.’ Rajen then said.
‘Of course! The story of our lives. It has to be “underground”, perhaps some deeper than others.’ She said and smiled.
‘Many things of the past tell you how best we should lead our lives.’ He could not help saying.
‘Our beliefs are important as long as we have faith in them. They become questionable the moment you begin to have doubt in them.’ She said and wondered if she should continue because she did not want him to think more.
As he heard his wife speaking, he recollected from history books and words of his grandfather that King Pamheiba, also known as Garib Niwaz ruled Manipur from 1709 to May 1748 and it was during this period and on what had been built over some centuries that the present practices of Hinduism took deep roots and that Brahmins from as far as present-day Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal had started arriving from as early as the mid fifteenth century; the royal enthusiasm ensured that there was no open resistance although it was generally believed that many did not like the more serious idea of abandoning their old beliefs and practices and emergence of the Old Scriptures (Puyas) later only explained this. He also recalled in his mind that the name “Manipur” was introduced during the reign of Pamheiba (Hindu Garibniwaz) even though it was known by various names in the past - Kangleipak, Poireipak, Meitrabak, Cassay, Kathe and Meckley.
‘My worries are not of the beliefs as such but of the past. Everything what the past entails. Do we forget our past just because we have a new set of religious beliefs?’ He used the words “religious beliefs” to focus himself. He also could not help remembering what he heard from the village priest only a few days earlier. The words were: Let the breath recoil – those breath that went out long as I sing and speak return from afar and those breath that went out shorter as I sing and speak return quickly.
Then he spoke to himself: What is spiritual about beliefs? Beliefs and religions – how different are they? Do religions go beyond beliefs?
Of course, there are “rites” along with beliefs to make religion, he added in his mind.
What would it be like if humans were to be transformed to rats? He could not resist thinking.
Then he began questioning in his mind: Why should words of wisdom be always from a religious platform? Why should answers be found only in religion? Why is my religion always greater than yours? Is intolerance the essence of religion? Am I prepared to listen when others say that my religion is weak?
He had thought that the wife would react. Then, he realized that he had not spoken out anything and in fact, she seemed to have left him after he closed his eyes with the questions.
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