Of all mountains, the Himalayas are the highest. They sit like a prayer table on the plains. The soil is closer to the Gods, the air purer, the mind clearer. There's a potency in the earth here - a quality of the Divine in everything that takes life.
It was in the Himalayas, in the holy mountains of Himachal Pradesh, that Aakash chose to throw his first seeds into the earth on some land that had arrived in his care through Divine Grace.
Many years earlier, when he was a boy, he had won this piece of land at a game of cricket in Chail. Not by winning the game, but by laying his hands on an injured hemophiliac boy and curing him of hemophilia altogether. An act of no consequence if the boy had not been the captain of the cricket team, and, more importantly, the son of the Maharaja of Patiala.
Years later, when Aakash went up into the hills as a man, he was mesmerized by the beauty of this God-sent land. Awestruck by the Silence as he walked the mountaintops and valleys, divining the perfect place to build his house.
There was one flat peninsula on the mountainside that begged for a home. From this place he could see layers of mountains on all sides, aspiring to greater and greater heights until they reached the snows. Scattered in the distance down the mountainsides were terraces which circled the hills like green tidemarks, villagers grazing their cows and goats, people washing their clothes in the river, wooden makeshift dwellings, tall pines and Himalayan weeds with the power to heal diseases that usually carried death sentences.
The land he had been given was part of a mountain range whose tributaries trickled down to both the Ganges, river of Immortality, and the Indus, river of Civilization. In fact, if a tear was shed at the top of one ridge, it could have seeped through the soil to either of those two destinations. It was left for the Fates to decide.
Aakash built a farm in these hills, which he named Prakriti, and he had an elephant that he named Ganesh. He didn't have a wife yet, but the elephant, along with the seeds and the power of his vision, formed the roots of future prosperity. The century was still young, India knew no assurance of independence, and success was a scarce resource, owned mostly by the British.
Aakash felt lucky here, but the locals were too superstitious to call it luck. They always felt he had developed certain powers or sidhis. There was no explaining why rain clouds would hover over his farm well before the monsoons broke down in Delhi. No explanation why the household's vegetables were twice the size of those sold in any of the nearby market towns.
Then he also had the power of Ganesh. The villagers regularly came to give his elephant prasad from their fields and receive a regal salaam in exchange. Govinda, the mahout who looked after Ganesh, was always treated with great veneration. People said that he didn't just know the traditional pressure points to command this prehistoric force of a creature, he also knew where all the sacred points were to be found. The places between the thick elephantine folds where time immemorial was carried. Time so old, it could be traced back to its source and back to the controlling forces of the universe.
But success was a trifle for Aakash. He never sought it. He only thought how he could help his fellow countrymen. The planting of the seed was enough, and the shoots would be guided by the powers that be. His concern was to do his duty, and provide traditional medicinal herbs for those in need.
In those days Ayurveda was often the only affordable medical option for the masses. Western medicine hadn't been widely accepted and took its place amongst the other magical treatments the local people practiced. In fact, if anything, there was a far healthier scepticism toward it, as many a patient had escaped their bodies under the pioneering knife of medical science.
This is a complete excerpt of Chapter 1 from The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte. Copyright 2003 Bem Le Hunte. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, HarperCollins Publishers.
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