There were diseases everywhere. Invisible, making them even more malevolent. Nature was diseased. The food in Jyoti Ma's kitchen was cooked until it was limp, in case a few germs remained. No fruit was ever eaten without being laboriously peeled and then dipped in potassium permanganate. Even the water was boiled four times before it touched the lips of any family member. (Of course the servants had to drink their water straight from the earth.)
Then there were the trees to worry about. A few grew too near the house and Jyoti Ma, through some error in her education, was convinced that they created too much carbon monoxide.
"We must chop down that jacaranda near the house," she suggested to Aakash one day.
"If you cut it down, my dear, I will leave and never come back."
"And where will you go?"
"Further into the mountains," was all he said.
So Aakash continued his life with his accidental wife, his earthly existence that is, while his spirit took on a life of its own. He allowed himself to slip further into Silence, because it was only in Silence that he felt fulfilled.
Every day he would chant and sing bhajans. He would do his japa on beads, immersing himself in the name of God with each bead held tight between two fingers. He would study the vedas, closing his eyes often to understand the intent behind each shloka. He would sit in silence and meditate after his regular yoga routine, which he practiced on the verandah every morning at dawn, with the pale orange hills watching every movement. Along with all this practice he maintained a strict vegetarian regime that sent his carnivorous wife into fits of desperation.
When Aakash made the rule that no meat was to be cooked on the farm, Jyoti Ma's craving for flesh took on obsessive proportions. Animals were slaughtered secretly by the migrant workers on the farm. Outings were always interrupted by furtive detours to the local dhaba to pick on a chicken leg or devour some masala'd mutton. Since dead flesh was forbidden in the house, Jyoti Ma had even savored the loins of the most forbidden meats - the holy cow.
Ram was brought up as a strict vegetarian, never knowing of his mother's secret fetish for meat. He grew up with the love of both parents in an absolutely ordered world. His father devoted a lot of energy to his son, taking time out from his work on the farm to teach him to walk and talk. And Jyoti Ma saw to his every physical need. Husband and wife were united through their son, their one point of mutual adoration.
Ram the Respectful, the Sensitive, the Earnest Philosopher, craved respect mostly from his father. His love for his mother did not alter or falter, but her respect was never required. Somehow Ram sensed that his mother's intense materialism was only a polarity of his father's isolation in matters of the spirit. Together, he felt they formed some kind of a balance. And anyway, he was the object of her love. Had he been a servant or field worker and not a son, who knows? It was never his destiny to find out.
Being his father's son he was always happy to spend hours learning to recite shlokas from the Rig Veda, or discuss the possibilities of an after-life and reincarnation, or even the idea of taking up a life of renunciance. The two of them would sit together, Aakash having esoteric discussions with a boy who wasn't much taller than his navel.
"Pitaji, if I were never to marry, would you try to force me?"
"If it is your destiny to stay a brahmachari, there is no question of force. Life is too short to live out your own desires, let alone the desires of another."
Life didn't seem so short in those days. But Ram always remembered the first time he learnt that people died. At first he didn't believe it, because it was so unfair. And where did they go? It bothered him.
"Pitaji, please live a long life."
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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