“I personally think that this tale is not ill timed, because we are all getting on in years and it is time that we had a hard look at what we keep shying away from – our mortality. So it is not a bad idea to do some re-evaluation of our existence before the final Take off. And believe me, whether we like it or not, we are all on the dumbbell ready to Line-up. So going through the Vital Actions at this juncture, is not going to hurt any one.” Sanjai
The story that I am going to relate is on an ‘as is, as was’ basis, without any embellishments or additions on my part. Where I am vague I will let you know, and you can be sure it will be the result of a poor memory. And there, you will have to form your own opinion about the veracity of the statements that I make thereafter. It, that is my story, has lain in the dark long enough, and the time has come for it to see the light of day and for the missing parts to be investigated. For this reason, and also to make this incident part of my spiritual progress, I narrate this story buried deep in my memory for decades.
The entire episode took place, I think, somewhere around 1964-1967. Here my memory fails me, but I am sure my Air force friends will be able to help me out in finding out the exact period, which is not vital to the tale, but important when it comes to finding out the present whereabouts of the characters in this story. Which is the real reason for my digging this out from the past.
Sometime around this period, I was posted to Jamnagar and I fell ill with an acute urine infection and was admitted to the local MH in Jamnagar. I was subsequently transferred to the MH in Bombay, a Naval establishment. The first time I was hospitalized, for about a month or so. The next time, which was three months later, I had to go back for my Medical Review.
In the Officers ward where I was admitted, there were a total of three beds. One was occupied by me and the other two, by two young Naval officers around my seniority. Anyway these two would then be sub lieutenants, or around that. One of them I know went by the name of Zuthsi (a Kashmiri Brahmin). Of this I am sure, because it was the first time that I had encountered such a name. The other I think was called Prakash. Here I am in a mess because I just can’t remember his name, I think it was Prakash. And this is where I am going to stop for a moment and request all of my Senior colleagues who rose to the rank of Air Marshall, and as such had and have, good links with the Navy, to find out the name of this officer and where he is/was now. Because he is the star of this episode. I would also like to locate Zuthsi because not only will he be able to corroborate my story but correct and fill In the parts, where I have gone blank.
In the first few days of our stay, we were in the ‘Hi! How are you’, sort of relationship, but as the days went past and we were forced to bear up with each other’s company, we began to go into the more personal details of our lives. Zuthsi was a serious type. He was, tall, fair (as Kashmiri’s are want to), while Prakash (and I am going to call him that from now on for the want of a better name), was slightly dark in complexion, like me and a wee bit shorter than me. He was more of the ‘shippy’ type. Girl in each Port, sort of fellow. Fond of the good life. The typical, Wine Woman and Song sailor boy. I would put him in a fighter pilot’s category.
But what we came to know, as time went by, was that he had a startlingly serious side to his nature. He was like all of us young bucks, but unlike many, gifted with a very questioning and rationalizing mind. He had to see the practical side of things especially when it came down to the unknown, the future, predictions and those sort of things like Astrology, Palmistry etc. He secretly did not rule it out completely, but called it pure humbug just like I did, while Zuthsi, being a Brahmin was more amenable to this sort of thing and this is where the fun started. Or rather, this is how it all began. And in a way was responsible for where I am today. At least in my perception of things that one cannot see and which border the unknown and the esoteric.
One Sunday evening, Zuthsi came back from his weekly outing and told us, that he had gone to a person who indulged in ‘Chaya Shastra’, that is a person who could predict the future, on the basis of shadows cast by the sun, at a particular time, and then by doing some calculations based on that. He briefly explained the mechanics to us. According to him, this ‘Chaya Shastra’ Pundit would take you out into the sunlight and measure the length of the shadow cast by you, and noting the time of the day he would carry out a series of complex calculations and after having done that, locate the Patras or leaves I don’t know what you call them in Hindi, those rectangular strips of paper or leaves on which words are written in Sanskrit. Hence – Patras. Any way, this pundit would pull out these leaves that pertained to you, from his library and would then read out the three questions that you were going to ask, and the answers to those questions. And this is where Zuthsi used to send us two into hysterics.
We would pounce on this hapless Pandit and shrieking with laughter, we would ask him, “Are you trying to tell us, that this bastard, takes you out into the sun, measures the length of your shadow, and then tells you your bloody future? You must be freaking nuts to fall for this sort of crap, and then on top of that, pay the booger eleven bucks for feeding you a lot of bullshit!!” And the poor beleaguered Zuthsi would reply in all seriousness “ No, no, he is not a cheat. I have checked him out before, and all his prediction have come true! We had been digging a well for watering our fields, in the village and with no success at all. Then I went to this chap and he checked out his Patras and he said that there is such and such type of tree on your land, and you walk so many paces from that tree, in such and such direction, and you dig out there, and you will find water. And so I wrote to my father and they dug a well and they found abundant water at the spot described by the Pundit. More than they had ever imagined and that too very close to the surface. All earlier attempts had failed!”
And with tears of laughter streaming down our cheeks we would hoot at him saying “you mean, this bloody frog, sitting out here in Bombay, thousands of miles from your home, can tell you that there is water, in such n such place, near such n such tree, and you boogers actually go and dig out there? You guys must be freaking nuts!!” He would say in all seriousness, “ No, no, no I have seen it with my own eyes. It’s all written in Sanskrit and I know Sanskrit. It was written very clearly – the exact directions where to dig. Not only that, the questions that I wanted to ask him were also written out there. If you pay eleven rupees you can ask three questions, and get three answers. If you want to ask more questions then you will have to pay hundred and one Rupees and then you can ask as many questions as you like.”
That you must remember was a lot of money for a young sub lieutenant those days. Anyway this guy believed him whole heartedly while both of us thought that it was a lot of bull and this guy was most probably being hypnotized or some such thing. In brief, he was in some way being made to believe that what was happening was true, and he, the fortune teller, was not some kind of charlatan. We didn’t want to push him too much because there is a limit to the amount of ribbing a person can take and Zuthsi was basically a very sincere and decent sort of chap. So we used to ease off after some time and say it must be all right and that sort of thing. He was entitled to his beliefs and we to ours.
( to be Continued……)
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