Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This is a short story written in Tamil ( South-Indian Language by someone). I decided to post it on the net in the context of how people become devotees easily. With so much noise about Sai Baba on the net, I guess this story will give the glimpse of our society which seeks Godmen and finds them everywhere. There's no place like India where you can become a holy man overnight, if you play your cards right. I have written this story in a completely plagiarized version since it's entirely from my memory. I read this short story long ago. So do not expect a perfect presentation from me. It is not a line to line translation either.

THE GODMAN IN THE CROWD (Original story in tamil by someone)

The afternoon sun scorched his back as he turned around from his sleep. Saliva oozed out of his mouth and dripped on the floor. He just lifted his head and looked around himself. His thigh itched. He reached out and scratched until he was perfectly satisfied. The thin dog on the street watched his movements at a safe distance. No one seemed to take notice of him. Radio blared from a nearby shop. Bicycles whirred past on the dirt road. Somebody was unloading goods from a cart into a grocery shop. It was, in all, a quiet afternoon. He sat up. His eyes were reddish. He didn't seem
particularly interested in anything.

No one knew who he was and where he came from. No one cared either. Everyone treated him like one of the garbage piles lying on the street. They didn't bother to even look at him when he competed with street dogs to eat from food stuff thrown on the street. He seemed calm. He looked like a worriless man. If he smiled at anyone, no one even looked in his direction. He also didn't care what others thought of him or how others treated him. The village women realized his ogling eyes when they bathed in the nearby pond, green with years of stagnant water. He sometimes went there to drink water. He loved exposing his interior to any woman who went by and would smile at the sight of them cursing him. He didn't care if his clothes were on him or not while he slept.

There were no fixed routines in his daily life. If he was hungry, he'd seek food. If he felt itchy, he'd scratch himself. His main passion was collecting left over beedis (tobacco) on the street. He'd go to the shop and try to light the beedi in the lamp that hangs on the wall, when the shop owner didn't pay attention to him. Otherwise, the shop owner would drive him out with the same aversion that he showed on the street dogs. He'd beg sometimes. People didn't even know if he could talk. He was living at this place for a long time.

It was one of those afternoons when he felt something around him. He opened his eyes slightly and looked up. There he was standing with all humbleness. He was looking directly at him. It was irritating to be watched at close quarters like that.

"What are you looking at?"

"Swami," said the new fellow, "I work at that temple over there. For years I have been searching for the truth of life. I have seen you many times here. Last night you came to me in my dream and offered your darshan. You commanded me to be here today. So here I am at your service"

"What?" he thought to himself. Who is this guy? The truth of life? I came in his dream? What for?

"How did I look in your dream?"

"Swami, there are no words to describe it. I know you are testing me. I was overwhelmed by the aura of holiness around you. I can still see that now. Please, accept this poor soul as your disciple. I know that you'll guide me. In fact, your image has been coming often in my mind for several years. Only when I saw you here sometime ago it began to make sense. I know that you have renounced everything and living a life that no one around will notice of. But a true bhakta knows his master"

"Oh, my God," he thought, as he scratched his back. "Really, if I am your master, you will do anything that I command, right?"

"Absolutely my master! anything you command is a hidden lesson for me. It is my job to intrepret it"

"Good" he said and pondered for a while. "Can you get me a single tea?"

The man ran immediately. In minutes he was back with a cup of tea. He handed it carefully with all devoutness to his master.

He couldn't believe what was going on now. His hands trembled as he picked up the tea from this disciple's hands. "Am I really a saint?" he thought as he sipped the fresh tea. His heart filled with joy as he had a really genuine tea in years. He looked at this man. As soon as he looked at him, the disciple lowered his eyes to the ground. He didn't look up.

"Why are you looking for the truth?" he asked.

The disciple was taken aback by this sudden question. "Well, there is this drive in me which screams in my ears all the time to go in that direction. I know that I can't get there without any guidance. I knew long ago that God will give me a guru someday. Today is the greatest day in my life. I am definitely blessed to find you. Your aura drew me to this town. I began to work here in this temple. And your aura told me `you idiot, don't you
realize I am so close to you?'. How stupid of me it is not to realize your presence for so long?"

"Hmm.." he mumbled. He didn't say a word after that. He looked up at his new disciple again. He was bald and fat. He must have been in his early forties. He had a bright vibhuti strip on his forehead. He wore ear rings. He looked clean. "I command you now to sell off your rings. How much are they?"

"They are worth about a hundred rupees swami"

"Sell them and bring the money to me. And on the way, get me a masala dosa, four idlis and the hot chutney from College Cafe (pronounced cafay)"

The disciple didn't say a word. He ran immediately. "Well" thought our man. "What have I got for myself! Someone who wants to serve me for no cost. Why should I worry if I gave him a darshan in his dream? As long he brings me what I want, it's alright. Let us run the show as long as it lasts". He got up and slowly walked towards the pond.

When he returned, the disciple was back. He had brought everything he asked for. He gave all the money humbly to his new guru.

"I am impressed" said the guru. "You will reach the truth a lot faster than you think. If anyone shows perfect submission to his teacher, he reaches enlightenment quickly"

The disciple faithfully nodded his head and put his hands as though he is worshipping him. The guru relished everything in a few minutes. He was perfectly satisfied. "AhA" said the disciple, as the guru burped in satisfaction. Then without even be asked, he reached down and began to massage the guru. For a moment the guru was taken aback by shock. But he didn't want to show it. So far, he has only the memories of being driven away by any human being. It felt good as the disciple massaged him. People on the street began to see this strange incident. They were getting more and more puzzled at the sight of this. The guru wanted to impress his disciple more.

"You see this world around you?"

"Yes master"

"Nothing is permanent. Everyone will go one day"

"Chchch.. How true?"

"That is the first realization" his voice trembled as he said that. Though he was enjoying all this, there was a guilty feeling building in him. He was forming a lump at his throat. The perfect devotion of this disciple seemed to make him a lot more uncomfortable. Something in his ears told him that he doesn't deserve all these. Suddenly there was a feeling of sitting on a bed of nails.

"Did you say something sir?" asked the disciple obediently.

"Me, no. Nothing at all" His face began to perspire. "Well, go to the temple today and stay there. Come tomorrow"

"Immediately sir". He left without a word. The guru felt alright, now that this character was away from him. What's going on? The shop keeper seemed to notice all this. Suddenly there was this feeling of being watched by everyone. Until now, he had got used to being ignored by all. He had grown comfortable in that feeling.

He didn't move at all from there and fell asleep. In the morning, he was woken up by someone sweeping the floor. He looked up and saw this disciple cleaning the place. Soon he brought a bucket full of water and sprinkled it on the ground. The guru didn't understand all this. The disciple ran after seeing his guru wake up. Soon he was with some food and milk. "Take this swami, this is from the temple"

He watched his guru eat calmly with all devotion. "I have a question in my mind, swami? I know you are the only one who can answer that"

"Oh my God" thought the guru. - What have I got myself into? He has questions now. I should have known before itself.
"Well, what is your question?"

"Swami, why are souls transmigrating from one birth to another?"

Transmigrating? From one birth to another? What do I say now? I was minding my own business. Why did this guy have to come from nowhere? - He looked at himself. For a moment he forgot about this question. His shabby clothes looked out of place here, after the disciple cleaned out everything. I need new clothes.

"New clothes" mumbled the guru


"Nothing. I said new clothes" - What I am supposed to tell this guy now?

"AhA? What a wonderful and precise answer?" admired the disciple

The guru was baffled by this reaction - Have I said anything stupid? What I did I say?

"I got the meaning swami. The soul sheds bodies as though one would shed his old clothes. AhA! I am with a paramatma (great soul)"

Really? How come I don't realize that I am a paramatma? - He wondered. - I wanted to tell him that I need new clothes. But should I tell him now? No, not after what he has understood - The guru became quite nervous now. What more is he going to interpret. He needed a tea badly. "Can you get me another tea?"

The disciple ran and was back with a cup of tea. "Go get me a good beedi and match box". There was no reaction. The disciple brought a bunch of beedis and a match box - Man, I am the luckiest man in this world - he thought - I have an absolute idiot at my disposal.

"Did you say idiot, maharaj?" asked the disciple.

Did I say idiot? I didn't even notice it. I must be careful from now on - he warned himself again.

"No, I didn't say anything like that"

"Of course, I am an idiot swami" said the disciple. "I am doing my best to learn from every word you utter. When you said idiot, you obviously meant that I have wasted all my life for mundane matters"

Is that so? I really didn't mean any of it - he said within himself. Should I ask him to leave me? I am perfectly happy with the food I get on the street. May be I should tell him that he is fooling himself. How can I stop this? I am getting uncomfortable slowly.

"Are you feeling uncomfortable swamiji?" enquired the disciple. "Ofcourse, you are uncomfortable. How stupid of me it is not to have noticed it? I'll make you comfortable soon. Please offer your golden feet to me. Let me massage them"

"No, go away. I don't need you now"

"Please, swamiji. Allow this humble being at your feet. I have been longing all my life to be your slave. God has sent me to you to be at your service"

The guru sighed. He didn't say anything. Time went on. The disciple came everyday and began to clean up the place, massage his guru, grasp and interpret all pearls of wisdom that accidentally came out of his guru's mouth. A Shakti photograph was placed there soon by the disciple. The guru now had new clothes on. He was cleaned and bathed everyday by his devotee. Vibhuti appeared on his forehead soon. The disciple believed strongly that his guru meditated, when he actually slept. Though he hated sleeping in a seated position, he didn't want the disciple to mistake him. Soon he realized that
he was beginning to rely on his disciple for everything. He couldn't do without him.

Days went on. The guru, though extremely uncomfortable with all these, began to entertain this as long as it all lasted. One day, the disciple brought an old man who too looked at him all obedience. Another disciple? They both competed with each other to serve him. They interpreted anything that he blurted now. They followed him wherever he went. The street began to notice all these changes. People who drove him away began to sense guilt in their hearts. The shop keeper was the worst affected by it all. He began to repent in his heart that he never realized that he was indeed in the vicinity of a great sadhu (saint) who disguised himself like a mendicant. How was he going to pay for all the illtreatment he had meted out to him? He began to hear people talk about this saint. One of the customers said that he sensed long ago that this man was not an ordinary man. There was something special about him.

Soon people began to arrive at this "holy place". There were even rumors floating around that if his eyes fell on them around sunset time, their troubles vanished. "Chaya baba" as he was now called, became famous around the place. People admired his simplicity and his ability maintain holiness. People began to offer tea and beedis now, since the baba liked them. His disciples strictly controlled everything around him with utmost devotion. They put all their faith in him. A Hundi was placed in front of his "residence". Chaya Baba now began to get really nervous. He was not enjoying any of this.
He wanted to fall at his disciple's feet and confess to him that he was no holy man. But he was being overwhelmed by the crowd that began to throng at his place. Donations were now being collected in the local bus stand to build a temple and ashram there.

One morning the disciple found the swami missing. They looked for him all around the town. He was gone. His beedis were gone too. The disciple began to scream and cry. There was a silence at that place as the news spread.

"Swamiji,what sin did we commit?" cried his devotees. "Why did you leave these poor souls?"

But the guru never came back. They have a Shakti temple now at that place. People still go there to offer their prayers and tell their grivances. The disciples live there, guarding the premises with all faith and obedience. Chaya Baba's blessings are always believed to be there. They are saying that he left this world as his time had come. It seems no one sees the bodies of such sadhus when their souls leave their bodies. They just vanish into thin air. But everyone still believes that the swami blesses them if they pray to him. They still offer beedis there and a cup of tea is placed as an offering every morning.

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