The inspector let out a loud yell. “Catch him!” He cried. “That guy is a criminal who has escaped from jail!”
The village was abuzz with the news. A holy saint had come to reside in the village. Not much was known about the man except that he had come south after spending a long period in the Himalayas and was looking for a peaceful place to continue his sadhana.
An imposing man with bushy brows and matted locks, he soon captured the imagination of the villagers. They came to him in droves, seeking his blessings and hoping to get some divine favors.
He came to be known as Swami Sachidananda.
The Swami never spoke. The villagers assumed that this was because he was under a Mouna vrath. He however, managed to communicate all his wants and needs through wild gestures, frantic nods and emphatic signals.
He was soon provided with a sturdy cottage, a bed, some utensils and an adequate supply of fruits and grains.
A few devoted villagers paid homage to Swami Sachidananda every day and attended to his needs. One or two even wanted to join swami as his disciples, but the swami through his frantic signals communicated to them that he did not want any hindrances in his quest for divine knowledge.
This arrangement worked fine both ways. The swami was assured of a steady supply of excellent food, free service and money. The villagers had somebody to go to with all their problems.
Whether their problems got solved or not, the villagers felt a huge weight lifted off their hearts simply by talking to the swami who never once opened his mouth to interrupt them. He simply nodded understandingly and made sympathetic noises.
Sometimes he prescribed solutions that any man with a little common sense could arrive at. But the villagers accredited everything to his divine powers.
Women came to him with sick children. The men came to him with financial problems. Fathers came to him to seek his blessings for their daughters’ marriages.
Mothers came hoping to get some news of their long-lost children or spouses. Swami Sachidananda was going great guns and would have continued to sway the entire village but for what happened on that fateful day.
One of his ardent devotees had brought with her another friend, a middle-aged woman from the neighboring village. The swami smiled at the two of them benevolently. Perhaps the haul would be bigger today.
The two of them fell at his feet and asked for his blessings. The swami sprinkled holy ash on them and signaled them to sit down.
The woman from the neighboring village sat at his feet and gazed up at his holiness reverently. She had long heard about the swami’s great powers and had come hoping to find some news about her long-lost son.
The woman went on to tell her long and sorry tale. The swami began to feel sleepy. It was almost time for his afternoon siesta. He signaled the woman to continue her story and indicated that he would be going into a trance to locate her son.
The swami promptly dozed off.
Forty-five minutes later the swami had still not woken up from his trance. The women started to worry. It was getting late and they had to go home.
They looked at the swami’s divine countenance and the serene expression on his face. Such degree of contentment could only be achieved through severe penance.
Strange noises emanated from the swami. If they did not know better, they would have thought the swami was snoring. But of course, they knew better.
The woman from the neighboring village began to get fidgety. She stared intently and the swami’s face, hoping to find some signs of his awakening.
The face. It seemed familiar. Where had she seen this face? It was then that she caught sight of the scar on his cheek.
The scar! The same scar that had been inflicted upon her son by her late husband who had thrashed him so hard that he ran away! There was no doubt at all in her mind. This was her little Pattabhi who had run away from home at the age of eight!
She suddenly jumped up and hugged the swami tight. “My Son! O My Pattabhi! Where have you been so long?” The bemused swami woke up from his slumber and was quite shocked to find himself locked in the clutches of a hysterical woman who kept calling him Pattabhi.
He tried to free himself but his efforts were in vain. Even his ardent devotee began to ‘see’ an uncanny resemblance between him and the erstwhile Pattabhi.
Very soon villagers assembled at Swami’s house. It was true that the swami had given up the world of ‘Moh-Maya‘, but he could not shirk his responsibility towards his old, widowed mother.
They implored him to give up sanyas and return to his mother. One villager even offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to the swami. The swami refused to budge.
Pattabhi’s mother grew desperate. In an effort to get her son back, she called her nephew, an inspector at the local police station. Perhaps he could drill some sense into his cousin.
The nephew came. It was an electrifying meeting. Swami Sachidananda had just woken up from his meditation. He opened his eyes to find the inspector staring at him intently. His mouth dropped open.
The inspector came close and peered at the swami. Swami Sachidananda jumped up suddenly and dashed to the door. He had to escape. The inspector let out a loud yell.
“Catch him!” He cried. “That guy is a criminal who has escaped from jail!”
Soon there was a crowd chasing Swami Sachidananda. They managed to catch him and dealt him a few sound blows. The swami let loose a string of foul words that would have made a sailor wince and struggled to get free.
A few more people joined the crowd. In the confusion that ensued, Swami Sachidananda made good his escape.
Panting, the inspector reached his office. “I’ve found the man!” he gasped ‘I’ve found Aanaikomban, the most wanted criminal in our state!” The constable stared at him blankly. “But sir, the man has already been apprehended in the neighboring state. The news just broke out.”
“What?” “Yes. And sir, there is a person who has come to meet you. He claims to be your cousin Pattabhi.”
The inspector sat down on his chair totally confused and exhausted. All this was too much for one day.
Pattabhi was reunited with his mother. Aanaikomban was handed over to the concerned authorities. Order was restored in the village.
With all his work over, the inspector pondered over the fate of Swami Sachidananda.
“Who do you think was Swami Sachidananda?” He asked his constable.
“Probably a harmless fellow looking for a peaceful place and an easy life. Anyway Sir, have you heard the news? A new swami has come to the village. His name is Swami Achudananda.”
This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002)
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