Having done my Begging – of riches, of dreams, of goodness, of abundance, of what not! – before the idols of God, I stepped out of the Hanuman Mandir, all set to put on the role of the Giver…
It was my turn to become the Human-God before whom the beggars begged.
They were there-men, women, and children- sitting on their respective places; their expectant, eager eyes staring at me. Well, not exactly at me…but at my wallet, as I fumbled with it for some coins. And – as usual, as was their wont and fate – the beggars held out their bowls up at me, a look of supplication on their famished faces, ready to receive their daily share of treasures.
Clink-Clang-Clong, Clink-Clang-Clong…the melody played rhythmically as the coins dropped on their steel bowls and the beggars burst forth with songs and cries of blessings and blandishments!
The music stopped. Not because, I was finished handing out the money but because, the last beggar – a wizened fakir, with matted head, in his ragged clothes – didn’t have the bowl to claim anything. He simply sat on the mud. Unassuming. Unmoving. Unconcerned. His head bowed low, as if he was sleeping. He seemed to be a newcomer for I hadn’t seen him earlier.
Deeming it rude to drop the coin at his feet, I called out, “Baba…Baba…”
“Ye Pagla Baba hai! (He’s a mad man)” a beggar proclaimed.
The Fakir moved slightly and slowly looked up. And then, it happened…
Our eyes met…and, in a second that contained an eternity, something stole through my consciousness….
I recoiled slightly at the impactful intensity of his gaze…not the kind of gaze when you are angry or focused or judging. No. Those deeply set, charcoal eyes mirrored the stillness, silence and tranquility of an unfathomable ocean and talked myriads of experiences too vast for mere words to depict.
He didn’t outstretch his hands up at me but simply kept staring into my soul.
I pulled myself together and was about to drop the coin on his lap when he shook his head in “No.”
Not understanding, I said rather uncertainly, “Baba…take it…”
In response, he opened a knot in his dhoti and showed me several coins as if he wanted to tell me he’d secured enough treasures for the day! He didn’t want anymore!
“Hum bola na Ye pagla baba hai! (I told you he’s a madman!),” the nearby beggar chimed in again. Somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to agree with that; not after what I had felt in those eyes.
The Fakir smiled at the jibe but became sober at once.
I shrugged and walked away pondering…
On my several visits to the Mandir, I found the strange Fakir without his begging bowl sitting on the same place. Believe me, I never saw him stretching his hand to beg anything nor did I ever see him talking. His eyes did that. People would drop coins or foodstuffs on his lap. And once he had his share of treasures, he would, to the surprise of many, refuse to accept anymore. He had made his own rules of begging!
But, if you ask my opinion, the word ‘begging’ simply did not fit this fakir. On festive occasions, the Rich would distribute clothes, hot meal and money, and the Beggars would leap, bound and scuffle about to claim the riches. This Fakir, however, showed no signs of worldly cravings, no human temptations, no material lures. He simply sat, eyeing the earthly exchanges with a sublimely simple smile on his visage – Oblivious. Impervious. Blasé. The Rich would walk to him and give him his share.
“Where did he come from?” I asked a nearby flower vendor.
“No idea, Saheb,” the vendor shrugged. “He doesn’t talk, doesn’t trouble, doesn’t beg, and doesn’t bother!”
Several years rolled by and never had I thought (nor had I ever plucked up courage) to strike a conversation with the Fakir. All that I had ever done was to drop a coin or food stuff on his lap (or being refused) and finding myself lost in the oceanic depths of his entrancing eyes.
One day, I made up my mind to talk. I arrived at the Mandir and after a quick prayer, made my way to his predefined place only to find him absent. I enquired the other beggars, the nearby shops and pundits about his whereabouts. Nobody knew. Nobody minded. Who would? And Why? On my subsequent visits, he was nowhere to be seen. I hadn’t had the chance to see the Fakir ever since.
Perhaps he has relocated to some other place. Yes. Now, I come to think of it. The whole world is open to him – the temple or mosque or church or gurudwara – anywhere, everywhere. Isn’t it? These fakirs – the nomads, the wanderers – are very much like the blowing winds, neither invited nor uninvited. Who would care to stop him? Who would bother to prevent him from exploring? No religions, no castes, no creeds, no boundaries for these strange fakirs! Perhaps, at this very moment, he would be stunning someone else, like me, with his out-worldly eyes, and refusing to accept any more than required.
I have moved on with my life. Really. Everyone does. I pay my frequent visits to the Mandir. I bring my palms together to the Godly idols, bow low and Beg. And so does everyone. So does the world. To live in this world, to live in a society, you’ve to beg one way or other. You can’t deny. Can you?
Believe me, you cannot go on like that Fakir…that strange, mysterious, Fakir Baba – the Beggar who never begged…