“Hare Krishna” He said. I looked up. He was a saffron clad monk. Not the long-beard-ash-smeared kinds but a decent looking monk. He had a nice gentle face with a persistent smile. His head was shaven and rimless spectacles adorned his broad face. When he saw me looking at him, he smirked.
“Hare Krishna” he said again, this time louder.
“Oh! Hare Krishna Hare Krishna…Tell me” I said. I was in AC three tier compartment of Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express and was relishing free WiFi in train. The net-speed was decent enough and for someone like me who has a very prominent cyber life, this was an amazing experience. But this ascetic chose to pester me with his Hare Krishna chants.
“We are from ISKCON. Do you have any idea about it?” He asked.
“Yes! I know about the ISKCON movement and everything. Pretty cool I must say. I have been to the Delhi and Vrindavan temples as well. Mindblowing. And plus your chaps are pretty active too. I have been offered a copy of Shree Mad Bhagwat Gita at least 200 times near Signature Tower Gurgaon traffic signal” I replied.
“Oh Hahaha, yes our fellows are pretty active and focused. So sir, are you religious?” He asked.
“No. I am not religious” I replied coolly.
“Why, if I may I ask?” He enquired.
“Why are you religious?” I asked. I love throwing questions for questions anyway.
“Because an irreligious man leads a sad life” He said.
“Okay if that’s your answer then I’ll say it’s the religious man who leads a melancholy life. If you want me to believe in something that you believe in, better be logical sir.” I retorted.
“Okay! Leave it…I have a book for you” He said cunningly. He then showed me a nice thick self-help book . The cover picture had a life cycle kind of an illustration image in which an infant turns into a boy who turns into a man who turns into an old man who turns into corpse and then is recycled back to the infant. It was all very repulsive. I folded my hands and courteously said no.
“Wretched are those who say no to treasures of wisdom. That’s all because of Maya – The illusion. People have not read Geeta because they believe in Mithya – the unreal.”
“Sir I have read the Geeta, In fact I have read Ramayan, Mahabharat everything but I am not at all into Self Help books. I believe books like “Monk who sold his Ferrari and “7 habits of highly effective people” are just wastage of time. I’d rather read a nice fictional novel but please no self-help books” I replied.
He smiled another cunning smile. I could see he had a missing tooth. The remaining were abnormally white.
“Sir just read the first chapter. I’ll give you a question paper after that. Answer the questions and you may win a prize” He tried luring me. He had my attention.
“What prize some ipad or something?” I asked out of curiosity.
“Ha Ha Ha, no no nothing that fancy but equally interesting and it is a surprise sir. Now do you want to give it a try?” He asked.
“Yeah! I don’t see any harm in that” I said.
“Lovely. I’ll give you the question paper and an answer sheet in another half an hour and collect the same in an hour. Is that cool?” He asked. He was satisfied after luring an otherwise difficult customer.
“Yeah! Cool” I said without even looking at him. I was already scanning through the first chapter.
The book as I guessed correctly was quite philosophical, ranged from dull to monotonous to boring and was full of a lot of theosophical jargons. It laid stress on the spiritual advancement of a person. It laid emphasis on the fact that how all of life is nothing but an act of getting ourselves closer to the god. It talked about good and bad karma and how one should never leave the path of righteousness. It talked about how one shouldn’t think about material gains while seeking something.
Wait. One shouldn’t think about material gains while pursuing something. So what am I doing? Reading this boring book to answer questions that ‘may’ get me a prize. Isn’t that duplicitous? And what was this monk doing? Preaching something and doing an entirely different thing to market a product that he is associated with?”
He came with the question paper in half an hour. He found me surfing the internet meanly on free WiFi. He smiled his characteristic cunning smile, coughed and chanted “Hare Krishna”
“Hare Krishna Pandit Jee” I said smiling an artificial smile.
“I hope you are done with the first chapter. Here is the question paper.” He said.
“Yes sir, I am done…but I guess I won’t need the question paper now” I smiled and replied.
“And why if I may ask?” He asked curiously.
“Oh because I have decided not to be affected by Mithya. I have decided to stay on the path of good Karma and not be lured by Maya.” I replied and giggled.
“Well okay…But what is stopping you from answering the questions. You know you might win a prize?” He was super frustrated.
“Sir actually the prize is stopping me from participating. You specified about prize and I got interested in something that I wasn’t interested in. But the book that you made me read emphasizes on not falling into the traps of material gains and focus on spiritual gains instead. I am sorry but this contest totally negates your mission” I said.
“But sir, people don’t participate unless we tempt them with gifts and prizes. That’s how this works.” He replied meekly.
“So that makes you a salesman. You just want to sell your product. You don’t feel the need of being on the path of righteousness while teaching the same to your so called subscribers.” I retorted.
He silently nodded his head. Then he picked the book that he had given it to me. He put the question paper in a jhola that hung from his shoulders. He then smiled a confused smile signalling that he was about to go.
“Hare Krishna” I said.
“Hare Krishna” he replied.