Kalpna Leaves Raipur. By Dr. Stephen Gill

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(All the characters of KALPNA LEAVES RAIPUR are products of the author's imagination. Resemblance to any person or place is coincidental)
CHHATTISGARH SERIES. KALPNA LEAVES RAIPUR is the ninth chapter in The Chhattisgarh Series to challenge the theories of detachment and reincarnation, which have been sedating Indians for thousands of years to remain silent to dehumanizing external aggressions and the internal loots of today. The story excavates both theories in the drama of love between a married professor from India, and an Indian Diaspora writer in Canada.
KALPNA LEAVES RAIPUR; Short Fiction by Stephen Gill
The attendant, a thin boy in his teens, removed the mattresses again. The bed was explored repeatedly. Reghu began to realize that his rupees must have been dropped somewhere. If he had been pick-pocketed, he would have lost even his traveler’s cheques. They were not stolen either, because the rest of the money was still there. He suddenly remembered that he had left his rupees on the counter with dollars. The door was half open when he went inside the washroom, covering them with a paper. He was doubtful if the rupees were taken from the counter, because the rest of the currency was not missing. He began to console himself that he had lost only a part of his money. He asked the boy to take the luggage downstairs at the reception desk, where he would make payment with traveler’s cheques. Kalpna followed him with her worried look.
The receptionist refused to accept dollars and traveler’s cheques. It was beyond his imagination that a country that was in need of US currency would not accept them in any form. Without wasting additional time, he rushed to the State Bank of India that was a few blocks from them. The receptionist told him that banks close their transactions at 2:30. A few minutes were left. He contacted the general manager as the bank was closing its doors. The manager first ordered tea, and then asked a person if he would like to buy dollars. On his refusal, he phoned someone who asked him to send the person. The manager stopped a taxi outside his office and gave him directions to take Reghu to that branch.
It was around three. Reghu jumped from the taxi, paid the driver and strode briskly towards a fat tall man who did not appear to be doing anything. He pointed Reghu to the manager. On his way, he saw the office of the assistant manager. A man sitting outside said that the assistant manager was not in the office, and directed Reghu to go upstairs. Another man, who also seemed to be doing nothing, said time was over.
“Where is your manager?” Reghu asked.
“There.”
Reghu went in that direction. The manager, who was busy with another customer, looked at traveler’s cheques from both sides and asked him to sit down. He thought for a while and then said, “We do not handle Visa traveler’s cheques.”
“The branch manager at the first branch told me that the transaction time was over. An employee at your branch said the same. You are giving me a different explanation. I do not find anywhere anything written about the transaction time. Moreover it is not mentioned anywhere that you handle only a particular type of cheques issued by a particular bank.”
The general manager sounded irritated as he replied, “The manager of the other branch perhaps did not know the fact. The employee of our branch who had directed you to me also did not know the fact. We do not have any agreement with Visa.”
“Tell me frankly if it is because the transaction time is over or because the cheques are issued by Visa,” Reghu asked.
“Both”.
By then Reghu knew his name was Mr. Chandra. He pressed the bell. A well-dressed individual, apparently a clerk, appeared. “Take this gentleman to the foreign exchange counter to ask if they would cash his traveler’s cheques and deposit the amount in the next day transaction.”
They went downstairs and then to the end of the hall. On the way, the clerk stopped several times to talk to other employees. Reghu could not hear what one clerk had said, but he found out that the cashier had gone. There was no one else to handle the transaction. On the way back, Reghu saw a tastefully dressed Adivasi woman busy writing on a register. He asked her in a polite way for help. She pointed him to the man sitting next to her. He took Reghu to the office of the assistant manager where Reghu had been before.
He was busy with two telephones, one on each ear. He seemed to be in another world. He informed Reghu that their foreign branch was upstairs. Reghu ended up again with the same manager. There were a few other men with him. He took the men out, telling Reghu he could phone the hotel if he wanted to.
Reghu had an account in rupees with a branch of the State Bank of India in New Delhi and also with Punjab National Bank. He asked the manager if he would cash his personal cheque. He refused. Reghu wanted to let the hotel know the situation. There were four telephone numbers of the hotel where Reghu was staying. None of them worked when the manager tried. Failing that, he asked Reghu if he could see his passport. After that he gave a telephone number to Reghu, asking if the hotel had their account with the State Bank of India. If the hotel had, he would accept the personal cheque for deposit. Reghu took the phone number, hired a taxi, and went back to the hotel.
Smiling at Kalpna, who looked tired, Reghu went to the receptionist to relate the story of his frustrating afternoon. Reghu told him that there were no instructions written anywhere that they do not accept traveler’s cheques. “We do accept them if they are issued by the State Bank of India”, the receptionist replied.
“Why not dollars? They are like cash. Is there any shop that will accept them? I will buy something though I don’t need anything.”
“We do not know, sir, if there is such a shop here,” the receptionist replied looking at Reghu’s gold ring from Canada with a large diamond. The receptionist took his traveler’s cheques and went to the manager. He did not take long to return to inform that Reghu had told the manager he would stay longer.”
“I did last night. I have changed my plans.”
“Have you encountered problems?”
“I have pointed them out to you a couple of times over the phone. The first problem is the noise by your employees. Also, the laundry was not done properly. My shirt was ironed without washing it. The lie was covered by saying that indigo was used while washing it. That was the reason that the shirt did not look washed. I had also told them that the bed sheets were not clean and the washroom was without a curtain. I wanted to repeat these complaints, but kept quiet because I have decided to leave.”
“Sir, this madam,” he said looking at Kalpna.
Reghu realized instantly what he meant. He said, “the madam has come to see me an hour before I had started packing. She is a local person. She does not stay with me in the hotel.
He glanced at Reghu’s ring and said, “Sir, you will have to give cas.”
Reghu did not know what he meant. “What sort of cas,” Reghu asked.
“Cas”
‘What cas?”
“We accept only cas.”
Kalpna clarified, “He is asking for cash.”
One of the employees came and asked them, “Would you like to sit in the restaurant, downstairs?”
“Look, you should write somewhere to inform your guests that you accept neither personal cheques nor credit cards, nor traveler’s cheques and neither dollar bills. You should write somewhere that you accept only cash. I had some rupees, but I have lost them.”
Kalpna excused herself to make a phone call. The receptionist in her absence said, “Sir we will put a tag on your luggage, and store it til you come back in a day or two with the money.”
Another employee came. “Sir, your luggage will be safe. Come tomorrow to pick it up or stay overnight.”
They were polite. As Reghu was arguing with them, Kalpna returned with some rupees. Reghu took the receipt, while the receptionist eyed the ring.
After putting the luggage at the house, which was arranged by Amita, Kalpna’s sister, they went to a restaurant for supper. All of a sudden Reghu realized his habit to keep his money at separate locations. There was one location that Reghu had not checked out, and that was the bottom of his brief case. He emptied the brief case on the table when the customers were looking and unzipped the bottom. That money was there. “What a surprise!” Reghu almost shouted. Handing the money to Kalpna for the hotel bill she had paid. He also felt sorry, condemning himself for his habit of forgetfulness.
Ordering food in consultation with Kalpna, he said, “Many nations live only on tourism. Economically, they are far better. India needs dollars, but Indian businesses behave indifferently. This gesture is not in the interest of the nation. They have to be properly trained and organized.”
“I think the government is to be blamed. It should take action against those who do not treat foreigners properly. It destroys the image of India. ” Kalpna added.
“These days, tourism is becoming the backbone of several nation’s prosperity. It provides a platform for cultural exchanges, opening the country to the outside world. Tourism has become indispensable for the financial health of Greece, Spain, Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, the Bahamas, Fiji, and the Maldives. It provides employment to local population through the businesses involved with transportation, such as airlines, ships, taxis, and the businesses tied with hospitality services, such as hotels, restaurants and resorts. Tourism provides employment also by boosting businesses which depend on entertainment like casinos, shopping malls and theatres. Tourism supports performing arts,
cultural and sporting events. Tourism is an important industry that supports small businesses and creates jobs for citizens. It causes economic growth within the country.”
“Being a mythological region with resorts, forts, caves and archeological sites, Chhattisgarh has a lot to offer,” Kalpna added.
“Yet Chhattisgarh is not among the top areas which attract tourists. Tourism has become one of the fastest growing industries, because of the technological developments. I was reading somewhere that a little over 25 million people are working in India’s tourism
industry. Like any business, tourism has become competitive and therefore satisfaction, safety and enjoyment of customers are prerequisites for the success of this industry.”
“In spite of the historical sites and natural resorts, local tourism has not developed as it was expected,” Kalpna said. “Look at Raipur itself. It has a number of tourist sites.”
Reghu looked at the roof of the restaurant in an appreciative way, and said, “There is no need for factories, industrial complexes, destruction of trees and exploitation of nature in Chhattisgarh to upset local culture. Development of tourism will bring wealth here from all over the world. All it needs is a meticulous planning for attraction, retention and expansion. Tourism not only creates jobs but also contributes immensely to the development of the nation which is the job of every citizen. There are countless challenges in this industry. Some of these challenges are complex. The area does not have an easy access to a system that converts US dollars into local currency. There cannot be an effective tourist industry without developing an utmost concern for tourists. All the governments at all levels and public sector should be actively involved in tourism.”
“I believe safety is immensely important,” Kalpna added.
“Of course it is,” Reghu replied. “Tourist regions should be safe and stable to invite outsiders to invest and visit. Safety is the prime factor to attract investors. There have to be
health care centers and access to medicine. Raipur has to develop these facilities further. Raipur should develop safety measures for women, even in its close by cities like Durg and Bilaspur. Incidents of kidnapping, rape, molestations and witchcraft-related deaths scare tourists. Tourism needs safety, accommodation, food, beverage services, recreation, entertainment and transport at affordable prices.
“Women in tourism also need safety. Not only hotels, even the streets must be safe.
I feel that this notion of detachment is affecting businesses.” Reghu thought for a second looking at a waiter and said, “Detachment in business and love releases one from anxieties. In Canada, the satisfaction of a customer is crucial for the success of businesses, and this success is the outcome of positive thinking and positive thinking is healthy. The world is not a place for
detachment. The beauties of the world are the divine gifts to appreciate. Love is a divine gift. The couples who believe in detachment need something else to glue them together.”
“What is that something else?” Kalpna asked slowly and coldly.
“This something else is what The Vedas profess.”
“What The Vedas profess?” Kalpna asked.
“It is truth and there is only one truth and that is love. The meditation on detachment is the attempt to deny the truth.”
“And what is love?” Kalpna was curious.
“Love is the language of peace.”
“And what is peace?”
“God is peace. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, Om. Humans come from Om and yearn to be connected back to Om through attachment, and attachment is love and love gives peace. There is no peace in looking at objects in an absolutely objective way. The persons who loath worldly pursuits, loath the amazements of love.”
“The way of detachment is the way to remain away from suffering,” Kalpna said.
“The way of detachment is to remain away from the deathless glory of peace.” Reghu retorted.
“Who is the deathless glory of peace?”
“Om, and His peace and love are in action. He urges His creation also to be in action. To remain shut in the basement of inaction is not the way of Om who grows beautiful pastures for His people to enjoy, not turning their backs to them. These pastures and hills are to be seen, touched and smelt. This is the way to nurture the beauties of the world with joy to multiply them. Jesus has justified it in his parable of talent. A talent does not multiply if it is kept buried.
“Detachment is seeking refuge within the walls of the self, and the self is imperfect. I would insist on seeking refuge in Om or Brahma who manifests Himself in his gifts of the sun, rains, seasons and every creation. Detachment is to meditate in the sward of delusion, facing emptiness.
“You cannot escape the overpowering tides once you are in the ocean. You have to learn to master these tides. An attempt to escape from them is to yield to the arms of their might. Think of the colossal chaos, if the whole world becomes detached from everything everywhere.” Reghu had a few sips of water and then resumed,
“It is not a good exercise when two souls strive to be one. I have noticed that often you do not realize the difference between a lie and a non-lie. It appears this attitude is the outcome of detachment.
“I sincerely believe that detachment in business and love does not build anything. It is the concern for others that builds pillars for both the structures. To me detachment is deceptive—it makes one orphan inside.”
“I never thought about it,” she replied.
Exactly at that moment the waiter placed the sumptuous curry on the table. “Let us forget detachment for a while. Otherwise, we will be eating this food in a detached way,” Reghu said. Both began to laugh looking at the food.
Reghu appreciated Kalpna also because she stood out as a woman from India, where social and religious tides kept hitting citizens cruelly. She was fighting to remove the shell of hypocrisies practiced to subjugate females. It was not an easy fight for Kalpna, a wife and a mother who worked also outside her home to supplement income for the family.”
Sitting in a restaurant in Raipur on a Sunday, both ruminated on some past experiences almost without raising their eyes. She insisted that love should be at a level, where physical presence has no significance. She was convinced that the love of Radha and Meera for Lord Krishna were on that level.
“What is special about Meera?” Reghu asked almost in a whispering tone. “You often mention her.”
“Meera is known for her passion for Krishna as is Radha. Both belong to different eras. Whereas Radha used to meet Krishna, Meera had never seen him except in his idols. Meera’s love for Krishna was pure and selfless. Radha and Krishna had been compared as sun and sunshine. Some regarded Meera as the reincarnation of Radha. Meera’s husband had died in a battle that made her life miserable in the house of her in-laws. She found consolation in her devotion to Krishna. Her devotion produced an admirable poetry that was the outcome of her ecstasy. She met her lover in her dreams and in a waking state. By birth she was a princess but left luxury for the mythological character of Krishna. Meera was mystic.”
“So is your love,” Reghu added.
Ignoring his remarks, she continued, “Radha was Krishna’s consort and Krishna is one of the Hindu gods. Both are worshipped together in most families. I believe some Hindus consider Radha and Krishna as the emblems of absolute truth in their esoteric relationships. Radha was alleged to be older than Krishna. Her rapturous love for Krishna was the journey for union with divine, often symbolized as the bond between lovers. Krishna married another woman and Radha was also married to another man. Still their love never shrank. One day she left everything to live with Krishna. There had been legends and legends about them. The base of these legends is the intensity of Radha’s love for Krishna.
To change the subject Reghu asked, “Do you remember Simla?”
“Who can forget a city filled with memories?”
“You are the rains of Simla. And the rains of Simla are like the rains of Canada.”
“I do not know about the rains of Canada. But what is special about the rains of Simla?”
“Beautiful and unpredictable, and… I don’t think that Radha was unpredictable for Krishna. The love of Meera for Krishna was constant. No one could say when it was going to rain and when it was going to stop. It could rain for a few minutes or for days. Your behavior is also unpredictable. To forget any promise is nothing for you. You persist that you are completely reliable. I know that India is not the same as when I left decades ago. People with strange ideas coexist here, as poverty and riches do.”
“Any incident that proves my unreliability?” Kalpna smilingly persisted.
“I will let you know later.” Reghu smiled.
“What is strange about my thinking?” She asked without being offended.
“You often stressed that a lover should have faith in his beloved even if she shares the same room with another man, and your husband has that faith in you,” Reghu argued. “You were considerably strong about your views. In the beginning, you used to say that the station of your love is not within an easy reach. You supported your love by quoting the Hindu god Krishna, who had several gopies, or beloveds. He was married. At the same time, he had loved a married woman. Do you know why I went to Simla?”
“I know. I went there for a refresher course for a month. I know you had rented a room in a summer cottage with breakfasts that was a great help because Simla was not a pleasant city to eat out. It had a handful of good restaurants on Mall Road and to go to Mall Road from the location of the school of advance studies, where I was enrolled and stayed and also from your room was a long walk. By the time one comes back, he or she was likely to be hungry again. The ups and downs were steep, as well.
“I realized in Simla what fast breathing was-- Even a two-minute walk used to make me breathless that could have been partly because of the air that becomes thin at high altitudes and partly because of the vicissitudes. When I came back to Canada after a month in Simla and two months in New Delhi, I had lost weight considerably. I am not hesitant to recommend to those who find it hard to lose extra pounds to go to Simla, not in the rainy season, though it had its own charm as you have.
“I remember the month of July, last year. It had been raining continuously for two days, a rarity in Simla. I did not have umbrella. Therefore I could not go anywhere even to enjoy a cup of tea. It was damp while the rain drops on the roof produced a music that was slow and soft. From the window I could see trees, and how the droplets of the rain had been bending their leaves. I was breathing an earthly aroma. A placid feeling overtook me. It was peaceful when I heard the sound of falling rain. With that everything had stopped in my mind, except the words of a Hebrew prophet who said in the Old Testament, “My teaching is dropping like rains, coming down like dew on the fields, like rains on the young grass and showers on the garden plants.” With this, I had begun thinking of you.
“Sometimes Margaret was extremely helpful.”
“Margaret?”
“Margaret is a distant relative from my brother's side. She was transferred to teach at a local college, not far from Simla. For medical facilities and to meet her parents, she often visited Simla. She offered to buy me a small heater, a sweater and an umbrella. But she could not get out because of the rains.
“You used to come nearly every day for a couple of hours. Disruption in telecommunication was a bug that was constantly a problem in Simla. It was at its ugliest phase that day. It was difficult to say if the disruption was caused by the weather or by your mood. I had noticed in Simla that you often switched off your cell phone during the night. I did not know that day if you would come to see me in rains. I had alternatives. One was to go to your college myself-- A couple of my friends had cars and therefore I could invite them to my room to pass the time. But nothing was workable without knowing your plans and there was no way to contact you.
“My landlady was thoughtful to send her husband with an extra umbrella to get me to her apartment, where I was received with three cups of tea, two boiled eggs and the bread pakoras. I appreciated their warmth in my solitude.
“I liked Simla but did not find anything to support its claim to be a city for the hearts in love. I read somewhere that it was known during the British rule for adultery. In those years, Simla was the headquarters of Indian Army Chief and the Government of Punjab in hot summers. The presence of British soldiers, merchants and tourists who happened to be lonely gave the impression of Simla as the city of bachelors. Rudyard Kipling wrote to a friend that Simla had the reputation as the city of frivolities.
“To me, Simla was the city of frivolities because of its visage of intellectual isolation in spite of the old educational centers apparently managed by bureaucrats. I failed to establish any dialogue with them. Perhaps they had a file on me. I had visited this area for a talk in 1999. The same government was in power and its intelligence shadowed me wherever I went in India that year. I did not find any particular location where I could find love floating on the streets in any form. I found that most of Simla was inhabited within a kilometer around Mall Road, where the cars were not allowed. Transportation was a problem throughout the city. I hardly saw any white person on the street in my one month there, though the government boasted that the city was the final destination of tourists. Around the college, university and the remaining city, shops were hurdled in small rooms and so were restaurants. Most of them were dingy and depressing. It was hard to find a place to sit down with friends to enjoy a cup of tea, as I did in Tim Horton’s or McDonalds in Canada. There was hardly any shop where one could buy fruits, as one did in Canada. Whatever fruit that was available was not pleasing even to the eye. I heard the fruits like water melon and papayas were injected with chemicals to make them mature faster.
“One pleasant sight and also nuisance at times was the presence of monkeys. Do you remember once your room-mate was attacked by a monkey? It is said that monkeys often attacked women when they were alone. She was not hurt because a man happened to be there who came running to scare off the monkey. I used to walk with my briefcase, particularly during the night for defense.
“Among the good things about Simla, I would include safety for women and tourists even in the night that had been because of the set-up of nature. For those who look for entertainments, Simla is not the choice.
The city is good to shed extra pounds. There is also the absence of dust that is available in tons in other parts of India.”
“Simla is among the old cities of India.” Kalpna added.
“Situated at average altitude of 7,234 feet, Simla, as you know, is the capital of the province of Himachal Prededsh and during the British rule it was the summer capital of the Punjab. Its isolation can be imagined from the fact that it is connected with the mainland by a narrow gauge railway and a bus route on a highway that runs like a serpent through lonely forests.”
“I still remember the day when I came to see you in rains. Do you remember?” Kalpna tried to change the subject.
“I do. I kept trying my cell phone, keeping an eye on the rains. Luckily, I was able to contact Margaret. She tried to find the nearest restaurant to order food for me. The restaurant she knew could not take orders because the cook was sick. People had phones, but no telephone directories. No one knew if there was any telephone number to get any assistance, or even to contact the police station. The rains in Simla were romantic, but very unpredictable as you were.
Kalpna smiled. Sipping coffee, Reghu continued, “It was cold and damp. The unpredictability’ of yours began to flow before my mind. It was 5 pm. The question was where to go. There was a possibility of slipping on steep roads. From Canada, I had brought a sleeveless jacket for a summer that was not enough to keep me warm. Yet I thought of stepping outside. As I was thinking, I smelt something. Looking around, I saw a corner with water. On close examination, I discovered that the roof was leaking from one corner. When I phoned the land lady, she found a heater for me that began to cheer the room. I put the mattress of one cot on the top of another to warm up my bed. I hoped that the night would not be as cold as it was before. I decided to go to the landlady for a bottle of drinking water, and possibly also to eat. I was worried because I was not able to get connected with you. Strange thoughts had begun to cross my mind. The time was perfect to be with you.
“I stretched myself in the bed and began to think of the similarities between the rains of Simla and you. Do you remember two weeks before that we were with your room-mate, who had been a teacher at a college in another province and married? She had a boy friend, tall and handsome, who was also married and taught at the college level in another city. They invited us for a dinner in a restaurant. You irritated me when you sat with your room mate who sat with her boy friend. I made a friendly gesture, inviting you to sit with me, but you ignored it. I felt insulted and thought of packing to come back to Canada. It was another gesture of yours that manifested that you had not been proud of our friendship. I believe that a friendship that does not boost a healthy self-esteem is dead. It is the aspirin that gives a temporary relief.
“A couple of weeks before we had been in Ludhiana, a city in Panjab. Our hostess was a professor at a college, and her husband was a retired military officer. She took us to her husband’s military club. You put on lipstick, knowing that I did not like that because the lipstick did not suit your personality. In addition to these two incidents, there have been more. You had every right to refuse my suggestions in the beginning. But when a person promises something, he or she must honor that promise. Whenever I think of these incidents, I felt like getting out of this relationship. However, I gave you the benefit of the doubt.
“While in those thoughts, the bell rang. You entered the room, saying that you wanted to surprise me. I looked at your clothes. They were not that wet. You told me that they were slightly wet when you had started walking. Then the rains stopped. You had said that you took short cuts and your clothes dried. You told me this, sitting in the chair.
“I knew there was not much truth in your story. Without paying much attention to it, I told you that your phone did not work.
“You said, ‘‘‘I went outside my room to talk to my husband. I was on the phone for a long time.”’
To change the subject, Reghu asked, “Where our bumpy road journey would end.”
“Why do you worry for the end which is not in our hands? Leave the boat to the mercy of the waves.” Kalpna smiled.
“What do you call this relationship”? Is it polyandry?”
Kalpna paused for a while and said, “I never think in such terms.”
“Whatever the reason, that practice exists in some families. Even those families which practice polyandry do not acknowledge it openly. I believe that even the Pandavas observed secrecy. To have more than one lover is somewhat like polyandry. Indian mythology is full of such incidents.” After a pause, Reghu continued,
“As you know, Pandavas were five brothers, sons of king Pandu. They had one wife, called Draupadi. Two of these brothers had also other wives. I believe that Pandavas provided a blueprint to live and let live.”
“How?” Kalpna asked.
“They did not have the feelings of jealousy though they shared one woman as their wife. Think of the Mahabharata, the war in which around three million were killed. All the great heroes were slaughtered in that war, except Krishna, who was the charioteer for Arjuna and the five brothers, called the Pandavas. I will say they survived because of their belief in live and let live. Mahabharta was fought for a woman.
“Even Ramayana tells that the war between Ravan and Rama was fought because of two women. One represented the Adivasi and another represented the Aryans. The seeds of that war were sown in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. This area was called Dakshin Kosala.
“Why are you obsessed with women? There are more important issues in life than women.” Kalpna smiled.
“What are those issues?”
“You write about peace. The Pandavas and those who practiced polyandry and those who practice it even now do not kill one another over it. So much blood has been shed over the issue of woman. Men want to keep more than one wife and store more food than they need. Then they kill one another.”
“How about going the other way round. In stead of having many wives, now women should be given a chance to have more than one husband.” Reghu asked a bit mischievously.
“Not a bad idea to practice polyandry,” Kalpna replied.
Reghu added, “It is practiced widely in Tibet. It is practiced in certain tribes in South India, and in some tribes of Simla and Simla is in Madhya Pradesh. It is practiced usually among Paharis around this area. Paharis means people of the mountain. This area is close to Tibet. It is said that women are very much respected in Tibet.
“In Indian mythology, which is your area of specialization, I am sure you know that the Panduas were banished for thirteen years from their kingdom after losing it and Draupadi, their common wife, in a gamble. They wandered in the area which is a part of
Himachel Pradesh. It is close to Tibet, now China. There are people in this area who claim their ancestry to the Panduas to justify their practice of polyandry.”
“What does Nature has to say about it?” Kalpna asked.
“Females of most animal species are polyandrous. Honeybees are among them and so are some monkeys. However, one can find all sorts of examples in nature. Humans are supreme creation. They cannot copy nature blindly.”
“Do you have this practice in Canada?”
“Polyandry has a legal status in Saskatchewan, where some Aboriginals practice it. It was practiced in northern Canada, which includes Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I believe it is practiced in the areas where environment is harsh. Because of economic factors polyandry is common among the agricultural communities. Why do you ask? Are you planning to practice it?”
“You must be joking?” Kalpna said in a somber tone. “I practice detachment. I have transferred my investments and deposits to my husband. I have nothing in my name. At the beginning of every month, I hand over my salary to him. I am thinking of renouncing the world completely and be a celibate.”
“Detachment leads to freedom because it is without the drama of love. It is the state of detachment if a person is surrounded with the beauty of gold and still does not look at the beauty. To remove a sumptuous food from the sight and the gold, clearly indicates that the person is attached. He is afraid that he or she is likely to be tempted. The person who has this state of detachment is like the flower that has roots in the waters of worldly concerns, but does not care for them.
“The more I see India, the more I am convinced that it is a country of paradoxes. India seems to be more materialistic than Canada is. There is no birth of any son, and no
wedding ceremony where money does not flow as does the water. There is no visit and no festival where gifts are not exchanged. You will see money speaking everywhere. It speaks in every transaction. Even to see a boss, a visitor has to bribe the peon to let him in. The walls of the Indian society are built on the ground of materialism.”
Kalpna was upset. “How can you prove it?”
“Physicians are needed where health is to be restored. The East needed health from the time of Buddha who preached to live and let live. No single nation has produced a multitude of spiritual physicians as the East has. Most gurus were born in the East, because there was a need. Look at Chhattisgarh. It is full of gurus, vibrant with witchcraft, and babas, who have nothing to do except preaching detachment and renunciation, whereas the bulk of their followers have nothing to renounce. Their only attachment is to their mother-land; now outsiders are disgracing her.
“The history of India is cluttered with the advocates of detachment. I believe that unless this notion is out of the subconscious, this area is not going to see better days. Because of the Muslim invaders, most of these spiritual physicians, sought refuge in and around Chhattisgarh, building a mansion of logics in favor of detachment.”
Though basically a patient listener, Kalpna interrupted. “It is said that detachment helps a detachee to see the world objectively. Objectivity helps to make sound decisions.”
Reghu looked around before replying, “First of all, it is not possible to be one hundred per cent objective. A perfect objectivity is unrealistic. Perfection is a concept and so is objectivity. To achieve its status, there are barriers to cross. Even if one achieves this status, the achiever will not be able to recognize it. This is a struggle to disallow personal experiences to sway judgments. To me, objectivity is a bogus term. It is not possible to be above the impacts of early environment, parents, education and so on. Moreover, there is no need when it comes to the question of love that is a natural feeling and I would let it flow as naturally as possible.
“Indians had been systematically trained for centuries to remain detached from everything. It is said that India never attacked any country. At the same time, India has never been able to stop attackers. There had been a handful of invaders to plunder and convert a vast majority. This vast majority had been drugged for centuries with the heavy doses that their sufferings had been caused by their deeds in the previous life and so nothing could be done to alleviate their sufferings. They also remain detached.
“I remember a story of a couple who decided to practice detachment in every way. While wandering in the jungle of Dandakarnya, which was largely the Chhattisgarh of today in the mythological age, the husband found a diamond. He began to remove dust, hiding the diamond from his wife, fearing she could lose her detachment to keep the diamond for herself. But she was clever. Finding it out, she asked her husband that why he had followed the path of detachment if he was still able to see difference between the dust and the diamond.
“Let me ask if there is any baba in Chhattisgarh, particularly in Raipur, who cannot differentiate between the diamond and the dust. The incident of the husband removing the dust from the diamond reveals he still had attachment and the attachment was in his action.”
“There are similar stories that had happened in the mythological jungles of Raipur. I remember hearing once about a king who renounced his kingdom to seek peace in these woods. His wife wanted to know if her husband had achieved what he desired. So she changed her royal dress with that of a monk and wandered here to find her husband. Because she was in the dress of a monk and other changes, her husband could not recognize her after all the years. The wife/monk asked the purpose of his wandering in those jungles.
‘“He told the monk, his wife in disguise, that once he had an army, servants and comfort of his palace. He had renounced all that to get peace.
‘“Have you got peace?”’ the monk asked.
‘“I am searching,”’ was his answer.
“It is clear that he was still proud of his heritage. His sense to differentiate dust from the diamond was not yet dead. The king could not forget his royal birthrights. He could have found his peace in serving his people selflessly. He was detached only physically from his palace. Therefore peace was still away from him. He was looking for peace in inaction. No matter what smart logicians say, the goal of detachment is inaction. Love is the undeniable diamond that reflects in the beauties of the world. Detached beings attempt to be insensitive to these beauties. These half-dead persons cannot see the beauties because of the hazed glass of their thinking. They have to be in action to remove the haze to see the beauty of the light in its myriad forms. The source of these beauties is the invincible sovereignty of the diamond, and this diamond is within. It needs the weightless feathers of love to dust off the diamond to let it radiate. But detachees are on the epic quest to find the mysterious substance that would help them to lose their sense that differentiates the dust from the diamond. They look for death before the approach of the death, uncaring if their country is ruled by Nadir Shah, or Khilji or the Moguls or the East Indian Company. Moreover…”
“Such logicians are after the well of peace.” Kalpna interrupted, again against her nature.
Reghu was quick to say, “They are after the well of emptiness. In the global village, citizens do not need such wells; they need the water from the well that nourishes senses to recognize the dust to remove it from the diamond to make it appear more radiant. These logicians plead for an egoless state that is not needed. First of all, ego cannot be eradicated because its eradication is the eradication of the blueprint to live and let live. Ego is the embryo of human refinement. It depends on its judicious use. Take the case of the fire which is primarily for cooking and warming homes in winters, or the case of a knife that
is to cut vegetables and for other benefits. Fire is misused for burning houses and also knives for stabbing people. To suggest forgetting fire and the knife because some individuals misuse them is the way to destroy the blueprint for betterment.
“A person without ego is a tuneless piano lying in the locker of inaction and inaction is symbolic of a carcass. Ego comes with the birth and goes with death. Any attempt for its eradication is the attempt to suffocate innovation, art and poetry. Those who pursue means to eradicate ego pursue the culture of wasteland that harms not only pursuers but also their families, and life around. Whenever India was invaded, such persons remained silent, presuming themselves to be egoless. They are under the same presumption when their self-anointed political shepherds deposit the wealth of India in the banks abroad. When the babas preach detachment and acceptance of suffering, these self-anointed shepherds bless them with benefits. I believe that discoveries and inventions have been made on the bases of ego.”
“Let us talk something else for a while,” Kalpna suggested.
Reghu adamantly added, “we are touching an issue that has been choking the gains of India. To me, India does not lack talents or skill. Everything is here for India’s unprecedented advancement. These two inter-related concepts--detachment and acceptance of suffering because of the deeds done in the previous birth-- sedate citizens to remain silent.”
“I agree with what you say in your writings that to live in harmony with ourselves, it is important to live in harmony with others.” Kalpna said. “I often think of your percepts, which you explain through examples, to reveal your blueprint to stop the impulse to control others.”
Reghu added further, “My blueprint to live and let live is to work together for peace and peace is to let every citizen enjoy beauties. The logic that some have been created to enjoy beauties more than the majority is hollow—this logic is to convince sufferers to continue tolerating their sufferings without complaint.
“I believe love is a never-ending journey. Whenever I am about to leave for Canada, I am asked if there was any change I notice in India. My reply is nothing has changed, except that the have-notes are increasing as well as their suffering, giving rise to more cutthroat competitions that strangle the voice of peace. Citizens are not concerned about the situations of the have-nots, except the government because the government is secular and has one eye on their electorates. There cannot be genuine involvement because even the bearcats believe in these theories of previous births. No nation can progress under the assumptions that allow sufferings on the basis that suffering is the punishment for the evil done in the previous birth. This notion has helped rajas in the past and is helping now the elected elites. Detachment is refusal to accept challenges. It is unmanly to surrender to challenges. The ocean of existence is filled with waves. Detachees swim against the flow of these waves.
“On the other hand, attachees go with the ineffable sanctity of the flow. Life becomes lifeless without attachment or love. The goal of meditation is to nourish a healthy consciousness towards attachment. Meditation is to rejuvenate to face challenges and to empathize in loving ties. It provides contact lens for the clarity of vision. Those who practice the meditation of attachment are able to keep their balance which comes from the impregnable fortress of the inner strength, not from apathy, indifference and detachment. Attachment is coexisting, and also to remain alert, so that it does not cross the borders to become lust or greed. The extreme of attachment is likely to lead to greed which is detrimental to the physical as well as to the emotional harmony, resulting in sickness. Detachment often leads to repression, and repression hides in the territory of unconsciousness, manifesting in ways that can be exceedingly damaging to the health of detachees. Extreme emotional detachment is a negative that stands in the way of sharing and sharing is the oxygen to live and let live. Repression is a psychological step to push pleasing instincts to the unconscious mind. Detachees push them for different reasons, mainly presuming them to be maya or illusions. These pleasing instincts remain active and if not handled with the inner strength and psychological skills they prove destructive, resulting in tension and conflict. They are likely to color the perception of the society as frightful. This storehouse usually blocks the way to connect with the area, called the real self, which is free from impurities. In their meditations, detachees should discover the real self which is called also awareness. It is the deeper level of mind.”
“Beautiful poetry. You know I love your poetry. Let us forget detachment and attachment for a while, and talk about your decision.” Kalpna said.
“Men have failed to create peace in the world. They should give a chance to women,” Reghu joked smilingly. “Let us face some facts. You do not have any plans.”
“This is my weakness. I cannot make plans.” Kalpna said almost seriously. It seems this is because of my detachment.
“I have thought of something. There is no way for you to get out of it with cover-ups as you used to.”
Kalpna looked at Reghu in surprise without uttering a word. Reghu continued,
“I have a map that suits your plan. I see the calmness of a lake under the full moon. To one side there are untouched cobblestone villages and on the other sandy secluded beaches. An oarless boat sails on the acres of water, surveying a horizon of silvery waves.
“Let love flow effortlessly like this boat along waves of freedom to connect with the effulgence of the vastness. This is the natural way to create a space for a meaningful peace without forcing ourselves to refrain from bathing in the attachment around us. There will be less or no tension by going with the flow of the waves. Attachment is the element that human inherits;it is not the cause of pains. The cause of pains is to let it develop to assume the shape of greed and to let it operate on assumptions, blames, stupid faiths and rotten attitudes. ”
“You have put your vision in a wonderfully poetic way. You have a profound faith in love, but love relationship does not last.” Kalpna said. “The clutch of this relationship weakens particularly after marriage.” Kalpna was inquisitive.
Reghu became more serious to add, “Love is not relationship—it is to relate. Jesus asks to come to him as children. These children can not differentiate between the dust and the diamond. They do not have to make up their minds to go to any jungle, renouncing the gifts of Om. No authority can assure love, except the self. I believe that Radha and Meera were assured of their unshakable commitment that was translated in their actions. This love does not force any one to go to a temple or court to get assurance from the outer sources.
“Love is an endless process to dust off the diamond to live and let live under its radiance. Love is a fathomless ocean. It is a bird in flight—a lotus of the cosmos—the sun that brings every dawn and the stars that twinkle in the darkest hours. Love is a singer of life, not a singer of the lifelessness of detachees. God is unchanging; so is the love.
“To hide the radiance of the diamond, detachees create clones that cause tension and tension is the root of ailments. Detachment is to focus on a fruitless zeal in the solitude of the jungle. There are also higher forms of solitudes like those of poets and artists for the purpose of creation. Even these solitudes, though productive, are not constant. Some detachments are the dens of carelessness or attention-seeking devices or hypocrisies. Detachment is to control the hands of undying glory which draw the outlines of the blueprint to live and let live.”
“It is a long and poetic explanation of the theory of detachment. Could you summarize it?” Kalpna asked in an impatient manner though she had listened to Reghu’s arguments attentively.
“You are a specialist in Indian mythology. Which is the holiest river of Raipur?” Reghu asked.
“What the holiest river has to do with your concepts about detachment and life before birth?”
“In Indian thoughts nearly every river has spiritual significance. People bathe, organize festivals, build temples, ashrams, and inns, and meditate on their banks. Because
of the religious nature of detachment, I presume Chhattisgarians also meditate on this notion at the banks of some rivers.”
“Mahanadi is the main river, which originates from the hills of Bastar.” Kalpna said, “Mahanadi means a great river. I know you have written about Bastar and know the present Maharaja and his dynasty. The exact location of its source has not been identified because of several hilly torrents. Mahanadi is vital for Chhattisgarh. Its water is considered holy.”
“Tell me something more about its origin. Every river in India has religious significance, as I have indicated before.”
Kalpna replied, “It is said a great sage used to live here. Other sages from this area, called Dandakarnya or Dakshin Koshala in those days, came to see him. The great sage was in a deep meditation. They waited for days because they did not want to disturb his mediation. One day they went for a bath and brought water with them. The great sage was still in meditation. They filled his vessel with that water and went away.
“When the great sage opened his eyes, he struck the vessel by mistake with his one hand. The water splashed, assuming the shape of a river. It began to be called Mahanadi. It has other religious anecdotes attached to it.”
“ I heard a story about it from the driver, Manoj.”
“Who is Manoj?” Kalpna asked.
“He is the one who drove me to Amarkantak, where I went for a talk at the local university. Manoj was a trained tourist guide. He told me about a king who built a temple in Raipur.”
“What is special about it?” Kalpna asked.
“We have discussed objectivity and detachment. Manoj told me about Moksha or salvation. He said that a drowning person cannot save anyone. First he has to save himself.”
“This is how I think.” Kalpna added.
“It is a lame analogy. A drowning person needs help. Take the case of a bird who needs both feathers to carry a body that is much heavier than his feathers who need the body because it provides energy and energy needs feathers to fly. A detached person who is in pursuit of peace is in the pursuit of self interest and the peace achieved in this process
is not true peace. I will call it superficial peace, like the happiness of a person who gets a mine of wealth without learning and getting into any trade. Such a person learns nothing about the trade or business because there is no achievement as a result of the proper knowledge and hard work. Such a person may be completely destroyed if faces the challenges of running a business. Humans have to help one another to work miracles. Our civilization is based on support and cooperation. This is the base of live and let live. To try to be ashore without any help is like using one arm or one leg. Any help to a drowning person is love in action. Such a love is the carol of nature that produces joy and peace. I believe that ego gives birth to love and love is the incontestable trait of the Creator. It gives birth to cooperation as one can see it manifested in the colonies of the ants.
“Indian way of thinking has been centered on the self for centuries. This has helped some rajas and feudal lords in the past because the masses practiced detachment and also blamed their previous birth for their hardships. They refrained from asking their rights. This way of thinking is not going to work in the world of today. The self has to be extended to included neighbors that meant every being who comes in contact is a neighbor.
“We know of the Mughal emperor Akbar, who founded a new religion borrowing good elements from other sources. He called it Din-e-Elahi or the religion of God. He had scholars of different religions in his court.
“A king around Chhattisgarh had a similar dream. He built a temple on a high altitude for this purpose and invited knowledgeable persons of different faiths. They refused to worship in the same temple. He had to section the building of worship for different religions where they worshipped their God according to their rituals.
It was monsoon and Mahanadi River was in flood. His temple was secure because it was on a hill. He asked devotees of different religions to jump into the river. The king believed that the God of the true religion would save His devotee. Now they did not know how to swim even. They refused. In the crowd, there was a boy of hardly fourteen years. He offered himself to jump into the flooded river.
“What is your religion?” the king asked.
“I don’t know. I am just an Adivasi,” he replied.
“You don’t have God on your side. Who is going to save you?” king asked.
‘“My hands, my feet and my eyes will save me and also I will be able to save whosoever is drowning. I know how to swim in turbulent waters.”’
“Who taught you to swim?”
“My father who was a fisher and a hunter. We had to fish or hunt every day no matter what the weather was. Every tree is our god, and we believe in helping one another.”’ The boy instantly took off his clothes and swam for some time, fighting against the raging tides, while the religious scholar clapped. He came up with a couple of fish also.
“Look Kalpna, it was neither detachment nor the logic that saved the boy. It was his faith in action. These tides of Mahanadi are challenges. One has to learn to master these tides. Peace dwells in the acceptance of these challenges. A human has to learn to recognize peace in the Mahanadi of day-to-day.”
Kalpna smiled and asked, “Than what?
“Let the boat flow as long as it can, and do not hide behind the cliffs of detachment.” Reghu concluded.
About the author:
(Multiple award winning Stephen Gill has authored more than twenty books, including novels, literary criticism, and collections of poems. He is the subject of doctoral dissertations, and research papers. Ten books have been released by scholars and more are to be released on his works. (Websites: www.stephengill.ca; www.stephengillcriticism.info )

The next short fiction, Reghu in Rajnandgaon, is the last in the Chhattisgarh Series. COMMENTS ARE WELCOME (stephengillgazette@gmail.com).

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