Sujata was bewildered, and a little afraid. She was passing through the forest to reach her village on the other side, returning from her relatives’ place, when she saw him. Lying face down near the mountain stream, it looked like this ‘person’ was trying to reach the water. She had never seen anyone so emaciated, the bones protruding through the frail skin looked as if they will puncture the skin, and let the ghost out. She assumed it must be a man, though it was difficult to say, and he was lying face down, an ochre robe draped around his waist. He may very well have been a mayavi or a celestial being; these were enchanted forests! Men came from far off lands to meditate in these forests, and find their true purpose in life. Folklore had it that some actually did find a way to summon the gods, and went to heaven with them. She did not believe it though, but one could never be sure. After all, she was just a simple village girl.
Her mind a whirlwind of thoughts, her heart beating fast with anxiety and anticipation, Sujata approached the prostrate form. At first, she thought he was dead, he lay so still, hardly breathing. She knelt down beside him and paused, listening to his breathing. In the silence of the forest, the nearby stream gurgled cheerfully, an occasional bird chirped and small animals rustled the underwood. But besides these sounds of the jungle, there was no other sound. She leaned closer, to take a better look and to be able to hear well.
Yes, she heard it! His soft, slow breathing; regular and shallow. The frail frame moved very little with each breath. He was much taller than he looked from a distance. She could not see his face, but the limbs looked well proportioned, though emaciated. The ochre robe was clean and not smelly, his long, curly hair was neatly tied in a bun on his head. There was no other mark on his body, by which she could tell who he was.
One of his arms was outstretched towards the stream flowing nearby, as if reaching for water. His robe was torn and his knees bruised where he had fallen and hurt himself. The blood had congealed; he must have been like this for a long time!
Tremulously, she touched him; his touch made her happy, she did not know why. Slowly, so as to not hurt him, she turned him. She had never seen such a radiant face! Even though it was streaked with dirt and perspiration, which had dried on his forehead, the face had a glow that Sujata had not seen before, in any King, commoner or ascetic. ………………………………………………………..Excerpt from ‘Gautama’ from the book ‘The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures’. An Amazon Bestseller.
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