Saturday, September 10, 2016

Playground of Monsters

(Image from, text added)

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Dileep sat up screaming in bed. His wife Ambika held his shoulders, trying to pacify him. It was the third time this was happening this week, and she was very worried.

“What is it?”, she asked, still holding Dileep.
“It is the monster, he is here”, shouted Dileep, his voice showing his panic. 
“It is now inside me”, he cried, twisting and shuddering.
Ambika spoke gently “Everything will be fine. We will overcome it. Don't worry”.
After a few minutes, Dileep bent down, his head in his hands weeping.
“How, and when will all this end?”, he cried. “And this time too, you did not see the monster, did you?”.
“No, I didn't” said Ambika. “But it is late in the night and very dark”.
“This one was different”, said Dileep, his eyes wide and shifting from left to right, looking to see if the monster was still around. “There are two of these monsters.” he said.
“You said that others have also seen these monsters?”, asked Ambika.
“That is right. Just yesterday I spoke to Veeresh, and two monsters attacked him, just like it happened with me. Only, so far, the two monsters have not attacked me together”.
“Why don't we meet Maharaja Varavata and seek his help? After all, his subjects, and maybe he himself, are in danger” suggested Ambika.
“Yes, a few of us plan to do that. We are meeting in a few hours near the river to collect our thoughts”.

A total of 15 people in the kingdom sought an audience with Maharaja Varavata. The Maharaja met them in his palace. After listening to the people speak, he was lost in thought. It was not clear if there were only two monsters or more. The descriptions which the people gave of them was not consistent. Some described them as huge – larger than elephants, while others said they were not as big. While some people were attacked by two monsters, most were attacked by one. The King did not tell the people that he himself had been attacked last night by two monsters who had tormented him. They had approached him slowly, and he had screamed. Two soldiers had come rushing to his side, but strangely they could not see the monsters. He watched petrified as they came near, sneered at him, entered him and tormented him for what seemed like eternity.

He assured the people that he would ask his entire army to find and terminate the monsters. He was sure they would be able to do it within the next 3 days. 

Dileep spoke to Ambika the next evening “The entire army is out looking for these monsters. I am sure we can sleep in peace shortly”.
Ambika smiled at him. She could not bear the torment which Dileep was going through. She did not tell him though that despite the entire army being on alert, one of the monsters had attacked her friend Vanita the previous night. 

Three days passed quickly. The Maharaja stared at the chief of his army, Surya. A few soldiers stood behind Surya quietly.
Maharaja Vanavata asked “So, you have made no headway?”.
Surya spoke slowly “Sadly, no, Maharaja”.
“How can this be?!” exclaimed Maharaja Varavata. “You are supposed to be the best in the world!”
“Maharaja, we have never fought an adversary like this. At times, two of these monsters are visible and only to some of us. At other times it is only one of them, and again to only some of us. They seem to appear out of nowhere and disappear all of a sudden!”.
“Hmmm..”, said Maharaja Varavata.
Surya spoke “Maharaja, there is another sad news. The people are saying that one man who was attacked by the monsters yesterday is in a very bad way. It is quite possible he might die”.
“That is terrible”, exclaimed Maharaja Varavata, distress visibly showing on his face.

He asked Surya and the soldiers to leave, but advised them to be watchful, and not give up fighting the monsters.

Dileep joined the group of 15 other people who went to meet Maharaja Varavata. 
Maharaja Varavata spoke to them “Well, it is no secret that there is no progress. The monsters continue to harass us, and it seems my soldiers are no match for them. I don't know what will happen now. But we will not give up.”
He paused, and looked up thoughtfully. He spoke after a few minutes “I intend meeting Acharya Agnivesh to seek his advice. All of you can also accompany me”.

The group of people led by Maharaja Varavata met Acharya Agnivesh. They folded their hands and bowed with respect before him. Maharaja Varavata then quickly explained the situation to Acharya Agnivesh. 

Acharya Agnivesh was silent for a few minutes. He then asked the people some questions on their life, their past, and their ordeal with the monsters. He closed his eyes for a few minutes, and then opened them slowly. He spoke in a low voice “The invisible has now manifested as the visible”.

Maharaja Varavata and all the others looked at him puzzled. 
Dileep was intrigued as well. Acharya Agnivesh's face was calm as ever, and his tone seemed to carry a sense of wonder, instead of revulsion and anger which he had expected. 
Acharya Agnivesh looked at the people in front of him and spoke “Listen carefully. Each of you is now able to see what has always existed, but was invisible to the eyes. The playground for the monsters is still the same. I am not sure if this will continue for ever, or is temporary. Whatever be it, the teaching must be received”.

The people waited for Acharya Agnivesh to continue speaking. Till now they had understood nothing of what he had said. However, Acharya Agnivesh had the reputation of being cryptic, inviting people to think deeply, discuss among themselves and learn.

Acharya Agnivesh continued “Instead of trying to fight the monsters physically, observe them carefully, understand when and how they appear, and when they leave. Do not react to them. Deprive them of the playground. If you do that, you will know the way forward. But for that, you must first find the silence within”.

He then raised his hands, indicating that this was all he would speak for now.

The people led by Maharaja Varavata dispersed slowly. Maharaja Varavata spoke to them “Acharya Agnivesh has given us something to think over. Please ponder over this, practice what you understand of it, and we will meet again tomorrow”

Dileep lingered at the back of the crowd. He then walked quickly back to Acharya Agnivesh, before he went inside his cottage. 
He spoke to him, his voice betraying his sense of desperation “Acharya Agnivesh, I was attacked by the monsters and it was terrible. I feel I cannot take this anymore. I intend leaving this kingdom with my wife. Maharaja Varavata has done a lot for us, but the situation is thus.”
Acharya Agnivesh looked at him kindly and spoke “That is not necessary. In any case it will not help as the monsters will follow you. “
Dileep spoke up “Acharya, do you know who these monsters are?”
“Yes, I do.” said Acharya Agnivesh.
Dileep's voice quivered as he spoke “I need your help Acharya. Please”.
Acharya Agnivesh “Speak to your wife Ambika, and she will help you find the way”.

As he walked away, Dileep was both excited and confused. Acharya Agnivesh had said that Ambika would help him find the way – but how?! 

He walked briskly, reaching his home quickly. He related all that had happened to Ambika. 
“I hope you have understood what Acharya Agnivesh was talking about. Please think how you can help!”.
Ambika frowned “But how can I help? I am not sure what Acharya Agnivesh means!”
Dileep's face fell, and he sat down heavily.
Ambika spoke “Wait..repeat all that happened again slowly. Try to recall the exact words Acharya Agnivesh used”.
Dileep thought over it, and relayed the entire conversation to Ambika again.
This time she smiled and said “I think I know what Acharya Agnivesh was talking about when he said I could help. Though I am not sure how this is connected to the monsters. Anyway, over time I think it will be clear”.
She continued “Acharya Agnivesh wants me to teach you a practice he has taught me and a few others in the class we attend”. She gently took Dileep's hand and guided him outside to the grass. As they sat down, she asked him to take a deep breath and follow her instructions. 

After their practice, Dileep opened his eyes slowly. 
He held Ambika's hand and said “I am not sure how this will help with the monsters, but I feel a sense of calm”.
That night as he sat looking at the stars, Dileep sensed something in the distance. It was clearly the monsters once again. As a sense of panic seemed to rise in him, he remembered Acharya Agnivesh's advice – observe, understand and suspend any reaction for now. He looked carefully – the monster on the left was mocking him, and the huge monster on the right was staring at him with eyes wide open. He gripped Ambika's hand tightly, and she looked at him gently. 
“We will find the way”, said Ambika calmly to Dileep.
The monsters took pleasure in bullying and punching him. After a few minutes, he sighed, he had survived the night.
Over the next day, Dileep continued the practice with Ambika.

In the evening Dileep met the other people at Maharaja Varavata's palace. All the people reported that they had tried to follow Acharya Agnivesh's advice but it was difficult. They next resolved to meet after a week, as it seemed that this would be a long battle with no quick relief in sight.

As the hours turned into days, the attack followed a similar pattern. Dileep's vision of the monsters was now strangely blurring. He talked about this with Ambika, who had no ideas to explain this as well. Ambika however suggested a surprising course of action for Dileep to follow when the monsters returned again. Dileep stared at her stunned and spoke “What do you mean?! That could be fatal!”.
Ambika “I don't think so. I think it is part of the understanding which Acharya Agnivesh advised you to gain”.

That evening, one of the monsters made an appearance. Dileep was alone at home, Ambika had gone to pluck some fruits. As always, the monster smirked at Dileep humiliatingly. Dileep looked at the monster calmly, put out his hand, and asked “Who are you? And where do you come from?”
The monster's reply invited a sharp intake of breath from Dileep. He suspected he now knew who the second monster was. He turned and saw it approaching him. As it came near him, he saw that it was not nearly as huge up close, as it appeared from the distance. 
He repeated his questions “Who are you? And where do you come from?”.
This time the answer did not surprise Dileep. He smiled. Everything fell into place.
“Will I continue to see you now?” he asked.
The monsters replied in unison “The teaching has been received. You will not see us, but we will be around. You will always be able to sense our presence. It is up to you on how you want to deal with us”.
Dileep smiled and spoke “I am still learning to deal with you. It will take some time”. He hugged both the monsters one after the other.

As Ambika returned home, she saw Dileep sitting outside watching the sun set.
“The sunset is so beautiful today”, said Dileep.
“It always is!” replied Ambika.
“Well, I guess that is correct. I suppose so”, said Dileep in a guilty tone. He was always busy making a living, and did not remember ever sitting down to watch the sun set.
She looked at Dileep and asked “So the monsters returned?”
“Yes, they did!” said Dileep. 
“And?” asked Ambika.
“I know who they are and where they are from”, said Dileep calmly.
“Oh!” exclaimed Ambika “Tell me, I cannot wait to hear!”.
“I will. But before that – do you know why you never saw these monsters?”
“I don't know!” said Ambika.
“Take a guess!” said Dileep.
“Because you are the main bread earner?” suggested Ambika.
“Well, of course not!” said Dileep. He continued “It is because you did not offer any playground to these monsters.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ambika.
“Well you will understand once I tell you who these monsters are. The practice Acharya Agnivesh taught, helped you, and now it has saved me as well. We need to also help all the others who are facing this.”

“Who are these monsters?” asked Ambika.

“When I asked them who they were and where they had come from, the first one said he is Regret and he comes from the Past, while the other one said he is Fear and he comes from the Future”.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Twins

A Short Story with a message at my Life Experiences Blog: The Twins