As he woke up he looked at the wall-clock to notice that it was only two-thirty in the wee-hour then. No point in trying to invoke and restart his sleep. It’s good to get up and take care of the morning chores. Body would like to stroll on the soft bed for some more time but it could never be the best option for a sensible person. Before getting up and moving out, he glanced at the total atmosphere around the room for whatever it was worth.

Tapati occupied the next bed and she evidently was in deep sleep completely covered by the quilt. To wake her up now has no meaning. Let the sleeping souls lie! He should only get out of the room without making any sounds that could wake her up.

The calendar on the table-stand was showing yesterday’s date and day. Poor thing, how could it know that they’ve gone into oblivion and a new day dawned. Someone has to shift the cards and make things uptodate. Time would not wait or stop for anyone, it flows out resembling the stream of water down the hill. It will not seek anyone’s permission or look for approval. Could men and women of the world too adopt similar attitude? World would move well then.

Silence pervaded the whole area. The minimal sound he made while getting off the bed and walking out. Otherwise it was all golden. Seshadri – that was his name – looked into the mirror and his counter-face therein was showing vividly; not only that but a large part of the room was visible, particularly the bed where Tapati was resting. Her posture attracted him much. Few moments earlier he saw the real she sleeping there but the image as is visible in the mirror now was too attractive and overpowering. Perhaps this is what it means when they say images are more alluring than the real objects and the ultimate reality.

It is true the way Tapati was sleeping enclosed in the quilt, the imaginary contours showing out — all this was more fascinating. Seshadri took a deep look at her again. Her exhale and inhale were causing rhythmic movements, though invisible to the naked eye. One could enjoy looking at the non-provocative scene and forget himself in its solitude.

Getting up before five-thirty in the morning or getting woken up by someone else always irritated Tapati and so Seshadri did not attempt that. There was nothing she should do now. Seshadri removed his outer garment and threw it on to the stand without making any noise and slowly walked into the bathroom. He did not take a bath but did almost the same exercise to ward off the night’s magnetism and freshen up. The marks of the night and other signs of sleepiness and fatigue were diluted. As he worked on the body, the mind also got cleansed. Both the mind and body were now the viable and vulnerable instruments to work with. As he came out and and passed through the room he glanced at Tapati again. Thank God, his movements did not disturb her. Now he was alone to himself in his study. The chair seemed to have smiled at him invitingly.

Seated in this room, and particularly in this chair, his world would entirely be a different one. The pile of letters was projecting pointedly toward him. He must sit down today and dispose of all correspondence. Further postponement might turn disastrous. The other side of the table projected the book of his on reading program. The bookmark was showing out and it needed immediate attention. But before taking up the book for study it was necessary to talk to him. This is a must each day. First the date and the day must be recollected. The work contemplated for the day must be remembered. Visualization should go on. The planned work is to be visualized completely. There was no special agenda for the day, only the routine writing and reading. If friends arrived, chitchat with them. Find out what they want and supply their needs without them asking for it. Eat and drink whatever Tapati offered on that day. When called for lunch, move to the table without being reminded too many times. This is all what he does each day. But he plans these routine operations too meticulously and brings in creativity into them. Talking to the body and then to the mind, together and differently, asking them to be alert and active all the time and spending some time on such contemplating is very necessary. This point was proven to him long back.

To assure that the mind and body are in perfect control and would do the things they are asked to do and not indulge in extraneous matters is an activity that brings in

confidence as well. The world would wake up into freshness. This freshness would bring new aroma to me. I must adapt myself to them. Must equip myself with the proper readiness needed for that. As the stars open up in the sky and make distinct marks and lights, my mind should get enlightened each moment of the time. I must be in perfect harmony with all the beings around. Whatever be the outer struggles and impediments, my inner condition should not give in. It must retain its serenity. May this day also pass on without any untoward incident, properly fitted into the total scheme of things.

Seshadri closed his eyes gently for a moment. A stream of pure waters was flowing calmly in his vision. The gentle flow and the soundless sounds it brings are well familiar to him. They slowly disintegrate and disappear as though nothing was envisioned. No memory, no recollection, no recapitulation whatsoever. Several minutes would pass.

He opened the book at the marked page and began reading. The opening sentence was From the room next, he heard a scream and the voice was that of a lady. As he read the line, he recollected a portion of the story. It was a soldier’s story. Around 1530 A.D., he participated in a war in South America and came back to Germany. Currently he rented a room in a cheap hotel. He had spent only one night there. A lonely woman occupied the next room. She called him by name though they did not know each other earlier. “I’m possessed. I know many things.” He asked her to calm down and sleep without making any noise. But she was keen to unravel her own story to him and would not rest until she did that part of her job.

A fairy visited her at the tender tenth year of age. “As you grow your older, you shall become very prosperous. But you must do the needed sacrifices and surrender from now on.”   She also likes to be a vsionary. Having developed some intimacy with the boy, a schoolmate, she was not inclined to bid goodbye to him. The boy did that part of the job. He suddenly disappeared before their intimacy brought out ramifications. And after many long years, he appeared in her dream and said, “In two months, I will come back to you. Please do wait for me.” Someone did arrive after two months’ time, but she was at a loss, wasn’t sure if that was the same boy. The picture she carried in her mind was one thing. The appearance before the naked eyes now is altogether a different one. But her mind clamored, there is a resemblance between the two pictures. She went out or rather eloped with him. It was a spell of another two plus years. The boy again went away without leaving any trace. It was now her job to search, locate him and re-appropriate him to herself. It was that errand that had brought her here.

He heard the story in all sympathy. There was nothing he could do beyond that. Too often she repeated, “I’m possessed, I’m possessed.” Perhaps it was a matter of pride for her, almost same as being selected as miss world or a queen of a great prince. “Do not think of the devil or whatever force that had taken you over. Let your mind rest. Sleep well. Perhaps you were too tired with the unending search.” He stayed in the same room as she was resting, soothing her all night and giving out spells of consolation. He would like to share the bed with her. She was adamant. “I am totally his, the boy who had forsaken me. My search will have its fulfillment. I must wait for that happy day. I will not surrender to anyone else.”

“I shall certainly help you in your pursuit. I shall assist you in your search.”

Their travels filled the pages with mysterious events, situations and the like — all too cumbersome to remember. The novel was written sometime in 1907, well before the arrival of the various schools of psychological studies on the scene. But what surprised Seshadri were the tones and trends of abnormal psychological descriptions which appeared therein. It was five-thirty when his attention was diverted instantly. Tapati could be woken up now. But she did not give him that opportunity. She was not on the bed, and there were sounds from the bathroom. He reverted to his position in the study.

A lizard was moving speedily on the wall, perhaps chasing its prey. “Don’t ever damage the lizards. They are Gandharvas,” was a saying he read some where. Manifestation is after all very mysterious. You cannot count on the forms that would appear to us. Countless and innumerable. Is the man the manager of the whole show? No, says the man of religion and philosopher. The scientist also seems to be agreeing with him today, though half-heatedly.

There was tap on the door. Three knocks. Seshadri looked up to find Tapati slowly walking in with a cup of steaming coffee on a tray. The fragrance of coffee surrounded the room. Was it sweet or bitter? Perhaps sweetly bitter.

Tapati said, “I shall get ready in five minutes.”

They usually go for a walk in the mornings, an inevitable part of their lives. Seshadri changed into T-shirt and canvas shoes and accompanied her.

“I was absorbed in the book I was reading,” said Seshadri when she remarked, “You could have awakened me an hour earlier, it is already broad daylight now.” “Doesn’t matter much, we shall take a short walk and come back in half hour.”

When they returned, the pile of newspapers was awaiting their attention. Seshadri necessarily gives a full period of three hours for reading it. This is not a pastime, but a part of his job. Tapati does not waste her time now. Her reading time is after the lunch spell and before a short nap in the afternoon. Information explosion is the order of the day. Each newspaper runs to 48 pages normally and promises many things to many people. You shall miss living the life if you do not carefully look to all pages of the papers. As Seshadri was having his tea that afternoon a person came in seeking a half hour of his time at the least for careful listening of his lamentable tale. “I do not know you, sir. But I was told that you are the person who would redeem me of my worries.”

Seshadri took a close look at him, the man who must have been past middle age and, most likely, was entering the threshold of senior citizenship.

The visitor occupied his seat, had a cup of tea and relaxed for a few minutes, in spite of his anxiety writ on his face to speak out what all he had rehearsed well at home and on the way. He was dissuaded from talking for an hour. In the meantime Seshadri was attending to his desk work, intermittently looking at the visitor and encouragingly smiling at him.

Tapati reminded him that the group of people who wanted to see him for collecting his opinion on population and popularity and allied subjects was due anytime and it would therefore be prudent to listen to the visitor before that time. The visitor was very thankful to Tapati for her mild suggestion but Seshadri was not budging from his agenda. Instead, he told the gentleman, “Sir, you are in no hurry. If needed, you shall stay with us this evening. Your problem seems to be more grave and cannot be sorted out by mere talking about it.”

The gentleman said very humbly, “Sir, don’t ‘sir’ me. You can mention me by my name. I said my name is Arunachalam. For short, you can even call me Chalam. As for my problem, it seems it has disappeared. I do not have many words now to speak of it. Your hospitality had soaked up my agony and caused it to evaporate. I thought you would refuse to see me. It is very kind of you. I shall wait for your command. Now I begin feeling sorry that I encroached upon your time and am wasted it with no due consideration.” Seshadri did not respond to this gust of reverential words but he could see the sincerity of the expression.

The group of people Tapati mentioned earlier did come and engage Seshadri for more than one hour. Arunachalam was also a silent spectator for the entire time. Though he could not make out much of it, he could significantly note the sagacity of his host and his sense of right approach to all that was happening around. When they wanted to take leave of him, he introduced Arunachalam to the group and said, “ This is the type of man you would need. He had had enough of the life’s experiences and is interested currently in sharing his knowledge with others. But no one seemed anxious to share his understanding. We cannot help it, people are always like that.”

The group appeared interested in Arunachalam and started making inquiries about him, his place of living, avocation and other data relevant and irrelevant. Arunachalam was wonderstruck and did not know how to respond to all those questions. Again it was Seshadri who came to his rescue. “you all, don’t confuse my guest with all your vocabulary. He needs plenty of rest and relaxation at the moment. If you are interested and desirous of hiring his services, please call on him after two days. He is my guest and you are welcome to come again.” The group thanked them both and assured their reappearance on the appointed date, and left after placing a bundle of sandal wood sticks in the hands of Seshadri. They said, “Once you grind them and make a paste, it would emit wonderfully unique fragrance lasting for days beyond normal expectation.”

Arunachalam did not wait for long to express his astonishment. “What? Sir, you are speaking highly of me. I know I do not deserve all that. But, sir, what is it they want from me?”

“Don’t you worry about that. I am sure they would not return. It is all initial enthusiasm and nothing beyond that. Once they’d gone to their respective places, they would not even care to remember that they were ever here. Problem solved, nobody would like to carry the burden and its ashes too long and too wide.”

Seshadri handed him a big piece of the sandal wood sticks. “Make a paste of it each day and apply it wherever you like. It decidedly cools the system.”

Arunachalam was sure all this was Greek and Latin to him. He did not dare seek clarification. He was wondering whether he to stay here for two days and what for?

It was only after dinner the third day that Seshadri reverted to the presence of this person, that too in a most casual manner. They were reclining on the divans under the open sky. A cap of clouds was attempting to get over them. Stars were spectacular. Compared to the past the present seems to be just a game of the mind. Arunachalam said, “Sir, I do not know how to thank you. These three days here were the most memorable part of my life and I would treasure them deep in my heart. If you permit me, I would leave for my station tomorrow.”

“Already tired of this place? Do you not want to stay here for the rest of your life? Are you homesick now, is that it?” Seshadri was replaying the other man’s earlier sentiments.

Arunachalam could see how he was being taught the lesson of life in a gentler way. But could he really learn them? “I would like to stay on, sir. But why being a burden on you when I have my own kith and kin? I would now assert my rights and at the same time live peacefully.”

“ Look, Arunachalam, no one is a burden on any other. We live in an interdependent and interrelated world. No one is unconnected and burdensome. There is always someone who needs another. We must only find out who that someone is. Then, everything will be all right. No imaginary worries and predilections.”

Arunachalam does not see his wife as a burden now; and his sons and daughters-in-law are more lovable than ever. His heart was aching for the affections or the lack of them he misjudged all this while. Seshadri did not delve into his mental inhibitions, the ramifications and the like. So long as there is a center in man, he will live and move on. Once the center is found, the resting and brooding place is no longer available for habitation. Seshadri remained the same as he was. Recollecting the possessed lady in the novel, he wished that a touch of the sandal paste that touched Arunachalam ought to find its way to her too.


 Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published originally on, January 2004.