The Chief Guest
I became surprised receiving an invitation as a chief guest from a Puja Committee for their inaugural function. Normally politicians, film stars or renowned players are engaged to cut the ribbon for inauguration now a days but I couldn’t remember an author or a poet being engaged for this purpose from my recent memory lane.
So being inquisitive I asked, “Why do you invite me leaving conventional guests like any politicians, artists or players?”
One of the organizer replied, “Because of Covid -19 , no celebrity is available and since you are a type of celebrity, we like to fill up the gap for this year of crisis. Something is better than nothing, Ha! Ha! Ha!”
All of them started laughing and I too joined them.
The fun being over, one of them requested or ordered, I failed to understand, “So please get yourself ready along with your family by evening, a car will come to pick you up.”
I was taken for granted, as if an author can’t have any opinion in real life. When they were about to leave I announced being cool and calm, “Sorry I am unable to accept your invitation. Please pardon me. Thanks for your offer.”
I was not sure about their reaction as they abandoned me instantly but my rude and impractical attitude made my better half furious. She accepted the offer as a golden chance through which I would earn name and fame for me. Out of rage she attributed some offensive adjectives on me with which I am used to and as usual to convince her I had to share with her a long forgotten experience of my life. It was like the following:
I used to live in a private hostel along with four other nasty creatures. They were Rick Trick Nil and Mamu.
One evening, when I returned in the hostel then I found their party got momentum. Finding me they started behaving as if they found moon in their hand. I never realized that I was so important to them. Like a self appointed host of the party Nil announced, “Ladis and gentleman, I propose the name of Labu as the chief guest for tonight in our party.”
Without waiting for other’s consent he made a humble request to me to join them keeping no hesitation in mind. Rick and Trick came forward to convince me by explaining how eagerly they had been waiting for me.
Mamu used to become very sulky after a few pegs of magic liquor, but he too came forward to support them with his innovative arguments. According to him longing is always a painful aspect in life and in order to get rid of their pain they started their party wishing my quick return.
From my little life's experience, I came to know that the magic liquor brings certain unpredictable changes in the behaviour of its subjects. Rick, Trick and Nil used to behave just opposite to their natural self. Rick and Trick became thoroughly gentle and humble under the influence of magic liquor while miser Nil became extravagant but Mamu used to be entirely unpredictable. He seemed to become extremely emotional that evening.
Till then I didn't know the reason behind their grand party. Having been overpowered by their hospitality I joined them as their chief guest for that night without keeping any hesitation in mind as it was 'party time'. Taking a peg I too became thoughtful. Certain days in our life are really unforgettable and unpredictable as well. I strongly felt like expressing my gratitude to Him, the invisible Dramatist.
Unlike other days they forgot pulling one another’s legs and dispute or arguments seemed to be unknown ideas to them. I silently scolded my adventurous spirit who has a bad habit of finding conflicts in anywhere and everywhere.
Suddenly their entertainment took an unexpected turn. They all decided to visit Tarapith. I tried to stop them considering its distance and on top of that it was already half past eight in the evening, but in vain. Most unwillingly I followed them as by that time I became a part of their party.
We were very lucky as we got an ambulance which was returning Tarapith leaving a patient in Suri Hospital. It had to return empty, Rick and Trick managed him in exchange of usual bus fair only.
The driver requested one of us to lie on the patient's bed to throw dust in the eyes of police and traffic. Mamu offered himself to act the role of the patient for that night. He became thoroughly generous under the magic spell of the liquor. We all remained grateful to him.
Having reached in Tarapith Nil being generous gave the driver ten rupees extra as tips. The driver dropped us happily.
By that time most of the shops got closed except few hotels which would remain open till late night. We felt there was nothing new in the temple side.
A local boy joined us in order to play the role of a guide. We asked him to leave us but he kept on telling some cock and bull stories regarding the famous burning ghat of Tarapith. He agreed with me that it was not necessary to take a guide in visiting Tarapith in day time but to enjoy the adventures of night one should have a guide. He didn't claim any fees for him but having been satisfied if we would offer him dinner for that night along with us he wouldn't refuse that as he was a very kind hearted boy. As expected, Nil appointed him.
Under his able guidance we entered into the famous burning ghat of Tarapith. It was scary dark due to the presence of bushy plants and trees. The only faint light coming out from a funerary helped us feeling the presence of moving creatures.
We found a burning dead body. We all stood there to relish the excitement. People, hardly, get chance to witness such sight. Suddenly the burning body seemed to have been trying to rise up. We all got scared. A giant like man hit that body hard. I felt pity for that dead body. Probably he or she led an unfortunate life on earth and her misfortune didn't leave him or her even after death, probably fear of being jobless.
Jharu, our guide, informed us that there were some cannibal saints living at the other bank of the river. They would come shortly to collect roasted flesh for their dinner. Mamu couldn't bear the pain of the burning corps. We too agreed with him and decided to leave the spot.
On the way he showed us the spot where a great saint achieved salvation sitting on five human skulls. I found him a thoroughly talkative guide. By that time Jharu shifted our attention towards an unconventional type of saint known as Cashless Baba.
That baba was beyond common people's reach. He never accepted money or any kind of gifts from visitors or disciples. If we wished to meet him he could try for us as that very baba loved him very much for his kind nature. According to Jharu one could overcome any hurdles in life if gifted by Cashless Baba's rare blessings. In fact it was very difficult to come in contact with him for common people without proper channel. We were very lucky as we got a proper channel through Jharu.
Nil didn't like to miss that golden chance. Mamu too showed interest. Rick and Trick followed them. Most unwillingly I followed them. Cashless Baba's ashram was beyond that jungle. Baba was meditating under a huge tree. In order to mock I said, “Since Baba is in sleeping mode, he should not be disturbed.”
Jharu became very angry with me and bringing his mouth near my ear he whispered, “Don’t try to be over smart. Cashless Baba didn't sleep for last fifty years. He meditates.”
Then he requested all of us to stand on our one foot joining hands. It was a special gesture to pay our respect to Cashless Baba. We all followed his advice. After about five minutes Baba uttered few obscure words. I was not sure whether those were for us or for his God. Then he welcomed us like a humble host. Jharu informed us that Baba was in a good mood at that night, otherwise he might not utter a single word to certain visitors. We were really very lucky.
Baba shared some of his findings or knowledge with us. He nicely explained the uselessness of cash or money in life. People suffer due to money but still they run after money, they long for money, they die for money.
He enlightened us by his simple and lucid lectures. He was an excellent orator. We all got hypnotized. Baba stopped talking abruptly and entered into his meditation again. Jharu advised us to leave the spot immediately. We followed him instantly.
We had to enter into the burning ghat leaving our shoes at the shade of a closed shop situated at the entrance of the ghat area. Nil regretted for not getting chance to visit the other bank of the river where cannibal saints lived. We all became hungry, so we didn't show any interest towards his regret or wish.
As we came near the shade of the shop, we found our shoes little mixed up. Anyway we decided to have dinner in a hotel. They all got their slippers or shoes but I found mine was missing. We all searched it but in vain. Thus leaving my slippers behind, we started walking towards a hotel. In order to seek Jharu 's suggestion regarding the selection of the hotel , when we looked for him then we discovered that he too was missing. We all regretted for his sudden disappearance, without having even his dinner he left us. Nil decided to pay him certain fees too for his sincere and caring service.
We found the hotel extremely good as it served us hot food in the midnight. We all agreed that it was one of the unforgettable dinners in our life. We failed to remember who provided the idea of visiting Tarapith. Anyway he should be given big thanks!
As the waiter placed the bill on our table we all became surprised going through the bill as it was really cheap in respect of the quality of the food. A brief dispute took place between Mamu and Nil as both of them wished to pay the entire bill. Rick and Trick didn't lag behind. Only I remained indifferent as I was the chief guest for that night and on top of that I didn't have any money in my wallet.
Finally Mamu and Nil agreed to share the bill and in order to pay when they looked for their wallets then both of them discovered that their wallets got lost. A panic spread among us and instantly I looked for my wallet and luckily I found it but Rick and Trick were not lucky like me.
They too lost their wallets. Nil clearly remembered how he gave money from his wallet to the ambulance driver. The rest of them too remembered the last use of their wallets in Tarapith.
It was a bolt from the blue. Receiving positive signal regarding my wallet, they became happy again. Releasing a sigh of relief, they left the hotel instantly leaving me behind.
Being a chief guest I had to end up that night cleaning dishes and burnt utensils at the hotel.
Having heard my pathetic account, my better half awarded me a mysterious smile which I failed to decipher.