Paum…….paum……..the horns deafened all. It was 5.00 am. A few neighbors came out to their windows to see ‘who the hell is honking so loud and long’.
Brahmacharis seated inside the fifty five seater luxury bus felt embarrassed to attract the attention and curses of the sleeping neighbors. But they couldn’t help it.
Everyone was ready and excited to leave for the four day picnic. Suddenly Venky announced that Kishor hadn’t come. For the last half hour, a few monks frantically looked everywhere, while the others in the bus got impatient. The exasperated driver honked.
“Shh..It’s disturbing. People are sleeping out there” Venky appealed to the driver.
“Lets’ leave without Kishor” someone shouted from the back.
Gopal, one of the seniors in the ashram raised his voice, “Don’t be so selfish. It’s Kishor who’s always championed the cause of a picnic and now we want to abandon him. That’s not even being decent. And please give Shyam a few more minutes. He has promised he’d find and get Kishor to be with us”
“Look, they are coming”, a monk yelled
Venky saw Shyam walk triumphantly as Kishor trailed behind with his heavy bag.
As the bus left the premises, the monks roared in unison. They were expecting four days of fun, feasting, swimming, mountaineering, and lively discussions on different aspects of renounced life. And of course a cricket match was also planned!
“Just see, his body is here but he’s really not here”, Venky told Shyam pointing at Kishor who sat at the last row of the bus. Kishor was staring outside.
“His face has lost its glow. Once upon a time he was so radiant and energetic. What’s happened to him?”
“The luster has weaned away eh?” Shyam said in his biting best, “Lust gets your luster”
“This doesn’t disturb me as much as that” Venky now pointed towards Aki who nodded his head while talking on his mobile phone.
“I am surprised because I believed Aki never liked to talk on a mobile phone, yet here he is engrossed in a conversation, and oblivious to all of us. Something big is cooking up. I hope our party doesn’t get spoiled”
“Arre just leave it, let’s chant our prayers and why speculate?” Shyam seemed to realize it’s none of their business to know what’s going on.
The bus drive to Karjat appeared to be uneventful with monks chatting loudly and excitedly with each other. They were catching up with news of the monastery and also eager to know more about the upcoming retreat.
Venky constantly stole glances at both Kishor and Aki. He saw Aki and Gopal discuss softly. They had serious expressions. “What could possibly be wrong?”
“Stop the bus” Gopal announced
As the bus came to a screeching halt, Gopal rushed to the front of the bus and announced, “Due to some serious and unavoidable circumstances Aki has to leave us”
“Nooooo…” A few exclaimed in unison
“The retreat hasn’t even begun, and it’s no fun without Aki” said one monk.
“He’ll join us but a little later. We shall start our programs without him. We need someone to volunteer to go with him”
“Who would want to miss the retreat?” asked Venky softly to Shyam and just then a loud, “Me” reverberated inside the bus.
It was Kishor. “I shall go with him”
Before Gopal or Venky could react, Kishor got down the bus with his bag. Aki descended slowly, and the bus sped off.
“That was an anti-climax”, Shyam said to Venky. “I tried so hard to get him. I first went to his room, woke him up and then packed his bags. He kept saying his coming to the picnic would be a waste of time. I literally forced him to come, and now he’s gone back. Moral of the story- never force a monk to do something. He will just do what he wants to and not what you convince him to”
“The cricket match would be a damp squib without him” Venky said
“Yeah I heard he was to be the captain of one team and I’d captain another. Since both of us have played professional cricket, the retreat organizers had told us the match would be exciting if both of us played opposite each other and others would have great fun. Now all that seems to be over”
“But I wonder what’s really wrong here” Venky couldn’t get over the thoughts Aki and Kishor. “There’s something deeply emotional about them”
To be continued…