The Karjat farm was a spacious hundred acre retreat center that belonged to Mr Khanna, a Delhi based businessman who now stayed in Pune. He made good money from the farm which he used as a retreat center where holiday crowds and corporates used his rooms and facilities for vacationing. Recently Mr Khanna, a devout fan of guruji and Aki had requested the monastery to avail of his facility free of cost. He wanted to serve the monks who he believed were so sincere that they selflessly served the world but possessed nothing. In fact they didn’t even take any holidays, and this inspired Mr. Khanna to convince Gopal and Aki the presidents of the Monastery, to take the monks out on a holiday with all expenses borne by Mr. Khanna. It was too good to be true. Both of them thought a holiday would do no harm, and gave a go ahead signal.
The next tier of ashram management team then executed the plan of action. And so here they were, over hundred fifty monks, from Maharashtra on a four day holiday. The rooms were spacious and the retreat center included everything the monks wanted, including a decent cricket ground with an amateurish pitch on which one could play tennis ball cricket.
No sooner the monks alighted from the bus, some of them began running and shouting happily. “It’s as if these guys have been released from the prison”, Shyam mockingly pointed to Venky.
“You are now as sarcastic as Kishor”, Venky said.
Shyam said, “I am in no mood to go for the inaugural lecture. But I guess at least this one I’ll attend and then I’d wander off to the forest. I am a free bird”
“Monastic life is serious business. It’s a life of hardships. We have to constantly say ‘No’ to so many things”, Gopal’s inaugural lecture was fiery.
Seated at the very end, Venky turned to Shyam, “It’s not the same without both of them. I wish they come and I wonder what’s happening”
Venky cautiously raised his hand, knowing well that he’d be disturbing the flow of the talk, “Can you please tell us why Aki isn’t joining us?”
Gopal said, “Srinivas is diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. Doctors say he won’t live longer than a few days. Last four months we were aware of it but the reality is hitting us only now. Aki has been disturbed as they are close friends”
“But I have never seen Srinivas and who is he? We live with Aki and how come many of us don’t know?” Shyam asked.
“Oh I am sorry” Gopal continued, “Srinivas and Aki joined the monastery together way back in the mid 1980’s. They served as a team on many projects and were happy like all of you are. We were all good friends. One day Srinivas decided to leave the monastery. He preferred to get married rather than endure the hardships of a lonely monastic life. Then he got busy outside getting a job, then a house. Meanwhile we lost touch and met only rarely in some community festival. But our hearts beat for each other. And then we heard Srinivas is in love with a woman. He said he had found his soul mate. They got married and he then started a business. A few years later they had a child and his business stabilized. The cancer news has come as a sudden shock. The last six months has been tough for many of us. We didn’t share this news with you because none of you know him. Just the five-six of us who joined way back in the 1980’s knew him. But yes, Aki is affected and so am I”
“Since the doctors have declared that any day now could be his last, a few of his old friends have decided to be at his bedside. Since Aki even helped Srinivas get married to the girl he loved, he’s the most affected. He’s doing his best to serve and care at this hour”
To be continued…