4

Vipassana – The Sensations

Vipassana – The Sensations

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Read the previous part – Vipassana – My Experience here

Mind is the most mischievous of them all. When one is trying to concentrate on a particular thing, it will get distracted and run away to every nook and corner of the world rather than focusing on the task at hand. I wasn’t able to focus on breathing for more than ten seconds in a go. I decided to discuss it with the instructor.

He told, “Its completely normal. People don’t get sensations at all; at least you are getting them for ten seconds. More importantly this technique isn’t about anticipating, just be aware about the present…what you can feel. Everything will come at it’s own pace.”

Day 3:

The focus on third day shifted to sensations on the moustache area – the rectangular area just above the upper lip and below the nostrils.

Sensation was defined as anything you felt like, an itch, perspiration, coolness, dryness, touch of air from breathing, heat and any physical impression you can feel. You were not supposed to create any liking or disliking for any of them. One had to become mindful and aware of them and let it pass.

By third day I realized that there wasn’t any particular need to over stuff oneself with food as the breakfasts and lunches were decent veg food, which was sufficiently nutritious to survive. On the previous two days because of over-eating I was feeling too sleepy and was barely managing through the meditation sessions.

I would slightly open an eye, watch everyone…many of them with an annoyed expression while some of them into deep meditation, keep checking the wall clock and wait for the sessions to get over.

Who would have thought that meditation can also cause sore legs, numb hips, strained back and pain at unmentionable places.

Main Meditation Hall at Pune Vipassana Center

Day 4:

We learnt about the technique of Vipassana. Earlier we were only focusing on breathing and sensations in the upper lip area but in Vipassana one is supposed to traverse the whole body. You are supposed to be mindful of the sensations on your head, face, ear, neck, shoulders, chest, back and so on.

Focus on one part of the body and try to feel the sensation there. Trying concentrating till the time you actually observe something but the trick is not to anticipate. If it happens then great otherwise witness it for a minute and then move on to next part of the body till each and every body part is covered. Come back to the part which was left and you didn’t feel any sensation.

Pain and numbness are also sensations and that was all I could observe. No matter how much Mr. Goenka voice told not to develop any aversions for any sensation; the human instinct would still take over. You would slightly move your cushion, sometimes remove the pillow, change the legs while sitting cross-legged, do everything but the pain would find its way and so would the aversion.

With each passing day more and more cushions were becoming blue and vacant. It was good enough to increase your self-doubt and derail your motivation.

Day 5:

On this day you would scan from the top of your head – the tip of your scalp and traverse through whole body, part by part but in a systematic order till you reach the tip of toe. Try to concentrate and become aware about sensations in this order, wait at the part of body where you aren’t feeling anything and then proceed. Remember not to create any aversion or craving for any sensation.

Then comes the session at 2:30 pm. The session of self-actualization as to what extent you could push yourself. I was just sitting but never knew that sitting alone can cause so much discomfort.

In this session you learn the art of ‘Adhisthana or Additthana’ – ‘Strong Self-Determination’. This means you aren’t supposed to move even slightly or shift your position or open your eyes. You need to continuously sit in a posture for long durations of 60-90 minutes.

It was really excruciating. I was sweating profusely with no sense of any part of my body at the end of it. It took me literally two minutes to unfold my legs and properly stand up.

Now I understood why most people ran away on the sixth day.

By the end of fifth day during the QA session I saw my roommate waiting for his turn to come. I feared the worse. I knew I wasn’t supposed to interact with him in any form but his mere presence was kind of encouraging for both of us to keep going till the end.

Day 6:

My roommate didn’t come for the early morning session. I knew something was amiss. I contacted a dhamma sevak, he told my roommate couldn’t take it anymore especially after yesterday’s Adhitthana session and he too ran away.

For a moment I was heartbroken. He made it till the sixth day and still went away. But then I read on the notice board – no aversion and no craving.

I headed for the next session.

For all those who can concentrate,

For all those who have aversions,

For all those who have cravings,

And

For all those who can control their mind…

It’s not a Goodbye,

but it’s a GOOD BYE.

Read the next post for day 6-10 – Vipassana – A Meditative Transformation here.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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6

Vipassana – My Experience

Vipassana – My Experience

Read the previous part – Vipassana – My Inhibitions here

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I was still lost in my thoughts when a volunteer approached me and informed me to take a bed sheet, pillow and blanket from the shelf and head towards my room. (I was given a room number at the time of registration). He also informed about a small session that would take place, right after tea is served at 5:30 pm, in the meditation hall.

I noticed that the whole center was divided into two sections by a fence consisting of plants. To my disappointment there was completely different area for male and female including the dining area. The main meditation was the only place where both of them were allowed together. My dreams of somehow surviving these days by bird-watching (girl-watching) too were shattered and I wasn’t even allowed to scream…or cry…or run away.

Fence separating the two sections

I reached my room; it was pretty basic but neat and clean, and placed my luggage under the bed or the shelf that I was supposed to sleep on. It was a huge stone sheet with an old battered hard thin mattress on top of it. I was already exhausted from the travel and the constant battering of my mind. It was a depressing feeling and felt prison like. It was 3:00 pm and I made my bed and decided to take a nap.

From a small nap it got transformed into a deep slumber and I got up at 5:45 pm in a rush. To my surprise there was another guy sleeping on the other side of the room on another stone sheet. I was immediately pissed off at them for giving me a roommate for ten days and I am not even allowed to ask his name.

I shook him and signalled him the time. We hurriedly reached the mess where we were the last two guys to reach. Everybody had had his tea and left. To my happy surprise there was some husked rice (poha) along with tea. I knew there wasn’t going to be any dinner and hence I decided to hog on it.

At 6 pm the session began and it was in a presentation format. The discourse was to be in delivered in audio and video format. These were recordings of Late Mr. S. N. Goenka – the man responsible for bringing Vipassana back to India. The main thing that was highlighted was the five main precepts to observe and the timetable for the coming ten days.

My room in Pune Vipassana center

The Five precepts:

1. To abstain from killing any being,
2. To abstain from stealing,
3. To abstain from all sexual activity,
4. To abstain from telling lies,
5. To abstain from all intoxicants.

The very strict and difficult timetable – the school timetable felt nothing in comparison to this:

4:00 am            Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am    Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am    Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am    Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am   Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12 noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm    Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm    Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm    Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm    Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm    Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm    Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm    Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm    Question time in the hall
9:30 pm            Retire to your own room–Lights out

That’s nearly 11 hours of meditation alone and people think that it’s a vacation or retreat. No it is not.

The ‘Noble Silence’ was to be observed from here on. It means the silence of body, speech and mind.

After the session I walked about in the open green space and then retired for the day. Walking was the only exercise that was permitted. I kept shifting and turning in that harsh bed and sleep decided not to pay me a visit that night and before I realized a huge gong like bell rang.

Day 1:

It was already 4:00 am and the time to get up and ready for the 4:30 am meditation session in the hall. I convinced my mind that it’s a new morning and I am here to learn something. All excited I reached the main meditation hall. The hall was filled with blue colored cushions properly spaced out, accompanied by a pillow with registration numbers on it. I found mine and adjusted my cushion and sat down.

There were about 120 students (I counted the cushions), two male instructors and one female. It was evident by looking at others that they barely managed it to the hall still half asleep and constantly yawning. There were three dhamma sevaks also – a dhamma sevak is a volunteer who helps the instructors and the students in case if anything of importance arises.

The course began. We were supposed to close our eyes throughout the process. The voice of Mr. Goenka soothed through the speakers. He told that the first three days would be all about ‘Anapanasati’ – ‘mindfulness of breathing’.

It was just about focusing on your breathing.

I was ecstatic to see the evening tea accompanied by a banana and some puffed rice. This was only made available for the first timers. I went in with the expectation that I would get none but here I was getting some.

The 7:00 pm discourse was a video played out on a projector. We saw Mr. Goenka for the first time. These were all recorded from his previous sessions before his demise in 2013. I was too tired and spent to focus on anything anymore. The only thing that caught my attention was, he mentioned, “Maximum people run away on the 2nd and 6th day.”

For some reason it made me more determined. I knew about the bets that would be already making rounds outside placed by my sister and cousins. I made a mental note of it to survive these two major days.

Day 2:

Same routine. Gong at 4 am…lethargic walk to the meditation hall and then the session begins.

The main focus on this day was on exhaling and inhaling. If someone doesn’t feel it, they can take a couple of deep breathes and then back to regular breathing. Just be mindful of the breath going in and out.

Everyday I would come up with stupid questions in my mind to put across to teachers and at least speak a word in the whole day but ironically all of them were answered at the end of the day during the discourse leaving me smiling and more importantly quiet.

At the end of second day the guys in my neighboring room went absconding – they simply ran away.

Day 3:

I ran away…

Naaahhhh…

For all those who are early risers,

For all those who love meditation,

For all those who can observe breathing,

and

For all those who knew I won’t run away…

It’s not a Goodbye…

But It’s a GOOD BYE.

Read the next one for Day 3-10 – Vipassana – The Sensations here.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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5

Vipassana – My Inhibitions


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“What!! One can’t eat anything after lunch till the next morning’s breakfast”, I said shockingly.

“Yes”, my friend replied.

He had recently moved from Pune to Noida and was hosting a dinner for some of us. During the conversation he told me about his recent experience about a place in Pune, a meditation center, where he along with his whole batch was taken for a period of ten days.

Everybody who knows me and has read ‘Death on Karnataka Express’ is now aware, ‘that I am a big-time foodie’.

He said, “apart from this, one can’t even speak or make any eye contact with anyone for ten continuous days”.

“Were you able to do it?” I ask sheepishly.

“Obviously No! The whole batch was there and we would talk softly and share a giggle or two whenever we got an opportunity”, he said.

He was talking about Vipassana and this was the same meditation technique, which helped Gautama Buddha to attain enlightenment and finally Nirvana. The name of Buddha was enough to get me curious.

For a moment I thought how could one concentrate and meditate when all one would think of is food and on top of that one isn’t allowed to let go of his anguish. It seemed really cruel.

The conversation that night did sow the seed of Vipassana in my mind. I started researching and reading more and more about it. I decided that I would definitely give it a try irrespective of anything. I thought even if I don’t learn a single bit of meditation but still be able to control the urge to speak and try to deviate my mind off food that will be equally satisfying for me. It would turn out to be a step towards self-control and self-discipline.

I did register myself for the course once each in 2016 and 2017 but fate had other plans and it didn’t let me attend it. My father wasn’t too keen on me pursuing this though he strongly recommended daily meditation. He was aware of the chaos that I was going through both in my personal and professional life. I was getting angrier and irater day by day. He said meditation wouldn’t do wonders but it will definitely make you calmer and bring you peace.

My mom was simply worried how her son would manage without food.

My sister was sure that I would run away max by the third day.

My cousins even predicted that by the fifth day I would be sitting under a tree and addressing a small gathering and imparting my kind of ‘gyan’ (knowledge).

I was simply worried how will I remain quiet for ten straight days. My sister had previously challenged me to maintain silence and not utter a single word at least for a day and every time she came out teasingly triumphant.

In august of 2017, I lost my father and there was a lot of intricate clutter that I inherited. The things that followed made me more anxious, unstable, louder and angrier. By Feb 2018 my sugar levels were in the pre-diabetic zone complemented by high cholesterol levels. I was like an active volcano erupting at smallest of things.

I knew if things would continue to go like this they (family and friends) would definitely throw me into an asylum. I decided to take control of things and thought of giving Vipassana a determined try. Without telling anyone in March 2018 I registered for a ten-day course scheduled for July 2018 in Pune.

I carefully chose the location, though I was getting an available slot in my hometown. I wanted to be in a far off place so that the lure of running away didn’t tempt and in a pleasant place as summers in north India can be really excruciating and would have given me another reason to avoid it again.

I got a confirmation email about two weeks before from the date of start of the course. It carried all the information on what all I could carry along with me to the center and the code of conduct to be observed in those ten days and it was categorically mentioned to join only and only if you can strictly abide by them. The whole course including food and accommodation comes at a zero cost. Yeah! It is completely free. All I had to manage was my travel…my hunger and my tongue. I was supposed to reach there on 1st July by 2:00 pm.

I remember mom even tried to sneak in some biscuit packets just in case if I couldn’t control hunger in the night. I knew that for Vipassana to have its proper affect one should do it as told and hence I requested her not to do so.

Inside of Pune Vipassana Center

On 1st July right about 2:00 pm I was standing outside the gate of Pune Vipassana Meditation Center. The first thing, which took me by surprise, was, barbwire was mounted on all the boundary walls of the center. It elevated my nervousness level.

On entry, the registration counters were setup with some volunteers taking care of the formalities. All I could see was elderly people sitting and waiting for their turn to come up. I again doubted, ‘was I doing the right thing? Is it really for me?’

They asked for a print out of my form and ID when my turn came. Vipassana centers are run on donations and hence everybody working there was a volunteer and no employee. The guy at the counter tried to shake my confidence by asking, “Hope you have read the code of conduct and the conditions required to stay here. Remember we won’t let you run away in the middle of the course.”

I replied in a fake confident tone, “Yes, I have gone through everything and I am completely ready for the course”.

On the next counter they took away my mobile phone, wallet and all the jewellery and astrological rings. They reconfirmed with me whether I was carrying any reading and writing material.

I saw some younger people walking in. It brought a little smile to my face. After registration I sat on a chair and started contemplating about my decision because if I had to go away…this was the time.

Did I run away from there or in three days or five days or did I complete the whole journey? For that you have to read the next post…

To be continued…

For all those who are talkative,

For all those who can’t control their hunger,

For all those who are short tempered,

And

For all those who are willing to change…

It’s not a Goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

Read the Previous post in the Vipassana series here: Under a TREE

Read the next post Vipassana – My Experience here

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11

Under a TREE

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian BloggersTop post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

 

 

 

Some 25oo years ago…

It was a dark and treacherous night. The prince was feeling restless. Few hours had passed since he went to bed but sleep eluded him. He looked around and saw his beloved wife and infant son sleeping next to him peacefully. There was an intense turmoil that had taken birth in his heart and mind. It was a tough decision to make, in fact the most arduous and cruelest of decisions. Renouncing every worldly desire is daunting…but leaving the love of your life and your newborn takes it to another level. Scaling the Mount Everest would have seemed a child’s play in front of it.

He kept pondering for a few more hours. The mind was pushing him towards his goal but the heart was arrested by the love of two souls sleeping right next to him. He had already wasted many nights in this battle. He knew he had to fight alone and victory was his only option. He had to take a decision and the time was now.

The decision was made.

The morning was still far and there was no sign of daybreak. The Prince kissed his sleeping wife and son on their foreheads and got up from the bed and left the room without turning back for one final glance. He never came back.

He had experienced all the materialistic pleasures. Being the prince, the King made sure that the world was at his feet. He indulged into everything that was supposed to give him fun, happiness and gratifications. The King wanted to keep him always safely away from the harsh realities of life, from pain and from any kind of suffering. But the Prince was born no ordinary man. He was born to find a way for all mankind, the pathway…the key…the staircase to free themselves from the cycles of birth, death and rebirth…forever.

He was Siddhartha Gautama.

After leaving his kingdom and renouncing every desire, he started on his journey to seek the ultimate nature of reality, the truth of life and the meaning of every existence. There have always been debates about his teachings and the events of his life but no one can even guess what he would have gone through that night. Even if he wouldn’t have become the enlightened one, this surely was the first step towards it.

He went to many masters and teachers but after learning everything, he remained dissatisfied and unhappy. None of them could give answer to what he was seeking and quench his thirst. One day in his quest he sat under a tree near Bodhgaya by the Neranjana River and started meditating.

Photo by Liam Burnett-Blue on Unsplash

By now he had tried every external method possible and exhausted every meditation technique that was known to man then. He decided to concentrate internally. The only difference between a dead body and any living creature is the act of breathing. He started concentrating on his breathing and slowly he became calm and relaxed. He pursued his breathes and gradually became aware and mindful of every organ…every sensation and finally every cell.

It is believed that after six long years when the moment came when he saw the complete truth and attained enlightenment, he was able to see all his previous births and all the good and bad deeds he performed. He could see and observe and feel everything without attaching any perception of good or bad to them. He simply solved the key to free oneself of this cycle of life and death.

This meditation technique of observing breath and slowly becoming aware and mindful of every thing is known as Vipassana.

I personally believe the answer to the question; why we are born as humans and what makes us different from every other living organism is not related to superiority or anything else. Buddha answered it by attaining Nirvana. We get human birth so that we can try to achieve the state of freedom from the repeated cycles of life and death.

I also got an opportunity to experience and practice Vipassana the way Buddha did. The following post will be about how I got introduced to this technique and what affect it had on me.

To be continued…

For all those who believe in Buddha,

For all those who believe in Meditation,

For all those who believe in Karma,

And

For all those who believe Nirvana can be attained…

It’s not a Goodbye,

But It’s a GOOD BYE.

 

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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27

She can be Forever

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She can be Forever…

She can be extremely wild…

She can be utmost patient,

She can be just a moment…

And then She can be forever.

 

She can be the love of a partner…

She can be the squabble of a sister,

She can be the joy of a daughter…

And then She can be the caring lap of a mother.

 

She can be irritatingly jealous…

She can be childishly innocent,

She can be vaguely mysterious…

And then She can be intelligibly clear

 

She can be a sorted corporate tycoon…

She can be a puzzled simple housewife,

She can be the first teacher…

And then She can be the last lesson.

 

She can be a sparkling stream…

She can be a tranquil lake,

She can be a single drop…

And then She can be the complete ocean.

 

She can be harsh lonely winter…

She can be warm crowded summer,

She can be fertile flooding monsoon…

And then She can be flowering fresh spring.

 

She can be the meditating mountain…

She can be the wavering wave,

She can be the misty dew…

And then She can be the picturesque nature.

 

She can be feisty fire…

She can be the quenching water,

She can be oxygenated air…

And then She can be the complete earth.

 

She can be a distant twinkling star…

She can be a nearby beautiful moon,

She can be a milky white galaxy…

And then She can be the entire universe.

 

She can be the pinching of thorns…

She can be the tickling of feathers

She can be the sorrow of death…

And then She can be the bliss of life.

 

She can be just a moment…

And then she can be forever.

 

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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20

The FISHBOWL

It was dark and crowded. The DJ was in his groove and the music was too loud for my eardrums. The neon and laser lights kept on flashing and at times irritating me. Though the room had varied beauties dancing off to the latest numbers my eyes were still in search of something else. Everything that I was seeing didn’t seem to excite me.

They (eyes) started scanning the room from one end to the other slowly following a green laser light. The freshness of the sweat glistened faces had long gone. The intoxicated arms were beginning to loose rhythm and were now not in sync with the electro mix that was screeching through the human sized speakers.

Suddenly I felt there was a gaze constantly fixated on me. I took a sip of the single malt (my second large) and tried to follow it but the inebriated swaying bodies were making it difficult.

The DJ changed the track and made a hand gesture in the dark. A help in the form of a spotlight appeared. It kept flashing on random people till the time it was on her. It didn’t seem random anymore.

She was in a white breezy summer dress, something perfect for the weather and occasion, standing near the bar counter. Her gaze was still on me. If it would have been some other day, I might have felt uncomfortable but on that day the confidence was there in the right place (thanks to single malt). The moment her gaze met mine, her lips responded with seduction. She was like a true magnet and I, like a raw iron piece, started getting attracted towards her.

Unconsciously my feet started moving towards those eyes. I couldn’t care for the crowd, the pushing or the shoving. The hypnotized me kept moving on. I stopped a good three feet away from her. Smile was a permanent feature of her exquisite face. I realized my lips were already resonating with the shape of her lips.

I was yet to speak to her but something in her face especially her eyes through her round retro spectacles suggested that she was yet to consume any alcohol. For some strange reason I felt she doesn’t belong here and blurted, “Are you looking for someone?”

She moved her red lips and answered, “YOU”.

The ‘you’ echoed in my head. I felt this couldn’t be real and I had to regain my senses. I kept my drink glass on the counter and took a glass of water and guzzled it in a single go. She was watching me patiently.

“Yes you heard it right. I am looking for you”, She said playfully. There was calmness about her face and was sexy in a soothing kind of way. She was flawlessly beautiful.

“Do you like such crowded soulless places”, she asked.

“Not usually. Only with my friends”, I replied.

“Then how come you are alone today? What brings you here?” she questioned.

“I guess for the same reason that brings you here”, I responded.

“Oh! That means you are here for ME”, She said and broke into a gracious laughter. I was matching her giggle by giggle, mesmerized by the serene sight.

We both had signed up with a dating app, which after proper scrutiny of profiles organized events where singles could meet up. Their interview process was like obtaining a job offer.

“It is getting late and I don’t like it here. Shall we go to my place”, She asked. Though it was a question but she already knew the answer. After clearing the cheque we exited from the place and reached the car park and from there drove to her expensive high-rise apartment.

I know what you are thinking but she was way too classy to be an escort or something of that sort (at least that is what I thought).

It was a huge apartment, which was very tastefully done. We sat in the living room on the smooth plushy couch.

“Would you prefer whiskey or some wine”; She was being a good host.

She poured some wine for herself too. We sat there, chatted and had our wine late into the night. It was too blurry to exactly remember the time when we started melting into each other. She maintained great poise doing everything.

We made insane carnal love. It was pure bliss at least her expressions suggested. Completely spent we both dozed off with her head snuggling into my chest.

A tickling sensation broke my slumber. It was her hand on my chest. She was awake as if she never slept. We again started sharing talks.

I asked, “What do you like as in hobbies and all?”

She looked outside the window. The morning was just round the corner. She turned around towards me with a naughty smile and said, “Morning sex”.

Right after the morning session of love making just when that feeling of love and affection was about to sow its seed, she said, “Could you please do a favor for me?”

“Please go ahead”, I replied.

Photo by Sadiq Nafee on Unsplash

She handed me a small piece of paper and said, “Please write your name on this”.

“That’s it”, I said still unable to make anything of it. I wrote my name on the piece of paper and handed it over to her.

She kissed the piece of paper and put it in a flashy fishbowl that was kept on an antique table right next to the window.

“What happened? Why did you do that? And why doesn’t this Fishbowl contain any fish and more importantly Why are there so many pieces of paper inside it”, I quizzed.

She stood there quietly. My expression told her that she would not get away without giving an answer.

She replied, “The pieces of paper in the Fishbowl contain all the names of men that I have made love to.”

For all those who have been in such scenarios,

For all those who have made morning love,

For all those who have fallen for beauty,

And

For all those who still believe in true love.

It’s not a Goodbye…

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas “Sameer” Mukul

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205

Death on Karnataka Express

Death on Karnataka Express

The sudden jerk of the train coming to a halt shook me out of slumber. I was sleeping on the middle berth of a three-tier AC coach. I moved the pungent smelling inflexible curtain and tried to peep through the window. The sun was yet to rise but the morning blue had taken over the milieus. It looked like the train was moving through the outskirts of a city. I got my wristwatch out of my backpack and checked the time. It was 6:30 am.

We were travelling in Karnataka express from Bangalore to New Delhi. My initial job training got over in Mysore and I got posting in Chandigarh. Mom was paying a visit to my sister in Bangalore and hence was accompanying me back till Chandigarh.

The last time I checked in the night, when we reached Bhopal, the train was running on its scheduled time.

I thought, ‘we must be approaching Agra by this time.’

I slid to my left and looked down at the lower berth. Mom was still sleeping peacefully. A sensation urged me to use the washroom. I slowly got down in a crouching position, making sure not to wake her up, slipped into my slippers and walked through the narrow passage towards the washroom.

Death on Karnataka Express

After using the washroom, I decided to look outside the entrance door of the coach, since the train hadn’t yet moved. There is no more serene sight than countryside right up early in the morning. I leaped outside the gate but there was no one in sight. ‘Probably most of the people are still sleeping’, I supposed. ‘It was a good four hours still left for us to reach New Delhi, if the train reached at its timetabled arrival time.’

The huge iron wheels slowly started moving making a screeching sound. I shut the door and walked back to my berth. The berth opposite to mom’s berth was empty.

‘The elderly man would have got down at a station somewhat late in the night, as I was pretty much awake past midnight’, I pondered.

Five more minutes passed by and the train gathered momentum. The rural dwellings in the landscape were being replaced by more urban infrastructure. I knew that the railway station was about to arrive and considered having a cup of tea and some biscuits. Mom usually is an early riser and it was way past her regular wake up time. ‘

‘I guess she wouldn’t have an idea what time it is’, I assumed.

She didn’t prefer tea prepared at stations but I, nevertheless, thought of asking her before the station arrives. I feebly called out, “MOM.”

“Mom…Mom…MOM”, I kept calling gradually increasing the pitch of my voice. She didn’t respond leave alone waking up.

I touched her feet to wake her up but she didn’t respond this time either. I started shaking her arm slightly and simultaneously calling out ‘mom…mom…mom.’ It felt as if she was intentionally not waking up.

I touched her forehead. It was damp and cold. Initially I thought that the air-conditioning might have done it. Her cheeks were even icier. I didn’t know what had happened to her. I kept shaking her arm and calling her for more than two minutes but she didn’t budge a single bit.

I was beginning to get worried. I didn’t know what to do. I could see the train slowly entering the station through the window and thought of trying to wake her up one more time.

She didn’t respond.

By now the glitter of sweat was shining on my forehead. I was getting more and more nervous and anxious as time passed. Somehow in these sorts of situations, negative thoughts are the first ones to swarm your mind.

They didn’t spare me either and for a second I thought, ‘Is Mom dead?’

The more I was trying to wake her up, the stronger the sinking feeling became. I knew I had to remain calm and try to think my way through, ‘what if she was actually dead.’

In my custom and tradition the first thing that happens is, as soon as you get to know that either of your parents or any blood relative has passed away, we aren’t supposed to eat anything till the final cremation rituals are performed.

I quelled my mind and focused on the difficult task at hand. I started deliberating, ‘should I get down at Agra or should I continue till New Delhi and seek some help there? Should I call someone right away?’ Should I seek some medical help in the train itself?

My heart was breaking in fact shattering.

I knew it was going to be a long…really long day ahead. The thought of not eating anything for the next two days was already eating my mind. I decided to get down to at least have a cup of tea and couple of cookies. The train was about to move and I had to act fast.

I immediately got down and went to a railway tea stall. The vendor was selling some stale tea but there wasn’t any other option in sight. I decided since I might not get anything else; let me purchase two cups of tea. I purchased a packet of biscuits and put it in my jeans’ rear pocket. I thought of having one cup right away but that same screeching sound of the iron wheels started.

I hurriedly reached the metal door and a fellow passenger helped me board the train again.

I was making my way through few people who were beginning to wake up, making sure I don’t spill any of it.

The eerie feeling of having tea right next to my dead mom also came over me for a second but the contemplation of being hungry for the next two days made a starving sensation in me and I thought, ‘what the hell! Let me have it. There wasn’t anyone who knew me or would complain that I had tea and cookies after mom passed away.’

As soon as I reached my berth, I was dumbfounded and speechless by what I saw.

Mom was wide-awake sitting upright and combing her hair. She annoyingly looked at me and began, ‘how many times have I told you not to get down on every station. What happened to you is everything all right? Why do you look so astonished?’

I handed her a cup of tea interrupting her and sheepishly said, “I got down to bring you some tea and biscuits.”

“In all these years have you ever seen me have this railway station tea?” she added.

I knew it was embarrassingly awkward what had conspired into my head and decided to tell her the ordeal of buying two cups of tea.

She broke into a loud uncontrollable laughter. I joined in. I told her that the first thought that came to my mind after seeing my mom dead, was to have tea and biscuit.

We kept on laughing till we reached New Delhi.

To this day, whenever we discuss a train journey, we roll in fits of laughter remembering this episode.

For all those who love their moms,

For all those who have lost loved ones,

For all those who are fed up of such rituals,

For all those who love trains,

And

For all those who love humour…

It’s not a GoodBye…

But It’s a GOOD BYE

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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