Till three days ago, I had firmly believed my inherent hate towards a number of my close relatives actually kept me alive.
And then, I had a dream.
I felt as though the ever merciful Shirdi Sai was speaking to me.
He bluntly asked me to seek the collective forgiveness of my children whom I had abused – in writing.
Here is what I remember from perhaps what had been a dream:
I am sick of life. So I want to die, come and see you and then argue with you about my life ... its pluses and minuses, I heard myself telling the Sai.
How are so sure that you would come to me in heaven? May be, for your sins, you would end up in hell!
My ending up in hell, in my opinion, would be injustice. To my knowledge and conscience, I have been a good father and to some extent a good son to my parents, a good brother to my siblings and may be much less, but a passable husband too. To my knowledge, I created a business empire for my brothers and sisters and it even had benefited my father. All of them are ungrateful towards me. While I do not care one way or other about rotting in hell, I am more worried about people losing faith in you. Some 4 years ago, after visiting your Mazhaar, I was cured of my addiction to mind numbing drugs. My career took a turn for the better. My fame as a journalist increased. Yes, I did suffer heart attacks afterwards, got separated from what had been my family, but some good things too happened!
I must say, I sounded loud, harsh, argumentative and agitated even in the dream, pompously trying to convince The Sai that if I ended up in hell due to my sins, people would lose faith in The Sai.
How much more stupid could I get, I asked myself later.
Son, I am not going to argue with you on anything. You may have your justifications for what you say, others may have theirs. You have been living by hate. Would you kindly begin learning to live by love? Why don't you start by being nice to your children? The things you have said in print about them make someone like me feel bad. That could be one of the reasons for your ending up in hell. To err is human and to forgive is Divine. Believe me, as much as I am divine, so are you. So are those whom you think are tormenting you. I understand it would be difficult for you to eschew your hatred all at once. But you can do it. Remember, you gave up smoking the moment you had a heart attack and never wanted to do that again after realising how silly you had been. Try being nice to your children. Had I been in their place, I would have found it difficult to forgive you. You ask for their forgiveness and I will seriously consider the possibility of entering their minds to induce them to forgive you!”
The Sai was the epitome of kindness. He was gently patting me on my chest and I felt I was feeling very, very comfortable.
I could feel as though my mother was patting me to sleep.
Nevertheless, my stupid pride still held.
But my ch...
The Sai cut me short.
Son, do you think you know better than me? When some of my children err, I do my Divine duty by helping them improve their lives. That Divinity is inside you as much as it is within me! You must be ashamed of yourself for spewing venom against your own children, son! Your harsh words are like corporal punishments aimed at generating pain that in turn generate hatred. Try emulating me. Obey my command and beg for forgiveness starting with your children, whom, in my opinion, you have seriously wronged. I have no need to to justify my statement. Find out for yourself through self analysis as to whether you can generate love by begging for forgiveness from your loved ones. I observe that you cry loudly almost every night in the loneliness of your house because your conscience wants to atone for your sins. But, your ego is stopping you from doing that little thing that will surely make you happier in future. Don't you think that you deserve more happiness than you are experiencing now? If your answer is going to be yes, please remember that your children too deserve much more happiness than they currently have. I am asking you to beg their pardon and see the positive change on either side.”
Sai's words had suddenly become a bit stern.
But I ... in the past ...
Forget the past, son. Just remember your present and think of what could be your future. Is it too much to ask of you? Okay, let me put it this way. I did you a favour by curing you of your addiction to the mind numbing drugs. So I am asking something in return. And that is your forgiving your children. And you will write to them without any preconditions. Just ask for their forgiveness with complete humility and contriteness.
There was still some fight left in me.
How will I be sure that they will forgive me? They may laugh at me! My daughter called me ..
Can you claim to have been an angel in the past? OK. Let me say that I am asking you a favour in return for having cured you of your past addiction to mind numbing drugs. It was your daughter and son-in-law who ensured you came to my resting place and their contribution is much more in your getting cured. So their role in curing you of your addiction - never mind who induced that poison into you - is as important as the the role played and being played by me. You wrote nice things about your daughter, son-in-law, your grandchildren and some relatives. Were those lies then? Go on! Ask for their forgiveness!”
I wanted a small clarification.
I beg for their forgiveness. Then what?
Life would continue for all those who ask for forgiveness and those who forgive or forget to forgive. If you have faith in me, do as I say. You should try to copy the involuntary actions of your body in a conscious sense. Do you remember your hunger triggering your stomach to go on a strike against your brain because it did not ensure your remembering to have lunch at the right time? You carelessly walk and hurt your foot somewhere and it pains. Sometimes, you rub your aching limb a bit helpfully. Your seeking forgiveness from your children is like that. Your pain, will hopefully go away.
By publishing this, I do not expect any miracles to happen.
I may continue being the same vain, angry, uncompromising and unforgiving man to most people and that may mar the peace earned through this endeavour.
But, let me add that by begging the pardon of my children, I have achieved an inner peace, and it indeed tastes very, very good.
A few months ago, Shri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswati, the junior pontiff at the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham had seen my troubled visage.
“Kindly go to the 3500 year old mango tree in the Ekambaranathar temple – which is located very close by. The eternal mother, we are sure, will accord you peace,” His Holiness said.
I obeyed him.
For some 10 minutes, I sat cross-legged before the tree, keeping my eyes closed.
For some inexplicable reason, I felt like sobbing uncontrollably.
Suddenly I could see my biological mother – my Ammai standing in front of me. She spoke to me in a somewhat admonishing tone.
You are needlessly fighting with your brother-in-law Bala. In my opinion, you are very, very wrong. As a brother you failed in performing the marriage of your younger sister properly. Your intervention to get Mangala married to Bala was a sheer trickery played on me by you. The marriage happened only because of my blessings and they are happy today because I wanted them to be so.
Tongue-tied, I nodded my head.
Whatever be anyone else’s fault for your troubles, you have no justification to fight with your only brother-in-law from the parental side – Bala. Stop fighting with him from this moment and tender an apology immediately. If you do not, I will stop talking to you!
The last thing I wanted was my Ammai stopping communications with me.
I will do that immediately, I told her in a begging tone.
Having achieved what she wanted, my Ammai was her usual self ... with her kind words.
You have your emotional stress after what you have been through. Where I am, I am not at liberty to discuss those things. But, start making peace, son, you will slowly emerge from all this as a much happier man.
I had one little question for her.
I am tired of life, Ammai. I long to eat the food prepared by you and pat me to sleep. Why don’t you end all this strife of my existence and simply helping me to come to you?
I was crying loudly.
I felt as though Ammai was wiping my tears.
You still haven’t gathered enough firewood to get your funeral pyre lit, son!
Perhaps she meant my Karma was not yet over.
You will come through this a much better man, son! I know it. Just call out whenever you need me. I will come and give you solace. Just remember, war costs a lot. Peace is free but more valuable.
Almost immediately after emerging from the temple, I phoned Bala and informed him my quarrels with him were over ... once and for all.
I have done more of that, this time as a gesture towards my children at the insistence of The Sai.
When I narrated these to my friend and virtual elder brother Jana, who also audits my accounts, he had more comforting words.
This is what we have been telling you all along. But then, every incident has a time and an occasion. To stop smoking you needed a near fatal heart attack. At least you seem to be finding peace in a very less costly way!
I have begun feeling the tangible peace.
I can only hope this peace hastens me to my life’s end, for I seem to have nothing to look forward to in life – with so many bad things happening all around me.
I do not hope or expect my children to forgive me quickly or for that matter, ever.
My begging for their forgiveness never had factored any such thing in the gesture.
A career in ruins, a family destroyed, my savings gone ... with a weak heart that makes me pant after every 20 steps, I have nothing to look forward to in life.With my uncompromising stands on various public issues and their blunt expressions, I can only hope someone puts a bullet through me.
That possibility seems like a plausible permanent peace, even if I end up in hell.