A Bond in Both Worlds
Days passed by and the relationship between Ashwini Bhai’s family and Sri Sri Thakur blossomed. The family had adorned Sri Sri Thakur at the centre of their very being. It was the month of Vaishakh. The scorching heat of the sun was unbearable. Sri Sri Thakur was residing in Nilachal Kutir, Puri at that time. After the day’s work, the devotees would climb up the stairs to the roof top to get drenched in the cool shade of the moon. Even Sri Sri Thakur’s bed was made on the roof as the heat was unbearable inside. A mosquito net was carefully hung from the bed to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Some residents of the Nilachal Kutir also joined Thakur and planned to sleep on the roof top to escape the heat. A cool breeze was blowing and all of them went into a deep sleep as soon as they hit the bed. Suddenly, Sri Sri Thakur felt restless and got up. A shrill, pining tone along with the sound of a cough shook him. He could hear a sick person coughing very nearby. He slowly opened his eyes and saw a shadowy outline of a human form standing outside his mosquito net. The dusky form stood still in its place looking at Thakur longingly. As Thakur looked at it, the figure became clearer. Sri Sri Thakur jumped up with a start as he could recognise that it was Ashwini Bhai’s figure. There was an anxious look in Ashwini’s eyes as if he was keenly searching for something. His body looked frail and weak like that of a sick man. However, when his eyes met Sri Sri Thakur’s, a transformation came over him and he became calm as if he was relieved from all the pain he was suffering from. Slowly the figure faded away and was gone.
Sri Sri Thakur sat down still in his bed. “Has Ashwini left this world? Is he dead?”
As Sri Sri Thakur sat there, his mind muddled, he remembered that a letter had arrived in Nilachal Kutir with the news that Ashwini was sick and suffering from beriberi. The thought that Ashwini had met with some mishap made Sri Sri Thakur restless and he couldn’t go back to sleep. The devotees thought he was feeling uneasy because of the heat and began fanning him. When the sky brightened with the first rays of the sun, Sri Sri Thakur sat down with a heavy heart, his head hung low with downcast eyes. Alarmed, the devotees enquired what the matter was. Sri Sri Thakur replied with a sigh, “Last night I saw Ashwini near my bed. I hope he is alright.” The devotees pacified him saying that suffering from pain, Ashwini Bhai must have thought of Sri Sri Thakur and hence, the dream. But it was not a dream, it was real. Sri Sri Thakur, with his open eyes, had seen Ashwini Bhai’s pale face. He kept his thoughts to himself. A little later, a telegram arrived informing the passing away of Ashwini Bhai. Sri Sri Thakur broke down in deep pain.
Ashwini might have remembered Sri Sri Thakur at the time of his death, desiring to have a look at the face of his Gurudev. And that’s why as soon as he left his body, he had arrived in front of Sri Sri Thakur, to prostrate before the light of his life, the jewel of his heart one last time. Sri Sri Thakur’s heart wrenched with grief. He kept his feelings to himself without letting anyone be aware of his state. But the next day when Ashwini Bhai’s wife arrived, bringing their children, all his restrained emotions broke loose. Sri Sri Thakur was washing his face when he heard a voice call, “Thakur!” He was stupefied, turned back perplexed. The family had run straight to Sri Sri Thakur so that their sorrow would become lighter. There stood the wife of Ashwini. The faces of the mother and the children were overshadowed by the sudden gloom that had befallen their family. All the devotees in the Ashram left their work and ran towards them. They thought that Nilachal Kutir would echo with the cries of the widowed wife and the children who lost their father. But the scene was completely different. The mother and her children bowed down at the feet of Sri Sri Thakur and got up, their eyes shining with tears. But before they could speak, Sri Sri Thakur let out a heart wrenching cry. And how he cried like baby, wailing, wrapping his hands around the children and holding them tightly, his whole-body shivering – just like the cry of a mother who had just lost her child.
Ashwini Bhai’s wife, with tearful eyes, patted Sri Sri Thakur’s back and tried to calm him down saying, “Thakur! We have come here relying on your support. So that you can take charge of us and our grief will become lighter. If you lose your composure and cry like this, then who will pacify us?” An eerie silence followed. Tears rolled down every onlookers’ eyes.
This was how intimately Sri Sri Thakur loved Ashwini Bhai. He had a very close bond with this family. Not only did Sri Sri Thakur take charge of their spiritual growth and upliftment, but he also took care of all their joy and sorrow and solved their day-to-day problems. He took on the responsibility of supporting the family after the passing away of Ashwini Bhai. Ashwini Bhai’s children were very young at the time of their father’s demise and so Sri Sri Thakur had appointed his very dear disciple Fani Bhai as their guardian, to raise and nurture them. Later, Snehalata, the eldest daughter of Ashwini Bhai, stayed at Fani Bhai’s home when she took up a job in a nearby school.
… to be continued
Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty's essay, 'Sri Ashwini Kumar Dasgupta'