15. Love Reciprocated
Once, Naresh Chandra invited Sri Sri Thakur to visit his home along with the Bandopadhya family members. The plan was to have lunch and spend some time with his family the very next day. Thakur happily nodded a yes. That day Thakur went to bed after dinner and Naresh Chandra left for his home. The next morning, Thakur got up, finished his daily rituals and announced, “I don’t feel like visiting Naresh’s place today.” Surendranath was alarmed and said, “Thakur! Last night you told him that you would go. What will he think if you suddenly refuse to go now? This will surely upset him. He will definitely find out a way to take you to his house.” Thakur quipped, “What can I do if he gets upset? I just don’t feel like going.”
Naresh Chandra arrived at their place at the appointed time to take them all home. As they saw him coming, Thakur exclaimed, “O my God! Tell Naresh that I am unwell and can’t make it today.” Then he quickly lay down in his bed and covered himself with a bedsheet. Naresh Chandra went up to him and said, “Thakur! I am here to take you. Let’s go.” Thakur turned towards him and whispered hoarsely, “What to do, son? I feel so sick today. I won’t be able to come over to your place.” After pleading for a long time while Thakur kept refusing, Naresh Chandra touched Thakur’s body and understood that all this was Sri Sri Thakur’s drama. Disappointed, he said, “Thakur! We are happy in your happiness. I won’t implore if you don’t feel like going. But I have one request. Please don’t eat lunch. Wait for me to send the food. But now, if you won’t go then no one else will be interested to follow me. So, I have to return alone.”
The came the instant reply, “Why wouldn’t they go? I will send them all with you.”
Naresh Chandra returned dejected.
As soon as he left, Thakur got up from his bed. He had breakfast and said to the ladies, “Don’t worry for me. Just boil something for me and it will be enough. Go and get ready now. Before you all leave, come and see me. I want to see how grand you all look.” Naresh Chandra again arrived at their place around one o’clock in the afternoon. He brought a boat to take the rest of the family. The ladies came near Thakur, bowed down and took his blessing before leaving. Only their mother and Charuchandra stayed back to take care of Sri Sri Thakur.
Sri Sri Thakur never felt comfortable in the way the kings and zamindars welcomed him with great pomp and show. He preferred the simple, intimate intermingling with his devotees. He knew that the zamindar would have made arrangements for a grand welcome. The villagers would have also gathered there for darshan and advice. There he would have to adorn the throne of a great Guru. But he wanted to lead a simple life with his devotees like a normal man, where they would be bound only by love without any space for reverence. That’s the reason he could easily mingle with the Bandopadhyaya family of Deeghalkandi as they loved him completely with their heart and soul as the head of their family.
That day, again around two o'clock the boat arrived with all the delicacies that were prepared for Thakur. Thakur took lunch happily along with Charuchandra and his mother and went to take a nap.
That evening everyone returned home. Along with them came Naresh Chandra, his wife and his niece, Brajeshwari. The couple went straight to Thakur’s room and stood beside his bed, tears rolling down their face. “Thakur! We know it’s all your doing. You intentionally didn’t come to our home. We were waiting without food or water just to have a glimpse of your lotus face. What’s our sin? Where did we go wrong?”
Thakur got up from bed, called the couple and made them sit beside him. He began talking to them about many things, trying to gently pacify them. He asked them to serve him the food that they had brought for him. He ate the food happily and remarked, “I hadn’t eaten my lunch properly. This food is so delicious! Now only I ate to my heart’s content.” The couple was delighted to hear such kind words from Thakur. After food, Thakur got up and took leave. For the time that Thakur stayed in Deeghalkandi, Naresh would come every morning and leave only after Thakur retired to bed.
Wherever Sri Sri Thakur’s goes, all the devotees always sit around him. So, the children, including Malati and Suradhuni would hardly get him to themselves. The children’s wishes would get lost in the swarm of devotees crowding around Thakur with their questions, plea, asking for solutions to their never-ending problems, advice, orders and directions. The children would wait anxiously for their turn when they could get Thakur to themselves, to play, laugh and have fun with.
When Sri Sri Thakur’s stay came to an end and he returned to his ashram, the children missed him the most. One day Suradhuni came upon an idea. She was aware that Thakur responded to all the letters that reach him. So, even if it was impossible to spend time with him, he would definitely reply to her letter. So, she sat down to write a letter. She wrote about everything that she was facing, her life, her experiences, her wishes and her dreams. She waited in vain for a reply.
The following year Sri Sri Thakur arrived again at the Bandopadhyaya abode. All the ladies in the village assembled on Thursdays for puja. They welcomed Thakur to his seat and commenced the aarti and vandana. But that day Suradhuni refused to join the assembly. Sri Sri Thakur had ignored her letter and that had made her very upset. Thakur looked around and saw everyone but couldn’t spot Suradhuni. Suradhuni had covered her head in her pillow and was crying her heart out. Her silent question, “It is impossible to get any answer from you to any of my questions in this crowd. I wrote a letter and you didn’t even bother to reply. What sort of affection is this?” Her body trembled incoherently in tune with the tears that ran down relentlessly. After the aarti was over, Thakur said aloud, “Someone go and call Sura.’
…to be continued
Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty’s essay, “Deeghalkandi Parivar.”