19. Nothing hurts as much as Goodbyes do
The ladies of the Bandopadhyaya family collected one hundred rupees and brought it to offer to Sri Sri Thakur. Thakur looked at the money and was satisfied when he saw how earnestly all of them wanted him to stay. Then he summoned Bhuban Maharaj and told him that he would like to cancel his return. All the plans and arrangements had been made but Thakur insisted, “No, I don’t feel like leaving today. I won’t go.” No one had anything to say after that. All the arrangements were reinstated and a telegram was sent informing of the changes in plan.
When Thakur resided in Deeghalkandi, many devotees and disciples would flock to that place. Thakur turned towards the ladies of the family and asked, “Do you all have any idea how much rice has to be cooked every day during my stay here?” Instantly came the reply, “Thakur! The men of this household are flourishing by your mercy and there has been no scarcity of rice. Please have such compassion for us women also so that our oil bottles are always filled.” Sri Sri Thakur took the money and made a list of expenditure as if he was in control of the running of the household.
It was decided that they will play with mud the following morning. There was a vast courtyard in the middle of the house. The rooms were built all around it. The game of mud was arranged in this courtyard. After breakfast, the members of the family were divided in two groups, the men and the women. Both the groups started singing kirtan. After the kirtan, everyone carried pots filled with water and poured them in the courtyard. Then everyone started chanting the ‘Jayaguru Mahamantra’ loudly and started rolling in the mud. Everyone was so soaked in that mud that it became difficult to recognize anyone by their faces. This event continued till twelve noon. Sri Sri Thakur came out after taking his bath, sat on the verandah and heartily enjoyed this game of smearing mud. When the mud play was going on Dheerendranath’s Father-in-law passed by the verandha. Thakur called Dheerendranath and instructed, “Today, your father in law is your spiritual brother. You may smear mud on him.” How could Dheerendranath disobey Thakur? He took a little mud in his hand and put it on his Father-in-law from behind.
Among the girls, Malati was the closest to Sri Sri Thakur. She went up to Thakur with a ball of mud held tightly in her palms and said, “Wow! Look at you. You are here, clean and fresh after a shower. This is not done. I will paint you with this mud.” Saying this, she put a little mud on Sri Sri Thakur’s feet. Irked, Thakur quipped, “I was sitting here watching you all for so long. If you had to put mud on me, you should have come earlier.”
Having been scolded by Thakur, Malati ran and hid herself. The entire day passed by but she was not to be seen anywhere. Thakur understood that Malati was upset. He looked around and at last found her. He stroked her, pacified her and tried to bring back her smile - all these as payback for condemning Malati with a stern voice. All the people close to Sri Sri Thakur knew how valuable were his scoldings! They were aware of the amount of love and attention they would receive after being reprimanded. So, Sri Sri Thakur’s scoldings were blessings for them.
The following morning Sri Sri Thakur was supposed to return to Kolkata. All arrangements were made accordingly. After breakfast he would take the boat to Kandapada dockyard. All the devotees who were supposed to follow him also had their breakfast. After breakfast, Thakur got dressed, came out and sat on the armchair in the verandah. All the family members surrounded him. Their faces were devoid of smile, eyes swelled with tears and voices choked. Thakur tried to pacify everyone.
When it was time to take leave, Thakur tied the turban on his head, held his walking stick firmly and got up from his chair, ready to go. The entire family that had assembled lost control over themselves. They were motionless, grief struck at the thought of parting from their most loved person. The tears flowed relentlessly as their heart cried. Sri Sri Thakur walked a few paces towards the gate, stopped and turned around. His heart ached looking at his saddened devotees. Then he continued walking towards the boat and took his seat. Everyone followed him to the boat, waving as the boat started and looked on standing on the bank till the boat disappeared out of sight.
…to be continued
Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty’s essay, “Deeghalkandi Parivar.”