Guwahati,

Fiction

Maheswar

 Maheswar has often muttered to himself since he was an eight -year old boy that he was different from the other boys, and very convincingly he would wear an expansive grin across his mouth because of it. A seer who visited their village every six months, had once predicted, looking at a distinct mark on his forehead that Maheswar would, at a particular date and time, renounce his vanity and all forms of disdain to become a saint. 

This had at that time made several persons in his family crackle with loud guffaws, nobody would believe those silly predictions of that seer. Maheswar, had, however taken a faint lose grip on the words of that old soothsayer. His mates believed him to some extent though not too fully and so while he was in these musings, Maheswar did not see many things: he did not see the moth eaten clothes in his closet, the fungus that thrived on the cold wet walls of his bedroom or the soot hanging heavily from the ceiling of the kitchen. 
He believed that since he had glorious eyes he would see only glorious things. And so the circle of his vision closed completely around himself and only those things connected with the sacred destiny of his self and its glory - nothing beyond. Maheswar felt no need to put an end to this continuous cycle where real events did not quite traipse in. He began walking inside this universe that did not include the outside of his bones and flesh. His past was yet to be a past, it was not yet a world of other things.
And then it happened.
The rumor had a base, many thought of it that way and Maheswar's innocence was threatened in that way of thinking. It created a noisy explosion inside his head each time he thought about it. It led him to a kind of madness where he saw himself dressed like a frightened beast walking with a wild swaying of his head while a thong round his neck tried to keep him in a place. A roar followed wherever he went. 
Maheswar wanted to shrug it off but he found himself encircled more and more by some kind of cheap bangles and crepe paper thrown at him. He had wanted only to be a guest of honour at that evening's gathering with the wisdom of a Solomon, which he was sure he had in plenty. He had thought that others would herald his arrival with a warm cheer but something had suddenly snapped the delicate balance of his musings. 
Maheswar was dragged into an inquest, the indignity of that episode took away the whole purity of weight from the eight -syllables of his name and the scale of justice did not hesitate to place a tag on his name. "Traitor", they called him and he did not know how he would disprove it. It was as bad as that first time when his mother had pulled down his pants and whipped him that had made him whimper for several nights. The pelts took more than a day to leave his skin though the stain of that shame stayed with him for more than two weeks. This time it was going to be different because he was paying the price of his father's wrong deed. At first, a feeling of disgust had come over him that later turned into pity for that old man and with it his delirium went.
Maheswar was not prepared for such a cut of pain. He had suddenly disowned his place that took less than a few minutes. He became the poor devil. He had carried on him the innocence of a name and together with his delusions about his lack of faith in other things made it difficult for him to accept the truth that he has earned himself the burden of a new name-calling. This however lessened the edge out of his old habit of self praise, though he was not prepared to go without it. The feel of the thong though remained for a long time round his neck. He tried soap and water at first to remove it, later he tried vigorous scrubbing with rock salt and sand but nothing would remove that mark of shame; it hung on to him wherever he went. As he walked through crowds, he saw faces that wanted to spit at him or throw accelerated volleys of missives sneering at his foul habit and all these while his mother burned myrrh in his name to expunge him of the sores of guilt. He could see the silver plate and the candle bars all glowing gloriously for him in his room. He saw everything arrive one after the other: the wreak of his torture, the smell of failure in the snares of cobwebs that made insidious snags in each man and woman whose faces wore the disease of betrayal. The only thing that bothered him was, why did it take him so long to know it?
That night in spite of the heat in the air, he asked for a blanket - the cold sweat that ran in his veins became a shattering in his bones. His thoughts had by then lost their directions and then went his dreams; it was only a blank white sheet which he found so difficult to fill with something. The shell of his shame inside his head was beginning to break the growing wall of distances. As he walked on the bare floor, he saw his shame reflected on almost everything that showed him at a disadvantage. And he bore it alone one whole winter.
And then came the rain, it came with whistles and the accompanying song of a downpour that slowly reduced the noise of that explosion inside his head. Maheswar then heard many more things with that sound of rain. It had once like a blanket covered other shrill sounds of the night: it had removed from his ears the noise of termite gnawing at the eaves of roofs and the soft moss slowly gathering underground in cellars and attic rooms. Rain wrapped him and made him see all these things equal to one another. Everything since then became suddenly clear to him. Maheswar did not know how he was to tell all of these to others. Who would understand that he had thoroughly burned his past with the burning of that one myrrh by his mother, that all his errors had come to rest with it? Objects became impersonal things, he wished to do away with his clothes; they trapped his bones. He painted a circle on his chest where he believed his heart was; it would be easy to remove slanders from that spot. He raised his two hands and all his ten fingers separately extended at short intervals and all shouts of blasphemes then traveled through them and became quiet nothings as they settled at his feet. He could hear some voices still screaming, "He should turn to ashes, let us burn him…" He was now so far away from these things. 
He heard the creak of a sunbeam falling on a leaf. 
And just then his amazement began: a pale yellow light clicked suddenly inside his head and it opened a prism of several colors that led him toward a sensation so different from what he had ever felt before. A curiosity seized him at first led him through a maze where many things had been in disguise, it flickered and then went out.
Some men led Maheswar to the shade of a tree, others arrived too quickly, their faces unshaven smelling of the stale previous night. They were there to shout the last obscenities at him as it were they would smash him to bits with their shouting. They were as it were at a circus where one man would perform and then perish. Some signatures passed several hands and few minutes later the deed done; a verdict was passed.
Maheswar wore only a patient look in his eyes. He knew just then that the moment of taking over a pious responsibility was finally upon him. He stood up and looked into the eyes of men and each saw the same thing: a courtyard with little huts of hope, a moon luminous and little pale at the edges in the northern sky signaled toward Maheswar.  A man of faith arrived on a moonbeam. Sobbing they all knelt at his feet, chanting hymns and took his name over and over: Maheswar, Maheswar, Maheswar, and slowly their reverent mouths became soft moist and yielding. They thanked him for saving them from being fools and bitter enemy of one who was so true and holy. A smell of lavender purified the air above that ground and rain stopped to pour for that night because everything had been washed and dried and no fungus of doubt would scourge the soul of any man since that sacred night.
One shower of rain did that.