Arjun booked an Uber to start from their home. And destination? The same place.
The cab arrived and he opened the door for his grandfather- Mr Babulal Shah and helped him into the car.
The driver was confused seeing his mobile screen. He thought that there is some issue. I mean- why is the destination showing the same place? He kept trying to check his Internet connection to see whether it is a mistake or not.
“But son, where are we going? At least tell me the place. Won’t you?”
“No, Dada. It’s a date. And while going on a date- you don’t tell the place where you’re going. Right?”
“What date! Are we going to temple? A restaurant? A cafe? Where?”
“Well, we are going to everywhere. But we are not going to everywhere.”
“What does this mean? Come on, Arjun. Don’t talk like an Ashwani Bhatt’s novel. Talk to me straight. We are going everywhere but we are not going everywhere! What does this mean?”
“You will understand. Let’s start the trip. Driver uncle, I have put the next milestone of our trip. Please drive us there.”
Well, at least- driver was relieved. The car started. For a few minutes, the conversation continued between the 18 and 81 year old. But then, it stopped as the car started going into the old city area of Ahmedabad.
The face expressions had changed. The confusion had evaporated. The memories had taken place. The car kept moving slowly and slowly among the groups of people crowding on the roads. The first milestone was- The Jain Temple.
“Driver uncle, please stop here for a minute.”
“This temple! Son, this temple. This temple, son, you remember? This is where I used to come everyday before going to school. Every morning. Without missing a single day!”
“Yes, Dada. I know. But I want to know more. Tell me about this place and about your memories.”
“Well, son. The first time I visited this temple was when I was just 10 days old. My father brought me here. He had held me in his arms and helped me join my hands in front of the Idol of Lord Mahavir Swami.”, Mr Shah continued. “Well, obviously I don’t remember it. I remember it from the memories shared by my Mom and Dad.”
“And, that is how we all remember it. From the memories shared by you and Dadi. Continue please. Any specific memory about this place?”
“Well, yes. One. It happened when I was 27 years old. 22nd August. Your father’s birthday. That time, we had already moved out of this old city and had started living some 7 km away from where we are standing right now. Your Dadi was in labor since 7 in the morning. But your Dad! Your Dad I tell you. He is so slow. So lazy. It had been four hours but he hadn’t come out. Four hours, Arjun. Four hours. Even my legs had started giving up by just standing beside your Dadi for four hours. The fatigue was a lot to handle. Think of what she was going through.”
Arjun, obviously, knew of this incident. This memory. But today, today wasn’t about him. It was about Mr Babulal Shah. It was about his life. So he didn’t bother to interfere. He let him continue scroll through his memories with a smiling face, a heavy breath and a content heart.
“So I was not able to control my tears. It had already been 11 AM and there was still no progress. We were getting worried. Your Dadi was screaming in pain. And she was chanting the Navkar mantra. And I was chanting it. In fact- everyone in the room was remembering their Gods as they were not able to see this scene. At that time- I decided that “If the delivery goes okay, I will come walking to this temple (he pointed towards the temple) barefoot today.”
And it worked. Within next 25 minutes, we were blessed with a healthy, crying baby boy. And we all were overjoyed. But above all, we all were relieved. I sat beside your Dadi for an hour and had lunch. And then I slept for sometime before starting the walk towards here. It was about 5 that I started walking. So I had two hours and 7 km of walk. Doable. Right? That’s what I thought. But have I ever been more wrong than that day! I forgot to take the weather into the consideration. It had just been 15 minutes that the whole sky was covered with dark clouds.
And, though I am the most disciplined man you will ever see in your life…. Haha…. But I didn’t take umbrella with me while walking. But I didn’t have time to stop under some tree or some roof. I had to be to the temple by 6:30 or by 6:45 and not beyond that. So I kept walking. With a lessened speed. But I kept walking.
And, the winds had gotten heavier. The rains had gotten wilder. The drops were not just falling. They were trying to pierce through the soil. And my skin too. But I kept walking. And let me tell you- the timing was as close as your Dad used to be – to the passing marks.”, Arjun laughed. The driver laughed too. In fact- he had lowered the volume of the radio to listen to this conversation. The radio- by the way- was playing: Ae Zindagi, gale laga le.
Mr Shah continued. “I reached at 6:55 and two of the three doors had already been closed. I have to say- these Pujaris – the Pandits- are so punctual. I rushed into the temple from the only door that was left unlocked. I sprinted inside. I rang the Ghant (The bell) in the temple. And I stood in front of Lord Mahavir Swami. And that’s when I realized how heavy my breath was.
My hair, my clothes and now- my eyes were leaking water. The whole temple was empty. It was just me and all the Idols. I was just looking into the eyes of Lord Mahavir. I wasn’t chanting anything. I was just looking at those mesmerizing eyes and standing there. From eye to eye- we were talking. I was telling him how painful the day had been. How much your Dadi and I went through that day. I was asking him: Will it change now? Will these painful time get over? And you know what- I heard back?”
“It’s over.“, Arjun said. He couldn’t control himself from speaking it.
“Yes, exactly. It’s over. And you know that it was NOT the Lord who had said this. Right?”
“Yes, Dada. I know, it wasn’t the Lord Mahavir Swami”, Arjun said. But one person in the car didn’t know.
And he couldn’t resist. So driver asked: “Then, who said it?”
“Obviously, that Pujari.”, the 18 and 81 year old replied together.
“Hahahaha. Yes, Arjun. It was that Pujari. It was 7 PM and he was shouting while looking at me: ‘It’s over. The prayer time is over. Can you leave now?’
So this was the one of the many memories of this temple. Now, you tell me- why are we here today? And where are we going next?”
“Well, you know that I can’t tell. Right? Why can’t I tell, Dadu?”
“Because, it’s a date.”, said Babulal Shah reluctantly.
The story continues. Follow the blog to get the updates about my posts. Remember my name- “Arjuna At War (without spaces. As life is beautiful when there is no distance in between.)”
-ArjunaAtWar (Parth Shah)