‘Excuse me…Dr Sathe, is it?’
Dr Sathe looked up from his desk and saw an attractive woman in her late thirties at the door of his office. Dr Sathe waved her inside and they shook hands.
‘Good evening Dr Sathe,’ The visitor took the seat that was offered to her and continued, ‘I’m Mrs Madhavi Kothare, we spoke on the telephone earlier…regarding my brother, Mr Madan Pradhan. I have got the photographs and the other documents that you wanted…’
Madhavi held out a large, thick envelope to him.
‘Thank you Mrs Kothare, I was waiting for these…’ Dr Sathe smiled gratefully and took the envelope from her.
‘I know I should have gotten here earlier,’ Madhavi continued apologetically, ‘But I got to know of him coming here only last week. It took me a while to make arrangements at home, fly down and procure these documents…’
Dr Sathe nodded understandingly and began perusing the documents. Now and then he referred to a thick file on his table. A good thirty minutes passed before he finally looked up and said, ‘Come, let us go and talk to him’.
They exited the main building and walked into the expansive beautiful garden outside. The garden sported trees of every kind and was awash in a wide variety of brilliantly coloured flowers. It also overlooked a lush green valley and offered an excellent view of the Sahyadri range. The heavy rains so characteristic of Mahabaleshwar had ceased a few days ago and the Sun was shining warmly through the remaining clouds that lingered in the bright blue sky.
Also enjoying the view, or at least seeming to do so, was a tall, dignified gentleman at the far end of the garden. In his early-fifties, the gentleman was dressed in a kurta-pajama and stood erect and unmoving, his arms folded. His gaze was fixed at a point in the distant mountains and he had a serene expression on his face. He also seemed to be continuously muttering something.
‘It’s hard to believe something like this could have happened to him. He is after all, the most intelligent person in our entire family,’ Madhavi said to Dr Sathe as they walked towards the gentleman.
Dr Sathe looked across at Madhavi and smiled, ‘Intelligence is rarely a factor when such conditions develop, Mrs Kothare. It can happen to the best of us…’
Dr Sathe then turned and cried out to the man in question, ‘Madan, look who’s here to meet you!’
The tall gentleman turned around and his face lit up in unexpected delight. ‘Madhu! Young Madhu, I can’t believe it, is it really you!?’
Madan rushed forward and embraced his sister, his eyes wet with tears.
Madhavi returned the embrace with equal fervor and whispered, ‘Dada! I flew down as soon as I heard…’
For a moment, no words were spoken between them and then Madan suddenly released Madhavi. He turned to Dr Sathe and said, ‘Do you know, Dr Sathe, young Madhu here is my darling baby-sister, the apple of my eye! When she was a child, she loved me like she loved our own father!’
‘Believe me, Dada, I still do!’ gushed Madhavi, wiping her tears and trying to compose herself.
Dr Sathe smiled and pulled up a few chairs. He gestured to an attendant nearby. ‘Come let us sit and talk…’
They sat down and an attendant set down a tray with some tea, sandwiches and samosas on the table between them.
Madan began to talk excitedly, ‘Come Madhu, you must be hungry after your long journey, eat to your heart’s content. The samosas here are excellent. You won’t find such samosas anywhere in your San Francisco!’
As his sister laughed and picked up a samosa, Madan looked at her fondly and said to Dr Sathe, ‘Do you know, Dr Sathe, this young girl here loves samosas! When she was a child, she would make me buy her samosas every evening, because our mother would refuse to do so!’
Madan broke out into laughter, and his companions joined him.
‘In fact, Madhu, I was reminded of your love for samosas just last month, when I had been to Vrindavan. I was helping out with making samosas for the Janmashtami celebrations and I said to…wha…what’s the matter Madhu, I hope they haven’t made it too spicy…’
Madan had noticed the shocked and pained expression on his younger sister’s face. Madhavi looked awkwardly across towards Dr Sathe.
Madan followed her gaze and asked, ‘What’s the matter, Dr Sathe?’
Dr Sathe leaned forwards, placed a hand on Madan’s arm and gently shook his head.
‘No, Madan, last month you were not in Vrindavan. You were in Mumbai and you never left the city…’
‘But that is not possible, Dr Sathe, I tell you!’ Madan insisted. ‘In the third and fourth week of August, I was in Vrindavan! It was Gokulashtami, Krishna’s Birthday and I could not have missed it for the world! I had such a magnificent time, I tell you…’
‘Do you remember how you traveled to Vrindavan, Madan? Or how you returned home?’ Dr Sathe cut him short.
‘Huh? Hmm…I…well…I…I just don’t…’ Madan stared at him, and then at Madhavi, confusion written on his face. Then he closed his eyes and strained to remember.
‘You don’t remember, Madan, because you never went there...’ Dr Sathe gently told him.
‘No, No! I did go to Vrindavan, I tell you! Why don’t you people believe me?!’ Madan shook his head in frustration and looked away.
Dr Sathe took out a few photographs from the envelope that Madhavi had given him.
‘Take a look at these, Madan. These photos were taken during the week-long wedding celebrations of your cousin-brother’s daughter, which took place in Mumbai in the third week of August. Check the dates on the photographs. You are present in all of them.
And during the last week of August, you were attending a trade conference at the Taj Mahal Hotel, again in Mumbai. In fact, you even gave a speech on behalf of your company. Here are dated photographs and documents proving the same…’
Madan examined the documents carefully and sighed deeply. He looked up at Dr Sathe and said, ‘I know what this looks like, Dr Sathe, but believe me, I am not lying to you…
‘Of course you’re not, Madan, I have no doubt that you are speaking the truth.’ Dr Sathe leaned over and patted Madan on the arm.
Madan argued, ‘Then how is it that I have experienced…’
‘What you imagine you have experienced, Madan, that’s what I’m trying to prove to you,’ said Dr Sathe.
‘What you ‘experienced’ during those periods was not real. They were exquisitely detailed scenarios, all created and played out by your mind. So exquisitely detailed, that you believe them to be entirely true.
Our mind is a magical thing, Madan. It can create reality out of unreality, something that does not even exist at all. In your case, your mind conjures up days, no, entire weeks of unreal, but fabulously convincing events that include you as a participant. The scenes, your interaction with the people in those scenes, all the things you do, and even the emotions that are evoked in you during these periods are so seemingly authentic, you actually believe them to be true.
And then there are periods when you ‘wake up’, i.e. you return to the present, the reality. You swing alternately between these episodes of reality and unreality.
But you retain the memories of those false events. In fact, in your case, the ‘memories’ of those false events appear to completely replace your memories of the actual events that occurred during that period. That is why you don’t remember attending your niece’s wedding function or your trade conference, because you falsely believe that you were in Vrindavan at that time.
My job as a psychiatrist is to try and get you to recognize what is real and what is unreal. It may take some time, but with some medication, some effort on your part and with my help, you should be able to differentiate between what is true and what is false. Finally, one day, you will be able to identify these imaginary events as false and then choose to ignore them; reject that unreality that is messing up your life!’
And now, I must leave you two to catch up with each other, I have a few telephone calls to make. I’ll be back later…’
Dr Sathe patted Madan on his shoulder, picked up his mobile phone and left.
A few minutes passed in silence. Madhavi looked dejectedly at the ground, and Madan looked sadly into the distance.
‘They think I’m mad, don’t they, Madhu? They think I’ve gone delusional, started hearing and seeing things that don’t exist.’
Madhavi said nothing.
Madan suddenly looked at Madhavi and said softly, ‘Do you think I’ve gone mad, Madhu?’
Madhavi looked up at his brother and then away, trying to avoid his gaze. ‘Of course not Dada, but…’
‘But you don’t believe me, do you?’ asked Madan.
Madhavi wrung her hands in frustration, ‘I can’t help it Dada. All this sounds so fantastic! I mean, Lord Krishna, Vrindavan, the Gopis…’
‘But it’s all real, Madhu, please believe me!’ Madan looked at her pleadingly. ‘It’s all exactly like in the stories our mother used to tell us in our childhood; only on a scale and magnificence that I cannot even begin to describe!
Madhavi reached out and grasped Madan’s hand, ‘But describe it to me, Dada…What do you see, what do you hear?’
‘What can I describe to you Madhu…How shall I describe it to you?!’ Madan looked helplessly across at her.
‘How can I describe the heart-stopping beauty of what I experience? How can I describe the tinkling sound of the jangling cowbells when the cows run towards their beloved Krishna? Or the sheen of the sweat on the smiling, blissful faces and bodies of the Gopis when they dance with Him? How can I describe the intensity of the adoration that fills the eyes of that ravishing Radhika, when she gazes into the eyes of her eternal Lover, Krishna!
And Krishna Himself?! He is beyond description, Madhu; His eyes, His lips, the flute that seems to come alive in His hands. And the sound that emanates from it that cleaves my very soul. And the…You still don’t believe me, do you?’
Madhavi was looking at him resignedly, ‘I don’t know what to say.’
Madan merely nodded with a smile and looked away.
‘Come on Madan, It’s time for dinner now…’ The cheerful voice of a Nurse made them turn towards her.
Madan sighed and got up to go. ‘I’ll see you in the morning. You are staying here tonight aren’t you? I believe they have guest rooms for visitors.’
Madhavi nodded and hugged him, ‘Goodnight Dada, sleep well…’
Madan kissed her on the forehead and left with the nurse.
Madhavi gazed at them till they disappeared into the building and wiped a tear away with her handkerchief. She soon became aware of the presence of Dr Sathe who had just arrived.
She turned to him, ‘Doctor, do you think my brother can be healed?’
Dr Sathe frowned and sighed, ‘Well, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact I’ve had to consult a few other specialists about his case. You see, his symptoms do not fit into any particular type of illness.
One thing’s for sure, he does not do it on purpose, i.e. he is not faking it. His descriptions of the events are too elaborate and detailed; he actually lives those events in his mind.
It is possible however, that his mind is using these imaginary events, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to escape from some pain or unhappiness. But then he should be displaying at least some signs of depression when he is with us. But even when he is in the present, he is very happy. In fact all the inmates and staff love him for his sweet, helpful and enthusiastic nature. And yet…’
‘Could it be because of loneliness, Doctor? After all, he lives alone and has remained unmarried, and I live in the United States. And he is not the very extrovert types that he should go out and…’
Then suddenly as if it had just struck her, ‘Could it be because of some…woman?’
‘Actually, despite my considerable probing, he has never expressed anything to suggest that…In fact, his history has always seemed to suggest that he is content living alone and happy with life in general. Of course, he may be concealing some data from me…’
‘Doctor, I do not mean to offend you,’ Madhavi said hesitantly, ‘I have my fullest confidence in you and my brother seems very happy here, but if you feel that he would benefit from treatment abroad, I would be most delighted to take him with me to San Francisco. By the Grace of God, my husband and I are very comfortably off and we would find no difficulty in getting him the best treatment available there.
He can even move in with us for always. In any case he was due for retirement in another few years and I had planned on asking him to come and stay with us, instead of staying here alone like this.’
Madhavi leaned forward and continued, ‘You see Dr Sathe, my Dada is everything to me and I would do anything to see him happy…’
Once more, a tear stole into the corner of her eye.
Dr Sathe smiled and patted her on the arm, ‘Please don’t worry, Mrs Kothare, Madan is very happy over here and we are making some progress with him, albeit slowly. You can go back home tomorrow with the conviction that he is in good hands. I shall be in constant touch with you on email regarding him.
But I also give you my word, that if at any point I feel he needs a more advanced level of care, I shall not hesitate to inform you about the same, and then you are welcome to take him away with you to the US. Despite my professionalism, I too have found myself drawn towards him and nothing would make me happier than to see him get well.
And as for his type of psychiatric illness, I am convinced that he does not and will never pose any threat to himself or anyone else, either at home or in society. So if the need arises for you to take him to the US, I’m sure you will not need to institutionalize him over there. He can stay at your home and continue taking his treatment.’
Madhavi sighed with relief, ‘Thank you Dr Sathe, I am truly indebted to you. And please spare no effort for his sake, whatever the cost.’
‘Yes, I promise you, we will do whatever it takes. Come now, let us go inside. It’s getting late, and it looks like it is going to start raining again. The receptionist at the front desk will take to the dining hall for dinner and show you your room at our guest house.’
The next morning, Madhavi was directed to Madan’s room. A pleasant faced nurse was just leaving the room and she met Madhavi outside. ‘You can go in now, he’s breakfasted, bathed and ready for the day!’ she chirped.
Madhavi spoke to the nurse for a few minutes and then entered the room. It was a simple but comfortable room with a single bed, a writing desk and couple of chairs. A large window offered a view of the garden. Almost as a final defiant act before it departed for a year, the rain was pelting down on the foliage, obscuring the visibility of anything beyond 10 feet.
Madan was standing at the window, looking out at the rain, and wiping his head with a bath towel.
‘Good morning Dada, how are you today?’
‘Drenched, and far from a little indignant!’ Madan turned towards her, his face flush with annoyance, but with a paradoxical smile of mirth.
Madhavi smiled at him. ‘What happened, Dada?’
‘That incorrigible Gopala!’ Madan shook his head and then laughed, as if speaking of a beloved but naughty child.
He continued with fervor, ‘And it is not as if I had not warned Him! The sky was practically black with clouds. But does He ever listen to anyone?! Must keep my word, said He. Something about a promise made by Him to Radha about exchanging gifts this very day.
I pleaded with Him, “Look at the clouds, can’t this wait?” I asked. But He merely pleaded right back at me with one of His bewitching smiles. And you know, Madhu, who can resist His smile?
So off we went, Him and myself looking for that particular Mogara-flowering tree. We began to run deeper and deeper into the forest and I shouted to Him, ‘Won’t any Mogara tree do?’
‘No, He yelled back, ‘The flowers from that particular tree are very dear to Radha. And they possess a fragrance that is as enchanting as Radha Herself! Make haste Madan, we mustn’t be late.’
And so we made haste and finally found that tree. Gopala wasted no time in plucking the choicest, most beautiful flowers from it. 108 flowers, He said, Radha likes that number. I helped Him thread them together on a string He had brought with him, into the form of a lovely hair-garland.
Then He made one more, identical to the first.
‘For any of My other beloved girl-friends if required…To convince her that all is well, and not to worry because after all, My Devotees are always with Me and I am always with them. And I shall always be by her side as well…’ He said with a mischievous smile.
I nodded understandingly.
You see Madhu, many of His Gopi girlfriends are jealous about His affection for Radha, so if He met one of them on the way, He would have to placate her with a similar gift, wouldn’t He?’
Madhavi stared at her brother with tears in her eyes, an expression of both fascination and sadness writ on her face.
Madan however continued unperturbed, ‘We sped towards the clearing in the forest where Radha was to meet Gopala. She was already waiting for him.
They must have met a thousand times before, Madhu, but Radha rushed towards Him and embraced Him as if She was never going to see Him again.
Gopala then asked her to turn around and close her big innocent eyes. He then fastened the flower-garland to her beautiful hair. Oh Madhu! How can I describe the look of adoration and devotion in Her eyes when He did that. For a long while, Her gaze would lovingly alternate between the flowers that now adorned her long flowing braid, and the smiling face of Krishna!
Then Radha suddenly remembered and excitedly said, ‘Look Kanha, look what I’ve got for you!’
She gave him a beautiful peacock feather, which He promptly stuck into His headband.
It was then that She noticed me standing at a distance. She gave me a smile so loving, it brought tears to my eyes. She beckoned me to come closer, Her eyes overflowing with tenderness and warmth.
I’ve got something to eat for both of you,’ She said, and opened a small lunch-box that She had brought with her.
Almost as if to suit our convenience, the clouds parted a bit and allowed the moon to bathe us and our surroundings with his ethereal silver light. We huddled together under a big Banyan tree, lest it started raining. Radha had brought Pohe and curds. She fed me and Gopala Herself with Her own hand, Madhu! I was so overcome with emotion!
We finished and complimented Radha on the excellent meal. Then She said that She had to leave because it was already quite late. We watched Her go till she was out of sight. Then Gopala put His arm around my shoulder and we turned to head back home.
Suddenly there was a crash of thunder and lightning and the clouds broke over our heads. It turned pitch black and the rain began pelting down on us. We started to run in the direction of our homes. Once in a while, a flash of lightening would light up the dense trees and bushes in front of us making them appear like eerie ghost-like figures.
Gopala held my hand tightly as we ran though the darkness. ‘Don’t worry, I know the way,’ He yelled above the deafening sound of the rain. I sped on with Him, ignoring the cold rivulets of water that were now pouring down my head over my eyes, ears, mouth and drenching my already rain-soaked body…’
‘And then you suddenly found yourself in your room, wiping your head with your towel…’
Madhavi’s voice suddenly brought Madan out of his reverie and he turned his head towards her. For a minute, he struggled to comprehend what had happened.
Then he sighed and sat down on his bed.
Madhavi went and sat next to him. She said quietly, ‘Dada, the meal of Pohe and curds is what you, and everybody in this building had for breakfast this morning. And the rivulets of water that streamed down your face were from the shower-bath you had in the morning, not from the rain. The nurse told me that you were bathing for almost 20 minutes. In fact she had to check on you to see if everything was all right.’
Madan sighed once more and gazed out of the window.
Madhavi took his hands in hers and said to him worriedly, ‘Dada, my only fear is that one day, you will forget me as well!’
Then she began to sob uncontrollably.
Madan turned towards her and pulled her close to him. ‘Silly girl, what an abominable idea! How can you say something like that!’
He lifted her chin and smiled, ‘How can I ever forget you Madhu? Do you know, Krishna and I have talked so often about you and…’
Madhavi pulled herself away from him, still crying, and almost screamed at him in frustration, ‘Please, Dada, enough! Please… Why don’t you understand, Dada, I can’t see you like this! Why can’t you come back to the real world?!’
Then realizing that she was, after all, talking to someone who could not help himself, she stifled her sobs, took a few deep breaths and tried to regain her composure.
Her voice was quiet when she spoke again, ‘Dada, I just want to see you happy…’
‘But I am happy, Madhu, believe me. I am happier you would ever believe…’ Madan smiled and squeezed her hand.
Madhavi held his hand and continued earnestly, ‘But even then, Dada, I want you to know that I have already talked to Dr Sathe. If in the future, he feels that you need to…well…um…come and stay with us, promise me that you will do so. I shall be very angry with you if you refuse…’
Madan nodded and smiled, ‘Yes I promise, my darling.’
Madhu then hugged him tightly and got up to leave. ‘I must be off then. I have get back to Mumbai and catch the flight back home. But I will be in touch, OK? And take care…’
She brushed away a few tears that had suddenly reappeared in her eyes and turned to go.
At she opened the door, Madhavi heard Madan calling her. She turned to look at him. Madan was smiling, but looking at her intently.
‘In a few months from now, Dr Sathe will write to you saying that he could not cure my illness and will request you to take me away with you. This will happen because I am not ill in the first place. And Madhu, I must tell you once again, the events that I describe are not imaginary…’
Madhavi gave him a watery smile and nodded.
Then she closed the door behind her softly and left.
Madhavi could not sleep during the entire journey back to San Francisco. She kept thinking of what had happened, why it must have happened and what could be done about it.
She was relieved in a way; it was not as bad as she had expected. When her cousin brother from Mumbai had called her a week ago to tell her that her Dada was suffering from some unknown psychiatric illness, and had been shifted to a Psychiatric Nursing Home in Mahabaleshwar, Madhavi had expected the worst. After meeting Dr Sathe, she realized that apart from the imaginary events that Dada seemed to be lost in once in a while, it was not all that bad.
At least for now, she mused.
But why? Why had such an illness afflicted him at all?
Yes, it must have been loneliness. In his frequent emails to her, he had never sounded lonely or depressed. But her brother was the type who never complained about anything. And what else could it be?
The thought arose in her mind once more; could it be a woman…an unsuccessful relationship that had pushed him into this condition of denial of reality? Which made him escape into a world where he felt secure, loved and happy…
Whatever the case, her Dada needed her now, Madhavi decided. He needed to know she was there for him and that he was not alone in the world. She wiped her tears and made her plans. She would give Dr Sathe a few months to try his luck. In the meantime she would make arrangements to take her beloved brother back with her to the US.
Where he would get treatment from the best psychiatrists in the world. Where he would spend the rest of his life in her tender loving care. Where he would spend his evenings chatting with her and her husband. Where her young children would sit on his back and play horsie, and make him tell them stories about Krishna. Just like the stories their mother used to tell them when they were children.
Madhavi suddenly remembered the rain-in-the-forest story her Dada had told her in his room that morning. She remembered the intensity and vividness with which he had described it. Then she remembered the sheer ecstasy and bliss on her Dada’s face when he was relating his tale. Despite the situation, she could not help smiling at the memory. She had never seen him so happy before.
But then again, how could he go on living in an illusory world like this, however pleasant?
And then of all the persons, it had to happen to Dada, when it could easily have been me in his place, Madhavi thought grimly. What a paradox…
For as youngsters, her brother was nowhere as religious as she was. He would pray and meditate for a few minutes every day. He would also indulge in some philosophy once in a while, but Madhavi was miles ahead where religiousness was concerned.
Every day, she would wake up at the crack of dawn and follow a rigid two-hour pooja and japa-meditation schedule. She would observe all the necessary fasts and read a portion of the Bhagavad Gita every day.
However, over the years following her marriage and then after moving to the United States, she had found herself slowly faltering in her devotional practice, and a time came when she would actually have to try and remember to say her prayers.
Thinking about prayer reminded her of that option. ‘I wonder if He’d listen to me,’ thought Madhavi as she thought of Lord Krishna. Why not, after all, it was Lord Krishna whom her brother imagined being with all the time. Hopefully, that same Lord Krishna would consider him a special case and heal him.
Madhavi closed her eyes and began to pray. She opened her eyes only when the pilot announced that they were now about to land at the San Francisco International Airport.
Madan Pradhan stood unmoving at the window, looking out of it. It continued to rain incessantly and the outside world looked like a collection of vague ill-formed objects set against a gray-white hazy background.
He gazed out intently at the world outside, trying to voluntarily escape to the place he had now been visiting for the past several months.
But it didn’t work that way. No matter how much he tried, he could not do so at will. The invitation had to come from that world itself. From Krishna Himself.
Krishna allows me access to His world only when He wishes to meet me, not the other way around, he thought ruefully.
‘When will you allow me into Your world again, Krishna?’ Madan sighed longingly. He craved to visit it again.
And why not, thought Madan. It was a place without hatred, strife, war, poverty, terrorism…devoid of impermanent, pointless joys and sorrows. It was a place of eternal peace, happiness and bliss. In the loving company of Krishna and His Devotees.’
‘Why can’t you come back to the real world?!’ Madhavi’s words echoed in his mind.
‘Which is the real world Madhu?’ Madan said softly, ‘Your world or mine?’
As he was to turn away to go to bed, Madan heard a sound at the window. Madan turned to see a bright-eyed teenaged boy outside the window, grinning cheekily, His wet hair in disarray across His bluish-complexioned forehead.
‘Where did you go off to? Come on outside…it’s absolutely marvelous! C’mon, everyone’s waiting for you…’ And so saying He grabbed Madan’s arm and pulled him out of the window into the rain-soaked world…
A second later, a nurse peeped inside the room to check on Madan. She found him sitting on his bed, unmoving, gazing out of the window and completely lost in thought. She shook her head sadly and left.
Madhavi could not sleep that night. And it was not the jet-lag. She could not still get over the condition her beloved brother was in. Much as she tried, she could not allay her own fears that one day, her Dada might deteriorate into one of those unfortunate people who completely lose touch with reality.
She tossed and turned and finally got out of her bed, careful not to wake up her husband.
She pulled on her sweater and stepped out into the garden in front of her palatial villa. The sky was clear and a large moon shone down on her. She hugged herself in the cold Pacific breeze that was blowing in from the west.
The garden was quiet and she found herself relaxing in its ambience. She seated herself on a garden bench near her favorite flower-beds, trying to sort things out.
It was no use worrying, and there was in fact nothing to worry about because it was not all that bad, she told herself.
Now all she had to do was actually believe it.
Tears brimmed in her eyes once more and she fought to keep them back. But it was no use. She felt frustrated, helpless and utterly dejected. She loved her brother dearly, and she felt incapable of helping him. She sighed looked around her in despair, hoping that something in her garden would offer her some solace.
It was then that she saw it.
She got up slowly and moved towards it. It was delicately balanced on a branch of a tree a short distance away. It had almost escaped her attention, but it swung gently in the breeze almost beckoning to her. Her teary eyes grew wide with confusion as she gently took it in her hands, even as a small unidentified bell began ringing in the deep recesses of her mind.
Madhavi hastened back with it to the garden seat. She felt a shiver run down her spine as she ran her fingers over the beautiful hair-garland. Each of its fragrant flowers shone like a diamond in the bluish moonshine.
Suddenly, realization hit her and she gasped audibly. She held her breath as she counted the number of the flowers on the garland.
At the final count of 108, Madhavi gasped again and closed her eyes tightly, unable to breathe normally. She found herself incapable of speaking, thinking and moving for a while.
Without the most mind-numbing explanation, such an object had no business being here, on a tree in her garden in San Francisco.
Out of the blue, the words materialized in her mind:
‘For any of My other beloved girl-friends if required…To convince her that all is well, and not to worry because after all, My Devotees are always with Me and I am always with them. And I shall always be by her side as well…’
Madhavi felt a warm sense of peace envelope her entire being. She opened her eyes and looked up at the sky and saw the moon beaming down on her, as if it too had been aware of the secret all along. She smiled at it, her despair now completely gone.
She did not worry about her Dada anymore. There was no need to; she had Lord Krishna’s word for it.
Madhavi got up and carefully fastened the flower garland to her hair. Then smiling, she went back into her house.
“Which is the real world, Madhu, your world or mine”
Madan’s question is deeply intriguing indeed. His world, or ours?
According to Lord Krishna (Bhagavad Gita 1.16), that which is impermanent, lacks endurance is unreal and the opposite of the same is real, eternal.
Is the world we live in, the real world? Where everything, including all forms of living beings, experiences, joys and sorrows take birth and die within days, months, years or decades at best?
Imagine the world Madan lives in…no, despite what I’ve written in the above story, in our position, it is just not possible to imagine the scale and magnificence of what it must feel like, to be with Lord Krishna Himself, and actually be a part of His Leelas! That world, full of bliss and happiness, is free from the influence of Time itself!
That world fits the definition of a 'Real World' in the Bhagavad Gita, to the last letter.
There have been lucky individuals, Saints, Devotees, who have been fortunate like Madan, to experience the same. And all of them are unanimous in their opinion:
This world stinks.
This world does not hold a candle to what is there in the spiritual world and is temporary and illusory; it is unreality defined.
Sometimes, a writer put down his own fantasies on paper. So maybe I am trying to live my fantasies through Madan. Trying to get a feel of what it must be to see my yet unseen but beloved best Friend Krishna face to face and interact with Him.
I sorely envy Madan. He can do all that I can’t, and all that I will probably never be able to do in the next innumerable lives. And although Madan is a creation of my imagination, I still sorely envy him.
There was one time when writing this story, that I was moved to tears myself. The scene where Radha notices Madan, lovingly calls him to come closer to Her and Krishna and then feeds them both with Her own hand. I must confess that I actually sat back from my laptop, closed my eyes and relished the scene again and again, tears brimming in my eyes. How I envied Madan at that time! How overwhelmingly wonderful it must be to be the recipient of Her love, Her mercy…
There… it’s happened to me again…
So there are people like Madan who get a chance to visit the real world. Is it possible for us to do so? Yes. There is a way.
But since you are reading these words on this website, you are already on the path to finding out the same…congratulations!
And Hare Krishna!