Gautam had been living a mile or two inside the forest away from his kingdom. Well ex-kingdom. Gautam had just turned a ‘seeker’. So, once a week his mother would send a chariot laden with fruits and some of Gautam’s favorite food. Anandini, a maid in the palace known to Gautam, would accompany the food along with chariot driver. She would place the food decently in his hut, generally look around for any cleaning to tidying up to be done, collect brass and gold utensils and leave.
Gautam would breath in deeply and Anand would start checking out the packages. As the cling-clang sounds of the chariot bells would fade out and dissolve into the sound of evening birds and waking night crickets. Other meditating men would emerge from the distant foliage and approach Gautam’s hut for a meal that would support them for one week.
One day when the maid was arranging the food in the hut, she started a conversation with Gautam. She was speaking while going up and down between the chariot and various corners of the hut. Garlands and yellow flowers had been sent from the palace, because of Makar Sankranti. She placed them all around making the hut very pretty, fragrant and misfit for the forest. Gautam neither objected nor appreciated. The conversation kept going. Anadini was very unlike other maids. She seemed much brighter than others. She was inquiring about areas that would make her a seeker herself. Her ideas were being sharpened where they lacked clarity. Gradually she got so hooked that she sat down in front of her ex-master and continued. That would have been impossible in the palace.
Gradually sounds in jungle started changing, from birds to night crickets and then fowls. Sound of wolfs howls and foxes scampering also were heard as the last of sun light bid good bye to red sky and the day. The horse shook his head wildly resulting in loud alarm bells. With a jolt Anandini came out of her trance. She realized Gautam did not remind her to leave earlier. She quickly rose and started walking briskly towards the chariot. Then stopped a moment later, turned back and said, “my lord, this conversation was like having sex. May be better.” Only after her smile and giggle got registered in the ambiance of the forest did the form of chariot faded out in the blackness.
It was too late for the other meditating saints to come up and eat.
The warmth of the summer morning sun made everything refreshing. Everyone arrived at the hut, with cheering of the birds. Gautam was gently pacing outside his decked up hut. Anand promptly indicated everyone to be seated. He then kept all the food in the center. Gautam sat in the middle of the hut door. To his and other’s mild surprise this time there was a woman ‘bhikshu’ also among them. She picked up a guava and ate it with a lot of respect for it. Gautam asked her about herself. She said she was from a kingdom at the distance two days walk from there. She had plans to move further north after few days break. She said she hadn’t eaten well for two days. Since she took a halt, as she noticed lot of fruit laden trees around there. She decided to replenish her body before moving into the unknown. Gradually everyone went their way but she stayed with the conversation that was on, between her and Gautam. They both had shut their eyes and were speaking. Gradually their responses to each other kept getting softer and the gaps between them grew longer. A patch of sun descended and sat on Gautam’s face. His face seemed to emit that light. Bhikshuni felt the flux of light and growing heat. She opened her eyes and noticed Gautam’s face had turned white. She could barely notice his features. The face seemed like a ball of light. She wondered who this person was! She decided to leave the hut and go to her corner of the forest. After Gautam came out of his trance, he remembered the conversation with that unknown ‘bhikshuni’.
A week after ‘Sankranti’ late morning the rhythmic sound of horses hoofs and bells emerged over the bustling forest ambiance. Birds had stopped bothering about the chariot as a foreign object that appeared every week and vanished after a while, leaving behind a load of welcome leftovers for them to feed on.
Next week again, Anandini got down. She did a respectful ‘namaskar’ to Gautam and Anand and started unloading the food baskets. Saints started appearing. This time she noticed a woman too in a white ‘dhoti’. Anandini was surprised, rather shocked. Like clockwork everyone sat, ate respectfully and left, including the female saint. Anandini seemed out of her depth. She collected empty brass-ware and other disposable material and placed them in the chariot. Her steps were feeling heavy as she moved to climb up two steps. She sat in. Gautam was still inside the hut, but could be seen. As driver hinted to the horse to move, Gautam said, “Anandini I had sex with that ‘bhikshuni’, you saw”. Anandini’s face turned white. She tried to find Gautam’s gaze but couldn’t. She couldn’t get off the chariot and ask him what did that mean! Chariot moved and carried with it all its rich sounds…
After a while Gautam felt a pinch of concern about something. I hope Anandini remembers her own words, “my lord, this conversation was like having sex. May be better.”