Carpenter’s Grave (P-5)

Blood was flowing all over on the rough stone floor. Suyesh and his three followers were chained to uneven dirty walls of a prison cell. They were bleeding from their numerous wounds. A couple of tired soldiers were resting with whips in their hands.

Earlier a court had been summoned in the middle of the night of Suyesh’s arrest. After a short hearing sleepy judges pronounced him and his friends, enemies of the state, guilty of treason that were plotting to topple the legitimate kingdom. They said that Suyesh especially was doing it by misguiding the innocent and ignorant subjects of the kingdom of Amor. The court had awarded death to all four by crucifying them on the crosses. They announced the sentence was harsh since the crime was severe. They could have been simply beheaded. But the court thought differently. Their death had to be seen as lesson for people of this kind. Sentence was to be carried out next day…

On the day of Suyesh and his follower’s arrest; much after the sounds of speeding heavy hoofs had died down, a shadow emerged from behind a large tree. It looked around at the empty space and scattered things. The shadow’s right hand was placed carefully and firmly under the bulging stomach. The shadow bent down carefully to gather what was left behind of some importance. Slowly a few other shadows emerged from the hiding. Slowly they also picked up few things from ground and then went back to the darkness of a thick tree. Ironically it was also the darkest day of their life. After conferring for some time, all of them started chopping their beard with a pair of scissors. Everyone chopped off their long hair also, including the pregnant woman. They threw the hair and their skull caps in a fire. Now they looked like normal Amorans. The sky was getting brighter. They set off for Amor from a different and longer route. By the time they reached Amor many more had joined them. Nearly 100 of Suyesh’s followers reached Amor, all looking like Amorans. They merged themselves into the market places, but stayed in each other’s vision. There seemed a lot of excitement among people. Many soldiers were on duty scattered all around. It seems nobody was going to work that day. They were informed that the king had approved two days holidays for everyone. As Sunday was till two days away, they were told to come to work on Monday. Today a traitor was to be crucified in public view.

In a lane, close by, a huge crowd was waiting for the criminals to pass carrying their crosses. Soon enough they heard loud excited noises of “shame shame”. The group appeared in a distance. They were walking casually in that direction. Everyone’s heart sank to infinite depths on watching badly bloodied bodies of Suyesh and three other men. A crown made from barbed wire had been pushed into Suyesh’s head. The blood from those wounds was constantly flowing onto his calm face. The crosses were heavy. Condemned criminals were falling and rising up as they negotiated the steep climb of the lane. Thick black shawl barely showed Mandakini’s eyes. She was also in short hair. She hinted someone to move towards the hill. That’s where it was all going to end, at the city grave yard. The group separately moved quietly and swiftly. They kept looking back at their saints, now pronounced criminals.

At the grave yard too, people were collecting in large numbers. This is where main action was to be performed. The group merged itself among other Amorans. By evening the tired bloodied bodies reached the plateau of the climb and end of their journey. Swiftly the soldiers took over. They started the process of hammering everyone to their crosses. No normal human being could dare to look at the cruel site, even for a moment. Everyone in the group was weeping with covered faces. It was very dangerous to cry in public view. Nobody must sympathize with such criminals.

In front of a large gathering the procedure started. It took quite long to hammer Suyesh and others to their crosses and then hoist them up. Nobody was hammered in the head, since it would hurry their death. The agony had to be enhanced and elongated for Amorans to see punishment for the traitors. In the end all the four crosses were secured into the ground and workers left, leaving only the security personnel behind.

Late evening King Vikram himself came over and approved the arrangements. He gave a short speech about the devious plans of these criminals. After he went away, most of the soldiers too left, except a few guarding the crosses. All the crucified bodies were still breathing.

During one of many glances Mandakini managed to take at Suyesh; once she suddenly felt that her eyes locked with Suyesh’s eyes. She noticed a faint smile crossed his lips. She knew he noticed her. He made no gesture, could not do so. Nobody expects any gesture from a man nailed to a cross. This fraction of a moment, meeting of the eyes started a huge storm in Mandakini’s heart. She told the group about it at night. She told them that Suyesh should not be allowed to remain in a land where he is considered a criminal. He must be brought back among the people who loved him and shared his vision. They all agreed. The men set about planning, what to do and when.

On second day, city doctors announced all the crucified men dead. The crosses were lowered, the bodies released and buried in the graves that were ready to receive them. Some people came forward to drop a customary handful of mud. With partly hidden faces some men from Suyesh’s group too dropped the mud and carefully watched the location of the grave, it’s depth, noted the white cloth that covered the body. After the burials, everyone left. No onlookers, no soldiers, no spies. There was nothing to be done, nothing to guard. It was a good sign. It was Saturday. Men decided that Sunday would be the perfect day to carry out their plans. Since it would be the last holiday after the burial, every official of the kingdom would be busy celebrating their success with food and wine…

With the precision of nature, the group reached the grave at 2 at night on Sunday, dug it up, lovingly took hold of Suyesh’s body, rearranged the mud, dropped some flowers on other graves and disappeared…

During the day some drunken soldiers came to watch the site where they had stood guard and witnessed an extreme drama three days ago. They were shocked to see the flowers on the graves. It was a crime! The news spread. Soon an army of soldiers came. They checked out the flowers. They also noted that Suyesh’s grave looked ruffled. King was informed, who arrived in the company of the Army General. They ordered the grave to be dug open.

Soon the bloodied white cloth appeared. It was stretched across the body, like it was on Friday. On a hint a soldier pulled the cloth off, revealing the shape of a body made in mud!

Kingdom of Amor (P-3)

Village of Suyesh was part of a very rich kingdom called Amor. It had a large part of continent under its rule. Kingdom had a large, well equipped and powerful army and administrative staff. Except for heavy taxes and compulsory public attendance at king’s palace temple, Amorans were generally considered happy.

One fine day the ministers of the king Vikram started becoming restless due to continuously declining numbers of Amorans in the temple. Vikram was a reasonable king but his deputies did not like the dwindling attendance from nearby villages, especially from Jandera. They were lesser number of silver coins in the donation box and fewer gifts of rice bags for the temple. They were also losing their peace of mind thinking that those commoners perhaps had found better things to do, than to just pay obeisance to the king. The paintings of King’s ancestors now looked down at king’s forlorn space of a near empty temple.

Blame for this phenomenon were placed on the popularity of Suyesh. They felt humiliated by the fact that the king was losing his shine to a mere village carpenter. Most worrying part was that even people living in the city of Amor were beginning to get attracted to this carpenter who was always seen in just a dirty white cloth wrapped around his waist! Jewels in the crown of the king, his silk robe and throne of gold, no more impressed the fools of Jandera. They wondered why. If too many people moved out to the villages from Amor, then the taxes too may start falling short. Of course nothing like that was happening as yet. But, the paying obeisance to the king was important too. For many years villagers had known that King Vikram’s ancestors had taken good care of the village ancestors. For this reason Vikram was treated like a god. Now the halo behind his head created with carefully hidden oil lamps was getting no one’s notice. For those greedy administrators and politicians it was a matter of great concern. The importance of kingdom’s royal office had to be restored.

Suyesh had to be stopped!

King’s deputies put forth their observation to the king, ‘O most powerful, our god, lord of Amor…’ King heard them in silence and dismissed them with a loud ‘no’. Deputies persisted. It took almost a year’s persuasion to establish Suyesh as a threat to the kingdom to extract ‘yes’ nod from Vikram.
They sent a team of sleuths to observe what was happening in Suyesh’s meetings. They wondered if he was plotting to topple the king and expose the corruption in temple donations. They came back with news that in the last meeting there were a whopping 50000 people listening to Suyesh. But he was not a type to be a threat to the king or anyone else. But certainly you cannot deny the popularity of the man. It may not be a good idea to take action against Suyesh or his team. Someone suggested, ‘but we should discourage the Amorans who visit him regularly’. ‘Good idea’, others agreed. Let us start…

Late at night there was knock on the door of a middle class Amoran house. A bleary eyed old man opened the door to find a royal soldier. A horse cart was waiting. Dragged by the guards, the old man found himself in the cart. Old man tried to question them but he was snubbed. The cart stopped at the ‘offense control center’ and they went in.
‘Why do you go to attend Suyesh discourses?’
Hearing Suyesh’s name old man relaxed and opened up, ‘oh, you want to know about Suyesh? He is so impressive. Sir you should also come with me one day. You will see all your problems in life will vanish in a snap.’
‘No nothing of that sort. King Vikram is very upset with many of you Amorans who are not attending temple rituals.’
‘Sorry sir. But I do pay my taxes on time always.’
‘It’s not about taxes.’
‘Sir, do you want to restrict my movements? You are telling me where I should or should not go at this old age. We need peace now. And that is perfect place for us to be. Sir, I strongly recommend you too listen to him once and ask him any question you want. He will have a good answer for you…’ A stinging slap rang across his face. Sleeping birds perched high up, fluttered. He did not know what happened. Next he found himself lying on the ground, all confused. He started getting a feeling of wetness in the corner of his lips. Looking at the soldier with scare and shock, he wiped it with the sleeve of his shirt. Another soldier lifted him roughly and made him stand again.

Across the street, outside the offense control center everything was quiet, except frequent sounds of slaps, groans, falls and then crying. Finally figure of the old man tumbled out of the door and slowly tried to negotiate the steps to come down. A soldier was giving him instructions with his index finger pointed at him.

Wife of the old man had been worried sick. Her husband had left the bed to answer the door and never came back. It was almost morning. Two women from neighborhood were trying to comfort her, when they heard the sound of the door being pushed. Then they heard a soft knock. Old lady rushed. She was facing her all bloodied and badly ruffled husband.

In the large empty office, king was in a secret meeting with security officers. He looked very unhappy while listening to last night’s report. From a distance you could make out whether he was angry with the soldiers for beating up an innocent Amoran or disturbed with the strength of Suyesh’s popularity, which was displayed through the old man.

In both cases king Vikram of Amor was in serious trouble.

Sucharit/Suyesh (P-2)

It must have been nearly 20 years after that adventurous evening, when I met those three saints and also witnessed the dramatic scene of a pregnant woman delivering a baby, who then shockingly was forced to abandon it in the middle of the dense forest.

My village Jandera had got its name from its own population; because all of them followed one faith and ideology called ‘Godaism’. Jandera was under the kingdom of King Vikram, who ruled from the capital city of Amor.

Jandera was very lucky to have a young villager who had become well known for his spell binding discourses. Even nearby villages were buzzing with news of this young boy’s abilities. His speeches had become very popular. He did not talk about the religion or scriptures, but about practical issues of how to lead a simple and uncomplicated life. People were visiting him in herds, because the boy had practical answers to everyone’s day to day problems. They asked him various house hold, health or relationships related questions and he offered them long term easy solutions. He never said, ‘I will give you something’. Instead he said, ‘you have it all in you. You have all the solutions inside you; you just have to learn how to discover them’. Due to this the flock was getting self-empowered, especially women. Many of the listeners now wanted to stay with him as long as they could, to learn the art of living, the art of staying happy and be confidant! But he would always refuse such offers, ‘you have to take care of your own life and family. No one should turn away from his basic duties. All you have to do is do your job well and lead an honest life’. In spite of this people just kept walking behind him; there was no way to stop them. His disciples were growing every day!

The boy’s name was Sucharit – man of good character. Strangely his huge popularity got him another name, ‘Suyesh’ or the one who is famous for good reasons. Sucharit was about 20 years old. He was tall, had a lean muscular body. His beard grew a little scanty. His curly hair was up to his shoulders. He was mostly seen in a white cloth wrapped around his waist and a pleasant expression on his thin face.

Like everyone else, Sucharit too followed a near 2000 year old religion called Godaism. Followers of Godaism believed that the universe was created and governed by a single omnipresent, omnipotent power called, God. He lived with three old men, who were carpenters. Yes, these were the same three saints had rescued this howling baby boy, from a forest 20 years ago. So, Sucharit was a carpenter too, expert in making simple and economical furniture. He did most of the work himself, so that his old saviors could take it easy in the dusk of their life. All his life, the saints had fed him, taken care of him and most importantly sown seeds of good qualities in him. They adored him for the way he had grown up- so bright, so strong and so humane. But they had never bargained that he would be so popular.

It had not been easy for those saints at all, bringing up a child right from his birth. They never let out the secret how they had found him. Only dismissive answer they had for numerous questions and doubts for nearly 20 years was, that ‘his mother’s name was Meera, who was known to them and God was his father! Can’t you see it on his face? Look at the peace and glow! Doesn’t he remind you of God?’ It was nearly a declaration from those well respected saints to make a point for the boy. A thoroughly impressed village crowd ‘semi believed’ them. Everyone knows how babies come on earth. An abandoned ordinary child was turned into an extraordinary phenomenon, only to cover up the absence of his father. Whoever met Sucharit just once, who he was did not matter. Sucharit spoke in a common man’s language. Slowly a belief started developing that he was a god and not a human. He physically ‘touched’ them to make them believe that he indeed was a human being. Due to constant speeches and interaction with troubled lot, Sucharit had grown very sharp in his mind and kind in heart. He could genuinely feel or even guess everyone’s pain. ‘Suyesh Sucharit’ had become a strong magical magnet. His strong attraction converted many of his listeners into his disciples. They really loved Sucharit from their heart.

Sucharit as a rule did not allow women to follow him permanently. He knew women are needed at home much more than men. But nobody had been able to convince or force ‘Mangala’ away. She had to face a lot of criticism from everyone. At that time it was looked down upon for a woman to live with a man, without village head’s consent. She in fact lived with many men, because they were all his disciples. She took up the job of doing all day to day chores for Sucharit on the pretext that he had no time to do them anyway. She smilingly, cooked, washed and mended his clothes, took care of all important visitors, who were growing in number. Now Mangala became a strong confidante of Sucharit. And gradually got a nod of all his followers, to be with them.

She would wait by his side until he fell asleep at night. She was ready by his side again with a jar of water in morning. Watching her devotion, everyone developed a deep respect for her too, not so much because she was close to Suyesh, but because Suyesh also had so much respect for her. Mangala was now Ma Mangala for everyone. Phenomenal popularity of Suyesh now could not be handled by the usual small scale arrangements. It needed planning at a much higher level. Ma Mangala stepped up consultations with other colleagues and designed a security net for Sucharit. Since they had spotted spies from Amor too many times in the crowd, visitors were not allowed to get very close to him. Donations too had become large to be taken lightly. They had to be received, stored securely and properly accounted for. Thankfully Sucharit’s ministers had kept all these worldly matters away from him. His last meeting had so many visitors that they had to meet outside the village in a more open space. Sucharit spoke for a long time making everyone spell bound. Someone guessed there might have been nearly 50000 people in that gathering!

And that did not send a friendly message to king Vikram of Amor.