The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Baba Balak Nath--In a Sylvan Setting

Places and people spark new ideas in me, very much like my after-sleep thoughts or in-dream reflexes. I've always struggled to retain them but it has never been a one-hundred percent success. Sometimes--oh yes--I do succeed. Here's what I felt while visiting the place of Baba Balak Nath of Deotsidh...and I'm satisfied with that feeling.
The other day I visited the temple of Balak Nath of Deotsidh. Situated between Barsar and Ghumarwin on a good motorable hilly road very close to Govind Sagar reservoir of Bhakra-Nangal Project, it is a small cave on a hilltop, develped as a religio-tourist spot where people in large number throng throughout the year. I was told the rush is almost unmanageable in the summer. It is understandable considering the popularity of the place as a preferred destination among all those religious-minded tourists, and the narrow passage leading to the cave. On the day of my visit, fortunately enough, it had no big crowd to bother me and its relative quietude definitely appealed me. More than the temple, I liked the aerial view of the valley down the hill, its silvan greenery merging gloriously with the waterscape of the reservoir and its cool ambience all around.
Hills with Holy Ambience
The presiding deity of the cave is not one from the familiar Hindu pantheon; rather it is a Baba or a monk/mendicant who had attained height of spiritual power. Before I visited there, I wished to know the story around the place. That was how I thought of quickly imbibing the religious mood, a prerequisite for imparting meaning to what I was doing then. I hated the idea that the occasion should pass me by as a mere perfunctory diversion, a lunch-time recreation. “Good people should go to good places”—Nope, it’s a statement that smacks of casualness and I wanted to prove every inch that I really deserved the opportunity given to me by god. The Assistant Temple officer, one Mr Patiyal by name, obliged me telling me the story.
Amidst the Mist and Quietude
Once upon a time Baba Balak Nath came there as a child and got the employment as a cowboy in the family of an old woman named Ratno. He worked as such for twelve years. And then one day the neighbours of Ratno vociferously complained against the boy since he had been utterly negligent of his duty, allowing cattles to run astray and damage the neigbours’ crop. Ratno got angry with the boy and chided him, saying that she had been feeding him for twelve years whereas he never bothered to be sincere. Baba replied that he had never eaten the food given to him by Ratoni and showed her everything she had offered him all those years. That is how a lake of butter milk “Shahtalai” was created. Then Baba Balak Nath disappeared.
The story I listened to was only too interesting, bereft either of any confusing tidbits or of a plethora of mythological cross-references. Maybe, what I was told was mere barebones and it was not a word too long. So I thought I had understood what was imparted to me. Now that I knew at least something about the place, I felt I should offer some of my own interpretations of what I understood. And I narrated that back to the temple officer.
And what was that?
Here, in the story, we’ve a mother offering food, getting angry (possibly artificially); and a Baba showing that even if he has been eating to survive, he has preserved everything offered to him during twelve long years. So, mother Ratoni is the symbol of Mother Nature whose bounties we should use the way Baba Balak Nath used the food of Ratoni. That is the way, the only sensible way open to us. There is no way that we can take the generosity of Mother Nature for granted. We should use everything offered by her and yet leave it as it is without damaging a branch of the tree or removing a rock of the hill slope. Or else Mother Nature will have an angry reaction which is perfectly justified. Is it not the way we now interpret the cataclysm of Uttarakhand? This story contains a great conservation message. We would only miss it at our peril.
Speaking as I Felt
And when time to say goodbye arrived, I was offered to write something in the visitor’s book. Spontaneously, articulating what I had felt about the story, I scribbled:—
This is a place sanctified by the action of somebody great who had once taken human shape to perform divine activities, now remembered and revered by the posteriors. Baba ate everything but had also kept everything intact to be produced after twelve years. This is how we humans should treat our Mother Nature—enjoying her bounties yet keeping them intact for future to be enjoyed by our posteriors, even after 12 years, 12 thousand years and 12 million years… This is the message I’d like to take with me.
A.  N. Nanda
A N Nanda

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