She opened the handbag she had carried and took out a book of essays on Vedanta. Before opening it, she observed, “It’s a long journey.”
“Yes,” I said, looking at the book in her hand. By then I had scribbled in three satisfying paragraphs of the first chapter of the script. I was familiar with the book she was reading : a collection of essays on the lofty truth of everything. I knew it’s very layout and remembered passages from it ad verbatim.
“I am curious. Do you find the book interesting ? Or, is that word inadequate to describe how you feel about it ?”
“I am yet unsure how it will sink in me or how well I will bite into it. It is my second attempt at trying to understand the unified personal-universal context.
“Right now,” she let out a laugh, “the book and I are differently oriented.”
“Oh.” I joined in the mirth, “You’ve not shaken hands with it as yet. Perhaps, you remember a point or two where the thought in the book throws you off.”
She gave the opportunity a serious consideration. I suppose, the instances were ready in her recall. But she might be querying within, through her hesitation. She looked me up a couple of times, trying to assess the man before her. Her thought, I sensed : “Is the man fit enough to discourse with on such deep and precious a matter ?” I felt my age, gray hair, and even the black framed spectacles, would have gone in my favour. The attire however might reinforce her suspicion, though it was simple and comfortable for the long, cooped up journey we were on. But it would be looking branded; a little too modern, she might feel, with its solid navy blue gloss. Flashy ? May be. I was thoroughly amused with this scan of my exteriors.
“You know,” she relented slowly, “the essays keep speaking of truth — satya, the truth supreme. It says, the highest truth is about the nature of my own self. But the subject eludes my attempt to comprehend it, as if it was empty of content. I know myself, my truth, yet this here introduces something that precedes the context as I know it. I accept the gravitas and the authority of the text but am still without a sense of what Satya is.”
“Oh, oh.” It instantly occurred to me that the entire book was about the subject signified in that term : Satya. But I ducked the thought, letting it pass without volunteering a comment in response.
“Maybe, reading till the end will flesh it out,” I intoned instead, light heartedly, with an encouraging smile. It was also what I truly believed.
“Yes, I intend to persist. The first time I had read through to the end had not left me any the wiser. But, let me ask, do you know things that I do not ? Have you been a novice at Vedanta study and are now graduated to its firm ground ? If so, I would be greatly helped by clarifying inputs from you.”
For a while I was stumped : what do I say, without being untruthful. The fact was that I did not want to unveil or peer into things too personal, as all spiritual experiences essentially are. They are subjective experiences. Revealed untimely, their effect could be unpredictable; they could inspire one and cause another to go into depression. I was not prepared to be the cause of either, as of now. I hardly knew her and will wait to know more, if she allowed, before I determining if I could be of help to her. Her gaze on me was intense.
“I can see you are seriously introduced to the matter and I’m sure you will bridge the chasm in your understanding before long. The eye discerns details in its view, in the front, as does our self, but both are blind to all that is behind them. Therein lies the entire difficulty while we are aiming to progress spiritually. The unknown will have to acknowledge your self effort and choose to reveal itself to your view. That may sound strange, for now; but I truly believe that such matters cannot be rushed by our will. We must persevere and be patient. All that you have read and know must come together in your insight at once. We need to continue our observation of our self while contemplating the truth of the matter, and wait for the blooming moment.”
She sat gazing, thinking in silence. “The eye and its blind zone…accurately describes my hung situation, between the two contexts : one that I am solidified in and the other that Vedanta is presenting.”
She lapsed into a seriousness that seemed morose. The time seemed right for an icebreaker. “Let the light usher in some joy, young lady,” I broke into her churning thoughts, tentatively.
“Huh…young lady you say, sir ?”
“What else, unless your appearance is cast by magic for you to seem other than how you are, like the ancient witch who sat decked up before the mirror !”
She laughed at the comparison, a little louder and a lot more openly than how she had till now. “You must be even more my senior to see youth in my ageing looks. Thank you, anyway. It is pleasant to hear and I do feel actually young while the pleasure lasts. I am not sure however if I would really like being young.”
“Ah, you might not know what I saw when you entered the coupe. You seemed gracefully light and sprightly, and practically weightless, if you will believe me.”
“I do now, sir.” She laughed again; short, without swaying from her poise. “In which case, let me introduce myself : I am Millie Sengupta, professor of humanities in a college in Durgapur. It’s about 18 years since I last attended college as a student. My sister in Shimla is three years younger and has a high school going kid. I am on my way to spend a week with her.”
(Prose extract from Chapter I Of Part I : The Extended Being — A Fictionalised Presentation Of Being In Truth)