Teachings of my guru

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When I had just finished my high-schooling and was looking for some kind of job, or rather some sorts of invisible trouble, I happened to ran into an absurdly well, intellectual and witty guru; then and there, I was rest assured that he’d help me find my dreams, materialize it, and lead me into a life full of eternal bliss.

My guru, he was a man of remarkable appearance. With his stout, almost athletic build and a receding hairline and grayish, long beard, which made him, even at 30, look like an ancient Hindu sage. I was drawn, or rather sucked by the gravity of his personality. By his intellectual prowess, and great warmth and tenderness, and deep, superstitious religious commitment. The way he said ‘woe-man’ or ‘fe-male’ (as if spitting the first syllable like phlegm) gave me an impression of a hulking brute of misogynist. Just like T.S. Eliot. And indeed, he wrote better than Eliot, better than any humans alive, with his rationality for human emotions and faith for the holy god above. In perfect meter and rhyme.

He insisted that I wrote in English language and bought me a bilingual dictionary. “From now on, your real education begins.” He said in his categorical tone, and added, “Mug up all the words.”

I didn’t argue.

So in the beginning of 2013, I started my lifelong work in the English language. Yes, I started cramming the words. My life was entirely different from the rest of what I had. No extra work was allowed, no strolling in the mystic alleys of Patan, no use of cell phone; it was forbidden to turn on the computer, or sometimes even the gas stove. I closed the door and windows of my room shut, pulled the curtains and in the semi-darkness of the damp, crumbling room – I started out. The entire dictionary I had to memorize, there was no turning back, no way out. “I have to do it.” I said to myself. The promise had to be kept. The first four alphabets were easy: I had them all in less than a week. When I moved to the fifth one, things started to dwindle down. Words began entering and leaving my brain with a whooshing sound. Images deluged my mind. I felt like I was living somewhere in a time, outside of time. Chucked out from the world into the four walls of my room. Bearing the pain, nonetheless, I plodded on like a mule in a circle, around a grindstone.

In December 2013, the task was done. But I was not happy about it. I felt depressed for the chaos it had done, which could not be undone. Not in a long, long time.

My guru was beaming with delight when I broke the news. He jovially patted me on my shoulders and smiled slyly. He then gave me two books of Bertrand Russell – Unpopular Essays and On Education – and asked me read and re-read it. Again, I didn’t argue. On the weeks that followed, he then asked me to write an article on the shallowness of the current education system. Since my life-long fascination and love was in the threshold of becoming true, I rushed back to my room, grabbed a few loose sheets of paper and a ball-pen, and started off. I began writing like a maniac. The more I wrote the better I felt. I could feel the music of the words ringing in my ear. And it was done – in an hour the article was done. But, alas, my heart sank and a drowsy numbness stung me with its hideous fang when I was back at my guru’s. He wanted that article to be published under his name.

I clenched my fists in rage. I was revolting inside. I wanted to argue, shout and kick him real bad. But I couldn’t. Fighting was not my nature, you see. So I surrendered. I fell into my knees and bowed my head. I could feel the warmth of his hand slowly enter my spine through the top of my head. I shivered. Fists of shamefulness jabbed me into my ribs. Tipping my head, I saw my guru smiling like Lord Vishnu, a halo behind his head, radiating. The glow was so strong that it blinded my eyes.

The article got published. Half of me died. The other half went in a deep slumber.

My guru, as if being merciful, asked me to write a poem this time. Although reluctant for some days, I was forcibly ushered into writing. He proposed forth a lucrative business: he said he was going to gift me something invaluable provided the poem’s up to the mark. I wrote an elaborate narrative poem about a struggling poet who’s abused time and again by people around. My guru’s face turned sour, and he said with a twitch of remorse: “Poems should always be in perfect meter. Free verse is no verse at all.” With that stark remark as a gift, I came back, hatred and anger brimming inside me.

A week or so later, when his words were still ringing inside my head like a beehive, I found the poem published, in one of the famous literary monthlies, under his name. I was struck by a lightning epiphany. The dark clouds that had enveloped my senses faded away. I saw a portion of truth, fluctuating like a jellyfish. In midst of all this, I cried in the language of Nietzsche: “What, therefore, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms; truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions …” Both by precept and example, my guru indirectly had taught me an invaluable lesson.

Like a negligent mother, who does not bother to teach a child about dangers involved with electricity, fire, or household chemicals, and even the child may be seriously injured, my guru didn’t teach me things first-handedly and I was hurt. My guru imprinted an idea, a vision of sorts into my mind. Like a design impressed with wax while making batik. From that day I refused to believe the notion that gurus are like gods, or have higher position than our parents.

To say ‘goodbye’ I walked up to his place for the last time. Inside the disarray of the kitchen we remained silent for a long time. The bitter black coffee in our cups thickened and grew cold. The earth turned on its own axis, west to east, while it also went round and round the sun. Time flowed in silence, and we were already drifting far away from the time-space-continuum. Like two objects in space, free from gravity and time. I felt a dark, vicious thought waiting for me somewhere over, deep in another galaxy.

“So long.” I said and walked out.

The air outside was filled with the smell of the soil after the rain, and for a moment, I was happy.

bibek.sanchar@gmail.com