The year is 1976. Hanuman sits alone in his hotel room in Chanakyapuri. He has a roof over his head. That is more than what most Indians can ask for. Out in the abyss of the city, a monsoon rages. The stormy seasonal winds blow from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, drenching the djinn city in heavy rainfall. The skies are crying. No, they are sobbing. It is the rainy phase of a seasonally-changing pattern.
Patterns. The building block of all life. Broken by intervals of uncertainty. Uncertainty: the pattern-breaker. A scary period of change, making room for new patterns to take form. There are no random errors in this world.
Hanuman should feel thankful, but he does not. The monsoon will breathe life into the crops of farmers in Punjab, but it will also bring death as the rivers rise and sweep away homes, roads and railway lines.
For every credit, there is a corresponding debit.
Hanuman takes an umbrella and walks out of the hotel. His driver immediately scrambles to the car, obedient to Hanuman’s every unwanted need.
“Bhaiya, not today. I’m going for a walk,” Hanuman says.
The driver doesn’t ask too many questions. He raises his palms to his forehead in prayer to the man who feeds him and his family. He returns to his beedi: tobacco flake wrapped in a tendu leaf. His life is good, for now.
A grey dust of rain hangs over Delhi, masking the city’s treasures. Men ride on scooters with handkerchiefs wrapped around their faces, protecting themselves from the soot. The dust: a heavy memory of the city’s many conquerors and conquered.
Hanuman walks with his portable shelter. The settlement of Indraprastha in The Mahabharata was located in this area. Many wars have been fought over Delhi. Too many people have showed up uninvited. Some integrated, some left, and others have been chased out. India, a temporary jewel for the victors of its many wars.
Delhi is easy to navigate around. The Yamuna river cuts through the city. Yamuna’s waters are believed to hold the power to overcome death. As long as Hanuman can spot Yamuna, he’ll be able to find his way around. He doesn’t need anyone’s assistance. He knows India like the lines on his palm. The lines may keep changing, but the palm would always remain his. A boy always knows who his mother is, no matter how old he gets.
Hanuman makes his way to Jama Masjid. On route, he spots India Gate from the corner of his eye. The 42-metre high stone arch of triumph bears the name of 85,000 Indian army soldiers who died in WW1. The deaths of innocent men is not a cause for triumph. Women suffer the most when wars are fought. They, and their children, are the ones that get left behind. Is it fair, for a boy to grow up with only one parent?
Hanuman tosses his umbrella and lets the rain sink into him. In this city, people live their lives close to death. He sees an overcrowded bus with too many broken faces, all clinging to a false hope that never delivers.
Hope. That which keeps us going. Faith. That which prays that our hopes will one day be a reality.
Next to a congested bus, a man sits in his Mercedes Benz, oblivious to the conditions of other humans around him. We only ever see what we want to see in this world.
His father had once told him that a man should never bear his heart in public. But today, Hanuman doesn’t care. The monsoon will hide his tears. He allows himself to feel the pain he never let himself feel. His whole life until this point is a lie. His mother is a ghost that no one knows, not even him. Secrets destroy a family. He wants to know the truth, about the circumstances of his mother’s death.
They say a boy always knows who his mother is. But Hanuman doesn’t know. He never has. Rumour has it that his own father killed her. He’d never told Hanuman that his step-mother wasn’t his mother. Mota bhai, all his siblings call him. Eldest brother. His title. His place in the family. His destiny.
Hanuman wonders why the immortal soul chooses mortality. He wonders about the accident that brought him into this world.
From the light of the world, a shadow emerges. Our shadow. The complex interplay of light and dark where there are no rights or wrongs and nothing ever truly makes sense. Life. Full of the tricky grey areas. Hanuman keeps crying. He keeps walking. He doesn’t know what else to do.
He remembers about victors; the people who have the privilege of writing history to suit their agenda. What is the point of winning the war if you lose the battle? Divide and conquer is touted as the British’s favourite strategy. His Bharat Mata is now three pieces that fight each other while the whole world watches and does nothing. But what is it that man is trying to conquer?
The best life strategy in this world is to find your own bliss. Ananda. Create that place of bliss for yourself and the people around you. Remember to keep a sword at hand in the event of a surprise attack. Train yourself in the art of war. You never know when you might need to defend yourself. Danger, like sharks, are lurking, resting, waiting for the perfect moment to strike an unsuspecting victim.
Vulnerable people and nations are at high risk. If we Indians had been more united, the British could never have colonised us. United we stand proud. Divided we fall. Find your bliss. Defend it. That is all.
Hanuman arrives at Jama Masjid. His tears are hidden, mixed up in the monsoon’s rain. He stares at the extravagance in front of him. From the two minarets, he hears the call to prayer. The familiar melody still moves him.
He walks up the many broad steps to the courtyard of the mosque. A man must ascend to meet his Creator. Hanuman removes his shoes and walks through the middle of the three gateways. He turns around and looks behind him. He notices the Red Fort and its high blood walls surrounded by a moat. Even with the best defence strategy, we are all fallible–doomed for death and destruction.
Hanuman finds a spot and sits down. He watches the eagles flying freely, adding majesty to the architecture left behind by Shah Jahan. But even the eagles are not free. They hunt, they create, they destroy. One small, yet significant, molecule in the world’s complex food chain. Stomach is king. Indians know that better than anyone else. There are a lot of hungry people in the place of his birth.
Hanuman gets lost in his thoughts. His mind is worried. A stranger sits down next to him. He doesn’t notice.
“The dust of the world is very important,” the stranger says. “It will teach you all about the gold.”
“Yes. The treasure you’re looking for. The dust will teach you everything you need to know about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Knowledge about the shadow of your past will teach how to make your future a different place.”
“Who are you that you know all this?”
The stranger smiles. He is an ordinary man. As ordinary as a man can be. He’s lived in the forest his whole life. A place of lost souls, demons and beasts. He has seen many men like Hanuman. He leans closer into Hanuman and stares into his eyes, reading his thoughts as though it were a book. Hanuman stays still.
“Bhaiya, you look like you have the weight of the whole world upon your shoulders. Why so worried? Life is too short,” the stranger says.
“Life is a whole series of accidents,” Hanuman says, remembering the accident of his birth.
“There are no accidents in this world. The world exists because it does. We exist because we do.”
“What about the past?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Why is that?”
“It isn’t matter anymore.”
“So what should I do?”
“Let it go.”
“And then what?”
“Let life happen.”
“What do I do about my anger?”
“You let it out.”
“To the people that caused it. Be careful not to give it to innocent bystanders.”
“What do you mean?”
“Anger is like receiving a gift you don’t want. It’s dirt all wrapped up in gold. You open it and you realise that it’s waste that no one could possibly need. You throw it back at its original owner.”
“What happens then?”
“You’re free from their misery.”
“What do I do about my pain?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Then what does?”
“You do. You are matter. You matter. Your pain doesn’t.”
“So what do I do about the pain?”
“You let it pass. Nothing in this world lasts forever bhaiya.”
Hanuman looks into the toothy grin of the stranger in front of him. He’s dressed in rags, and half his teeth are missing, but he smiles with the promise of all of life’s better tomorrows.
The stranger continues, “Everything in this world has its place. Even the dust, the dirt, the grime. It’s all important. It is from the mud that lotuses grow and bloom unstained. You will find your gold after you throw away the dust. But you must never forget the dust. Gold is worthless if not for the dust.”
“And who are you to teach me this?”
“It is best I remain a stranger. It is with strangers that one is most open. Within families, there are always secrets.”
Hanuman puts his hand to his heart and closes his eyes for a moment. A gesture of his gratitude.
“Shukriya bhaiya,” Hanuman says. “What good fortune brought you to me?”
“Neti neti,” he says. Not this, not that.
Hanuman nods. He walks out of Jama Masjid. His tears have run dry. He heads back to his hotel in a yellow and black auto-rickshaw. He is too tired to walk. He breathes in Delhi’s soot without fear. Every man has to meet his Maker one day.
Hanuman arrives at his temporary abode and walks through the hotel lobby. He tosses away his portable shelter and heads up to his room. He sits at his desk and lights up his pipe. His face grimaces to his trademark elevated frown. He does not enjoy smiling.
Hanuman takes out a piece of paper and writes, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
He wonders about the shadow of his past. The entity which resides inside him that he must let go of. He prays that he will find the answers that he seeks. He takes a deep breath. In the midst of the storm, a calm emerges. He knew that he would soon find the answer he had been seeking.
Or rather, he knew with a sense of certainty, that now the answer he had long sought would finally find its way to him.
Authors Note: This is a work of fiction.