Monday, December 03, 2007

Sakhi Series : 78 ( MOHENA - SOHENA )


From From Kalgidhar Chamatkar by Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh ji

Punjabi to English Translation by Bimal Inderjit Singh ( <> )

The sky is over-cast and a slight drizzle has begun to fall. A tentative breeze shakes the bare branches of the trees. It is the height of winter season and very, very cold. Now the clouds and rain have added that extra chill to the air, making the people seek protection in the warmth of their homes.

In a quiet area of the town there is a beautiful garden, imaginatively laid out with shrubs, flowering plants and trees, and, in between, there are marble fountains and paved pathways. But all is still and the vegetation seems to wait with bated breath for that first touch of spring, to burst forth in all its colour and beauty.

In a far-off corner there is a simple mud hut. Its door is closed and a dim light glows at its single window. A tall and graceful lady walks up to the door and knocks on it with the handle of a 'kirpan' which she is holding in her hand. It is indeed, a strange sight to see this regal figure waiting at the door of this poor hovel. After a while the door opens and she goes in.

The interior of the hut is spotlessly clean; the walls have been white-washed and the floor is covered with handmade mats. The leaping flames of the fire burning brightly in a corner offer a warm welcome.
The young woman, who opened the door, greets the lady respectfully and after spreading a clean cloth on a stool offers it to her guest to sit on. She herself sits down on the floor near by and with loving entreaty in her voice says, "Ammi ji, my dearest mother, how wonderful you are! In spite of the cold and the rain you have taken the trouble to come. Why didn't you send for me?"

Ammi ji : "Because I had promised that I would come."
Mohena : "Yes, but it is so cold. You only had to send a message, and I, your humble servant, would have been too happy to obey."
Ammi ji : "You must not call yourself a servant. You are under my care, and as you know I too, am a seeker of the Almighty's grace."
Mohena : "My dear, dear mother! You are so good to me. I have some fresh goat's milk, honey and plain bread. Please say you will have some."
Ammi ji : "My child, I have already served Him the evening meal and eaten before coming. Now, you know what draws me here and for which I am waiting so eagerly."

Mohena bowed her head and going to a corner, took down the 'Sarod' which was hanging there. Quickly she tuned it and played a few notes of Raag Malhar, which soon changed to Raag Sarang. Ammi ji got up from the stool and sat down on the floor with her eyes closed. Mohena began to sing :

"Har bin kiyu rahiye dukh biyapay,
Jehwa saad na pheekee rus bin, bin prabh kaal santapay."

The sweetness of the singing and the beauty of the words cast a magic spell and time passed swiftly. Suddently, the distant clock-tower struck three. Ammi ji got up at once to leave, but at Mohena's pleading, stayed to have a hot cup of salted tea with some almonds and walnuts. As she reached the door, Mohena's eyes filled with tears, she became very pale and losing her balance she sat down abruptly. Ammi ji put her head in her lap and caressed her lovingly. But Mohena's tears would not stop.

Ammi ji : "Mohena, why do you cry? I have taken over your burden now. Everything will be fine. Persevere on the path which you are following with such faith and devotion", and reassuring her with these kind words Ammi ji departed.

Mohena got up and after washing her face went to the rear of the hut where some vegetables were growing. Picking some spinach leaves she put them in the pot for cooking and sat down to recite 'Rehras Saheb' (Gurbani recited daily after sunset).

Shortly afterwards the door opened and Mohena's husband, Sohenaji came in. He had been away for the past few days. After asking about her welfare, he had a wash and they sat down to talk.
Sohena : "Did you meet Ammi ji while I was away?"
Mohena : "Yes, twice. Once I had gone there and today she came and spent some time here."
Sohena : "We are so lucky! And she is so generous, taking care of poor creatures like us."
Mohena : "She doesn't like us to call ourselves such names. When I say I am your servant, she scolds me gently with these words, 'I have adopted you and taken you under my wing. Why do you call yourself a servant?' When I address her as 'Ammi ji' she looks happy, but if I try to praise her, frown lines appear on her serene forehead."
Sohena : "The Lord has been really good to the likes of us! We can feel the joy of His love in her hearts. But Mohena, have you seen any signs of a change in our situation?"
Mohena : "Not yet. When I asked her, Ammi ji said, 'It is not His wish!'"
Sohena : "Very well. But tell me, dear, you are not feeling too unhappy, are you?"
Mohena : "No, not in the way I used to - so lonely and lost. But yes, the eager desire to have 'darshan' and the pain of longing are still there."
Sohena : "I too feel the same. I didn't want to go away at all. If this job had not been for Ammi ji, I would have come back from half-way."
Mohena : "To live in obedience to His will, is the only way for us. May the Lord guide us so that we obey Him always, but the love and longing must not lessen. Let us bear the pain of this as happily and for as long as we can and leave the rest in the Lord's hands."
Sohena : "Yes, we must do what the Master says. He must remain dear to us; our love for Him ever increasing. Then.... may be.... one day ....."
Mohena : "Yes, my dear one, 'darshan' is a gift, a boon! Our actions have been lifeless because we are spiritually dead; like the efforts of a cripple to reach the mountain - top! Only the Lord's grace can make him reach there. Like a beggar, we can stretch our hands in supplication, for that is the limit of a beggar's action. We must not be impatient, nor must we become arrogantly demanding. We must believe that the Lord will hear our prayers one day, and so must remain ever hopeful.

"We have already seen the result of our rigid and egoistic rituals. Now we must follow Ammi ji's advice, and be thankful for the blessing of her care and interest. In spite of the cold and rain she kept her promise and came all the way to spend time with me, a person who is not worth the dust under her feet!"
Sohena ji was listening with his eyes closed. Now and then a tear rolled down his cheek. In a while Mohena too became quiet and both sat in deep contemplation. Time passed, the fire died down, the light in the earthen lamp began to flicker and the pot on the stove kept bubbling.

Just then there was a knock on the door. Mohena opened her eyes, which reflected the peace and happiness she had been experiencing. A servant stood outside the door and politely said, "Bibi ji, Ammi ji has sent a message that the flowers she had ordered for the morning have not arrived. She wants you to pick some fresh flowers, so that she can greet Mahraj ji in the morning with a fresh garland as is her routine."

A thrill of happiness coursed through their hearts. Quickly they went to the small plot where, by using great care and artifice they had managed to grow fresh flowers. The plants were covered with a thatch to protect them from the icy winds, and small vessels with burning wood had been kept at intervals in the flower-beds, to create the necessary warmth. Lifting the thatch from one side they began to pluck the golden - coloured 'Genda'(Marigolds) and as they filled a small basket with the fresh blossoms, their hearts sent a prayer of thankfulness to Ammi ji for giving them such a beautiful task to perform.

They handed the basket of flowers to the messenger with longing and envy in their hearts. For, soon, these very same flowers would feel the blessed touch of Guru ji, while they waited, out of sight, denied the joy of His darshan.

Who are Mohena and Sohena ji? Why are they living in such poverty? Why do they feel so much love and longing in their hearts? And who is Ammi ji, who showers so much affection on them?

The young couple belong to a wealthy and cultured family of Raipur. Mohena is a trained classical singer and plays the Sarod while her husband, Sohena ji is a poet, and also an expert veena player. They had been married for some time and lived happy and carefree lives. In due course their hearts had turned to spiritualism. They had met a Bairagi 'Sadhu' who had taught them the intricacies of idol worship and the art of meditation.

In spite of a house full of servants, they had made it a daily ritual to wake up early and after a bath, to go to the nearby well and bring fresh, clean water for bathing the idols with. While chanting 'mantras', they would make fresh garlands and perform 'Puja". Then they would play the 'Sarod' and the 'Veena' and sing 'Bhajans' with great fervour for long stretches of time.

One morning when they were returning with the water from the well, a young man ran up to them. His clothes were torn, his turban was loosened and he was bleeding profusely from a deep wound in his side. He fell down near them and gasped "Water, water!"

Seeing his condition, they paused for a moment, but then the thought that the clean water was for their gods and it would become impure if anyone drank from it, made them turn away. The young man kept crying out for water, but, rigid in their belief they walked away.

With his last breath the wounded man called out, "What kind of devotion is this that forsakes a needy person! He will not give you 'darshan'!"

Unheeding, they went off home, and began their daily ritual of prayers. But, today they found no peace in the mantras, no joy in singing the Lords praises. A great unease filled their hearts. Finally, they decided to go back and give the wounded man some water, in case he put a curse on them. But when they reached the well, the young man was dead and they could only look at his body with horror and dismay. They had come back to ease their restlessness, but now it increased manifolds.

Just then a group of people ran up and seeing the young man's body, said, "Yes, he is the one."
When they enquired about the man, they were told that he was a brave and devoted follower of the Guru of Anandpur Sahib. He lived in the jungles as a hermit but along with his rosary for his daily prayers, he used to carry a sword. Today, when he heard that a group of travellers was being attacked by some robbers, he rushed there and fought so valiantly that the robbers ran away without harming the group, but he, himself was grievously wounded. He had rushed off in search of water. They had looked all-over for him and had managed to find him only now and in this condition.

The couple seemed to hear the words "He will not give you his darshan," even louder and their eyes filled with tears. Bitterly they regretted their action, but it was too late!
"Nanak Samiyo Rum Gaiyo Ab Kyon Rovat Andh"
(says Nanak, when the moment has passed, what use is it to cry, you blind fool!).

Mohena and Sohena ji were in a strange, distracted mood after this incident. They could not concentrate on their daily prayers and meditation, nor did they get joy or peace from their music and singing. If they sat down to meditate, the words, "He will not give you darshan," would shake them out of their concentration. The echo of these words seemed to go everywhere with them.

They gave large sums of money in charity to feed the poor and needy, and tried various other ways to expiate this wrong but to no avail. The words were etched deeply in their conscience and would not let them rest.

One day, they heard that the Guru of Anandpur was coming to Raipur. From the stories told by people who knew and revered Him, they had begun to believe that He was a true saviour. They had also heard in detail about the young man who had fought off the robbers so daringly, and who was a true Sikh of the same Guru.

Slowly, a desire to have 'darshan' of Guru ji grew in their hearts. When they learnt that He had come to Raipur and blessed the Rani and her family, they too decided to go, but despite many attempts, they were unable to see Him. Finally, on the day He was to leave Raipur, they went to the outskirts of the town and waited on the main road by which He was to pass. To their chagrin they found that though the followers and the 'sangat' went by that route, Guru ji took a different path.

Though deeply disappointed, they were now firmly convinced that the words 'He will not give you his darshan' were eternal and Guru ji knew of the plight of His Sikh caused by their callous act.
They continued to hear tales of Guru ji's great compassion and love, His spiritual strength, from the people who narrated their wonderful experiences to them. They decided to go to Anandpur Sahib to offer their services and to beg forgiveness for their sin in any way they could.

The thought of the words: "He will not give you His darshan," however, made them hesitate. Guru ji had come to their city, blessed hundreds of people, yet they had not been able to see Him in spite of their best efforts.

What if they were rebuffed and turned away when they reached Anandpur Sahib?
After much thinking they came to the conclusion that if they wished to offer selfless service and beg forgiveness, then humility was essential and true humility could not be achieved with the assurance of wealth and status in the background.
So, they set about giving away all their worldly possessions to the poor and needy and, with a minimum of belongings, they set off for Anandpur Sahib.

To be Continued ...

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