..of the Sage.
This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 19; the nineteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
The sky shone under the light of the seven stars that accompanied him. Each star, a demigoddess, his child borne of Nakshatra, the queen of the stars and the sky.. it was only fitting that they traveled with him today. He had no idea about where his destination was, and which route to get to it. In all probability, his wife and his children knew of it, but it was against their ethics, and his to ask them for it. He knew it was his quest, a journey in which he had to decide the turns.. a quest for what he felt was his destiny.
It was a dream that made him walk onward, his naked feet on carpet of smoky cirrus clouds conjured by Megha, one of his daughters, part goddess of the sky. In his dream he saw a throne and a crown, both ornate with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and rhinestones.. and in midst of them, a single diamond, brighter than any he had seen. He had long given up on desire, or so he had thought. Yes, he had given it all up.. twice. Yet, it wasn’t for mere mortals to desire it, to sit in that throne and head held high as someone would place the crown on their head amidst blowing of conches and a shower of flowers. No, it was a dream, he was certain was meant only for him. As he woke up under the ceiling of the midnight sky that day, he was also certain of one thing – the journey would be taken, and he would find soon that throne meant for him. Yet he was overcome by anxiety and to aid his quest, he had called upon his wife, the beautiful and charming Nakshatra and on her command, his daughters had set on his quest along with him, helping him in any way they could.
He had no family. Not then. He had given up all earthly bonds, all desire for riches, for finery and for lust and love. He had not married, not loved and absorbing all the hate that life had thrown at him, embraced sainthood to ease his mind, ease his soul through meditation. For years, he stayed at the foot of the great oak in the forest, praying to the Lord for solace; leaving its shade only for bathing in the crystal blue waters of the big lake beside it, for plucking wild berries and nuts for food that he ate once a day, when the sun was above his head. The woodcutters and pilgrims who walked through the lone path that went through the forest called him Sage Ashwa.. they’d ask his blessings and advice and he’d tell them what he thought and felt was the right thing to do, sprinkling water from his small earthen pot beside him. His advice never went wrong, so they always came back, bringing with them fruits as offering. He was happy, till that day when all went wrong. Or so he would feel later.
She was no mere mortal. He could tell by the aura around her, the light of the moon skimming around her lean body as she got into the water. He couldn’t be sure if she knew of his presence there. He would later feel that perhaps he should have spoken out, made her aware of it, but he hadn’t done anything then. He had watched as she removed her clothes made of dark satins and in the music of the apsaras, began to bathe. With her every touch on her silken skin, returned the desire, the love that he had given up on his journey to sainthood. He had watched as she, unaware of him, came out of the water, her unclothed body shining in the moonlight and began to dress in white satins and silver ornaments and then in a heartbeat, started to rise into the sky, a journey back to her abode in the heavens. He chided himself at his foolishness that night, but he didn’t utter a word for weeks as she came each night to bathe. She was always alone, and the love was beginning to overwhelm him. He revealed himself one night to her, as she came out after her bath. She had hastened to cover her modesty, but he revealed his heart, and she, struck by the honesty in his heart accepted his love. That night, under the oak, they had become one. As she went to her abode with the last light of the moon, she promised she’d be there when he needed her, and so she would be years later. But his heart churned next morning as he realized he’d broken all his vows in a moment of temptation. He decided never to give in to desire again, and that for a second time in his life, he, Sage Ashwa, would leave all relations and embrace the life he had led for the past few years. It all went well, till that fateful day.
As through the night sky he wandered, he couldn’t see that throne at all. If anyone could find it, it was he, but wherever he looked he saw no glistening throne, but common mortals struggling with life, with illness and poverty, lost love and life. Nowhere he saw the throne, yet he realized if was to find the throne, he would have to struggle too. Walking on clouds softer than velvet wouldn’t be a way to find his destiny. And so, he asked his daughter Megha to let him descend, and place his naked feet on the stones and thorns of the ground.
Standing above on soft clouds
Conjured by the call of my dear
I sought what I know is destiny
Once I had given it all up in fear
Yet nothing is achieved, I know
Without effort that I’ve to make
So I embrace the pain of thorns
All obstacles in each step I take
And so he walked on, with patience, and fortitude. His daughters, angels of the sky, followed him above, aiding him in his quest however they could. He entered a village at midnight under the crescent smile of the moon goddess, and saw the residents awake, crowded around a home as wails sounded from within. When they saw him, they pleaded with him to help, and from within, came the cry of Damini, wife of Nanda, the woodcutter he would see so often. Entering the little hut, he saw Nanda on the floor, lying on leaves, his shrunken eyes filled with pain and half words escaping from his mouth. A deadly fever that had claimed many lives in the village had now gripped him, and vaidyas of the village stood beside him, helpless as none of their herbs could heal that cruel illness. Ashwa bent down, and ignoring the cries of the vaidyas, held Nanda’s hand in support. Opening his palms, he sprinkled holy water on it, and on his face; and invoking the almighty, recited in quick passionate tones, a prayer for the fallen helpless woodcutter. The gods, hearing the prayer of the helpful sage, granted a little relief to Nanda, and the fever began to reduce. Ashwa didn’t know for how long he had delayed the inevitable noose of Yama, God of Death, but for the moment, the sindoor on Damini’s forehead would remain untouched. As he resumed his journey with the last rays of the crescent moon, he felt happy. And he knew he was on the right path; for as he entered the lone winding path of the forest, at his feet did fall a pristine white lotus, sprinkling cool water of the pond on his tiring feet.
Epidemics so harsh do come by
They steal the world of good souls
Early call of joy from the Lord but
So much grief given on the whole
I’ve delayed the inevitable, I know
But for the moment, let her smile
She who has given him such love
Lord Yama, let her be happy awhile
She wasn’t happy to see him call her. Not that time. Not for being used. She had wanted him to call out to her for love. She was goddess of the night sky, but also a wife, the woman who bore his seven daughters in her womb. He had neglected her after that first and only night, denied his love that he had sworn upon, turned away from her the next night when she went to see him. As she had ascended back to the heavens that night, she had heard his whisper, carried by Vayu, god of wind, to her ears.
“Forgive me, Nakshatra”
The sound brought feelings in her that crossed paths in her mind – love that she was unsure she had truly for him, anger for the way he had used her body to satisfy his desire, yet also deep within her heart arose a feeling she couldn’t explain. The very same feeling he’d had before, the one she chastised him for at that very moment – desire. She had wanted to hear her name from his lips again, the way it rolled off his tongue as they became one under the moonlight. It was desire; desire that made her forgive his betrayal. And it was that hidden love that convinced her to forgive his unexpected call to use her powers again, and command his daughters to go along with him on his journey, a quest to find a throne, a throne that he said would make him equal to her in stature.
As he walked on, he realized still he wasn’t struggling, the quest he had to take wasn’t making him battle for the destination, for the goal. Damini, under fear, was perspiring. The mind was not at ease, yet here he was, no fear, full of confidence, knowing he’ll find his goal. To aid his mind, the breeze was always there across his face. Yet the branches of the trees weren’t shifted an inch even. He looked up, and there, in robes of sky blue was his daughter Iraja, named after the wind. She commanded the breeze to aid him, but he requested her to call back the calming influence. Yet, the moment the breeze stopped, the first sprinkle of rain fell upon his face and the forest around him. Through the forest echoed the laughter of a girl, and he smiled. “Varuni, eldest of my daughters; Megha my youngest child, call back the clouds you’ve conjured as your sister takes away the breeze from my face. Follow me without using your powers, for I’ve realized, this journey I’ve to take on my own. If need be, I’ll call on you, my flesh and blood, till then you keep me company. Asha, fairest of all, if my heart begins to give up on me, come hold my hand, for with you I have hope. Anandita, be with me when I find my goal, for your presence, needed through the world to give joy and belief, I’ll need too. Till then, be my shadows, for I trust myself when I’m with you. I believe when you are with me, I can be anyone I want to.” And the rain subsided, and the sun smiled on the spring festival in the forest, as he trudged on.
For days, Sage Ashwa roamed the land and swam the seas, yet wherever he searched he couldn’t find the throne. His daughters followed him in the skies, on a chariot of clouds, carried by the breeze. A year passed by, but he never gave up on his quest, on his journey, on his dream. When he felt tired, and fell in the heat, Varuni would sprinkle her waters on him, and Asha would fill her thoughts in his mind. Yet he was adamant now, finally thinking of returning to his place, under the old strong oak. As he began his journey back home, his daughters followed, Asha whispering, “Yes it is time.” He looked up at them, a tear in his eye, and a thought of failure creeping in his head.
For long I believed, in a dream I had
I thought it destiny, meaning of life
Perhaps I was mistaken, I think I was
For in its quest, I’ve walked on knives
I’ve struggled, like mortals are meant
Given all effort to realize that dream
Yet I doubt myself now, was I right?
No, nothing was, is as easy as it seems
So it’s time, time for me to go home
Where without anything, I had it all
Where I had desire, love, everything
Always that was home, never to fall
As he reached his oak after many months of travel, he felt happy. As he sat in its shade, and looked around, he saw a strange sight. A banyan tree was there, which he never had seen before. On its hanging roots, entwined were flowers of spring… roses, jasmine, irises, gardenias and lilies. It shaped into a seat, no.. into a throne. Through the spring air, flew the breeze commanded by Iraja and with it brought the fragrance of sandal. As he sat on it, a drizzle formed and the laughter of Varuni and Megha filled the forest. He felt content, hopeful and happy as Asha and Anandita smiled upon him. The rain became a shower of flowers and he called in joy, “Thank you, Vasanta, my daughter, demigoddess of spring. Your grace is something that perhaps I do not deserve. But I am happy. I’ve found my throne.”
Through the sky, Surya the sun god moved quickly in his chariot, and night descended on the forest in its daily journey. Silver steps fell gracefully to Earth, and came in her black gown, the queen Nakshatra, his wife. She embraced him and smiled, then turned away as she spoke.
“I am glad that you’ve realized your journey, my darling. But please forgive me, for it is I who sent you on it. I wished you to find that crown on your own, yet you asked me for help. I was angry before, for you left me after a night, just a night. So I commanded Swapnika, your favorite daughter to show you that dream. To reignite the desire that I knew you hadn’t lost. Do not frown on me, for you’ve found in your quest, the priceless jewels as well. Effort, patience, love, belief, kindness, hope and character; you found and valued them so much. It is for that reason; your journey has been fruitful.”
He was surprised, yet at that moment, shameful for that night. As he embraced her from behind, he knew things would change. He was no true saint, for he desired, not once or twice, but thrice. Yet it was his belief, their belief in him that made him who he was. So as he whispered in her ears that he loved her, and meant to be there for her when needed, he knew that things would change, yet still would remain the same. His journey would continue, in his mind, in the depth of his heart. As he kissed her, his daughters smiled and left them alone as they ascended the silver steps to the heavens. As they became one for the second time, Swapnika showered on them the dust of dreams. And that is where we leave Ashwa and Nakshatra, to be lost in each other and their dreams, a journey that they will take forever..
The three pieces of poetry in this fiction have been written as part of the NaPoWriMo month, and the second one has been inspired by the prompt, Epidemic at One Single Impression.