Hi, it’s been a long time since we last met,’ she said, slapping me on the back. I looked at her a little surprised; quite unlike her saintly ways. The last time I met her, she was virtually levitating in her robes and gliding through the tastefully designed public Park. I greeted her with a ‘hi’ and stopped for a brief chat. But to my surprise, all she did was look at me through half closed eyes and smiled benignly.
‘So how have you been Zelda?’
She smiled again.
‘I mean, I hear you went to Bodh Gaya and Nepal and Sri Lanka tracing the steps of the sacred Master. How was it?’
Another smile. And then she glided off, dissolving into the thicket of a bamboo grove. I stood there wondering what I had said wrong. But then it wasn’t my story but her story. She was the centrepiece.
Yes, Zelda had come to Pune some years before I had met her in the Park, quite desperate to get away from what she called ‘the mercenary way of the West’. She had come to our blessed city to seek peace and calm. Well, she got it in full measure, our deshi angels of peace smiling at her every time she turned a corner. They helped her unload her fortunes and brought her down to the bare minimum, leaving her just enough to live on, nudging her towards her path to ultimate salvation. She joined a group of semi well off spiritual folk and headed off to a farm beside a lake on the outskirts of the city. We didn’t see her around for a while but then when we did, she had developed the art of supposed levitation and adorned her face with a beatific smile.
There were stories about Zelda that did the rounds. One said that she was a witch, another that she had travelled way past enlightenment and had come out into the sunshine on the other side, a third that she had developed the art of instant hypnosis — if there really was a skill like that. Then one day she set herself up as a Tarot reader, numerologist, palmist and offered shadow reading services. All went well until one of our local ‘investors’ made off with her earnings. Her small home was burgled and she was pushed to the edge of survival. So near to the edge was she that she decided to make one last go of her search. So off she went on the Buddha Trail.
Not long after that I met her in the manicured Park. Other sacred encounters followed until she slipped out of sight. Now after all that time, there she was again, in a new jean-clad avatar, hair pulled back in a pony tail, face scrubbed fresh and glowing, a brilliant set of teeth gleaming at me and a mehndi marked hands.
I took a good look at her and gave her that special big smile that I reserve for those who deserve to be happy (even if it is the happiness of a chicken before it lands up over the tandoori spit). ‘It’s so good to see you,’ I gushed. ‘Same here,’ she replied.
‘You look different,’ I commented.
‘This,’ she said dramatically, ‘is the real me. ME ME ME. I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am. I am finally marrying an Indian from THIS CITY…among the most cultured people in the world. You know these people are WHOLE. Spiritual, money minded, aggressive, cultured, educated…a perfect mix of all these qualities.’
‘I suggest you lower your voice, people are staring at you,’
‘Oh who cares. I mean what I say. I am so happy. He is from this city! My life has come full circle. This is happiness.’
Just then , a car drew up and a guy emerged. ‘This is my man,’ she said.
The amiable fellow grinned, and before being properly introduced, gently tugged her into his car and they left.
I am waiting to meet her again in her new avatar.