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ISH

By Adrian Ioniţă [USA]

Translation from Romanian by A C Clarke and Monica Ţone, MTTLC

edited by Robert Fenhagen
pentru versiunea română click aici

 

 

After a claustrophobic, heavy winter, this outing in the park was a voluntary exile in fascination.

 

Ish went crazy in the grass, spreading a cloud of cottony dandelion seeds about him.

I put his collar into my pocket and sat on a nearby bench. The wind carried the smell of fresh grass, the trees were in bloom and the pastel colors of the flowers resembled–the glaze on a Horezu pottery jug. A cloud of golden pollen made my eyelids grow heavy.  They slid slow and wet over my eyes, which blinked behind their drowsy curtains.

 

In front of me a child was swinging–the rusty, squeaking sound of the swing accompanied by the screeching, desolate sound of a seagull lost in nothingness broke the silence around me. The child’s dangling feet were drawing a perfect arc which swung with the rhythmic precision of a metronome. Each time he disappeared behind a gnarled branch which obstructed my view I tried fleetingly to recreate the image in my mind’s eye. Growing tired of this, my gaze soared full of curiosity over the park, the art center, the lake, the trees, the winding paths and the red cinder court. A few squirrels were squabbling in a tree and from time to time a giant butterfly obscured my view with the flapping of its soft and velvety wings. Seen from above, the park was an architectural model in miniature with plastic trees and polystyrene houses. The precise, still outline of a man threw a shadow on one of the paths and Ish had become a black, moving dot next to the mirror of the lake into which a translucent cloud had fallen. My closed eyelids were fluttering slowly, bars of greenish light shining through them. A subtle smell of glue made me instinctively bend forward and my eyes slid away from the unchanging hologram in whose center the swing was pulsing…

 

Away from the rest, in a corner of the workshop, she started modeling a bust as small as the palm of her hand. Right in front of her was an album into which she was gazing, hypnotized, at the photo of an old man with a white beard and turban. The woman was in her forties, the youngest student in my sculpture class, who most of the time I compare jokingly with a group in the geriatric clinic at Ana Aslan. Although she didn’t have any previous experience in modeling, she told me she wanted to make this bust for the birthday anniversary of  the Grand Master Baba Sawan Singh Ji, the old man with the turban in the photo. I took the album and I started to browse through it without knowing that right in front of me was the image of a man considered to be one of India’s greatest mystics.

 

During the following weeks, I found out that she was part of an exclusive group of disciples that gathered weekly around the Master, a guru initiated by Baba Swan Singh Ji. I don’t remember exactly the day I arrived to visit her group but I do know that it was a freezing winter day in which my footsteps sounded on the frozen grass as if I were crushing a bed of opaque light bulbs under my boots. The group met in the hall of a church in the outskirts of the city. All kind of weird scenarios ran through my mind, before I went to the meeting – such as taking off my boots and being humiliated by discovering a hole in the sock, or kneeling in front of a statue I saw for the first time. The others around me were dressed casually– not a trace of turbans, or Ali Baba and the Forty thieves.

 

The Master’s entrance was a surprise. An older man, dressed in a suit and a tie, he seemed a university teacher rather than a guru. The disciples gathered quickly around him, saluting him in the well known gassho manner, with a bow of the head and intertwined hands. As I was in front of the Master I almost burst into hysterical laughter. My hands were occupied with a bag that fell onto the floor when I bowed. Woody Allen couldn’t have created a more pitiful scene.

 

“You must be Larry” the Master stated, instead of greeting me.

 

There were about forty people in the room. Everyone knew everyone else and they all seemed set on ignoring me. I even started wondering if this meeting was a sort of farce or a conspiracy, when suddenly a deadly silence fell on the room. The Master, who was sitting in front of us on a massive oak throne, was considering us closely. The disciples were standing still, as if arrested by this scrutiny, which was so intense it was palpable. For a fraction of a second the Master’s gaze focused solely on me. I was trying to appear as indifferent to it as I could but I realized that my lower jaw was paralysed by a force I couldn’t control. This whole mute ceremony lasted for a few minutes and then the Master started speaking:

 

“Many years ago my father, who was a philosophy and metaphysics professor at Punjab University, wrote a book in two volumes entitled “Mysticism – The Spiritual Path.”. The book appeared in 1940 with an initial print-run of a thousand copies and had a great success: it was reprinted five times. I believe that the second volume of the book is still in book shops, but I can tell you now that the first volume is out of circulation. I myself don’t have it anymore. As we live in a materialistic era dominated by scientific research, in which ancient beliefs and religious dogmas are questioned and analyzed, I thought it would be useful to have a discussion about it. The book was dedicated to the great Master Param Sant Satguru Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji who greatly appreciated it. I will refer today to a few ideas from the chapters of the book… ”

 

After a few indecisive head movements the image of the park came back into focus. It had shrunk to the size of a twenty-five cent coin. Frightened, my eyes focused on the swing, which was parting the thick, viscous air into waves, like the wind through a wheat field. Caught up in its unchanging momentum I lost all trace of consciousness and woke up close to ground level. A tree dropped a leaf blotting out my view for a moment. I was next to the swing. At regular intervals the child’s feet appeared in front of my eyes with the precise movements of a windscreen-wiper. A jerk of the chin switched my focus to the child’s face. I was growing restless. The child was tight-lipped as if hiding his pain. His golden hair covered his face every time he rose into the air, falling back every time he closed menacingly on me. From time to time the image blurred as if mud had been churned up from the bottom of a lake. All the while a deep sound could be heard, out of step with the child’s movements. I stayed like that for a long time until a loud shriek made me jump and, to my terror, the transferred focus entered the body of the child, through his cells and pores, severing the organs and muscle fibers, tearing them into a reddish, pearly foam. I fell onto the bench, my hands clenched and I felt I was losing consciousness. A hot and sticky liquid covered my body, I felt as if I had plunged into it at a great speed. My fingernails were digging into the wooden bench. I needed air: I probably hadn’t taken a breath for ten minutes. I had to leave this place as soon as possible. Finally, my lungs cleared and a chunk of meat the size of a plum dumpling burst out of my open mouth, falling with a deafening thump near the bench…

 

As the Master spoke his words were simultaneously projecting images onto the screen of my mind,– a film; this inner film pulsed in the hypnotic rhythm of a daydream from which I woke up from time to time to absorb another idea. It’s all about the questions. Who are we, what is the world, what is the purpose of our existence on Earth, what is God, time and space, does man have free will, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world, why so much cruelty, what is death, is there really such a thing as reincarnation, what is the absolute reality of the phenomena around us?

 

My existence had been deprived of spiritual nourishment for too long; here I was in front of a man who opened my third eye to see a magical and unknown world.

 

Indeed, who is “here” or “there” on the astral plane? Has anyone ever described that world? And then, how do we get there if we have to die while we live?

 

I stood still for a few moments to recover. Slowly my breathing started to return to normal. A cheery bird song was brutally interrupted by the continual honking of a truck. A few minutes later I dared to open my eyes. The powerful light totally blinded me. The rays of the sun shot through me like arrows. I turned towards the park and I sighed with relief. Ish was sitting at my feet and looking at me as silent as a sphinx. I instinctively swallowed. From my left, a middle-aged man had entered the park on an electric scooter. He was thin, unshaven and badly dressed. He stopped and stood still in the middle of the road, while the landscape behind him started moving like a cardboard backdrop.

 

I put Ish’s collar back around his over amply furred neck and went home. The nearer I got to the man with the scooter, the more anxious I became. In the end I passed through him as if he were a soap bubble, carried onward by the red cinder path which disappeared under an island of trees just waiting for us to point at it…

 

***

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