The Sadhu And The Stone
February 15, 2011 9 Comments
The little known Ganesha shrine was atop the small hill. The local belief was no different – Ganesha, if appeased, would sweep away all obstacles from one’s path. There was always a thin stream of the faithful making to the top over a rutted track strewn with small stones, pebbles and gravel. The bearded old Sadhu in ochre robes, his long hair rolled into a bun on his head, was half way up when he decided to rest for while before moving forward. He stepped away from the track and sat on the ground under a shady tree close by idly watching others on their way up or going down returning from the shrine.
Right before him, he saw men in stride stumble as if the ground rolled away from under their foot. Or, they would wince in pain as though they stepped on something that hurt them sharply in their feet. Strangely it was always at one spot where the mishap would happen. After a few incidents, the Sadhu overcome with curiosity walked up to inspect the spot closely.
There he saw the source of all mischief – a black stone shaped gently like a cone, a wee-bit lopped off near the top and uneven at the base, lay on its sides nestled in a cluster of smaller stones in the middle of the track. On the underside, the conical surface was somewhat smoother causing it to roll and slip under the pressure of a foot from above. On the side up, the cone was roughly chipped away leaving edges and ridges sharp enough to cause grief to the unwary foot that stepped on them.
The Sadhu saw a naughty child and rebuked it squarely: ’You can’t go around causing hurt to innocent people.’
He was taken aback when the stone spoke up with some heat: ‘Because, I’m angry.’
The Sadhu recovered quickly.
‘Why are you angry and at whom?’
‘I want to go to the top. No one is helping me to get there, Wise Man. I’ve taken it for long. None of it anymore. That’s why…’
‘Do you know not everyone can reach the top? There are stones at heights below you and above you too and they don’t make a fuss about it. Right here, like they all do wherever they are, you could make yourself useful providing comfortable and sure support for the weary feet.’
‘That may be, but I’m different from them. And I am intent on getting to the top, Wise Man.’
‘Don’t you see those going up do come down?’
‘That may be, but I’m different.’
‘Fine, I’ll help you, but on one condition.’
‘What would that be?’
‘Well, you’ll behave yourself. You’ll neither cause a foot to slip nor hurt with sharp edges any more.’
‘Suppose it’s as you say, then?’
‘When I come here next season, if you had behaved well as you promise, I’d take you to the top.’
‘You’ve my word. And come back soon next season.’
So they went their ways.
The following season…the Sadhu reached the very spot.
‘I’m here again.’
‘Wise Man, am I happy to see you!’
‘How have you been all these days?’
‘Just as I had said. Now it’s your turn. I hope you haven’t forgotten our little deal.’
‘Not to worry. I’ll do my part.’
The Sadhu dislodged the stone and took it with him in his onward climb.
When they reached the top,
‘I’ll have to set you down somewhere here before I go to pray at the shrine.’
‘I can’t thank you enough, Wise Man. Please put me down at the foot of this tree.’
At the top, it was a small piece of flat grass land. The shrine was located on one side and facing the shrine on the other side was a solitary diminutive tree.
‘If that’s what you want…here you are.’
‘Before you go away, could I ask you for one more favor?’
‘What is it?’
‘Look at my bruises taking all those feet on me. Bring back some turmeric from the shrine, will you? And apply the paste on me – it’ll be a balm to my bruises.’
‘Fine, that’s not much. I’ll be back to do it for you.’
After a while, the Sadhu returned with some turmeric paste. He applied it all aound on the stone and left it standing on its base with the smoother face on the outside.
‘Take good care of yourself, you’re here away from all your brethren below. Will look you up on my next visit.’
So they went their ways.
The following season…
The Sadhu reached the top. His eyes immediately went to the foot of the tree. There was nothing there. The whole flat was swept clean and leveled flat. They may have thrown the offending stone downhill. He felt a momentary twinge of sadness and thought no more.
Near the shrine he saw a small crowd. There was a festive look all around. He learnt they were consecrating another icon for Ganesha’s pitha (father) Shiva. Seeing a Sadhu, it was most propitious, they thought, to ask him to conduct the ceremony. He readily agreed. They all stood back as he went up to the icon and set about with flowers, turmeric paste, and other offerings.
A soft whisper startled him: ‘Wise Man, am I happy to see you!’ The Linga (the icon for Shiva) had a wee-bit lopped off near the top.
And it fell silent…for good.