Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Fire Ceremony

“Hi”, I greeted a co-traveler who appeared before me as I took in the tea-stained set of clothes he wore for this journey. “Hello lady” he replied immediately noticing the pretty Salwar that I was wearing, “Nice Indian color. I see you are getting ready for the fire ceremony”. “Yes”, I replied, smoothing my dress that seemed to be creased with nervousness. Sensing this he said “Don’t worry, it’s going to be just fine. Besides, I heard that you will get a brand new dress on your next trip”. That lightened me up a bit. His timely appearance of course meant that he would be one of the priests who would initiate the fire-ceremony later today. Although we all were people of Purna, I noticed that his Bhu-log costume and my Agni-jan dress did kind of clash and so I pressed him for more details.

He went on: “Yes, we are all people of the Purna, make no mistake, despite what the story-tellers say. I’m one of the Bhu-log on this trip and may be part of Agni-Jan the next time. At least that’s what the seers say. They see things quite differently from the story tellers.” I nodded and innocently asked him “Will there also be Agni-Jan priests who will be performing this ceremony?”  He replied “Not this time. I always go by the book in this journey.” I realized that this person meant business. He continued: “All this must be a bit confusing I know. The Agni-jan can get initiated into the ceremony by Bhu-log and on a few other occasions it’s the other way around. The story tellers who do not understand Purna confuse matters further by claiming that while such no such distinction can be drawn among priests, the same does not apply to those who undergo the ceremony. I'm afraid my dear, that after this journey, they will tell very little about you. Besides, you are too young to be initiated into a fire ceremony. There are a few more ceremonies coming up in the next few days …,", he trailed off. ".. But not to worry sweetie. I will be there with you. Did you know that but for the ceremony, you would have had a chance to visit the birthplace of a journey of Purna itself. In fact some Agni-jan say that during this particular journey, he took the form of a great and kind king who initiated his queen, the daughter of Bhu-lok into a fire ceremony. Let me tell you his story”. Like all kids, I loved stories and gradually became immersed in it and dozed off as he whispered “bye” and floated way to his position.

The Queen gently woke me up with her divinely soft voice “its time now, my little one. Don’t worry, I know how it is. It will be over soon and maybe you will have a longer trip the next time if you so wish”. As she drifted away, I looked out of the window and saw that he was now waiting at his tea-stall in the station that my train pulled into, looking as determined as he said he would be. Did he still have a choice? Our soulful eyes met briefly and perhaps that made him flinch a bit before those eyes emptied and a pair of hands tossed the can of gasoline into our coach to initiate proceedings. He must have seen me at the end, my tiny melting hands folded in prayer as the Maryadha Purushottam came and took me back into the loving arms of Purna to signal the end of the fire ceremony. As I looked down at my ridiculously small heap of mortal ashes in the debris, I was curious how the story tellers who would end up retelling the toddler's journey ten years ago. Their fire-ceremony is not too far away either. Who will tell the story of the story-tellers, I wondered.

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