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Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Farmhouse

    (Photo Taken From The Net)

    A neglected dirt road led to a town where the creaking, weather worn swinging board at the entrance said Welcome to Indian Wells and it showed a barren land where the harsh winds refused to die down. A coyote let out a lonesome howl somewhere in the distance. The moonlit town seemed deserted except for the stray dog that was asleep under the front porch one of the few houses that stood out like eyesore on a barren landscape. It seemed to be lost in some fleeting dream as it let out a growl and then a bark before quieting down once more.

    It was a lonesome Sunday night as the old woman sat on her porch, smoked the last of her cigarette and finished off her beer. Looking upwards, she saw a few stray clouds which floated past the full moon and seemed to mesmerize the viewer with its light. Tilting the hat back and wiping the sweat off her brow, the old woman looked down the valley, heard the rumble, rattle of some vehicle that sounded like it was about to fall apart. Hardly anyone ever passed through this barren, rocky, desolate windswept landscape which seemed all but forgotten unless it was hired help or if they wanted something from the Smith folks over at the other side of the hill.

    The seasons had flown by and it was already early spring. A young woman had once stood on the same porch, staring outwards at the agricultural fields, yet age had taken its toll and now an ageing woman stood in her place. The memories which she had thought were long forgotten resurfaced every so often to haunt me. “You still awake?” Jim asked as he ran his fingers down the sleeping woman’s bare arm. Taking a deep breath, she shook her head and mumbled in the negative. He started to massage her neck as he heard her sob quietly as the bittersweet memories flooded back into her mind. A tinge of sadness at the loss of humanity and the promise of immortality made the woman wonder why she agreed to give it all up for the guy she loved. 

    Time had flown by and one moment blended into another as she tried to forget her bitter past. Her only faithful companions now were the moon and stars which lit her path. The coyotes had gone quiet as they had their fill and would leave the farm alone this night. Looking down at the field now overgrown with weeds, wild grass and shrubs, she wondered if it was possible to keep on farming in these inhospitable lands all by herself.

    The over grown field needed to be plowed, leveled, seeded and fertilizer spread evenly  so that another bountiful harvest could be harvested, yet the hired help had not arrived yet. Shaking her clenched fist at the sky, the old woman cursed every God she could think of and grumbled about the slim chance of rain and how it might ruin the harvest if the drought continued much longer. Looking across the field and into the barn, she decided to check the harvester, tractor and the trucks to see if they were up to the task.

    Firing up the harvester was easier than the tractor which refused to cooperate. The starter coil needed to be replaced and pistons were worn out. After loading the truck with drums for diesel, she hollered at the one of the men sitting in the dark shadows that the hired help might arrive at any time and that she needed to head off to town to see what can be done about certain pending business. Grunting back an acknowledgment, a giant beast of a man hobbled down the dusty path to light the lanterns near the entrance of the farm and wait for the hired help to show up. Driving down the road towards town excited her since trips down there were rare and it gave her an opportunity to stock up on essentials and get in touch with what was happening in town. Time flew by and the huge farm fields came to an end and the truck soon started to follow a lonesome river. Looking over her shoulder, Nancy realized that the river looked so cool and refreshing and she wanted to walk barefoot on the green grass. The river looked so free and it seemed to call her out so strongly that truck seemed to hesitate for a moment.

    Time started to move on ever so slowly like thickening molasses in a cold winter day. The meandering river threw her back in time to an era long forgotten. Gasping for breath she started to drown in time. One after the other, memories started to sweep past her. The dark thoughts flowing like a raging river swept her back into the past which she thought was long forgotten.

    She slowly came to the senses like a snake waking up from deep sleep. The sound of a truck horn barreling past like demon on a hunt drew her out the dark thoughts she was floating in. Nancy found her way to the edge of the stream and took a moment which seemed like an eternity to wash off all the dust, grime and sweat off. Looking at the reflection in the water while the water dripped off her head and face made her realize where once stood a young woman now stood a white haired wrinkled woman who had the haunted look in her eyes. She sat awhile under the outstretched limbs of the tree and realized how lonesome her life was and wondered where she had gone wrong.

    She slowly drove on and on and the remaining part of the journey was uneventful as the town grew nearer. Electricity poles, town lights and small houses started to dot the moving landscape. It was getting late, the moon would soon start sinking lower into the horizon and soon she will have to get back home before the sun reappeared over the horizon. Time flew by and pretty soon lush countryside replaced the dry dusty lands. The river had disappeared off into some other direction and heavily populated roads were seen running near the dusty road from which the lonesome traveler emerged. The sounds of long haul trucks were heard humming nearby and a lonesome train horn went off somewhere in the distance reminding her how far from home she was.

    A town square emerged and the dusty truck pulled into the only rest stop. Emerging from the shadows, a large burly man stepped up to the cab door, and asked her if she wanted a takeout or would be dining inside. As the old woman stepped into the restaurant, a soft hiss and then a cough from one of the kitchen guys who was taking orders brought her out of the thoughts she was in. An order was placed and the old woman wandered off to one of the tables. After what seemed like an eternity, light spilled onto her face from the high intensity torch as one of the gargoyles who had occupied this timeless eateries stomped impatiently once more to hiss at her that the slop was ready and asked if she was heading off to the eating section or not. The infuriated woman cursed loudly, grabbed her food, headed down the hallway and back towards the eating area.

    Pulling out of the joint, the truck ate up the miles as quickly as the swift winds above. A tow truck was seen pulling a car out of the ditch. The train station soon loomed into view. The train finally arrived though very late. There were a number of compartments. All were empty except the very last box. Realizing that they had reached their destination, the boys started to dismount the train and made their way to the waiting car near the exit. The small group checked their bags once more to see if everything was unloaded from the train before it was put in the car’s trunk. The constant chatter of the boys kept the old ladys mind away from the grim thoughts that were floating around in her mind. The oldest of the boys introduced himself as Tom who talked just about everything under the sun and everyone really seemed to enjoy the monologue. Pretty soon, the wandering group fell asleep one by one and the only sounds heard was the occasional snore or some deep sleep mumble as if someone was plagued by some bad dream.

    The moon was lazily moving through the sky, yet it seemed like the old woman’s hunger was growing stronger with each passing moment. She tried to shrug it off till she reached her own farmlands, yet she finally decided to pull over to the side of the road near an old abandoned farmhouse. She sat awhile gripping the steering wheel tight, yet the vortex was dragging her deeper into itself.

    Her malevolent eyes roamed around till it focused on the blood soaked passenger seat behind her. The eyes suddenly stopped on man who seeing the gaze fixated upon him started to hyperventilate and become wide eyed. The deep red stains on the floor in the far  to corner of the left hand side door made her slowly let out a long throaty growl and the hunger grew in her stronger with each passing moment. Squirming backwards, the only surviving boy kept begging her to let him go while he started looking for an escape. The only response he heard was harsh laughter, a snarl and a swift slap which snapped his head around till it slammed into the side door. Not being able to back any further, he started to push himself up with his back towards the door while making a last ditch effort to open it while grimacing in pain as sharp teeth sunk into his neck. The last sounds that were heard before abandoning the cab after pushing it into dense undergrowth was the gasping breath of a man on his last leg. It was only a matter of time till they came home and she’ll be waiting like she did for the rest.

    An old pickup truck slowly rumbled past the wooded area as if searching for something. A giant beast of a shadow leaned out and whispered the old ladys name. A few leaves rustled as a shadowy figure emerged from the woods and rushed into the waiting vehicle. A moment of silence and then the rumbling truck switched off its headlights, backed into the wooded area. A door was heard opening, truck swayed a bit and grunting sounds as if something heavy being lifted and dropped. A door slammed shut and the engine roared to life once more. Without a sound, the truck wound its way around the bend and into the dusty hills.

    As the truck slowly wound its way back to the farm, a shadowy figure appeared on the passenger side and the woman asked in a hushed tone “Have they arrived yet?” A momentary silence and then replied “Yes master. I’ve lodged them in their rooms and I’ve put their luggage in their as well. They are waiting for you to return and then they’ll start their work”. Fiercely glowing lantern lit the entrance of the farm and the truck took a turn into the barren farm and finally stopped in front of the porch. Yellow light spilled out of the partially open door and in its light revealed not the stooped aging woman but a vibrant, youthful woman who had seen it all. “Back the truck into the barn and dump it all in the back. Make sure u tie them all down to the pole in the back. Don’t want them wandering off till they are ready” barked the woman.  The night was drawing to a close as the moon was sinking deeper and deeper into the horizon. Walking inside, the woman shut the door waiting till the darkness covered the land once more.


      Sunday, October 11, 2015

      The Naimisharanya Excursion

        Approximately 100 kilometers from Lucknow, there is a small temple town called Naimisharanya. It takes about two hours one way in a car. In this album, I am sharing a few photos of our journey. It includes many things like the temple itself, the agricultural fields, toll bridge, etc. Hope you enjoy the photos.

        The Naimisharanya temple a major pilgrimage center and attracts devotees from all over India. Naimisharanya is situated on the left bank of the Gomti river, which is a tributary of the Ganges river. Naimisharanya is popularly known as Neemsar or Naimisha. In the Bhagavata Purana it is mentioned: naimishe animisha-kshetre. This means that Naimisha is the abode of Lord Vishnu called by his name Animisha. Sri Vishnu Sahasranama (Sloka 23) describes Lord Vishnu as Animisha, which means the one who is ever awake, ever alert, and ever vigilant.

         According to ancient legends, Lord Maha Vishnu had killed demons at this place within a nimisha (nimisha is a unit of time, the time it takes to blink) and thence forth this are was called as Naimishaaranya. It is also said that when Lord Maha Vishnu killed the demon Gayasura with his Sudarshana Chakra his body was cut into three parts that fell at three places, namely Paada Gaya (Gaya Kshetra in Bihar), Naabhi Gaya in Naimisharanya and Kapali Gaya in Badri Kshetra (Badrinath). Hence Naimisharanya is also called Nabhi Gaya Kshetra.

        Nemi means the outer surface of the disc (chakra) and the place where it fell is called by the name of Nemisharanya or popularly called as Naimisharanya. The spot where the Nemi of the chakra fell came to be known as Chakra Tirtha (a holy bathing place in the shape of a chakra) and the surrounding forest area as Naimisharanya. The spot where the Chakra struck the earth and water sprung out became known as Chakra Tirtha. It is said to be the center of the universe. It is said that the large sweet-water spring that marks the location of Chakra Tirtha has no bottom. It is said that if you bathe in Chakra Tirtha and make an offering to the presiding deity, Sri Lalitha Devi, on a full Moon or new Moon day that falls on a Monday, you will wash away all the sins committed in a lifetime.

        Today, Naimisharanya Misrikh has numerous pilgrim places to see around. This temple is renowned from the time of Satya Yug or Kritha Yug, the most ancient times. It is the holy place where many sages have performed their penance. It is believed that on visiting this sacred place, people are rid of their sins. Upon visiting Naimisharanya, man attains Moksh (liberation)

        People say that anyone who meditates hard enough over here and rids oneself of worldly desires will definitely attain some amount of divine power and force. Every year, in the Hindu month of Phalgun, a temple festival known as Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama is held in the honor of the sage.