Sri Sri Gyanasagar was indeed a holy figure, a guide to wandering and tempted souls. A messiah for all those who are seeking redemption. Man knows the limits to his sins yet he is rarely able to stop on his arrival there . He knows what the sins are, yet ignores the fact that he is bathing in them. However, there was near - unanimity among such men, that the solution to this paradox lied in the blessing and guidance of a man who has himself undertaken the path to salvation- the Holy Sri Sri Gyanasagar. He was a beacon of hope for all who had confronted enlightenment and sought purging their souls of the most unholy taints. It is another thing that for most, the seeking of salvation was a morality of convenience. For they did not choose this path when they were younger and when the desire to seek worldly gratifications was beyond their control. As then, it could have meant the unbearable cost of giving up all that temporal bliss which satiated them to the point of addiction. Only when the zest and zeal to enjoy that pleasure was in its ebb, did all kinds of salvation seeking cravings dawn on them. One wonders whether Sri Sri Gyanasagar was aware of this pervasive phenomenon. If he were, then only a man of his stature could explain why he embraced into his camp such opportunistic breed of men. The life and works of Sri Sri Gyanasagar are not hidden from anyone. After getting all the educational degrees, necessary for arming his parents and relatives to brag about their son's talent before less privileged fathers and mothers, he gave up the mundane life of having to run his family's traditional goldsmith business and chose to spend his days in aiding and helping the oppressed and the impoverished. He gained immense popularity among the inhabitants of the small parish adjoining his town for they found their voice in this intelligent and soft spoken 23 year old. On an occasion he had spoken eloquently about his beliefs in the ways of life and spirituality. He never looked back from thereon. In no time he became one of the most sought after spiritual speakers in the region.
He was initially reluctant when he was approached to visit Nidapur because he had detected that the persons inviting him only wanted to prove their worth before the villagers and thereby ensure their clout over them. He had thus turned down invitations from both successive village heads of Nidapur. But the reason he agreed to the third invitation was because he had, by then, come to believe that its people really needed some spiritual guidance in a world where the lure of matter was at an all time high. Despite his sincere hesitation, much fanfare was organized on the day of his arrival at Nidapur. People formed long snakey queues to touch his feet and establish direct contact with the holy man. Making a quick skip from the excesses, Sri Sri Gyanasagar began his discourse. He spoke about life in general and the decaying morals that he witnessed all around. He quoted from the Bhagvad Gita, the Quoran and occasionally from the Bible to restore the idea of greatness in the minds of his listeners. His mastery over the religious scriptures was impeccable. He not only enthralled the audience by his oratory but also struck a chord with them by quoting examples from their daily lives. His sermon was loaded with the singular and the most outstanding philosophy which was, that, to subscribe to God one has to first subscribe to kindness, tolerance and good deeds. If one does not immerse himself in these virtues then he can never find God and his light. Utter silence had swept the gathering. Only the cuckoos in the mangrove and the roaring engines from the nearby Highway provided intermittent interruptions in the quietness in between.
Kuna Behera, Nidapur's infamous gambler shot a question to his Holiness "Why is it that God only seems to favour a chosen few, whereas I who has served his will and never stopped believing in him, never had enough to provide for my family ?" Jena babu, sitting on the podium with Sri Sri Gyanasagar gave a bloodshot glance to Kuna, unmistakably conveying his rage at the latter's display of disregard for His Holiness. Markand, Kuna's childhood friend seated near him, hissed "What are you doing ? Sit down..Now!!." Someone murmured "Why are you so eager to make heavier your bag of sins ..eh ?" Sri Sri Gyanasagar's serene voice tore through the hiss and the murmur "My friend, there is no short cut to affluence. Finding the right path to your ambition is as important as finding the right ambition." Jena babu, quickly sighed something into His Holiness's ear. In all likelihood he had begged his pardon. Kuna's doubts were thus put to rest. It was amazing how the great man had pacified the restless mind of Kuna, with one simple sentence. Inspired by Kuna's act, some other villagers also mustered the courage to stand up and have their queries answered. Most remained confined to their personal failures and sought answers on how to overcome them in the future. Sri Sri Gyanasagar infused steadiness and hope into their impatient minds, by means of his profound knowledge and variegated experiences with life. Jena babu had to stand up and interrupt. "Now is His Holiness's meal time. Do you want that our Maharaj should starve on our village soil ?" This question indeed seemed to jolt everyone out of their individual agendas. Together everyone remarked that Baba must eat at his regular time. Finally Sri Sri Gyanasagar concluded his deliberations and as a parting sermon, advised the people to be tolerant to differences among themselves which would enhance the feeling of brotherhood among men and peace would prevail in society. He chanted a few hymns and recited a couplet from the Holy Gita and got up.
No sooner than he began walking down the stage that there started a rush among the audience to come closer to him. People started pulling the ones in front of them so that they could get ahead. The ones far behind suddenly felt the irresistible need to reach near the Holy man and when they saw their neighbours getting easy access to that privilege, they suffered a fatal stroke of envy, causing complete loss of memory of things they had heard and felt a few moments ago. There was no chance in heaven that they would suffer the deprivation of the holy Baba's proximity when people no less ordinary than them were already in speaking distance from him. Desperate shouts of "Baba..Baba" could be heard from all nook and corners of the throng. Heads and hands were frantically moving within the gathering. A man as calm and composed as Sri Sri Gyanasagar felt sweat dripping from his brows as he sensed an imminent pandemonium. He started saying something to calm down the people but his decent voice got helplessly drowned in the commotion. No one heard him, perhaps even the people standing near him missed his words. It happened then. A horrific shriek penetrated the turmoil. A few noticed but most didn't. Those behind in the gathering were still violently persisting forward lest they might miss the chance to obtain their share of blessings. Within quick moments another squeal shot out from around the same spot in the crowd from where earlier the shriek had emerged. It was followed by loud swearing in the most uncivilized tongue. Those who were so unstoppably charging ahead had suddenly halted. Like slaves to a phantom, they expressionlessly spread to form a circle and witness the event. Sri Sri Gyanasagar not being a man of tall stature found it impossible to catch the scene. So he ran. He ran up to the stage and froze. He saw a woman lying down motionless and two men beating each other mercilessly near her still body. The spectators to this violent sight appeared consumed by an inexplicable indifference. No one bothered to intervene while blood was being drawn in the fight. Completely out of his wits, Gyanasagar Baba started shouting to the brawlers pleading with them to stop. No heed was paid to the man who just minutes ago was considered second only to God. He jumped off the stage and tried to anxiously break his way into the crowd. Mid way he heard another scream. Moments later when he finally reached the spot he saw one of them lying immobile drowned in his own blood. The other was holding a dagger drenched in red and caressing the head of the fallen woman in his lap. It was not certain whether souls of either or both the still bodies had left for their heavenly abode. People continued standing like statues taking an eternity to swallow in the gory sight. The organizers rushed both to the nearby Public Health Centre where the man was declared dead and the woman, in a critical condition, was referred to the city Hospital for emergency medical treatment. It was later heard that the deceased man had trampled the woman in his frenzy to meet Baba Gyanasagar, though it appeared quite implausible that it was the deed of one man alone, it being equally likely that she might have been knocked down by several out of so many reckless people. But as providence would have it, her husband had caught the deceased at the exact moment when he had stepped on her, causing him to believe that he was the cause of his wife's injury.
Three years have flown by. The woman is still in a hospital ward, motionless, same as she had lain that day amidst the Nidapur mangrove gathering. A violent push to the ground had caused her a severe head injury and she had therefore slipped into a coma. The organizers of that day's meeting are facing trial for criminal negligence and the husband of the woman is standing his trial for murder. Both the trials are almost half way through. Sri Sri Gyanasagar is now running an ashram, where he continues to deliver sermons to guide people onto the right path, in the quiet and privacy of his abode. He sheds a tear or two when he recalls the Nidapur incident. He has not been heard since, of giving public discourses.
("Saints of Nidapur" is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person (alive or dead), place or incident etc. if any, is coincidental.)