Fiction: The Divine Will (Amita Ray)

Amita Ray
      It was quite some years back. Mona, a middle aged lady was wobbling her way to the security check up in the airport. She wore a tense look on her face and was going to board the Kolkata bound flight from Chennai. Her daughter and son in law had seen her off at the entrance of the airport. She was travelling alone and so had few luggage. Among them were a handbag and a trolley bag. But along with these lightweights, she was carrying a huge portrait mounted on a solid wooden frame with carved corners. It was securely packed by her daughter. The portrait was that of Swami Vivekananda.
      Her daughter Geet working in a multinational company in Pune had lately shifted her base to Chennai. Geet’s husband Manas was posted in Chennai since the beginning of his career. After more than three years of shuttling between Pune and Chennai after marriage, Geet had at last managed to shift to Chennai. When Mona got the news she breathed a sigh of relief. She was very much worried as her daughter after marriage stayed alone in Pune separated by an aerial distance of nine hundred and twelve Kilometers from her husband. She was adamant on not leaving her job to be with Manas. It distressed Mona as she thought about those early happy days she had spent with her husband just after marriage. They were probably the happiest time of togetherness. Now she counts each day withering away, without him, a lonely widower. But she had every faith on the Almighty God. She believed that everything that happens to us is a reflection of His divine will.
     Manas and Geet were elated when Mona visited them in Chennai soon after they had settled down. Their modest two bed roomed flat was fresh with the aroma of love wafting around. Their nest was tastefully decorated and Mona spent her time dusting and cleaning when they were away in office. One of the walls of the living space was adorned by a remarkable portrait of Swami Vivekananda. The picture was taken during Swamiji’s stay at Almora. Mona who had been initiated by the Ramkrishna Mission almost fell into a trance when she saw the portrait the first time. Those eyes exuding divinity from a placid countenance enthralled her. True, it was not the first time that she was looking at a picture of the great monk, but this picture of Swamiji, the towering personality standing tall under a tree had an ineffable charm about it. Struggling up on a nearby sofa with a painful right knee, she carefully cleaned every speck of dust from it daily.
      “Geet, this portrait of Swamiji is so beautiful. The visage is so soothing, so pacifying!” Mona said one day casually.
       “Hmm” Geet nodded in acquiescence.
        “Where did you get it from?”
         “Ma, we didn’t buy. It was gifted in a conference. We just mounted it.”
          “Good, the frame is so exquisite, perfect to go with the subtle grandeur of the spiritual messiah.”
     Almost every day Geet found her mother raising a point or two about the portrait, the frame, how the ambience of the room was perfected by the majestic spell of the portrait of Swamiji. Many a time she found her mother meditating in front of it, her devotion almost on the verge of an obsession.
     The days passed happily and finally it was time for her mother to leave. Mona coaxed, “Do stay back Ma. You don’t have any commitments back there.” But at the back of her mind she knew that her mother did have responsibilities and she wouldn’t agree.
      Manas also joined in, “Stay here with us till Diwali when we intend visiting Kolkata. All of us will go together.”
     Smiling indulgently, Mona looked at them and said, “I would have been glad only if I could! Sorry dears, next time when I come God willing, I will stay longer. But now I must leave.”
       In Kolkata there was a Ramkrishna Mission Math close to Mona’s house. She used to frequent this place. When her husband passed away a year back a void had filled her. It was then that she approached the Maharaja in charge, poured out her heart and felt relieved from her deep anguish and restlessness of mind. Maharaja advised her to render voluntary service in the day school which the mission ran. Mona devoted herself wholeheartedly to teaching the poor children in the school and found much solace. She became a committed worker in the mission.
      That night before her departure Geet was helping her mother in packing. Suddenly she noticed that her mother was quietly standing in front of the portrait and looking at it intently. Tears trickled down her eyes. It was a sort of revelation to Geet. She rose and stood by her mother. Holding her mother’s hand Geet whispered, “Ma, would you like to take the portrait along with you?”
       Mona felt embarrassed. How could her little girl become so mature as to read her mind! Geet came closer and hugging her said, “Only say yes! I will pack it for you.” On second thought she said, “But will you be able to carry it all the way?”
   With a cheeky grin Mona said, “Didn’t I carry you in my womb before your birth dear? Now I carry you in my mind. But what will Manas….
         Geet interrupted, “I will manage. You don’t have to worry about him.”  Saying so Geet got busy packing the treasure for her mother with utmost care while her mother stood watching her darling.
        Mona mused, “Just like me!”

      Wading safely out of all barriers of checking with the framed portrait nestled securely under her left arm and the handbag perched on the right she thought about the last minute advice of her daughter, “Ask the staff of the flight to keep it safely somewhere. They are sure to oblige if they know it is a portrait of Swamiji that you are carrying.” So before boarding the plane she requested the official at the gate to help her in keeping the portrait. The official smiled in reply.
       After boarding the aircraft Mona showed her economy class ticket to the hostess. She was ushered to a seat in front by the window. She was delighted to find that there was ample space on one side to keep the portrait comfortably. Mona was more than relieved. Keeping the portrait in a reclining position by her seat she sank in her seat, tied the seat belt and closed her eyes thanking the Almighty.
      After the takeoff she suddenly opened her eyes and looked around. Never before had she flown in such comfort. The seat, the space the arrangements, everything looked unfamiliar. She had travelled before many times in economy class but here she felt different. Suddenly it dawned upon her that it was business class she was travelling in. Immediately she called the airhostess, showed her ticket to confirm.
     The hostess smiled and said, “Madam, you need not worry. It is OK. There is no bona fide passenger for this seat. Happy Journey!”
     Mona was dumbfound! She had been so perturbed about bringing the portrait safely home. But everything was unexpectedly smooth sailing. How was it possible? She thought, “Strange are the ways of the Almighty. His will for us unfolds every day, every moment of our life.”

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