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Thursday, January 7, 2016

31) Connecting through several lifetimes: The Story of the “Panditji” (Priest) of the Hanuman Temple at Chandrasekhar Azad University, Kanpur:



The Background:

In 1997-98, I was posted as a Branch Manager at a State Bank Branch (in Lucknow Circle of the Bank) in Kanpur’s Leather Belt. In 1998, when the Branch was undergoing computerization, we had multiple problems at the Branch in its implementation.

Most of my boys were absolutely computer illiterate and there was a passive resistance/objection to shifting from manual operations to a computerised one. To compound the problems, getting to understand the computerised operations/ software was proving to be an onerous task for the Branch staff and, to top it all, we had several irate and demanding customers who wanted to be “served” promptly.

Despite working very late at the Branch, each one of my officers and staff seemed to have a hard time coming to terms with the new computerised system.

Matters looked so bleak, that, I dreaded going to the Branch every morning not knowing what new problems we were going to face that day.

I remember that we attended an Asha Bhosle & Babul Supriyo concert, tickets for which were much sought after and paid Rs.1000/- apiece for two tickets, a princely sum in those days (my wife Sumita very much wanted to see this programme). Throughout the programme, I could not remember which songs Asha Tai and Babul Supriyo sang, because while I was physically present at the concert venue, my mind was still contemplating the problems at the Branch.

The Morning walks at the Chandrasekhar Azad University (CSA) Campus:

Every morning we used to go for morning walks in the CSA University Campus for a good two km or so and back, but of late, while I “physically” went for the morning walk looking like a “zombie”, “mentally”, I was only thinking of the problems back at the Branch during the entire walk.

I seemed to have stopped appreciating the morning breeze, the Campus grass, trees or the flowers blooming in the gardens et al.

The strange meeting with the Hanuman Temple “Panditji” and his Counselling:

As we passed by the Hanuman temple in the University Campus, suddenly, a frail elderly “Panditji” (Priest) came running out of the temple and started blessing me with both his hands placed on my head. Like a soothsayer of yore or like a seasoned “Counsellor”, he was shouting out to me at the top of his voice: “Sab Theek ho Jaayega. Koi Chinta nahin karne ka hai. Yeh jo kuch bhi ho raha hai, yeh sab Maya hai. Samay ke saath ye sab peeche ho jaayega. Main kaun hun, Tum Kaun Ho? Hamara tumhara rishta kai janamon ka hai. Kisi janam mein tum hamare Baap the, Kisi Janam mein hum tumhare Baap rahe hoge. Yeh Bhagwan ki Leela chalti rahegi. Sab theek ho jaayega” (Meaning “Everything will be alright. Do not worry about anything. Whatever is happening is only a play of Nature, the Universal Forces. With the passage of time, all this will be behind you. Who am I? Who are you? You and I have been related over several life-times. In one birth you may have been my father, while in another, I may have been your father. This is all a play of nature which will continue for eternity. Everything will be alright”.

Then as quickly as he had come running out of the temple to accost me, he went running back shouting “Thehro! Thehro!” (Wait! Wait!). He came out with a juicy apple which had been offered to the God Hanuman by some devotee. He said “Isko khao. Sab theek ho jaayega”. (meaning “Eat this. Everything will be alright”).

I was totally flustered. How did this elderly Panditji know that I was having problems? Was he really related to me over several lifetimes? Could he see beyond what I as an ordinary mortal could not see – i.e. into the Past as well as the Future or was it just a “pep” talk.

Somewhat embarrassed, I realised that for the morning walk I had not brought my wallet but I managed to fish out a Five rupee coin from my walking shorts pocket and said “Panditji, Yeh Paanch Rupiye Bhagwan par charha deejiyega” (meaning “Panditji, please put this Five Rupee coin at the Altar of God”).

He immediately admonished me making me feel like a small child before a College Principal “Bhagwan ke Ghar mein sab kuch milta hai. Unko tumhari rishwat ki jaroorat nahin hai” (meaning “In God’s House, everything is given. You do not have to bribe him with this little token of yours”).

Feeling somewhat small I pocketed the Five rupee coin saying “Dhanyavaad, Panditji” (meaning “Thank you Panditji”).

Panditji would give me a fruit everytime I passed the temple – much to the chagrin of other devotees:

Then it became a routine. As we would pass by the Hanuman temple, on our morning walks  Panditji would look out from inside the temple and no matter how busy he was, whether he was in a middle of a “Pooja” (meaning “prayer”) or irrespective of the number of  devotees who would wait in line to give him their offerings to be placed before the God Hanuman, he would come running out with whatever fruit he could grab quickly, continuing to chant his “mantras”, hand it to me, bless me by putting both his hands on my head and get back inside the temple as quickly as he had come out.

His “special” treatment for me raised several queries from the devotees “Sir, which department are you working in, in the University?”, “Do you know Panditji personally?” and so on. I tried to give evasive answers, not revealing the “special bond of several lifetimes” that I had now come to believe in.

Holiday in Mumbai and Goa and contracting the Falsiparum Malaria sickness:

Just as Panditji had predicted, with the passage of time, matters got stabilised at the Branch and my “problems” got somewhat reduced.

I could now take a long awaited holiday and went to Goa and Mumbai for about a week. While at Goa, I got bitten by a mosquito and did not realize that the mosquito had injected me with the “Plasmodium falciparum” variety of malarial infection. (“Plasmodium falciparum” is a protozoan parasite that causes malaria in human, and it is transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito). I understand that this is one of the deadliest varieties of the malarial parasite and in several cases results in fatalities a, before the disease is even discovered.

The physicians back home in Kanpur had not encountered malarial cases and hence could not make out my problem. As my vital systems began to fail one after the other and I was becoming delirious, I was evacuated to Lucknow where I immediately passed into a coma while narrating my symptoms to a Physician in my sister’s Nursing Home.

Getting treatment at King George’s Medical College, Lucknow: 
I was immediately transferred to the King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, where I believe that I stayed in a comatose condition for almost ten days with three generations of doctors keeping watch over me – my father, his student who was now a Professor and Head of the Department in the Medical College and my sister who was his student.

Luckily the Professor had encountered two Falciparum patients who had come to Lucknow after visiting Kolkata and co-relating the symptoms, started the treatment without waiting for my blood test reports. I believe that my Falciparum infection was so severe that the report and samples have been kept in the Medical College as reference material for medical students.

 During the comatose condition I became delirious and had at least one out of body experience, but that is another story.

A strange encounter with the “Grim Reaper”:

During another experience, I saw a group of people who were collecting people after knocking on several houses. One of them looked at me and said “Take him along with us. He is ready”. Confused I spoke to the person who had come to “collect” me “Who are you people? I don’t know anyone of you. And I am certainly not ready to go with you”. Whereupon he replied “We are collecting people to go with us. If you don’t want to go with us, then you will have to give me two hundred rupees”.

I realised to my horror that it was a group of representatives of the “Grim Reaper”. Nevertheless, I put up a bold front and said “I don’t know any of you and I will certainly not give you any money. And how dare you ask me for a bribe.  If I do have to give two hundred rupees I will give it to the Hanuman temple Panditji when I get back to Kanpur. And I am most certainly not going with anyone of you”.

Upon my saying this, the whole group on hearing the name of the God “Hanuman” and “Panditji” ran away leaving me behind.

When I gained consciousness, I told Sumita to remember that we had to give Panditji blankets or similar stuff worth two hundred Rupees when we got back to Kanpur, lest I should forget to do this as I had become extremely weak after the recovery.

Seeing Panditji again on our return to Kanpur and narrating to him my experiences:

When we got back to Kanpur, as decided, we went to see Panditji with a set of blankets. He greeted me warmly and said “I was very worried about you. There was no communication from you and neither did you come for the morning walk.”

I told him that I was very sick and was hospitalised in Lucknow. He told me that he did not know this and was offering special prayers for me, and that particularly on one day he was very worried about my well-being and offered continuous prayers when he thought that I was reaching out to him looking for support. I marvelled at his narration. It was the day when I had encountered the representatives of the “Grim Reaper”.

I came back home wondering whether it was just a coincidence that he was offering a special prayer for me that day or the connection of several lifetimes as the “Panditji” had spoken about on our first meeting, which had given him an indication. I most certainly believed that it was his prayers for me which had saved my life.

Transfer to Mumbai & never meeting “Panditji” again in this lifetime:

A few months later, I broke the news to him that my transfer to Mumbai had materialised and that I would be leaving in a week’s time. He looked distraught and took our contact phone numbers. As he did not have a phone, I could not contact him.

Two years passed in Mumbai and when a friend’s daughter had come over from Pune to our Mumbai residence during a stopover to catch the next morning’s train to Kanpur, I gave her two hundred rupees, mentioning that she should request her father to visit the Hanuman temple and give this money to Panditji.

My Friend’s Narration of  the last meeting with “Panditji”:

Her father later narrated to me that when he went to see Panditji, he found that Panditji was very sick. The moment he took out the two hundred rupees to give to Panditji, the sick priest smiled and said “Yeh Mumbai wale ne bheja hai naa. Woh kaise hain?” (meaning “this has been sent by the Mumbai person, no. How is he””). He immediately took the money and placed it under his pillow. A kind of peace had descended upon his countenance and he continued to lie down on his rickety cot.

It was as if the connection with me had been re-established and he could relax now.

My friend offered to show him to a doctor and give him whatever other assistance that he asked for. But Panditji simply smiled and waved his hand in a gesture that he needed nothing further.

The same evening, Panditji passed away. It was as if he was waiting for me to reconnect with him. The two hundred rupees was the trigger that reassured him that despite the distance between us, there was still a connection.