The Professor’s friend
Old Darshana Matavada stood transfixed by the serenity of the temple.
He had been tired throughout his career, and now he has retired. He felt
as if he were walking in a long forgotten dream. A dream he had been
entertaining all his life.
Dharshana Matavada politely declined the emeritus professorship. So
he is no longer Professor Dharshana Matavada. But his associates still
took pride in calling him Professor. He did not mind that.
His subject was philosophy. He studied many philosophies across the
world. Any philosophy, you name it, he would describe and analyze. But
then a time occurred when he felt fed up with these philosophies.
After drafting a last will, arranging for his wife and children to
settle in a foreign shore, keeping a little for his own use, he
allocated the rest of his Provident Fund for his family and loved ones.
The property, too, he gave up ownership over.
And at the temple, he wanted to experience the beautiful silence
described in eastern philosophies. Silence makes peace, and peace is a
beautiful state. Silence is when your mind is even without inner
chatter, Professor recalled.
Under the shelter of a giant tree, he felt calm. He could imagine how
saints of yore attained enlightenment under giant trees. No wonder
ancestors worshipped nature.
Mother Nature is the world's oldest religion. Perhaps he would write
another book on that. It will be a book without quoting any other
publications. No, he thought again, he would not want to write a book
again. Or write down some notes on just what he feels under the giant
Lost in the wilderness of his own thoughts, the Professor didn't hear
footsteps of a stranger approaching him.
That was enough for the Professor to wake up from his reflection. But
the stranger was still a stranger. There was no single hint of
familiarity. Who is this?
“I'm Mithra, remember? Kalyana Mithra!”
Mithra! Kalyana Mithra! He remembered faintly. Luckily, there were
only a few Mithras in his life. And those few he could remember as if
inscribed on a rock.
“Yes, Mithra, I remember you. How are you?”
“I’m fine. I had two daughters. I gave them a good education and
married them off. Now I’m also retired from government service. My wife
died last year. Now I seek solace in religion.”
Why is this man saying all this? He had no question to ask. Mithra
had said everything.
“So how is your life? I have read your books on silence. I really
enjoyed reading them. I asked my children to read them too. These modern
people, you know, cannot understand such deep writings. Your analysis is
Even such appreciation could not relieve the Professor’s mind.
Why did I come to the temple, he started reflecting. Isn’t it to
experience the bliss of solitude? There was no silence at home.
Telephone buzzed quite often. Grandchildren were making noises. Even
pub was no alternative, it was always noisy. Besides, his doctor had
advised him against having large quantities of liquor.
So the best place was the temple.
But this man had to come and crush his peaceful moment. Why doesn’t
he leave me alone? Why cannot he go find someone else to talk? Why? But
why? Do you understand that? I don't think. No, you won't understand
that. He remained silent mostly throughout the conversation as a
“I have to offer these flowers. See you after that. You are not going
“I will. But I need a few minutes to myself.”
He had a few minutes to himself. No one came and disturbed him. But
his mind was not at peace. Someone was talking inside. He tried to
realize who it is. It was himself. He felt like going to the shrine
room. He kept on observing the Buddha statue. Then he tried to recall
some teachings he had read.
What is silence? What is peace? If it is shattered because of others,
then how can it be peace? It took a few more minutes for the Professor
to untangle the web of thoughts.
Silence is not there when the outside is silent. It’s best
experienced when the outside is noisy. He remembered a Zen story too. Of
a master who experimented with his own patience with a noisy assistant.
Noisy people are fertilizer to practise peace and patience in you.
They offer wholesome ground to experiment patience. Serenity is not
there in serene environs. Any serenity you have in a serene place may
get lost when you come to the outer world. When it comes from within, it
stays faithful to you throughout no matter what the environs are, no
matter who you talk to.
So, the Professor thought, this is the lesson. He felt a little
guilty about the way he treated his old friend. He rose and set out to
find his friend. He asked everyone in the temple whether they had seen
anyone called Kalyana Mithra. They said they did not know anyone by such
a name. Then he described his friend’s features, still with no luck.
He heaved a sigh. But then he did not feel alone anymore. He had the
lesson. It was the lesson neither he had read nor written. He realized a
path was open for him to tread.
He thanked his friend, silently.