Manu And Changes
Manu was fond of idling time, and so, he found himself gazing over the bamboos and the tree-tops, at the huge, rising sun making the morning warm and bright.
He turned his gaze then to the tall bamboo-grass, on which the dew drops sparkled like beads of pure silver. Some appeared more like diamonds, changing hues within themselves constantly. Voices from the other mud-hut claimed his attention then. Ay, Manu was in awe once more, gazing spell-bound at the huge poui trees, covered in golden blossom!
He felt like laughing. Manu was still aware he was part of all he saw; and that all the treasures of creation were his own.
… A man’s nostalgia is simply a yearning for the way things were. At least some aspects of the past: a spot of earth, a Sunday afternoon ride into the quiet and forested country-side; fishing at the familiar river, or strolling through the bamboos. All had disappeared. No more could he experience the rising sun brightening the eastern sky, and then converting the dew-drops into earthly treasures. No more could he experience the poui trees blossoming gold, or the palmiste trees standing like giant sentinels against the star-lit, heavenly sky!
Manu felt he was falling in love once again! He pondered much on the topic of love then, recalling all his past relationships. Ay, it was nothing like what was described in the Holy Scriptures. Love kept recurring like a pleasant and delightful disease. Whether from the past or the present, love lived on! Manu formed his own opinions … and even conclusions on the topic.
Wedding preparations were in the air, and everyone appeared eager and joyful as they anticipated the event. Unlike Sumintra and Akbar who could not see each other for months before their marriage, Gautam and Shanti met at school. Shanti was blushing much these days.
Kenny, with his new motor-car would drive the short distance to visit Gautam. Kenny had found his girl, and was as stricken as much as Romeo. This afternoon, over some beers on the porch, Kenny would discuss neither history nor politics.
His grin was sheepish and wide as he spoke: “Manu, you are the most qualified to speak on the topic of love. I want to hear your opinion, man.”
Manu was sharing Gautam’s light mood, and didn’t think Kenny was serious. He began: “Love is like taxation, man …”
His parents had never heard laughter so loud coming from Gautam and his friend. Kenny was still holding his belly. “You listening to Manu’s wisdom, Gautam? Love is paying your taxes, man!”
Kenny spoke again after he’d contained himself. “Explain yourself, Manu.”
“You remember Jesus’ words to those who wished to thwart him?” he continued, quoting: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things which belong to God.
Kenny was listening, waiting for more.
Manu spoke again: “Take Sparrow’s Gene and Dinah as an example. They are both individuals and therefore, different. Good or bad, both would have different values or merits. And it is that which determines the amount of tax you must pay.”
Both were roaring with laughter again. Kenny finally said: “I always knew you too damn bright. You are not serious, right?”
Manu would not say if he were serious or not. Instead, he said: “It doesn’t matter, Kenny. But it is the truth about relationships.”
Later, when Kenny told his woman, Caroline that his love for her was like paying taxes, she was not amused. Kenny received the scolding of his life!
* * *
Pasangue, like a few others, had laboured over the years at his few acres of sugarcane and rice-fields. He regretted having sold his rice lands too early. The land-developer had converted the area into prime property, and was making a mint, constructing and selling houses. Pasangue was still able to build a bungalow for his family; and to take out a new tractor. He’d also ploughed up his unprofitable sugarcane lands and employed himself at agriculture.
Pasangue had made it to the second standard, and was fractionally literate. Both Sharma and Chandu had not gone beyond the alphabet. Manu inquired about the fellows.
Pasangue chuckled and said: “Chandu is a millionaire, man. He doing transport. Sharma doing more well. Every year he going abroad. The man have family in New York and in Long Island, and more in Toronto.”
Manu was pleasantly shocked to hear. At that moment, one of the teen-aged girls stepped into the bar, calling for a beer. She was of mixed descent, a bit short in stature and thick-legged. Pasangue kept stealing glances at her, even as the girl was returning outside.
“That dougla real bad, you hear?” he spoke then.
Times have changed, Pasangue,” said Manu. “The youths outside are smoking ganja openly. I see they have modern motor-bikes.”
“Shhhh,” cautioned Pasangue, lowering his voice. “Them fellars on hard drugs, you hear? But this is not something to talk in the rum-shop.”
Manu explained that he’d intended to spend a while relaxing in the quiet atmosphere at the playground. Pasangue was in a drinking mood. He bought a paperbag filled with beers before they left the rum-shop.
He spoke along the short distance. “Them youths ‘putting down wuk’ every week, you know. That is how they able to buy motor-bike costing thousands of dollars.”
Manu had heard the local phrase, ‘putting down wuk’ before. He knew it referred to a man having sex with a woman. Pasangue had him somewhat confused. “What do you mean by ‘putting down wuk’?”
They entered the school compound, with Pasangue chuckling. “They doing big robbery,” he explained. “Sometimes they get a contract to murder someone. That is what ‘putting down wuk’ mean.”
Manu was constantly being surprised and shocked. That those youths who had just greeted him so respectfully were thieves and murderers, was indeed shocking. Ay, he questioned himself. Can money be the cause of such evil deeds? He already knew the answer, of course.
Manu would not explain his following thought to Pasangue: England had used taxation as a means of distribution. Here, thieves and murderers had begun to write their own page on economics.
The playground environment was cool and quiet. They sat on the thick roots of a giant rose-mango tree. Pasangue had a beer-opener in his mouth! Manu laughed to see the fellow easily cracking open the corks with his teeth.
Pasangue drank hugely, and continued on his topic. “I never know Eden to have violence. If a man want to challenge a man, they just square-up and trash it out, but they friends right after.
“Now time very different,” he added. “Them youths targeting big business in the night. And they wicked to the people they robbing. They not satisfied with thiefin’ their money and jewelry, they taking their blood too. Everyone you see have gun.”
Manu of course, was aware that the violence had begun some years aback. He did not know it had worsened to committing murders and gory acts, without compunction. Especially in his own village. “It will become worse,” he said, remembering the barb’s observation.
* * *
It was the age of technology and the personal computer. Earlier in the decade, the Internet was officially launched. Sherry had already taken a computer course and had bought her own. Much of her work was facilitated; and then, there was the wonder of instant emailing. At first, Manu would have none of it. “There was a time when it was a joy to write a letter,” he said. “Emailing is not the same.”
Manu had read the Bible from beginning to end. He was finally reading Andy’s Autobiography of a Yogi. He was, to say the least, held in constant awe. The history of India said nothing about that continent’s religions or philosophies. So far as Manu was concerned, he was reading truth. And he was reading the greatest history on earth! He would read the book several times.
Manu felt he had finally found the missing link in his life. This saint had explained the infinity of life. He’d interpreted the words of the Christ: In my Father’s house there are many mansions (worlds). Ay, the heavens were beautiful beyond man’s imagination. There were thousands in India who lived in the three worlds at the same time!
Manu phoned his brother. Years ago, Gautam had told him to read his Bhagavad Gita (Song of God) and Ramayana. After perusing a few pages in either book, he was far from impressed. He told Gautam now to bring along the two books for him. Manu wanted to know the origins of this supreme knowledge.
Later that afternoon, Gautam strolled across with his last child. Geeta was already nine years of age. Since she admired her bowji, she was already hurrying up the stairs to find Sherry. Gautam had come with a parcel of books. He said: “You have heard about Satya Sai Baba?”
Manu nodded: “I’ve seen a couple of documentaries on the holy man.”
“God on earth,” said Gautam, taking out the books and placing them on the bench. “I’ve brought you half a dozen books on him. Do you know we already have about eighty Sai Baba temples in Trinidad?”
Manu was shocked. He hadn’t heard of a single one!
He and Gautam spent another hour strolling, and examining the food crops and the prolific fruit trees. The family would come across from time to time, helping themselves to the fruits, and spending a pleasant and quiet time. Gautam had reached the age of retirement. Before he left, Manu gave him Yoganandaji’s autobiography to read.
He put aside other reading and delved into the holy books. While he realized spiritual delight in Rama’s Way, the Bhagavad Gita was a profound interpretation on the nature of God. It explained the concept of karma and dharma, and the prescribed duties for an individual to begin life in the heavens. Manu took a mental note to offer a flower to the Bhagavan, as he read: If you offer me a leaf, a flower or a cup of water, I shall accept it.
The year had turned into another, and Manu wanted to learn more about the origins. He wanted a clearer or more elementary understanding. Once again, he sent Sherry to the university library. Though it was the place to seek, he wasn’t too hopeful.
Surprisingly, Sherry found all that he wanted and more.
The peoples of India had worshipped any and everything; as much as he’d read in the Old Testament. Finally – some six thousand years ago – not being satisfied with worshipping an unseen God, they began searching within themselves.
Thus was born the system of yoga, introducing with it a new vocabulary in the world of metaphysics. The ancient Rishis had first developed the system to the stage of nirvana. It was the beginning of transcendental or God knowledge. Ay, thought Manu in great awe. They had found God, and all the mysteries of creation! They’d found everything there was to know, and this knowledge was handed down from generation to generation, and in such a way that no detail could be altered!
Manu was delighted and wanted everybody to know! Obviously, his conversations were punctuated with Hindu philosophy. He called Sherry a pagan until she listened to him in all earnestness. “The world is simply God’s stage,” he preached. “And if we are to know life, it is as Jesus said to Barabbas: You must first die. The purpose of life is to get out of here.”
Sherry wondered if her husband wasn’t showing signs of insanity. “Manu,” she said. “Are you thinking about becoming a pandit? A transcendentalist?”
“Not at all,” he returned. “You have to understand your role in life. As much as the words atop the Vatican reads: To work is to pray, Satya Sai Baba preaches daily that work is worship. It is how you go about your work.”
Sherry was much relieved. Over the years of reading history, Manu had accumulated a huge pile of pen-written notes, quite apart from the number of pages and entire books he’d had her photostat for him.
Sherry had finally taught him how to use the computer, and Manu had most of his important notes stored safely away. He’d also made duplicates in several boxes of floppy disks.
Gautam and Kenny had long made under the giant mahogany their new venue. Of course, Kenny too was bombarded with Hindu philosophy. From the title, Seerman, Kenny now called Manu, the Guru of Eden. Manu had explained that a true Guru existed in a condition of ecstasy or nirvana; and was able to live in the three worlds at the same time.
Kenny was a devout Catholic, and Manu didn’t think he was very receptive to Hindu philosophy.
This afternoon, the three of them were drinking beers in celebration of the final day of the millennium. The place was packed with relatives, with Sherry and others engaged upstairs, in the cooking of several dishes.
“Guru of Eden,” said Kenny, grinning. “Are you still paying taxes? Or has your opinion of love altered?”
“You are brave,” said Gautam with a rare sense of humour.
“You can never survive without paying your taxes,” Manu joined the laughter. “By now you know you were created by love. So you are love. Feel free to love, Kenny,” Manu laughed again at his own words.
He added then: “I’ve been thinking to ask you lately. Can you explain how the Holy Virgin Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of God?”
Kenny thought briefly. “I think you want to send me mad, Guru. It is too mysterious for me.”
“A mystery is no longer a mystery when you understand it,” said Manu. “Gautam will explain it to you some time.’
Kenny was relieved to change the topic. “You know how time differs across the globe. At the moment, every nation is celebrating this final day. They all hope that the new millennium will usher in an era of peace.
“So what is your opinion on this, Seerman?”
“There will never be peace on earth, while it is still God’s stage,” Manu returned. “How else can man release himself?”
It was a sad but true statement. Sherry was calling through the window for them to come and eat.
* * *
Manu had long realized that nostalgia was just a wily deception. All was in constant flux. A man was not what he ate, but what he knew! And he, Manu, though not a religious man, had finally found what was missing all along in his life.
Each year the violence worsened. Though it took just a single donkey to pollute… to putrefy the environment, in Eden the donkeys had multiplied. The ancient observation that life is precious had completely disappeared. Nia bongo had failed. Kidnappings and daily murders had become the norm. Tens of thousands of thieves now looked after the distribution of wealth. Democracy was not threatened; it had died.
Many who had the means, packed up and left the country. The population existed in daily fear. Burglar-proofing and security alarms were insufficient to stop the thieves. Folks were advised to turn their bedroom into a jail. Some who did so were burnt alive. Forever eclectic, the authorities excused themselves by pointing to similar situations in other countries.
Both Kenny and Gautam were retired. They continued to meet and to chat under the majestic mahogany tree. Following Ramayana, wherever bird-vines or other branches threatened to suffocate a branch or two, Manu would send his handyman up to cut them down. He had the privilege of working the earth daily, and to delight his eyes on the fruit-trees flowering, or laden with yellow fruits.
This afternoon, their topic was anything but pleasant. Everyone had an answer or two for the crime situation. Kenny was speaking: “The society has lost all respect for the law. What else can you expect?”
Manu recalled the words of Nietzsche, always precise in whatever he said: “A society is ruled by the law. Fear of the law.”
Gautam’s humour had grown with his age. “What we need is a single Mullah from Afghanistan. I bet you all crimes come to a quick end.”
Manu had always admired his brother. After reading the Holy Scriptures, especially Bhagavad Gita, he understood that Gautam had conducted his daily life according to its teachings. Manu said: “Oil money destroyed the old values. I am not sure we can regain those values.”
“I’m still a teacher,” said Kenny. “And I believe that all the answers can be found in the education system.”
“Amen,” Manu acknowledged. He wouldn’t say that God on earth was accomplishing just that. “History can be a most important aspect of that education. If the people were taught… and I mean really taught about their ancestors, I think they would know to respect each other.”
“As it is,” Kenny had long concluded, “we have no history that we can call our own.”
“Except the works of Eric Williams,” Manu pointed out.
“C.L.R. James said that we have a unique history,” added Kenny. “That our civilization began on the sugar plantation five hundred years ago.”
“I need a beer,” said Manu, raising himself. “More than one.”
Just as he returned, Kenny added: “What’s the matter, Guru? You are not in agreement with James?”
Manu passed the beers, replying at the same time: “James’ statement might have some validity at the time he said it; or in his own context. The country had just been given its independence, and it was clear, perhaps urgent that we could no longer entertain Mothers Africa, India or Europe.”
Kenny sipped at his beer. “What’s your point, Guru? What you said does not make James’ statement erroneous.”
“Patience, man,” spoke Manu. “In India, my grand-father was duped and forced into slavery – the East Indian population here still believes that indentureship was eating pie. Would you then wipe out his civilization, and tell him he began with the hoe and cutlass in the West Indies?”
Kenny was thinking hard. Manu added, “Would you have told my father that his own father’s civilization began in the sugarcane plantation?”
Kenny was smiling then, thinking less hard. Manu added yet again, “Can you tell me of a single white person, who has given up his European civilization?”
“Okay, Guru!” Kenny was now grinning. “You’ve made your point.”
The three would continue to spend many afternoons discussing affairs under the mahogany.
The following week, Manu took to his computer, putting together his notes on the people’s history. At the end of completion, he realized he’d entered the age of wisdom. Sherry had reached the matured age of fifty-four.
One rather late night, they were seated in the porch. The night was clear and starry, and though never as majestic as before, it yet offered a promise of the heavens.
Manu took Sherry’s hand into his and said: “I think we’ve made it.”
Tabi asi: Farewell: I shall come again.