LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR
The young boy was looking slightly older than his eight years. Debasish (that’s his name) wasstarring into the open space. He was in the church in the town, and his mind was far away fromthe speech being given by the priest, whom he know only as “Father”. In the one week or so hewas here, he could not comprehend the name that came after “Father”, and so he found itconvenient to call him “Father”.His attention was suddenly diverted to the speech, in chaste Oriya, when he heard the word“Kandhamal” being mentioned. “Father” continued: “I don’t have words to describe thehappening at Kandhamal; the heinous crime unleashed on our brothers by the unruly and violenttribal mob. Our brothers were lynched, sisters raped, all before the eyes of policemen. Thosewho bolted their doors were burnt alive in their houses. I pray to God Almighty, to pardon these people, ‘as they knew not what they did’”.Debasish’s memory went back to that fateful JANMASHTAMI day at the Ashram. He had justreturned home from the school run by “Baba” for the benefit of the children of the “Kandh”tribals in the locality, where he also belonged. His father was back from his small piece of land,where he engaged in agriculture, taught and aided by “Baba” and his deciples at the Ashram.His mother is usually home by evening; She was a member of the SHG started by “Baba” andwas earning a decent sum collecting medicinal herbs and myrobalan nuts, at her leisure, fromthe forest nearby. He remembered his father saying that there had been a positive change in thelives of the Kandh tribals, after “Baba” had come to bless “Kandhamal” with his presence.He remembered that they had, after sunset, gone to the Ashram to help in the arrangements andthen join the Janmashtami Celebrations that will go on till early morning. After about an hour,he saw his father start mopping the floor in Baba’s room. His mother was cleaning the space before the statue of Lord Krishna in the Pooja hall, adjacent to Baba’s room. A few others werehelping out with the decorations in the Hall. Debasish, along with other boys, was helping theelders in whatever way they could. From his position he could see Baba, at one corner of hisroom, in deep discussion with two Swamijis of the Ashram. Time was running out, as in an hour or so, people from the neighbouring villages will start arriving at the Ashram for the pooja andcelebrations. A grand feast was being prepared, with each item carefully chosen by “Baba” togive the poor tribal people a treat-to-remember.