Post Series: Ila’s flight of fantasy

In the previous edition, you read that Ila met a unique young man, whose world is quite different to hers. Read ahead to find out more…

“Are you married?” Ila asked, before she could stop herself, and immediately went red realising her impudence.

“Not yet,” Satyaswaroop answered with slightly raised brows, more intrigued than offended by the direct question from this young lady, and then added hesitantly, “And you?”

Ila barely moved her head in the traditional sign of a no, now fully burdened with the embarrassment of her direct query.

Suddenly Satyaswaroop stood up with folded hands. “Lady, I need to be at the market on time so I will take your leave now. I am delighted to make your acquaintance and would like to know more about you. Will I see you again on the seventh day from now?”

And with that, he turned around and boarded his boat in few leaps with steady feet, his silver anklets gleaming white in the sunlight.

Again, the seventh day arrived and Satyaswaroop and Ila continued the conversation under the peepal tree. Today, he had planned to stay longer and they had been in conversation for a long time. The stories from their childhood to this day had been exchanged at such pace that they both felt they had known each other for a long time.

“I too desire adventure and excitement in my life. I feel that routine and restrictions take the joy out of life, almost making it non-existent. I want to live a life that is full of exploration, experiencing new things while I follow my duties. I feel too enslaved, and being a woman I don’t know how to get out of it, unless I could turn into a boy and be free to travel, just like you,” Ila confided in Satyaswaroop, riding on the confidence of the familiarity she had gained.

“Ha ha!” Satyaswaroop giggled. Ila looked at him with contempt but saw no mockery on his face. He was smiling and looking at her with respect.

“You know, since the day I saw you across the river, I always felt there was something special about you, Ila. Have you heard about Vaivasvata Manu’s daughter Ilā?” He asked.

Ila shook her head and looked at him with eager eyes.

“Ilā is usually described as the daughter or son of Vaivasvata Manu, thus the sibling of Ikshvaku, the founder of the Solar Dynasty (Suryavansha). According to one of the versions, Ilā was born as the eldest daughter of Vaivasvata Manu and his wife Shraddha. The parents however, had desired a son and hence performed tapasya to appease the deities Mitra and Varuna. Happy with the tapasya, the deities changed Ilā’s gender and the boy was named Sudyumma. After mistakenly entering a sacred grove as an adult, Ilā was cursed to change his/her gender every month. While it was a curse, Ilā used it to her advantage and made the best of the qualities of both the genders that now existed in her. Hearing your thoughts, I was reminded of that free spirited Ilā.”

Ila was impressed with his immense knowledge about the great Indian past. So, he was well read as well!

“I believe that your desire of knowing the unknown and exploring unchartered territories is a natural human desire. Yes, it seems a little different from what the women of today dream. I have never understood why dreaming and fulfilling desires is denied to a woman but fully allowed to a man in our society today. It wasn’t like this earlier,” Satyaswaroop continued, with genuineness in his voice. The words were like satsang to Ila.

Sensing that the conversation had drifted to a serious note, Satyaswaroop picked up the last piece of the chakli and complimented Ila on the deliciousness of the meal of that day. “I particularly liked the thalipeeth and the kharbas, though the panchamrit and chakali were nice too,” he said with a smile.

Ila was still lost in his earlier words as they both parted ways for the day. She came out of her deep thoughts only when she reached home and saw everyone in a frenzy.

“What happened?” she enquired.

“Oh! There you are my beautiful girl!” said her mother in a very happy tone. “Your future in-laws have decided to visit us before the Mela. Their message just arrived with the morning boat. There are a thousand things to do and very little time but I am sure all of us will be able to do that together.”

Ila felt dizzy and stood mute, rooted to the spot.

Later, while her mother oiled her hair at night, Ila summoned up her courage and asked, “Is it final that I get married to Gopalnanda?”

“What are you saying Ila?” her mother asked with hands in mid-action. “You have known this since your childhood. The families have only been waiting for the pious moment and the muhurat next month is perfect. So just get ready and don’t worry about a thing. They too have cotton farms so the environment will be very familiar. In fact they have larger farms, so you will be in much more comfort. They are a loving family and will take very good care of you.”

“But I don’t have any interest in cotton farming…” Ila whined.

Her father, who happened to pass them just then, interjected “Ha ha. Not cotton farming, then what? Fruits, vegetables, grains..?”

‘Once a farmer, always a farmer; he can’t think beyond crops,’ thought Ila but she was also struck by her mother’s abstinence from joining in with her father’s mockery.

She decided that it was now or never, and next morning, when everyone had left for the farm, she sat down with her mother at the Triambakeshwara temple in their courtyard.

Maa, I have lived the life of a cotton farmer since my childhood. Getting married and living the same life forever seems like stagnation to me. Where is the progress in this? If I feel my life is worthless, do you really think I will be able to give my family the love and care they would deserve? I highly doubt it. So then, what would be the benefit from this alliance?”

The mother was aware of the absurdness of this thought. She was also worried about how this would be taken by the family, if it was shared with them. But she knew her daughter’s strong headedness. She pondered to find the right response.

“Why don’t we go visit Guru Eknathji tomorrow, Ila? We will take his blessings and we can discuss this with him in detail. I am sure he will be able to show you the right path to choose,” she proposed.

Ila was also a great follower of Guru Eknathji and believed in his intellectual and spiritual might. She agreed immediately.

Early next morning, they left for his ashram at the far end of the village.

Pranaam Guruji” they sought his blessings before seating themselves at his feet. Guruji smiled benevolently and offered them charnamrit with some Prasad.

Once settled, the mother shared her query concluding it with the one question that had been bothering her as well. “Guruji please help us understand, what should be our criteria for deciding about anybody’s life and the unseen future?”

Guruji smiled “It is the thought that matters. Thoughts are not products of our mind. Their abode is elsewhere, not the physical body. When God created the universe, all kinds of thoughts were created too. We only connect to a particular thought depending on our inner awareness.”

“But Guruji, how do we then weigh the righteousness of the thoughts? How do we know which ones to allow and which ones to thwart?”

He smiled and said, “All it needs is trust, awareness and assertiveness. We see this world with both our eyes and hence weigh everything with what we see. But a blind man just trusts. Trust comes from the inner eye which everybody has. With this eye of trust, the divine is seen. The eye of trust means the eye of love.

Clear intentions hold the divine within us, which also leads to awareness and enlightenment. It develops assertiveness that helps one to stand up for their or other people’s right in a calm and positive way. If your consciousness fuels the need for a change then you should not be reluctant to accept it. Hence, it’s important that you are completely aware and confident of your purpose.

Life is so beautiful when you are moving in the right direction, with the spirit of adventure and joy. It is then that you want to live more because you feel purposeful. Even the evolving God is more perfect than the static one.”

And with that, he went back to his meditation. Mother looked at Ila who sat with her eyes closed and a divine serenity descending on her face. She gently patted her on her back and signalled her to leave.

She had made her decision and walked back to the house alongside Ila, with very determined steps.

Word meaning

  • Impudence: not showing proper respect
  • Abstinence: the act of not doing something that is enjoyable
  • Benevolently: kindly and generously
Background music: John Stockton Slow Drag (Chris Zabriskie) / CC BY 4.0
Ila’s flight of fantasy – Part 2
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