The results were just out in the school. Sowmya heard someone tell that she had failed this time too. Afraid of facing her father, the 13 year old foolish girl quietly left her home. It was dusk and the sun was fast disappearing making it dark. She did not know where to go. She hurried towards the ashram where she thought there would be many people. She started running fast when she saw some young boys running behind her at a distance shouting something she could not hear. She could only understand they wanted her to stop. She had read how risky it is to get caught by young boys. She was panting for breath, her legs were paining and she thought she would fall. But she did not give up and summoned all her energy to run till she fell down unconscious.
“Get up, my child.Do not be afraid” she heard a soft voice. She looked up to see the tall swamiji in flowing silken robes from neck to foot in cream color, long silvery beard and smiling eyes that evoked instant trust and respect. A gentle fragrance of sandalwood emanated from him and there was the smear of sandalwood paste on his forehead.. Beads of rudraksha adorned his neck.
When she got up on her feet, he turned back towards the ashram.”I will talk to you later about your problem. Just accompany me” he said and proceeded to discuss with his disciples both men and women who had accompanied him about the cycle of births and deaths, law of karma and final liberation. From time to time he either gently patted the girl or ran his hands over her head with affection.
Suddenly he stopped and asked one lady disciple “What is expected of you in life?”
She kept pondering for a while and hesitantly replied “is it, Swamiji, to work for liberation from this cycle of births and deaths?”
“True, is there not something more?”
“Is it to lead the given life happily with abandon?”
“Yes, you are right but also show love and care to the lonely and lost” said swamiji.Everyone nodded in agreement.
As they entered the ashram the rest of the people dispersed and the two went to his abode. He said “Have fruits and pomegranate juice and rest for a while. I will finish some ritual and will be back to hear you”
She was so tired that she fell asleep after eating and drinking the juice. Around 12 midnight, she stirred when she felt someone touching her. She opened her eyes and found she was on a large bed with swamiji sitting by her side.
“Do not be afraid. Tell me about yourself. Did you run away from home? Do you belong to this place? Who were the boys who were chasing you?” asked the swamiji gently.
“I failed the second time and was afraid that my father will beat me. That is why I ran away. I do not know who the boys were as it was dark. I wish to go back home. I am feeling very sleepy”
“It is ok.Why home, you can stay here permanently. I will take care of you and see you are in good comfort. No one need know you are here. Stay in this abode and help me with errands. Do not be afraid of anything. I will take care of you as if you are my own. Sleep now and you will feel better in the morning” he said as he drew her near him.
The girl resisted as he put his arm around her and patted her cheeks. But he did not let go. She screamed and he closed her mouth and embraced her tightly. Just then there were thuds of heavy feet outside and repeated knocking of the door. The girl screamed again and he slapped her. Annoyed at the disruption, Swamiji asked angrily “who is that? Don’t you know I am not to be disturbed while I am meditating?”
“We are from police. Open the door or it will be broken open” said a stern voice. Some assistant of swamiji was heard shouting to swamiji that a large posse of armed policemen had arrived in a truck.
Seeing no way of escape, he opened the door to find many policemen. They found the young girl sobbing inconsolably and rushing to them. No questions were necessary as it was all evident. The swamiji was taken away. The inspector told the girl “Have no fear. I think we came in the nick of time to rescue you. You must thank these three young boys who alerted us when you were taken to ashram We acted after a complaint from your father that you were missing.Don’t you know that you should not come alone to this unsafe place? We have already complaints about this ashram. Your father is waiting outside. We will take a statement from you and your father in the morning”.
One of three young boys who happened to be her class mate said “Sowmya, did you run away because you thought you had failed? Actually it was a typist’s mistake. It is Soumiya and not you. The school subsequently corrected the list.”
How wrong she was in perceiving her saviours as her stalkers, she thought overwhelmed by the good turn of events.