The tank, with its water in greenish hue and lined by large trees, was unusually big for the size of the temple that had only a few shrines. Situated in a small town, it was not a crowded temple but drew many devotees throughout the year by virtue of the famed powers of the presiding deity Venugopalaswami and His readiness to grant the reasonable wishes of the devout supplicants.
This story however revolves around a bearded man, tall and muscular, in his late fifties whom you may call a mendicant, an aspirant, devotee, nomad or even a vagabond as he seemed fit to you. What stood out was his beak like nose and sharp eyes. He sat all day long under a tree facing the temple but never spoke a word or showed any emotion. If ever he entered the temple, no one knew when he did.
If he were a god man or an evolved soul, he demonstrated no such evidence. He wore a white dhoti with a towel over his shoulder that seemed the only worldly possessions he had. His eyes with a faraway look had the power to hold the people who gazed at him in a deferential thrall. It looked he found peace alike amid the noisy crowd during the day or the silent solitude in the night. People said, though no one vouched to the fact, that they heard from his direction occasionally in the middle of dark night dulcet tunes of seductive charm as if from a bansuri.
People never knew when, where and what he ate for he never stirred out of the place. Devotees placed before him fruits of different kinds or left coins with some even water bottles. They remained untouched and it was surmised the poor that lined at the entrance took them in the evening.
One evening a bewailing couple brought a child of seven years and laid him at his feet and prostrated before him. “ Ayya, you must save the child. He has been vomiting and having loose motions countless times. After keeping in hospital for four days, the doctor asked us to take him home telling he will not survive. Please help us, ayya. We would be eternally grateful to you,” pleaded both of them in chorus.
The man looked intently at the still child for what looked eternity and then scraped the mud from the ground below muttering something and put it on the navel of the child. He did not answer the anxious questions from the parents and the people around. One young man from the crowd even exploded in anger,” Why are you silent? Are you deaf and dumb? You seem heartless and impervious to the anxiety of the parents.”
It was then the child opened his eyes and uttered “ Amma” that was sweet music to the woman and great surprise to the people around. Some clapped their hands that looked inappropriate for the solemn occasion.
It was a week later around 11.30 am, half hour before the temple closed, a jeep screeched to a halt close to the tank where the man sat. Four policemen with baton in hand rushed towards the man and surrounded him. “Get up, you scoundrel and get into the jeep,” said one in peremptory tone.
“What for are you taking that yogi? What harm did he do to you? He has been here for three years virtually living on air with not even a drop of water. Woe would befall on you if you treat him disrespectfully,” shouted one elderly man.
“We do not know the full facts. May be someone had complained against him. We have orders to pick him up.,” said the policeman even as he pulled the hand of the man. Everyone was startled at the turn of events. Many vehemently objected and wanted specific reasons. Some who had come to pay their obeisance started to suspect him.
The man stood up, spoke nothing, offered no resistance but politely signaled to the constable to allow him to go into the temple and offer prayers before he was taken to police station. Seeing the angry mood of the crowd, the constable agreed to the man going inside the temple and returning in five minutes. They stationed themselves at the only entrance to the temple that was surrounded by high wall.
The priest who was getting ready to close the doors of the sanctum saw him hurrying and waited outside the sanctum. The man prayed for a while, sipped the holy water poured by the priest in his palm and unexpectedly walked into the sanctum. The priest ran behind him saying “You are not allowed to enter the sanctum. Come away, come out immediately.”
To his utter shock and surprise, the priest could not see him inside the small sanctum. It looked he had just disappeared into the thin air. The melodious tune from a bansuri seemed to fill the air.To add to the mystery,the temple bell also started ringing on its own giving goosebumps to everyone assembled there. The priest with folded arms and flowing tears looked at the God wondering if this was also one of his famed miracles. There were many who had crowded in wondering in total disbelief at the source of music and how he could have vanished.The constables who had come in were equally dumbfounded. One of them patted on his cheeks looking at the god for the marvel that was beyond human understanding.