Deepak owned a small Indian grocery store and Anand had become friends with him during his visits to the place. As Anand bought a bottle of mango pickle Deepak said, “Swami Jagadananda is in town and will expound Isha Upanishad at my residence. Anand, if you are free, join us this evening.” – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #Fiction #DrRaghavendraRao #Literature

“Another Swami, another donation,” replied Anand cynically. He was an undergraduate student at Fresno State.

“Come on, Anand. This Swami is unlike others. He simplifies our Sanskrit scriptures. He doesn’t expect donations.”

“All right, will there be food?”

Deepak laughed gustily.

When Anand arrived late at Deepak’s residence, Swami was in the middle of his discourse.

“The gold ornaments women are wearing here, all are of different sizes and shapes, rings, chains and bangles. We can declare that the ornaments are ‘gold’ in many forms. If I remove their names and shapes by melting them, what remains is absolute gold. Right?”  Swami paused for a moment and said, “unless the ornaments are fool’s gold.”

Everybody laughed.

The talk about gold distracted Anand and his eyes wandered. They eventually rested on a golden chain adorning the neck of a pretty girl. Miniature gold mangoes studded with small diamonds were strung together to form the elegant necklace.

“Surely,” thought Anand, “if I melt this chain, gold alone remains, the name and form of the ‘mango chain’ will be gone. Swami is making me think.”


Anand glanced at the girl again. She was beautiful, and her skin was a golden hue. The way she wore the sari was peculiar; the pallu was on the right shoulder. Maybe, she was a Gujarati, thought Anand.

Swami looked at Anand, which brought his attention back to the talk.

Raising his hands Swami said, “THAT, the Almighty is whole, infinite or poornam. THIS, the universe seen and unseen, is whole. From THAT whole, THIS whole arises. From THAT whole, when THIS whole is removed, the infinite still remains. When we are all a part of the same infinity there is no place for hatred. We should respect and love each other.” Swami paused. “There are many doctors and software people here, and when I say infinity I’m not talking about your cars!”

The audience burst out into a hearty laughter. Anand heard her laugh. It was pleasant like a mountain spring flowing over pebbles. He looked at her. She had beautiful teeth like jasmine buds. She was enjoying every moment of Swami’s discourse.

In a melodious voice Swami then chanted the hymn that revealed Almighty’s infinite nature.

“Poornamadhaha Poornamidam

Poornat Poornamudachyate. . .

Anand vaguely remembered this shloka from his childhood. On auspicious days, goaded by his mother, Krishnamma, Anand with his siblings, Meera, Shanthi, Reyva and Anish, assembled in front of God’s idols in the kitchen. They lit oil lamps and incense sticks, broke a coconut and recited loudly a few Sanskrit shlokas. When the puja was over, Krishnamma gave grated coconut and sugar to all of them. This was the best part of puja, recalled Anand.

While reminiscing over his childhood Anand lost a good deal of Swami’s talk.

The Swami was saying, “Today we will practice breathing meditation, just for ten minutes. During this period, please keep your eyes closed and concentrate on your breath. Hari Om.”

Swami closed his eyes. So did everyone.

Inhalation, exhalation; inhalation, exhalation. Anand could feel the air passing into his nostrils, through his throat, and into his lungs. After a few breaths, he relaxed and mused again.

“My statistics professor told me that the possibility is certain of my inhaling the same oxygen molecule which Julius Caesar had exhaled in his last breath. Is the girl with the mango-chain breathing the same molecule which I have exhaled?” The thought excited Anand and an uncontrollable urge propelled him to open his eyes and look at her.

She was sitting in padmasana, with her eyes closed. The magic glow from the setting sun created an illusion of a hundred images of little suns scintillating on her diamond-studded necklace. Her chest heaved up and down with the rhythmic breathing. Like the Buddha, she exuded peace, and tranquility.

She opened her eyes suddenly, looked at Anand, and smiled. Anand was embarrassed. The Swami probably noticed this. He whispered, “Please close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.”

Anand shut his eyes like an oyster closing its shell in danger.

Soon the session was over. There was “Mahaprasad” or dinner. Anand stood in line and checked the food items that were neatly arranged on the table. Swami was standing in the line next to him. Anand felt he should comment something short and sweet about his discourse. “Swami, I enjoyed your talk.”

“Yes, I noticed.” Swami said, smiling.

Anand silently took some palov, kurma, raita and a gulab jamun in sweet syrup in a cup and was making his way towards an empty chair when he caught his foot on an electrical cord and stumbled. The gulab jamun flew out of the cup and disappeared. He heard bangles jingling as a helping hand grabbed him, arresting his fall.

Anand glanced at his savior. It was the girl with the mango chain. He did not notice earlier, but she had a tiny cute mole on her cheek. Like Cindy Crawford.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m sorry, the jamun syrup is sticking to your sari.”

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t bother me. Your shubha naam, auspicious name?”

“I’m Anand. I have to tell you this, you’re beautiful,” he blurted.

“Thank you. I’m Pavitra, a disciple of Swamiji. I live at his ashram in Kashi and travel with him. I’ll be initiated into a sanyasini soon.”

“That’s hard to believe.”

“I know why you don’t believe. Swamiji doesn’t care how I dress or what jewels I wear. There are no restrictions in his ashram. He appreciates my sincerity and sanctity. He respects me as I am.” Pavitra smiled. “Swamiji is leaving. I must go now. Namaste.”