THREE ENCOUNTERS -by S S Sharma First – In Bali Our second day in Bali was for sightseeing. We got ready and as we came down from our superior room on the first floor, on our right we saw a small open temple in light grey finish. On an open platform there was seated the idol of a snake in the center with its hood raised majestically, as if pulling me towards it. Immediately on seeing the name Naga Besuki, inscribed there, I could make out it was Naga Vasuki as we know. With this, 5000 kilometers from India, the following proclamation of Sri Krishna (Gita Chapter X) flashed in my mind. “… Sarpanamasmi Vasuki” i.e. among the serpents, I am Vasuki, from the following verse. āyudhānām ahaṁ vajraṁ dhenūnām asmi kāmadhuk prajanaśh chāsmi kandarpaḥ sarpāṇām asmi vāsukiḥ “Among the weapons I am Vajra; among the cows I am Kamdhenu cow; for love I am Kamadeva; and amongst the serpents I am Vasuki.” At this, with a flash, my mind reached the scene of Mahabharata and as I was lost in the thoughts of proclamations of Sri Krsna. It was only then that my wife nudged me to come back to the present and we slowly proceeded to the restaurant for breakfast, my mind taking its own time to rewind. Second – At Jagdish temple As we were walking along the parikrama of famous Jagdish temple in Udaipur and I was adjusting my camera to take a photograph of my wife, an elderly gentleman offered to click for both of us together. That was fine, but as the gentleman was handing the camera back to me, he said “I want to have a cup of tea…!” I was taken a back and this time closely looked at him. Before me was a decent looking spectacled man, tall, in maroon kurta and white pyjama. Old, but towering personality with traces of his former charming self still intact. His words for a cup of tea did not come as a request but just as a normal desire one would express, with all the frankness, only to one’s close ones at home or to a dear friend. His posture and expression of dignity was very much intact despite of asking just for a cup of tea. I instead motioned him towards a bench in the corner and requested him to tell me something about the temple. He told me that he is a tourist guide, but had grown old now. Haltingly, in a minute or two he described the brief history and description of the temple. After this was over, I handed some money to my guide whose name I did not ask and even if I knew, I won’t mention here for his privacy. Now I feel that perhaps my gesture to pay him after his guide’s job done for us, came from my subconscious mind to give him a confidence that he had earned it. Third – At City palace Myself and my wife Shashi were taking a tour of the famed City Palace in Udaipur. We were going from one wing and one floor to another marveling at beauty of the palace; as if crafted by celestial hands and gently placed at the east side of Pichola Lake. As I was taking photographs also, a view of the Lake Pichola from a corner in one of the upper floors caught my attention for a couple of minutes. As I turned around to look for my wife after taking a few snaps, I found her in a corner standing with a lady from a foreigners’ group, while others from the group were clicking them together. And thus all the ladies from the group were coming forward one by one to get photographed with Shashi. This left me quite amused and I waited till the session was over. My wife introduced me to the group. Seeing an expression of surprise on my face, one of the lady from the group said,“ We are very fascinated by the beautiful traditional dress of India, the saree, that your wife is adorning. That’s why we requested her to allow us to be photographed with her. Saree is indeed the most elegant dress for women. This is my third visit to India and I love to visit again and again because you are so well keeping your culture and traditions intact and alive; in terms of what you wear, your language, festivals, values, family system and all.” Feeling a bit wistful, she continued,” Sadly in Istambul my own place, we have abandoned our own culture and feel totally lost to imitating the western ways.” I kept silent on this because inside my heart, I also felt the same way about us.

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