Friday, September 5, 2008


The pen was quiet and the mind was numb for a while. It is coming back to life, slowly though. I was wondering whether I should continue with Musharraf's name in my series
on Pakistan .I thought a good deal over it and finally decided to continue with it, for although closed now, Musharraf remains a powerful and for reasons both good and bad, an unforgettable chapter in Pakistan's political history. Another reason being that all my trips to that country were made during the former President's tenure.

The past few months have been extremely trying and turbulent for both India and Pakistan. The tremors of political
uncertainity continue to afflict Pakistan, with frequent incidents of terror attacks adding to the turmoil . And in India, in the wake of the devastating floods in Bihar , one can hardly heave a sigh of relief or rejoice over the final settlement of Amarnath land dispute in Jammu and Kashmir and the normalising of situation there.But alongside the suffering and misery , goes the festivity and celebration of the holy month of Ramzan and the pious days of Ganeshotsava . And as thousands and thousands of devotees on both sides of the border surrender to the power of the almighty and pray for peace and happiness, I am reminded of that extremely spiritual experience that I had during one of my trips to Pakistan.

I was in Islamabad to cover another round of peace talks between the two countries.After two days of hectic parleys, the talks had concluded successfully and we finally had some time for ourselves after the mad rush that covering Indo-Pak talks always is. We, in the Indian contingent decided to utilize the time in hand by making a trip to the ancient Indian, and now Pakistani city of Takshashila. Takshashila is located about 35 kms to the west of Islamabad. The locals pronounced the name quite funnily as Taxla (Tax as in income tax and La as in Lahore) and I couldn't stop myself from chuckling every time someone casually spoke of T-A-X-L-A ! We were supposed to leave in the afternoon and I chose to laze in my hotel room till then. I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of visiting one of the most important Vedic and Buddhist centres of learning in ancient India.And over several cups of hot, steaming tea, I dreamt of the sights and sounds of the centre that once had Chanakya as one of its teachers.The chain of my thoughts transported me thousands of years back in history to the reign of the Mauryas and the great emperor Ashoka , during whose reign Takshashila became a great Buddhist centre of learning.

My reverie was soon broken by the ringing of the door bell. It was the housekeeping guy. He asked for my permission to bring something that he very earnestly wanted me to see. I was puzzled as to what was it that a stranger so desperately wanted to show me. Very reluctantly, I told him to get the stuff, or whatever that was. He reappeared shortly with a small object, about three and a half inches long wrapped very neatly in plain paper.He told me that a guest who had stayed in the same room as me about three years back, had forgotten it in one of the drawers of the cupboard. He found it while cleaning the room after the guest's departure . And since it was not of any use to him , he had kept it safely so that it could be given to the appropriate person. When I asked him as to how could he conclude that I was the right person, he just smiled and left.I stared and stared at the object as it lay wrapped in my hand. I was apprehensive and scared to open it. And after several minutes of tense thinking, I decided to unwrap it. What unfolded in front of me was something that stunned me completely. It was a small clay statue of Buddha. I was
too touched to even react or talk about it. Later in the day we went to Takshashila. The site of the renowned university was all ruins now, although the relics and remains of the golden era had been carefully preserved in a huge museum. It was a great spiritual and intellectual high for all of us and we returned with pleasant memories of a walk back into time. And yes, the clay Buddha travelled back to India with me.It today occupies the pride of place in my little temple at home.

No comments: