On the course of their journey, they were awkwardly silent. Neither Xanadu nor the man made any attempt to start a conversation. They both walked without acknowledging each other, lost in their own web of thinking, created by the mind that spins one thread after another like a spider and captures your attention like a prey. They must have walked a thousand yards when the man spoke up – “My name is Goshalak; I live in the village of Singri on this side of the river and to the north from here. People often take that road when they are traveling towards the Himadri mountains. There is famous place in those mountains where people make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime. One day I shall also make a journey to the high mountain of Kai…after I am done with my worldly duties.” He then looked at Xandu and expressed his desire with a smile. Xandu looked at him with some concern but was lost in his own chain of thoughts. He struggled to keep up the conversation. All he could manage was – “You are bound by a family. I suppose?” The man nodded in affirmation. “I have a small family but a family nontheless; and I am the sole bread-winner for them. Without me…” he stopped with a choking feeling in his throat and looked aside towards the distance to shake the emotions building up in his eyes in form of tears. “I love them so much. I can not even bear the thought of getting separated from them, and yet one day we all shall leave this life. Everything that we have worked for, strive for, aspire for and concerned about equals to zero. Shunya.” He gazed down on the path, as he traced his steps, and listened to what Xandu had to say.
He began “Yes, isn’t it strange that the ‘everything’ that is all around us, this multitude of shapes and figures; some walking and some still, will all parish one day into nothingness. This infinitude of material world would one day be lost to this nothingness…strange!” Goshalak looked at him with admiration and said “You are a philosopher by birth. Your quest…It is not a search of an ordinary human being. At such a young age you are thinking like a seasoned and wizened man. How old are you?” Xandu replied “I have seen thirty springs, I guess. I thank you for your kind words and would very much like to be polite at this point; however, I would choose to be smug right now and cherish the moment.” They both laughed out loud at this point. After a while, Goshalak asked “What caused this journey of yours, if I may ask? Are your parents happy with your decision?” Xandu looked in his eyes and said “I am alone.” Goshalak said apologetically “Oh! I am sorry; you have lost your parents. The quest is in part a search for meaning of life or its purpose?” Xandu glanced and him and then with a faraway look on his face replied “It is about many things, some are clear to me as a day and many I could not articulate but feel inside like a bird trapped inside a cage; it flutters around a lot in order to find a door or a window, so as to fly away liberated. Sometimes, I feel like I should burst out of my body and expand in all directions…Now, you would think I am a fool or a mad man.” The man gave a sympathetic look and said “No, no…Why would I? What is happening inside of you, is for you alone. I cannot even imagine how it must feel, because I have never felt like that. I guess, I am not so intelligent and keen as you are.” Xandu was delighted by this answer and thanked him again. They were now coming closer to the end of the north part of the forest and the distant shouts of kids playing and dogs barking could be heard.
At last, they came upon the very edge of the forest and Xandu could see the village in front of him. It was a better village than his; it was more clean and was bedecked with beautiful small houses and small gardens. The people were moving on the streets, the hawkers were selling day to say stuff and vendors were nicely contained in the small section known as the market. Goshalak pointed towards the house to their left and said “That is my house. It is not a big one, but good enough for a guest or two. You would not feel any unease, I hope. If you do, then please do not hesitate to tell me. I shall do everything to make your stay pleasant.” Xandu was not listening and gazed at a beautiful girl, who was standing near a shop and buying some vegetables. He had seen women before but none had an ethereal feel about her. This one looked like she must have been the daughter of some Gandharva from the celestial realm, living far away from the human presence. He was jolted out of this state of rapture by his companion with a gentle poke on his arm. Xandu felt ashamed to be caught like this and smiled nervously. “Yes..yes…I shall go.” He blurted out. “Where?” asked the man with curiosity. “I mean wherever you were telling me…I m..m..mean to take me…I am sorry.” Xandu could not fake it any longer and admitted his fault. The man said in a jolly tone “Do not let the worldly things distract you from your quest. Beware of the beauty that is the woman. It is very difficult to let go of it. I married one, I know.” and broke into a chuckle followed by a pat on Xandu’s back.
They were standing outside the house and the man shouted to call his wife “Deepa! See who is here.” The door opened and the woman came out bewailing and said “What took you so long? We have to cook and the food doesn’t get prepared without the fire. You are gone since the morning and…” She looked abashedly at the visitor and folded her hands in a welcome. Xandu did the same in return and bent down slightly towards her, as was the custom, to greet the house-lady. Goshalak now took control of the conversation and said “He shall be our guest for tonight, and if he likes, then, maybe a few days. Make some preparations for his rest and the food…and where is Maya?” The woman nodded and replied “She went out to get some things for the kitchen.” and went inside to bring the little bronze plate and an earthen lamp to greet the visitor. After finishing the formalities, they entered the house. It was simple like his own but well managed. The woman do make a difference in the life of a man. The man, by its nature would like to be a vagabond, perhaps. The woman make him settle down and take responsibilities, not only theirs, but also of those around them. He remembered the time when his mother would look after everything in the house and used to pester him about his plans to get married. “Now, your mother is old. You should bring a young woman in this house. I need some help in running this house. Should I ask my cousin sister to look for a girl suitable for you? or you want to find your own girl? Whatever it is, just do it soon. Do not keep me waiting to see my grand-children…” she would often say. Now, she was gone to some other world, as the priest had told him, and was with her father. But who knew? There was the knock on the door and Goshalak opened it. There stood a girl whom Xandu had seen shopping in the market. He turned towards the door and stood shocked as if struck by a lightening bolt. “This is my daughter, Maya.” said the man. She folded her hands and greeted the visitor, who was already lost in her big black eyes adorned with kohl, and a smile so seductive that it melted him right away.