Pallavi got up and found herself swaddled in sand. It was twilight and the sun was setting in the distance. As she got up, she felt tired and after some effort and a heavy head she was on her feet. She dusted off the sand from her jeans, shirt, hair, scarf, shoes, and looked around. She was in the middle of the desert. All around, she saw only sands and dunes interrupted by an occasional cactus shrub. The vastness of the desert made her desolate and lonely. The orange and grey skies felt haunting. The scrawling sounds of insects and rodents wriggling on the sand terrified her. She tied the scarf around her face and started to walk towards a high dune, to look at the landscape and possible help.
The cool evening breeze was slowly turning the scalding sand into a mellow carpet. As Pallavi walked up the high dune, the events of the day came flashing to her. Pallavi was on a vacation, in the desert state of Rajasthan, with her husband Viren and few friends. That evening they were enjoying a desert safari on a camel. A sand storm struck and Pallavi went astray. Her camel’s attendant could not hold on and the camel skedaddled in to the desert. Pallavi kept screaming for help, but she and her voice were lost in the storm. She remembered jumping off the camel, to escape, but she hit something on the ground and rolled over in the sand and fell unconscious.
Now walking under the twilight sky, she was petrified. She could sense the slithering of reptiles around her. At a distant she could see the gleaming eyes of predators glistening. She was surrounded by darkness and a sense of nothingness. As she scampered to the top of the hillock, she heard some noises. She hurried to the top and to her delight she saw a group of men and women camped around a fire on the next hillock. She was relieved, she would survive, they would take her home. She started to scream and waive her scarf at the congregation. The congregation noticed Pallavi and two men came running to fetch her. Pallavi broke down and tears of joy started rolling down her cheeks. She was finally safe. She sat in the sand and cupped her face and cried. Few minutes ago she was desolate and now she was found.
Around the fire there were men and women dressed in traditional Rajasthani attire- feasting, playing music, dancing and singing. The men wore white waist high tunics, tight slacks and colorful turbans. They all had big moustaches, rounded up on their cheeks. Women wore rust red color blouse and long skirts and big colorful stoles. However, they all had identical tattoos on their neck and chin. Probably an insignia of their clan. They all welcomed Pallavi. But a few did not make eye contact, they all stood there with heads bowed and addressed her as ‘Hukum (Your Highness)’. Pallavi took that as part of the famed Rajasthani hospitality. Then an elderly woman came forward and Pallavi had a sense of Déjà Vu.
‘I think I know you’ Pallavi said on impulse.
‘Of course Hukum’ she replied.
‘What’s your name?’ inquired Pallavi trying to recollect.
‘Amba Devi’ the lady replied.
That name did not ring any bells in her mind but the serenity in Amba Devi’s persona was soothing. Pallavi stepped ahead and embraced Amba Devi. Pallavi felt calm and secured. Amba Devi too embraced her and ushered her to sit in front of the fire. She suddenly started to recognize a few more faces in the congregation, but as a faint memory. Not clear where and when. The folks began to sing and dance again. Someone brought Pallavi a glass of cold milk with honey. She was then served a hot meal of rotla (thick flat wheat bread) and cooked chili and onion. She ate her full and quenched her thirst. Amba Devi was sitting next to her and tending her like a child. Pallavi then lied down in Amba Devi’s lap and she slowly started caressing Pallavi’s hair. Pallavi gazed at the sky, the stars had never looked so beautiful, the sky never so vast. The entire universe seemed to collude to provide equanimity. She felt like the center of the universe. ‘Why do I feel like I have done this before, you stroking my head and I gazing into the endless universe’ Pallavi said that aloud, to no one, still startled at the sense of Déjà Vu.
After a while Pallavi got up and started dancing with the women. She matched them step for step as if she knew the traditional dances. Dancing and going around the fire. The dancing was becoming faster and the music louder. The dancing was reaching a frenzy and Pallavi was whirling with other women. Everybody was now sitting around in a circle and only Pallavi was whirling in the center with her hands raised and palms facing the sky. Some elderly men and women started chanting from some ancient scriptures. Pallavi was whirling for some time now and she went in to a trance. In that transcendental state she was moving into a different space. That space was grey and conjuring images. There were noises – some decipherable but most were incoherent. Someone talking in the background, talking through the images that were appearing. There she saw Amba Devi playing gleefully with a young girl. Now Amba and the little girl were on a camel. Suddenly there is a sense of terror. A man with a sword running and a war like scene. A girl jumping from the camel. Now she found herself on the last day of her college, hugging and bidding goodbye to her friends. Then she saw the settings of the day of her marriage with Viren, exchanging vows with Viren. Then she saw rains- heavy down pour, storm and she was on a boat. Now she was in a garden along with some women- singing, dancing like the way she was dancing today with the women in the desert. Running, jumping from mountains, swimming in the seas, hiding in the jungles, making love, receiving affection, picnic under sunshine and many other jumbled – some disturbing some soothing scenes. The voice in the background going from hoarse to a sweet rhapsody augmenting the visuals. Pallavi was tired of the whirling and fell down. She was out of the trance. The people playing the music stopped. The chanting ceased. Pallavi lay still on the ground, sweating and breathing heavily. There was silence, the only noise came from the crackling of cinders and rustling of sand caused by the breeze. Pallavi looked up exasperated.
‘What are these noises and images? And Why am I seeing all this?’ The words disappeared in the wind. The disquiet in her voice was palpable. She heard footsteps behind her, she turned to find an elderly man with the biggest moustache curled up, tallest in the clan, broad shoulders, wearing the biggest turban and holding a long spear.
‘Does she know?’ asked that man with a sense of authority to the gathering.
‘Not yet, we were waiting for you’ said Amba Devi
‘He is Rana Maldeo Singh’ said Amba Devi gesturing to the elderly man.’He is the grand patriarch of our clan. He will have answers to all your questions.’
Rana Maldeo, settled in the nearby cot and held Pallavi’s hand. Pallavi was sitting on the ground. Rana Maldeo started in a benevolent tone ‘It’s your story Pallavi. It’s our story. It’s the part of time that belongs to you. Your share of the destiny: your invested time and self in this dimension and space. Your memories and impressions from the past – near and distant. The events, the incidents that have left a lasting impression on your soul, which transcended through time and lives’.
The only noise was the soft words spoken by Rana Maldeo else the vast desert seemed lifeless
‘But why am I seeing all these?’ asked Pallavi
‘It’s the aggregation of the moments and memories you have amassed’
‘I want to go home’ blurted a confused Pallavi
Rana Maldeo and Amba Devi exchanged a glance.
‘We can leave only after dawn’
Pallavi wanted to protest, she wanted to leave immediately, but she surrendered to the authority in Rana Maldeo’s voice. She sat there and started reminiscing the images she had seen in her state of trance.
The night was getting darker and the desert tranquil. The wind had stopped blowing.
Pallavi asked ’I understand that some of the images I saw during the trance were from my past lives. I remember seeing a few of these incidences in my dreams too.’
‘Your conscious mind forgets everything from the past. But the soul knows what it is seeking and recognizes souls with whom it has strong bonds. The way you recognized Amba, and some of these folks remember you as their princess, and they address you as ‘hukum’. Hence sometimes you meet strangers and feel a strong bond with them in your lifetime, even without knowing their names. So it’s a new journey every time, for your conscious self. But the soul never forgets, hence your dreams.’
‘But I don’t remember anyone of them.’
‘If you had looked closely in that transcendental state, you would recall many faces from here, including me. But it needs a certain level of enlightenment to recall easily.’
‘Ranaji, since you mentioned some of the images are from my past lives, when we die, do we have an option to reincarnate? Is it my free will?’
‘It depends on how eager you are to return to this dimension. All energies seek equanimity and peace. Finding true unconditional love is one way, the intimacy and veracity that you experience provides contentment. The comfort to surrender to another soul brings a sense of fulfillment and completion to your being. Just to love and be loved is what the soul wants. Once you find that, one may not want to reincarnate and may want to move on to another dimension.’
‘So you mean the reincarnation is the journey to find true love?’
‘May be. Its only love that all souls seek on earth. To find someone that completes you. To give selflessly and to receive unabashedly. But finding true love is not only about finding it from a person. It’s finding what gives you true love and happiness – may be music, writing, painting, hiking, singing, service to mankind- anything that makes your life worthwhile and not just give you a living. Once that is attained the soul seeks nothing, it’s foolish to think that only a person can make you complete.’
‘The other dimension you mentioned, one can move on to, if not reincarnated, is it heaven and hell?’
Rana Maldeo laughed out loudly. His laughter echoed in the desert. ‘Child, some call it by that name too, but its not a binary its more complex than that’
Just then the sky started to change color. The sky was turning grey. The darkness was receding. Dawn was nearing.
‘Oh! It’s going to be dawn. Its time to go home!’ Pallavi was excited.
Realising the approach of dawn, the congregation was getting edgy. Amba was nervous and worried for Pallavi. Everyone looked up to Rana Maldeo to take it from here. Rana Maldeo continued to be calm and undaunted. He realized everyone looked up to him to break the news to Pallavi. Rana Maldeo had done this many times in the past. The elderly in the group again started chanting from the scriptures. Rana Maldeo finally spoke ‘We can leave as soon as they cremate your body.’
‘WHAT??? Cremate my body? What are you talking Ranaji?’ Pallavi did not know how to react. She was suddenly very scared, she began to shiver. Her knees were feeling weak. Amba Devi got up and held Pallavi.
‘Yes, it happened when you jumped from the camel and hit the stone. Your neck broke and your soul could not reside in a lifeless body’
This time was critical. Souls had the tendency to get into denial and become obstinate and try and get back in to earthly life. But that was futile, and the souls went wayward and even got lost with other energy forms on earth. Some good, some not so good. Hence the clan came to take the soul back with them safely, till the time came to reincarnate or move on to another dimension.
Pallavi got down on her knees, wailing and screaming. The sky was changing its color quickly from black to orange-grey. The beautiful glittering stars were slowly fading. It was twilight again. The sun was preparing to pierce the darkness and claim the earth again. The chanting was now fast and loud.
Thoughts were racing through her mind. The frailties of life and now the truth of death dawned on her. She wished, she knew how much time she had here. And spending this time with a loved one and doing what she loved was so important. She spent the last few days without saying ‘I love you’ to Viren. She never got a chance to say sorry, to clarify, to pacify, to patch up, to make up with so many people she wanted to. She had died so suddenly. She kept crying and sobbing and reminiscing the life just spent.
‘When can I meet Viren?’ sobbed Pallavi.
‘When its his time, you can come to take him’ said Rana Maldeo.
Far away Viren lay Pallavi’s body on the pyre, crying inconsolably. Wish he knew how much time she had here. He had spent the last few days without saying ‘I love you’ to Pallavi. So many things to do, so many promises to keep. So many things left unsaid. The crowd at the funeral had the same emotion. She died so suddenly. So many people wanted to say sorry, say I love you, pacify her, clarify, to make up with her. Finally, with a broken heart, teary eyes and crying aloud Viren lit the pyre. Pallavi’s body started to wither and her soul travelled with her clan.