Choose a fool or be alone…Dhammapada verse 61

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I know it’s just six in the morning and my shift starts at 11. Still for the last one month, I am getting up early to jog in the nearby park. No, I am not one of those health freaks who jog even in trench coats, braving cold and rain. I am just a hopeless romantic who goes to the park every day, to get a glimpse of the most beautiful woman in the world!  

As I walk towards the park, I think of those street chaps who tease her constantly, especially my childhood friend and flat mate Rajat.

The friendship between Rajat and I was forged even before we were born. You see, our families have been friends and neighbours much before the famed days of Ordinance Factory in Kanpur. We were born within a few days of each other, disappointing our parents. After all, we had shattered their dreams of changing their status from dosti (friendship) to rishtedari (relation)!

But, we have been friends forever. It was a matter of following the family tradition, a tradition we would proudly hand-over to our future generation in due time, only if, Rajat behaves himself. Rajat had always been a street-smart Romeo, chasing girls and misbehaving with them. He, in fact, goes by a self-christened name, Rajat Romeo!

I have endured his behaviour for long, but of late it has been getting out of hand. He had shifted to Delhi a few weeks ago, and the first thing he told me was, “Sooraj, the girls here are really pretty, so much better than the Kanpur crowd. I think I will finally find my Juliet here.” As much as I wanted to chide him for his cheesy remarks, I was cognizant of the fact that in order to continue with the family tradition of ‘everlasting friendship’, such comments should not be judged.

And, how wrong was I. My knowingly committed ‘error’ blew on my face when I saw him sitting on the bench of the park and staring at my object of affection. I wanted to hit him at that instance, throw him in the nearby puddle and make him look like a fool in front of her. But, then I realised I will dirty my clothes too. And, I wanted to be impeccable.

While Rajat continued to stare at her, she ignored him completely. She was amazing in her endurance and continued with her daily rounds. She always took five rounds, not one more or one less. She is precise, just like her beautiful face, deep brown eyes, light brown hair and a flawless complexion. Still something about her is amiss, she seldom smiles. I don’t know what bothers that pretty woman. And that is what I want to know, want to brighten her days with smile and laughter. Yes, I am again warning you, I am a hopeless romantic.

Today is going to be special. I have finally mustered enough courage to talk to her. I know it’s silly, but I still spray the brand new deodorant, that comes without any gas, mind you, for boosting my confidence.

I quietly slip inside the park through the back gate and instantly spot her doing her warm-ups. I am on time, and gradually start jogging behind her, keeping a distance of a few paces. This goes on till the second round. I muster some more courage and get closer to her. Now I can smell her sweet fragrance, with her hair almost brushing against my face. Told you, I am a hopeless romantic!

And then, it happens, as if in slow motion. All of a sudden, Rajat comes in front of her and holds her hand. In his super cheesy dialect, he asks her, “Will you do frandship with me?” Oh! Horror, not that dreaded frandship again. How many times am I supposed to tell him, it’s friendship.

My reverie of being the ‘better man’ was broken by a terrible screechy sound. I see the beautiful lady struggling to get away from Rajat, while making some inaudible sounds, as if she is too shocked to speak. And then it hits me like a bludger at the back of my head. Oh! No, she can’t speak. The ground under my feet gives away and I feel shaky. I ask myself, how could that be? And, at that instance, I no longer remain a hopeless romantic.

I see Rajat being hit by some random people, as I stand there transfixed, not knowing what to do. After some initial struggle, Rajat runs away from the spot, and I sit beside an old man who has been reading a battered book. As I sit there in silence, the old man keeping his book aside asks me, “Wasn’t that your friend who misbehaved with that woman?”

It startles me. I don’t want to admit the truth. But still I do. I nod my head and tell him that we go a long way.

He again asks me, “Is it worth keeping such a company?”

I respond, “He is my only friend in this city. Besides we are supposed to be friends, that’s the tradition.”

Showing me his book, the old man says, “I just finished reading a story and I think it is appropriate in your case. Let me read it aloud and then you can decide for yourself what you want to do.”

Turning a few pages, the old man starts reading Dhammapada Verse 61 – The Story of a Resident Pupil of Thera Mahakassapa.

Verse 61: Mahakassapa Saddhiviharika Vatthu

Carance nadhigaccheyya seyyam sadisamattano

ekacariyaram dalham kayira natthi bale sahayata

Verse 61: If a person seeking a companion cannot find one who is better than or equal to him, let him resolutely go on alone; there can be no companionship with a fool.

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (61) of this book, with reference to a resident pupil of Thera Mahakassapa.

When Thera Mahakassapa was residing near Rajagaha, he had two young bhikkhus staying with him. One of them was respectful, obedient and dutiful to the Thera, but the other one was not. When the old Thera chided the latter for his slackness in his duties, he was very much offended. On one occasion, he went to the house of a lay-disciple of the Thera, and lied to them that the Thera was ill. Thus, he got some choice food from them for the Thera; but he ate the food on the way. When admonished by the Thera for this, he was extremely angry. The next day, when the Thera was out on his alms-round, the young foolish bhikkhu stayed behind, broke the pots and pans and set fire to the monastery.

When a bhikkhu from Rajagaha told the Buddha about this, the Buddha said that it would have been much better for Thera Mahakassapa to live alone than to live with a foolish companion.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 61: If a person seeking a companion cannot find one who is better than or equal to him, let him resolutely go on alone; there can be no companionship with a fool.

At the end of the discourse, the bhikkhu from Rajagaha attained Sotapatti Fruition.

I am numb hearing the story. I keep thinking, what was I doing for so many years. I had only given foolish excuses for the equally foolish behaviour of my friend. Without even a word to the old man, I get up from my seat and return home dejectedly.

I take the day off, and keep thinking about the incident. I also fight with myself. What should I do now?

Just then, Rajat returns and angrily shouts at me, “Where were you when they were beating me black-and-blue?”

At that precise moment, I know what I need to do. Without giving him an answer, I start packing his clothes in his suitcase. Rajat gets agitated and asks me, “What are you doing?”

I keep mum. There is a sudden resolution in my action. I do not speak for the next 10 minutes as I methodically clean every corner of my house to get rid of Rajat’s presence. I keep the suitcase out.

I look at Rajat and just say two words, “Get out!”

He is too stunned to react and slowly moves out. I finally shut the door and sit down at the floor. I realise what I had done today, I should have done years ago.

It is only after a couple of hours I could get up. I tell myself, I need to begin another journey. I log on to my laptop and start searching for video tutorials on sign language. After all, I need to apologise to her, and maybe someday, I will convey something that will make her smile too.

As I watched the videos, I started feeling an affinity with the importance of learning sign language. I decide to learn it from a professional institute, and after finishing an extensive course, I start teaching sign language with an NGO.

Finally, I become a hopeless romantic in its truest essence!

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