The eastern sky is lit in a resplendent orange hue. Everything under the sky – human or inanimate – is bathed in the beautiful bounty of Mother Nature. The cold air of the night is giving way to the gentle, warm breeze of a bright dawn.
The village wakes up to another day, only, that day was different, for it brings with it a man, a dark silhouette in the backdrop of a rising sun bleeding an orange tint all around. Silhouettes do not speak much, but what this one said was a lot. Long, shoulder-length, unkempt hair, a long thin staff in one hand, and knee-length loincloth around the waist, are not a common sight for the villagers.
Workers preparing to leave for tilling, housewives sweeping and watering their front yards and drawing colourful rangolis, and others just lazing in front of their homes look quizzically at the figure walking towards them in the dusty street.
As the figure approaches them closer and closer, the picture becomes clearer and clearer for the villagers. A tall lanky man in knee-length coarse cotton loincloth around the waist, and with long unkempt tresses parted in the middle, does not walk but gently glides through the street at a snail’s pace. The stranger accosts everyone whom he comes across.
A village elder greets him back and asks, “Who are you and where from are you, stranger?”
Politely refusing the offer of a seat, the stranger says, “I am from everywhere.”
“What is your name?”
“Whatever you call me by. You called me stranger. So be it.” The stranger smiles.
“Who are your parents?”
“With my biological parents safely in heaven, God Almighty is my father and mother.”
“Your answers are intriguing. They do not tell anything about you.”
“I am an open book. All answers are in it. It is up to the reader to read.”
“What do you do?”
“Bring peace to ravaged souls; at least, I try to.”
“Are you going to stay here?”
“Do you want me to? Is there a need?”
“I don’t know, but people are unhappy, in general.”
“I don’t know.”
“Is it only here or at other places, too?”
“Everywhere, I guess.”
“Have you heard of the universal axiom, ‘a contented man is a happy man’?”
“Our parents used to tell us about contentment.”
“So, what happened?”
“We forgot all that somewhere on the way.”
“Why? You have progressed much with all the technology at your disposal.”
“That’s what we all thought.”
“So, what happened?”
“Everything went awry. Our problems only increased and happiness decreased in an inverse proportion.”
“There used to be plenty; food grains, water, clean air and, above all, time. We used to spend much time with our families.”
Sigh…sigh…“Stranger, you look familiar. Are you from Bethlehem?”
The stranger smiles. “Maybe.”
“Or from Mecca, or Lumbini, or Porbandar, or Atlanta?”
“I am from wherever you want me to be from.”
“You have told us nothing about you.”
“I am no stranger to you although you call me by that name. I am born in every age in every place. I was born in Dwapara yug in a jail cell in Mathura. I was born in every place that you mentioned - Bethlehem, Mecca, Lumbini, Porbandar, and Atlanta. I look familiar to you because you have seen me in every epoch. In every epoch, I was killed by tyrants and zealots…because I loved nonviolence and peace …because I preached nonviolence, love, and peace…because I practised nonviolence, love, and peace. I will be killed now, too. I will be born again and shall be killed again by another tyrant. I strive to bring a reign of nonviolence, love, and peace on God’s beautiful earth. That is my mission given to me by the Almighty.”
“Now, I find nothing but hatred and strife on this pathetic planet. You mentioned ‘plenty’. Where have those ‘plenties’ gone? I find that one who asks the inconvenient question is exterminated by any available means – dog-bone whip, crown of thorns, spear, guillotine, lion, bullet, dagger, sword, fire, or bomb. There is paucity for everything - food, water, clean air, and, above all, love. Greed rules this planet now. I am striving to bring peace, at least to one human, one family. I admit, I am finding it difficult. Labours of Hercules are childsplay compared to mine.
“You spend billions on deadly armaments when a huge chunk of population does not have a morsel to eat, a rag to cover their bodies, or a slate to write upon. You forget that the earth is but one nation. You perpetuate the mistake of Babel. You, with your ingenuity, make it worse for personal gains. You divide populations on religious, caste, class, and colour lines. You exterminate six millions of a particular sect, for you attribute reasons for all your failures to them. You do not use your knowledge for peaceful and progressive purposes but create deadly nuclear and chemical weapons and exterminate thousands and thousands of innocent populations. You practise and preach apartheid and untouchability.
“You introduce religious insanity and mercilessly slay thousands, while you let millions suffer without food, water, and clean air. You pollute the ground, the water, and the air, which God Almighty has bestowed upon you. You give your children’s hand deadly weapons instead of a pencil. You give in your children’s stomachs killer drugs instead of a glass of milk. You worship goddesses yet you treat women as vassals. You deny them education, freedom, and basic human dignity. You lust for them and use them as sex objects.
“This is the only planet where millions of such unique life forms exist. Your lifestyle destroys thousands of species every day. Millions of lives are lost regularly stricken by floods, drought, storms, avalanches, landslides, earthquakes, and tidal waves. The salubrious climates created by God Almighty are eroded. Your seasons are changing, thus creating havoc in human life.
“Yet, you do not learn from your mistakes, either as individuals or as nations. You rescind the cosmic philosophy that your generation has merely borrowed the earth and the universe from your children’s generation. You degrade the environment as if there is no tomorrow. You do not even realise that it is your children and their children who suffer. Babies are born with incurable breathing diseases. Yet you are blind to reality.
“Wake up at least now, for there is no tomorrow for this planet. Spread peace and love. Follow the path shown by the pacifists of yore. Follow the simple philosophies propounded by them. How can I help you if you do not help yourself? Let charity begin at home. Let reform begin with one human – yourself. Let it begin now.”
The village elder was silent for long minutes.
“Are you a messiah?”
“Why do you need a messiah to tell you what to do?”
“Are you a pagan? To which religion do you belong?”
“Oh my God! I cannot help these people. Take me unto thee, never to return.”
“He teaches us wrong philosophies. He insults our gods. He is an atheist. Stone him, stone him to death…” The chorus grows.
Then fall the stranger.