It was raining outside. The rain fell faster and heavier. There were flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.
On the wet branches of the thick flame trees, helpless birds slept motionless. Their soft feathers bristled in the cold wind.
I was awake at that odd hour. I had not slept the previous night, the previous week and the previous fortnight. Yet, I was awake.
It appeared as if the heaven had descended on the earth. On that graceful morning, there was a problem.
I did not have money.
Without money, my business was like a river that can never find its sea.
My computer shop was a small business with a respectable turnover. But, the neck to neck competition, from the small guys in the town and the big boys on the web, forced me to work on a wafer thin margin.
I made a profit that was just enough for a decent living. I was single and lived in a small rented apartment. I owned a white Honda Accord that was ten years old.
The possibilities of driving a Mercedes Benz off the showroom, enjoying a holiday with a family and buying a big waterfront house always seemed to be remote.
I worked hard harder than you think. I always woke up with thoughts on expanding my business and slept with new plans to grow more.
However, on that particular rainy day, I was on the verge of losing even the small things I possessed. It was not my fault.
I sold to StarTech, an old client, computers for $50,000 on fifteen days term. It was a big deal for me. Orders worth $150,000 from new clients were in the pipeline.
I happily awaited StarTech payment to pay off my suppliers and creditors. That was a business routine.
That routine was broken on the blessed fifteenth day when StarTech telephoned me to discuss a small issue.
A small issue!
As their bank would give them a loan only after sixty days, they could pay me only then. If I preferred, I could take my computers back.
Take my computers back and do what? Of course, Mrs. Anna Singers, the polite accountant of StarTech, profusely apologized and promised many great future deals.
Then, hell broke.
My checks were returned unpaid.
Success was a private affair; failure was a public funeral. Suddenly, everyone in the town knew my little story. So, supplies did not arrive. Customers used the choicest epithets against me for not delivering their computers.
My banker threatened to close my account if there was one more returned check.
Creditors wanted their money back within a week. You promised to pay on demand. Didnt you?
I borrowed from whomever I could. High interest did not ring a bell. It was a matter of honor. Wasnt it?
When I could not borrow a cent, I sold whatever I could. That left me with a few chairs, a dining table, a bed and my good old car.
I tried to sell them too. There were no buyers.
My key supplier sent a big van that weekend with three Mike Tysons and took away all his goods. The big brothers assured me when they left, Dont worry, buddy, well deliver them back at our cost when you pay the bills. I thanked them and then did not have one good, or bad, reason to go to my empty shop.
Within a fortnight, I became an untouchable, a hunted animal and a fugitive nowhere to go.
I feared the telephone. At times, I answered in a false voice and assured the caller it was a wrong call.
The doorbell became an alarm bell. I would switch off the lights to make it appear that I was not at home. Unfortunately, the bill collectors were not fools. I hated their sagely advice and veiled threats.
I avoided friends, especially girlfriends.
I made many calculations and projections, day in and day out, that would confuse Albert Einstein.
Finally, I figured out that if I managed to raise $30,000 within three days, I could restore my old life and old habits back to normal. $30,000 would be sufficient to reopen the shop and bag the orders in the pipeline.
Time would rub out the bad scars.
There were only two possibilities. Either the air should lay the dollars on my head or the water tap should spit the amount out into my bucket.
Thus, I was awake and alone on that graceful morning with dejection and depression.
The telephone rang. It was John Orchards. I should not have picked up the receiver.
Hi, Bill, how are you? John greeted.
Yeah, fine, John, how are you? I asked.
I need your help. I have a problem here. John was apologetic.
Good, I was not the only one who had problems.
Tell me how I can help you, mate. My voice immediately became soft.
My wife is in labor. I must take her to the hospital. My fathers friend must catch his flight to India before seven. Can you please drop him at the airport in your car? John requested.
Airport? You need to drive for thirty minutes on the motorway in the rain and wind. I wanted to refuse. But, I could not. I owed John two thousand dollars.
Ill be there in ten minutes, I said.
Thank you, Bill. I know I can always count on you. He will wait for you in the garage. John hung up the receiver.
Sure, John, you can always count on me along with your two thousand dollars, I thought.
When I reached Johns place, a stranger was sitting on his bag in the garage. John had locked his house and gone to the hospital with his wife.
Hi, I am Bill, I said.
Hello, this is Punit. The man spoke without accent.
He stood up and we shook hands.
Punit was in his early sixties. He was tall. His eyes were soft and dreamy. There was a light in his eyes. I thought he wore special contact lenses that reflected the garage light. Though he was dark, his skin was bright.
Come on, lets go, I said. I picked up his bag, threw it on the backseat, got into the car and closed the door with a big bang.
He said, Punit thanks you. He got into the car, closed the door gently and sat on the front seat.
He had some difficulty in wearing the seatbelt.
People have seatbelts, but dont wear them in India, he said sheepishly.
I drove the car carefully. After a few minutes, he asked, Can Punit smoke in your car?
Sure, I said and opened his window. I hated to open the car window and let the rain in on my car seats. But, I was helpless.
He pulled out a thick panama cigar, lit it and took a deep puff. Cigarettes rule the world. It is difficult to get good cigars, he regretted.
I felt sick of the strong odor. I said curtly, I dont smoke. I know nothing about cigars.
Punit apologizes. Sometimes, he takes things for granted, he said in a soft voice and dropped the cigar into the ashtray.
I noted that he did not use I and referred to himself in the third person. He spoke each sentence after a pause of a few seconds. The world is full of funny people, I thought.
Bill thanks you for your understanding, I said lightly and closed the window quickly.
Punit smiled and I started to like him.
Is this the first time you are in this country? I asked.
No. Punit visits this country every year, he said.
Do you travel a lot? I asked.
No. Punit doesnt travel much. He likes to stay in his room in India and do his work in silence, he replied.
What brings you to this country every year? I was curious.
Punits friends organize a business conference every year around this time. They are happy if he helps them a bit in the conference, he said.
You are a speaker? I asked.
No. Businessmen raise questions about their business problems, sales, income and debts in the conference and Punits friends answer them. If the pot is too hot for his friends, he answers some questions, he said.
Great, I understand. You bring in sales, arrange finance and take a cut, I said.
He smiled and said, No. The solutions are based on new ideas you have not heard of. The participants learn the new concepts and principles in the conference. They ask questions, get answers and solve the problems on their own with the new methods.
I had seen advertisements for such business conferences. Everyone had a new magic formula for the maladies of the world! But, I did not want to hurt the gentleman. It was his business.
I asked, Good business?
He did not reply that question.
What do you do? he asked.
It was a pain to reply. I said, I own a computer shop. I wanted to talk about something else.
You will find the conference useful, he said.
I thought, Perhaps, if you give me a complimentary ticket. But, I said, I think so.
There was a pause for a few moments. I expected him to tell his success stories. But, he was silent.
His handbag was full of thick books. So, I asked him, Do you read a lot?
A lot, he confirmed.
What kind of books do you read? I asked.
Spiritual books, he said.
I have heard about Gita, I told him and showed off my knowledge.
What do you know about Gita? There was a sudden interest in his voice. I felt victorious.
When some royal brothers fought in India, a god man gave a sermon on peace and advised them not to fight. That is Gita. I was confident.
Actually, he gave a sermon on the importance of fighting. When some of the brothers did not want to fight, the god man advised and forced them to fight, he said with a disarming smile.
Really? Dont you think it is a mistake on the part of the god man to support a war? I was on my defense as my knowledge on Gita fell flat.
Is it a mistake? he asked.
Yes. God is full of love and forgiveness, I said.
How do you know? he asked.
Well, I have read so in many holy books, I said.
Who wrote those books? God or Man? he asked.
I was silent. I did not reply. I was not in a mood for a heated philosophical debate on that windy cold morning. He sensed my lack of interest.
If you have a financial problem, what will you do? he asked.
I will make a list of all receivables and payables and find out my net worth. I will look for ways to raise money or increase income. Thorough analysis of all the facts may give a meaningful solution, I said and thought, Meaningful solution? Where is it?
Punit asked, What will happen if you ignore a few items and deal only with what you like?
Confusion, complication and bankruptcy, I said.
Most of the holy books concentrate on one aspect, he said.
Do you mean they lie? I asked.
No. To know a thing well, you must analyze all aspects and resolve the contradictions. Only then you will be able to synthesize the facts and learn the truth, perhaps an integral one, he said.
I wanted to change the subject. What do you do in India? I asked him after a pause.
Punit reads and writes a lot. He spends his time in silence and inner work, he said.
I thought I did not hear him right. I have never heard of such a profession. What is inner work? I asked.
It is not a profession. It is a way of living. It is the true way of being, he said.
What sort of inner work do you do? I was curious.
You will understand the inner work only if you know about the new consciousness, he said.
What is it? I asked him.
What is consciousness? he asked me.
When you are awake and think, you are conscious. When you are asleep or in coma, you are unconscious, I said with confidence.
The new consciousness Punit talks of is a living being. It came to earth a few years back, he said.
An alien? I asked.
No, he said.
What is it doing? I asked.
It is speeding up human evolution, he said.
Oh, God! Oh, My God! I must be careful with that strange man who mixed up and confused real science and speculative spirituality.
Its interesting, I lied.
Quite so, he said innocently and continued, It is the fire of the evolution. It is pulling down a beautiful future onto the earth. If you wish, you too can pull a little.
My safety sensors flashed red lights. I looked at the most dangerous man on the earth from the corner of my eyes. I decided not to disagree with him ever.
Has anyone seen it? I asked. After a moment, without knowing why, I said, I want to see it.
He hesitated for a moment and asked, Do you have a problem?
Everyone has problems. Why do you ask? I wanted to know.
Punit said, If you have a material problem, it is an easy route to know and understand this consciousness. It is a truth of matter. It has the power to solve even impossible problems...
Every problem has a solution, I interrupted.
Really? Do you have a solution to your important problem? he asked.
I was silent for a few moments. Right. Some problems dont have solutions. But, time will heal the wound, I said.
An excuse! When the new consciousness acts, everything is possible, he said.
In theory, everything is possible, I said.
What is your problem? he ignored my comment and asked in a soft voice.
I did not want to discuss my problem with him. So, I said, Tell me about the new consciousness.
He said, Words are inadequate to describe it. You cant understand it with your mind. The only way to understand it is through your own experience. He closed his eyes for a few seconds and then said, You have called it. It is ready to help you.
When did I call it? I wondered.
You wanted to see it. A simple sincere call is enough, he said and continued, You must ask for its help, if you really want to solve a problem.
It was an embarrassment to discuss my personal problem with others. But, I wanted to have a solution, if there was one under the sun. It was not the right time to worry about logic or magic.
Thirty thousand dollars in three days or the party was over.
I have a serious problem. I need thirty thousand dollars for my business. My bills are overdue. My credit rating is low. I have no one to help me, I told him with shame.
Your problem is a simple one, Punit said.
You dont know the magnitude of my problem. I dont have any money or property. I protested.
The solution is within you, he said.
You have no idea about the gravity of the reality. I began to distrust him.
You are not able to solve your problem, because you think you alone can solve it, he observed.
Do you want me to hire a financial consultant? These consultants are expensive and think their clients are stupid, I said to him.
You dont have a financial problem; you have only an inner problem, he said.
Do you suggest that I meet a psychiatrist? I was appalled.
No. Your mind created your problem. Trying to think and solve it is like fighting your right hand with your left hand, he said.
Is my intelligence useless? I asked.
You know the results of your intelligence. You will suffer as long as you want to do everything by yourself with your mind, he said.
Why do you insult the mind? I asked.
He said calmly, No. The mind is a great instrument. But, it has its own problems like everything else. It is conditioned to seek support only from known things, known people and known methods. Dont rely on your mind.
Then what do I do? I asked.
There is nothing to do. You have everything to undo. Real progress will be made when you undo your past, Punit said.
Past is past, I reminded him.
We think about the past, act in the present and imagine about the future. The new consciousness doesnt have time constraints. It can act in the past, present and future, he said.
Its difficult to believe, I said.
That is the problem with the mind, he said.
What can I do now? I was anxious.
His reply was short. Dig, throw.
Sorry? I asked.
You already have a portion of the new consciousness in you. Every human being has it, he said.
I do? I did not believe him.
Yes. It is in the middle of your chest, Punit asserted.
I looked down into my chest and said sarcastically, Excuse me; I see only my shirt buttons.
My defiance did not deter him.
It is there even if it is invisible, Punit said.
How can I recognize it? Does it have a big head or a long tail? I asked him with a smile.
He showed his thumb. It is a little flame of burning white fire. Its of the size of a thumb.
But I dont see it, I told him.
It is there, whether you believe it or not, see it or not, he said and asked, Do you really want to solve your problem?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I thundered.
When you are alone, close your eyes. Imagine a white light in the middle of your chest. Observe and reject your stray thoughts and feelings, Punit said and gave a pause.
I am listening, I assured him.
He continued, In a few minutes, you will be calm. Bring each and every part of your financial problem to the fire. Big or small, throw them into the fire. Offer them to the fire one by one. Do not think or worry about anything.
Its simple, I said.
No. It isnt. When you analyze your problem, youll discover that many wrongful thoughts, attitudes, feelings and habits are behind the problem. Set them right and offer them to the fire, he said and continued, Problems have many layers physical, emotional and mental. You need to work on all the layers patiently.
I dont understand much about this process, I confessed.
Trust the fire and begin with whatever little you know. The fire will do the rest, he said.
After a pause, Punit said, Do this just as an engine driver digs and throws the coal into the fire. Dig the coal and throw it into the fire.
So, you call it dig-throw method? I asked.
No. It is consecration. Concentrate on the fire and consecrate your problem to the fire, Punit said.
I have a wavering mind. Besides, my problem kills my concentration, I complained.
Call the fire and ask for help with faith, he said.
Will it respond? I wondered.
If it doesnt answer, call and still call, Punit said and continued, Call the fire, dig the coal and throw it into the fire. The engine will move and you will reach your destination safely, sooner or later.
The strength of his voice and his sincerity made me trust him. Yet, I had my questions.
When will I get the solution? I asked.
Punit doesnt know, he replied.
Who will deliver the solution? I asked.
Punit doesnt know, he replied.
Where will the solution come from? I asked.
Punit doesnt know, he replied.
How will I get the solution? I asked.
Punit doesnt know, he replied.
Thats all you have to say? Will I ever have a solution? I was angry.
It is a promise from Punit. You can take his word for it. There was an air of assurance in his voice.
Will I get what I want? I was eager.
You will have the best solution. It may not be the one you expect, he said.
What should I do? I wanted to know.
Dig, Throw, he said.
What shouldnt I do? I asked.
Dont expect, he replied.
What do you mean? I consecrate my problem. So, I expect results, I said.
Great expectations lead to great disappointments! Leave everything to the fire that knows all. The solution will be delivered to you only when you dont expect it, he said to me.
Its difficult not to expect, I said.
Punit understands. But, that is a basic condition, he said with a smile.
A basic condition? Are there other conditions? I asked him.
Faith and perseverance. Have faith in the fire. If you cant solve your problem the first time you consecrate, dont give up. Repeat the process the next day. Try again and again, he said.
Try again and again. Good, that made some sense.
What if I find it difficult to practice as you say? I asked him.
If you really want to solve a problem, you must do something about it, he said.
Yes. Its true, I agreed.
Sincerity and truthfulness are the golden keys. Methods are for the mind. Begin with the method I gave you. If you are sincere, the work will be taken up by the fire sooner or later. You can never deceive the fire, he explained.
How will I know that my consecration is successful? I asked him.
There are many indications. You will know them from your own experience. But, there is a general principle. If the burden or pressure goes off from your mind and heart, you can safely assume that your consecration has been accepted by the fire, he explained.
I have many dirty secrets that I dont want to tell anyone, I told Punit.
Put all before the light in your heart so that the light may work on them for the best. All faults and errors are redeemed by repentance, Punit said.
What will happen if I repeat my mistakes? I wanted to be sure about the consequences.
If you dont change, youll remain stuck in your own self-created mud and cant progress, Punit said.
I understand, I said.
Call the light with the right attitude and youll never have such questions in your mind, said Punit.
What is the right attitude? I asked him.
Complete surrender to the inner light with pure faith, Punit said.
After a few minutes of silence, I asked Punit, Has anybody actually solved a problem by consecration?
Consecration has done many wonders. Punit doesnt want to talk about them, Punit said.
I thought that he meant his personal experiences.
I am not talking about experts like you. I want to know about other mortals like me. Is consecration possible for the rest of us? I asked Punit.
Some of Punits friends do try, he said.
Tell me about their experiences, I said.
They are not able to consecrate all their problems. Punit regretted.
Why? I wondered.
Unwillingness to change, Punit said with a smile.
Change is a painful process, I said.
But, without change, nothing can be done. Many try to do consecration. But, behind it, they make a cover for their personal desires and demands, said Punit.
If it really works, we can solve any problem with consecration. It will be a life skill. But, I dont know much about these things. If I need any help, what should I do? I asked him.
Trust the fire. It is the infallible inner guide. It will do the needful, he said.
We arrived at the airport. I parked the car.
Your words give me some hope. Do you talk about the new consciousness in your conference? I asked.
Punit speaks a different language in the conference. He doesnt talk about the fire openly with strangers. The opposing atmosphere brings on him stress. But, he saw a possibility in you, a real one. Besides, your contact didnt disturb his atmosphere, he said.
I did not understand what he said. However, I told him, You are wonderful. I dont want to lose your contact. Here is my card. I gave him my business card.
Punit thanks you. He doesnt have a business card, he said and smiled.
He grabbed a piece of paper from his handbag, hesitated for a moment and wrote down his address. His handwriting was beautiful.
Didnt you like to give me your address? I was worried about his hesitation.
No. It was not his unwillingness. He remembered the fire and offered the act of writing to the fire. A conscious act, he said and smiled.
Thank you, I took the paper from him and told him with gratitude, Thanks for everything. I have one last question.
Yes? he smiled and placed his bags on a trolley.
After a pause, I asked him with a smile, Didnt your schoolteacher teach you the word I?
Punit laughed merrily for the first time and winked his eyes. He waved his right hand briskly and rolled away his trolley to Terminal 15 without a word and without looking back. He disappeared.
I remembered a poem, Thy voice has wakened my heart to an unknown bliss, Brighter than summer, brighter than my flowers, Into the lonely borders of my life.
Then I had a quick breakfast at the airport restaurant. I paid 25% more than the downtown restaurant for the same fried chicken breast and cheese sandwich, just because it was airport.
I did not bother to collect the change from the beautiful salesgirl. Have it.
Rain poured. I drove slowly. The wipers worked hard to keep the windscreen clear of water. The wipers sang. Dig, throw. Dig, throw. Dig, throw.
When I entered my apartment, the clock struck seven. I sat on my chair and wondered what to do, as I had nothing to do.
I tried to remember and understand Punits words. It was difficult to believe everything he said. But, strangely, I was not able to reject his words as useless.
An inaudible voice from my heart murmured Call, dig, throw; call, dig, throw. With each passing minute, the voice became stronger and stronger. It was sticky.
I decided to give it a go.
I got up from my chair to do some warm up exercises. Then, I sank into my armchair comfortably, removed my shoes, stretched my legs and closed my eyes.
I began to observe my thoughts.
The first thought was about the breakfast. The chicken was not hot. I should have asked the salesgirl to give me a new hot piece. I refused to think further.
The next moment, the second thought sprang. It was about Arnold Schwarzenegger. Would the terminator be a good governor of California? Would he act in movies again? I stopped there.
There was a momentary pause before the third one crawled in. It was about the airport restaurant salesgirl. The name badge on her red shirt said that she was Debbie. When she served me breakfast, her pale white left thigh flashed for a moment through the slit of her black skirt.
I lingered on the thought. I did not want to reject it. The image flashed again and again. I felt good to think about her beautiful body. I indulged in it and forgot myself for a while.
Gradually, the decision to do consecration began to lose its intensity.
Suddenly, I realized that I was on the wrong track, gathered myself, opened my eyes and scolded myself for losing the sense of purpose.
I did not want to close my eyes. If I did, Debbie would trouble me again with her natural resources. Precisely at that moment, I remembered to call the fire and ask for help.
I imagined a flame of white fire in the middle of my chest. I told the fire in silence like a child, Hello, I dont know who you are. I suppose you exist. Please answer me. I dont challenge or deny your existence. Something in me tells that you exist. Otherwise, I would not be talking to you. I want to dig the parts of my financial problem and throw them into you. Drive away the disturbing thoughts. What I cant do, I am sure, you can do. Please help me.
With that simple prayer, I closed my eyes and got ready to reject the next thought.
But, there was a little miracle. The thoughts that came in were only about my problem. Useless thoughts did not show up their ugly or beautiful faces.
I thought about my business. I imagined that I threw the name of my business into the tiny little fire in my chest.
I required thirty thousand dollars. I told the fire, I need thirty thousand dollars. I consecrate my need to you.
Then, I thought about the overdue bills. I consecrated them one by one to the white fire.
I remembered my products, employees, bank, suppliers and customers and threw them in the burning fire. The fire grew a little and became stable.
There was nothing for a few moments.
Debbie smiled seductively and asked, What can I do for you?
I ignored her. She disappeared.
I concentrated on the fire. I went back in time.
I recalled the ups and downs of my business. I gave them to the fire.
Suddenly, images began to appear. I did not have to think and imagine the parts of my problem from that moment. I just looked at the flashing images of my past business life without a reaction.
I watched a television serial. I watched it without changing the channel.
Big things came out. Small things came out.
Big or small, important or silly, relevant or irrelevant - I caught everything and threw them into the soft fire.
The clock ticked away the minutes.
Then there was an image, sticky and black. The fire did not consume it.
Esther, a customer, paid thirty dollars in cash for a keyboard. Later, she forgot that and sent a check for the same keyboard.
I knew it was mistake. Yet, I ignored it.
Thirty dollars was not a big deal. After all, I did not cheat Esther. It was her mistake.
Her mistake? Really?
There was a sudden revelation. I was capable of cheating others. At an opportune moment, I would cheat the innocent in the unsuspecting broad daylight.
My attitude was wrong, totally wrong. I had no financial problem, only a wrong attitude.
In a moment, Mr. Clean became Mr. Dirty.
I had to face myself.
I was a cheat. It was difficult to accept.
Just thirty dollars and I was a cheat!
I felt thorns in my eyes. I wanted to open my eyes and give up the whole exercise. But, I persisted.
I resolved to return the money to Esther. I told her from the deepest depths of my heart, Esther, I am sorry.
There was crack in the stone.
I looked at the fire. This is a promise. Ill never repeat the deception. No more wrong attitudes, small or big, I told the fire.
Scales smoked in thin air - in a puff. Thirty was perfectly equal to three millions.
A sword of light struck on the sticky knot heavily. There was a sudden freedom.
A dark point was flung into the fire.
The point disappeared.
Mr. Dirty disappeared. Mr. Clean disappeared.
Only the mystic fire existed. It burnt and burnt.
No Bill. No chicken. No Arnold. No Debbie.
The fire grew.
Waves of thoughts, feelings, actions, desires and disappointments suddenly sprang from nowhere.
I offered each and everything to the fire, one by one and each at a time.
Waves of happy and sorrowful faces, right and wrong attitudes and favorable and unfavorable circumstances appeared.
I offered each and everything to the fire, one by one and each at a time.
The fire consumed the good and the bad.
The engine driver dug the coal and threw it into the fire. He did his work patiently.
Then I knew what the inner work was.
I dug the black pit of my past and threw the coal into the fire.
My pit! The bottomless pit!
The fire grew. It grew and grew.
I dug. I threw.
My minutes swallowed months and years.
I dug. I threw.
I heard the future song that no ears can hear.
I dug. I threw.
I saw the vast landscape that no eyes can see.
I dug. I threw.
I tasted the sweet juice that no tongues can taste.
I dug and dug the black pit of mire. I threw and threw the coal into the fire. I did my inner work.
I dug. I threw.
A small window suddenly opened in silence.
I saw a faint light from a distant ship that floated on a dark sea. The tiny little light twinkled like an ageless star.
A door opened on my front. An unexpected freedom broke my shackles.
A door opened on my right. A tiny fountain of freshwater sprang from my desert heart.
A door opened on my left. An unknown icy hand began to caress my burning head.
A frail blade of grass quivered in a windless air on a high mountains summit.
There was a little cascade of peace above my confused head. Clean air rushed in to fill my thirsty lungs.
Someone lit the sun that never sets.
A fugitive white bird flew and wandered in the infinite bright blue sky.
I broke into another space and time. In thirty minutes, I crossed millenniums.
A beautiful fairy with twelve golden wings blew a long whistle from a faraway fairyland.
There was a soft thud.
The wheels rolled.
The engine moved.
My journey to the center of my heart
Began on the sunlit path.
The telephone bell rang to break the silence. I picked up the receiver. Before I could speak, I heard the voice tinged with warmth and friendship. Hi, is that Bill?
I was delighted to hear the voice of my old friend, Melanie, especially at that peaceful moment.
Can a voice smile? I would bet my head on Melanies voice.
Melanie! I thought you had banished me from your life. It has been centuries since you called me last! I exclaimed.
She laughed. This Melanie always laughed. When she did not laugh, she would smile.
We exchanged pleasant words for a few minutes. Suddenly she asked, Bill, how is your business?
I had a ready curse on my tongue that I did not allow to escape my lips. I recited an old poem in a philosophical tone, Eyes can watch the distant stars in the galaxy but hands are too short to reach them.
Melanie giggled, What if I give you a spaceship to reach your stars?
Whats she up to?
Theres something up with you, isnt there? I was curious.
Bill, John said some disturbing things about you. Dont worry. I am with you, she said in a tender voice.
I hated John. Thank you, Melanie, I know you, I mumbled with shame.
My cousin Ralph telephoned me just now to talk about some family affair. He has truckloads of money. He wants to lend his money to good businesses. The moment he said that, I thought of you, Melanie said.
The rain grew more and more. Large drops that fell on the window shades made a musical noise.
Melanie, my heart started to beat heavily, I dont have any property to secure his money. Though I wanted to have that money, I knew the rules of the money game.
He doesnt insist on any security other than a good business and honesty. Melanies voice reassured.
I was silent for a moment. Why did Ralph want to lend to me? Did Melanie have any hidden agenda behind the transaction?
Thoughts swiftly passed through my mind. I knew Melanie. Nevertheless, I wanted to play it safe.
Perhaps Ralph expects a high interest rate? I was doubtful.
No. Ralph has all his money in bank deposits. He gets just 5%. Bank lends to small businesses at 11%. Ralph wants to lend for 8%. You gain 3% and he gains 3%. Both of you can have a great deal, Melanie explained patiently.
Yes. Its brilliant, I said.
Bill, you dont have any property to secure bank loan. Even if you are ready to pay 18%, banks will not lend to you, Melanie said with hesitation.
Yes, Melanie. You are right. I was ready to agree to whatever she thought, said and felt. How much will I get? What are the repayment terms? I asked. Even the deaf could sense the impatience in my voice.
Melanie said, I dont know how much you need. But, I have already told him that you need $50,000. You must pay the interest at the end of each quarter. Whenever you can, repay the loan either in pieces or in whole.
Melanie, what should I do next?
Nothing, Melanie laughed and said, Ralph asked me to come to his office this afternoon. He doesnt even want to see you as I back you. You can meet him when you feel good. Ill collect the money and the documents that you need to sign and come to your apartment. Will you be free at two?
There was a pause of some moments. I was speechless. Then, suddenly, I remembered to thank her.
Melanie, I will make myself free on any day and at any time for you, I said and continued, I have no words to express my gratitude. You have done something
Bah, bah. Let us have lunch together on your dirty dining table at two. Ill bring food, Melanie laughed, Bye, Bill.
Before I could say anything, she hung up the receiver.
Leaning back in my chair, I felt something in the way. It was my car key.
An idea flashed instantly. If I could borrow a little more, I could drive a new car off the showroom
I shivered slightly in my chair, though I did not change my position. After a few moments of contemplation, I threw the new car idea out of my mind. I flung the car key on the tea table and stretched my legs comfortably.
Some bird began to sing. Her mate responded with a loud chirp, in spite of the rain.
My heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude to Melanie. I was secretly ashamed of myself for my momentary negative thoughts about her. Melanie was the only person who had ever helped me without expectations of return favors.
But, who was this Ralph? How did he earn his money? The thought of dealing in illegal drug money sent waves of chill through my spine.
Melanie would never betray me. But, she was innocent. She trusted everyone. You could never teach her distrust and hatred.
I was not ready to trust the faceless Ralph. Why should he give me an almost free lunch? Nevertheless, I wanted his money.
Doubt, expectation, distrust, impatience, hope and fear took turns to tease me. My little head and heart had enough room for all kinds of vibrations.
However, something in me trusted Melanies goodwill. That trust in her goodwill was strong enough to ward off the little rascals.
I sank into my chair, and gradually my confused mind went dark.
I did not know the exact moment that Lady Sleep put her tender arms around me and whispered unutterable secrets into my ears.
When I woke up, it was not yet two. The room was noisy with the tick of the clock. I grew impatient.
I had shaven the previous evening. Yet, I shaved again carefully without a nick and made sure my face was smooth. As I showered, I used plenty of soap.
When I felt clean, I dried myself and wore the best casual shirt and jeans I had.
I looked at the mirror for the twentieth time.
I sprayed liberal doses of rose air freshener in the living room and the dining room.
Melanie liked roses and fresh air.
I dusted and arranged the newspapers, magazines and books. Everything was clean and in order.
Melanie loved cleanliness and orderliness.
I cleaned the dining room and arranged the dishes and bowls on the table.
The clock struck two and the doorbell rang promptly. I looked at the mirror for the last time to make sure I was at my best. Then I opened the door.
Melanie smiled at me.
Melanie was a fair woman in her late twenties. Woman? She looked like a tall teenage girl.
Her glistening blond hair was long and thick. She had carefully parted her flowing hair exactly in the middle. Her bright face was luminous.
Under her thin curved brows, I saw two dazzling butterflies. A few raindrops adorned her healthy cheeks.
As she smiled, beautiful pearls sparkled in the crack of the coral rock.
My blood ran quicker.
The enchantress broke the spell with her soft voice, Hi, and smiled.
Hi, Ive been waiting Before I could finish, she interrupted.
For the lunch? she asked lightly.
For you, I grinned. That was a lie. Only the money was on my mind.
Melanie was pleased and said, I know. She gave me a warm hug.
She wore an elegantly embroidered sleeveless yellow blouse and a beautiful black skirt.
Come in, Come in. I was glad to let the angel into my apartment.
My eyes browsed her hands quickly. She had a small wallet and a carry bag.
What a disappointment! There were no signs of documents. Had she kept the papers in the car as it was still raining?
She placed her beautiful Italian calf leather wallet on the small tea table in the living room and walked graciously to the dining room. She knew my apartment well.
As I followed her, I hummed a song, Youre sixteen, Im seventeen
She blushed and said, You make me feel like a teenager.
You are a teenager, I assured her.
My mind was preoccupied with the money. Where were the documents? Was it a bad joke? If it was a joke, that would be the last time I met Melanie, I swore.
The table was clean. I had kept everything in order. The dishes, bowls and cups were ready. I didnt expect this, she said.
Melanie was happy that I cared to clean the dining room and table for her.
She sat on a chair and religiously opened the carry bag. She took out four hot packs, placed them on the table and began to unpack them.
I sat next to her and said, You have brought a restaurant. What is the menu, madam?
Your favorites, sir, she said and bent her head slightly. Crab cakes, lobster bisque soup, garnish salad, barbecued chicken breast, seafood pasta, rice, shrimp curry and banana cream pie.
She poured the hot lobster bisque soup into the soup bowls. She did not allow me to help myself. She served me as we had the food.
Melanie talked about her family, my family, our school days and our friends.
I did not like to listen to anything other than the money. But, I listened to her. I spoke to her. I laughed with her. I put the Academy Award winners to shame with my fine performance.
Nothing was on my head except the money.
When the lunch was over, we cleaned the dishes and appreciated the food.
Melanie wiped her satin lips with her silk kerchief. I was not in a mood to envy the kerchief.
She sat on a chair in the living room and crossed her legs as I sat on the chair opposite to her.
She looked at her watch and exclaimed, It is quarter to four! I lose my sense of time when you are with me.
I lose my sense of time even when I think of you, I said with a smile.
She blushed again.
I thought, What happened to the money? If Ralph does not want to give $50,000, I will be happy with a lesser amount - any amount.
I did not want to initiate the discussion on money, though that was the only thing on my mind at that particular moment.
The mercury was rising. I thought I could withstand the pressure only for a few more seconds.
Bill, I went to Ralphs office at half past One, Melanie began.
At last, at last!
Melanie continued, Ralph was a Small Business Loan Analyst in the Country Bank. If he thought a project was useful to the community and the borrower was honest, he gave the loan without a second thought. His where eagles dare attitude landed him in trouble. He lost his job last year.
The bank must care for its shareholders and depositors. You cant blame the bank for showing Ralph the door. I defended the bank.
She swabbed her lips with the delicate tip of her tongue and said, But he was lucky. His rich aunt bequeathed him a big piece of land in Redmond. It was worth six hundred thousand dollars but there were no buyers.
After a pause, she said, Last year Microsoft built their new development center near his land. The news drove the land price to the roof. The land became a six bagger within a few months and he made three million dollars.
Stock market and real estate can make you a prince or pauper in a night, I said and felt sorry that I did not have a rich aunt.
Melanie smiled to agree and said, When I spoke about you this morning, he received it well. I dont know what happened later. When I met him in his office, he raised some questions about you, your business and the safety of his money.
She paused for a few moments and filled the room with silence.
The reflection of my image on the mirror was noisy in that silence of disappointment.
Yes, Melanie, I said with a deep sigh, I understand
Melanie interrupted with a smile, I assured Ralph that the money with Bill is safer than the money with the Country Bank and Bills word is his bond.
There was a mischief in her blue eyes. Or was it my imagination?
Melanie continued, I told him that if he was not comfortable in having a deal with you, I would sign the documents and take the money in my name.
I began to believe in Divine incarnation.
Ralph said if I would sign the documents, he would be happy to double the amount. I signed the documents and he cut a check for $100,000! Melanie said.
She picked up her wallet and opened it. She pulled out a small folded plastic envelope and pushed it over to me.
You dont have to sign any document. Here is the check for $100,000. I have endorsed it in your name, said Melanie.
I stared at the envelope in disbelief.
I wanted to express my gratitude with the finest words. I did not know how other men spoke at those moments of grace. I searched for words in silence.
Melanie, I I hesitated for a moment.
So, you dont know how to thank me and how to express your gratitude. Melanie laughed.
This Melanie always laughed. When she did not laugh, she would smile.
She held my hands, looked into my eyes with her blue eyes and said, All the best, Bill. She pressed my hands tenderly, I have an appointment with my dentist at half past four. I must rush now.
She smiled and left.
The rain had stopped. Only the raindrops were falling from the wet leaves of the thick flame trees and the windows.
The sun was showing his warm face on and off from behind the clouds like a giggling little girl peeping at a stranger from behind her mother.
The infinite sky was broken and blue among fast moving white cotton clouds.
The raindrops on the windows started to sparkle like little diamonds in the eternal sun.
The breeze fanned my face.
My eyes grew moist.
That was the moment I learnt to trust the Power of the Consecration.
If you have any comments or questions,
please send them to the email address
postchan @ gmail. com