“Focus on your breath!”
The voice of the teacher cut through the silence in the room.
I shifted my attention from the aching ankle to my itching nose.
“Focus on the breath as it comes in.
Notice there is a brief pause.
Now focus on the breath as it flows back out!”
The instructions were clear.
My mind was not.
I had left my wife, son, a busy work schedule, hundreds of emails and bills for this ten-day meditation retreat.
I peeped at the others through half-closed eyes.
The hall was full of men in various shapes and sizes.
Most of them seemed to be in agony.
The instructor was looking at me, and I shut my eyes immediately.
It was day one.
There were nine more days of breathing to go.
In all this peace and meditation, I was missing the chaos of my world!
The front door was stuck, and I had to push with both hands.
A cloud of dust descended upon me.
I had grown up in this house.
Rooms full of sheet-covered furniture, with tonnes of dust on them.
The last one was my old haunt.
It was empty except for a wooden box in a corner.
I remembered the box. I used to call it my ‘treasure chest’.
My heart missed a beat as I opened it.
All the trinkets I had gathered as a child were still there.
A broken wristwatch, a torn kite, spokes from the wheel of my cycle, iron nails and screws of all sizes and shapes, a hammerhead without a handle, they were all still there.
Each of them had a story to tell.
A story from the past.
“Are you lost?”
“There was a shop managed by an old man here. He used to sell oil lamps, ” I said.
“That was my grandfather. He died a few years back. Please do come in.”
“I am sorry. I just returned after two decades.”
The shop had a vast range of electrical appliances on display.
“Your father is still in Mumbai ?”
“He has settled down there. I like this village better,” he said.
As I walked out with a purchase, he said, ” I was a pleasure serving you.”
The comment made me smile.
The boy’s grandfather used to say that when a customer left.
“He taught me how to treat customers,” the boy said.
“You learnt well. You learnt from the best,” I said.
My village was more of a town now, but I was happy to see that some of the old world traditions had survived.