Saint poets of my language, Kannada, use a certain metaphor with a philosophical import: “The mango tree and the koel – how are they related? The gooseberry from the mountain and the salt from the sea water –how are they related?”
i am often reminded of these lines when i see Bhakti and Tumban, the ashram dogs: they are alike in many respects. The black brown dogs are from the same species. Tumban is a wee bigger and has an addition of white colour in the face.
But the two respectable members of the ashram were stray dogs in their poorvashram. ‘Like the human residents, they too came and became ashramvasis,’ Amma said the other day on the beach, sitting flanked by the twosome.
Tumban and Bhakti are not just two more residents. No. ‘They are VIPS,’ as Shubhamritaji quipped in his translation. On meditation days the two wait for Amma to come down from Her room, and walk right in front of Her much to my dismay. Leading Her to the peetham, they just wait for Amma to take Her seat, and soon jump up to take their place on Her either side, as if it were their right. The little children who wait to sit sticking to Amma, now disappointed, settle down one step below.
Amma has less space for Herself. Like a little girl Amma pushes on either side hoping to secure some. But no, the two-some have already settled down full length and are acting asleep. So, no way of waking them, as Amma often tells that we can wake only the sleeping ones not the one who is acting as if asleep. Amma, as usual, adjusts to the paristhiti.
Now and then the two-some sit on their hind legs and, keeping their faces by Amma’s face, pose to the cameras. Amma giggles away when they do so!
On the bhajan days, as Amma begins to sing Her first song, the two stealthily come up the ramp. Their movement shows their good intention of not disturbing anybody. Not even Swamiji by Amma’s side. They just jump up to Amma’s peetham. As soon as they are spotted Amma, even as She is singing, very lovingly accommodates them by removing all Her bhajan paraphernalia like the kaimani and talam sticks. She even pushes Herself to the sides in order to oblige Her special children. Tumban rests his head towards Amma’s right feet and with ears clearly in the alert mode, shuts his eyes. He is listening and participating in the bhajan. Bhakti the younger one, and a ‘she’, finds it hard to be in one place for long. Letting her ears fall back, like a sulking late comer, she moves around the stage and soon leaves, only to promptly come back towards the end.
The two canine children never miss to be Amma’s escorts even down the ramp. They wait at the gate as Amma meets devotees on Her way back.
There are more ‘special qualities’ that one could list. The two are never seen wagging tails for any eatables. They never make friends with any particular person in the ashram. Sometimes they don’t mind being patted on the backs, though. However they are a little attached to the sound system boys who take care of them, giving them bath for example. They are never distracted by anyone calling their attention. They are so steady on Amma. They want only Amma’s attention, which they do get in plenty.
One wonders, “Who are these two souls in reality? Were they one of us Ashram residents, fond of Amma and Her bahjan, and ashram life, gone and come back to Amma’s presence to live out their pristine sattvik desire?”
Only Amma knows.