It was Unni who brought the story of the mysterious gift of Adoor Srikantan to look into the future using a compilation created by Maharishi Bhrigu. Unni suggested a trip to Adoor to verify the facts for ourselves, as he put it. Everyone got excited, even Jacob sir, who prided on being a rationalist. I was an agnost and had no qualms in participating in what I rationalised in my mind, as an experiment.
David was the planner and he readily agreed to work out a scheme for our trip including fixing a date after consulting everyone. He also said he would call Srikantan’s office and find out which day would be suitable, considering the fact that he always had a crowd hanging out at his residence, seeking to consult him. We left the whole task to him as he was rather good at that sort of thing.
One day David called us and said that the trip was fixed on the 23rd of that month, which conveniently happened to be Saturday, three weeks hence. Our appointments were in the afternoon, so that we can start in the morning at a comfortable time. He said that he would book Lonappan’s taxi for the trip. Lonappan hanged around the College, hoping for trips to the town. Varghese said that this was a good omen. That destiny had conspired to make our visit happen. Varghese was unpredictable. One did not know whether he was joking or was serious.
We usually would get together on the weekends, around drinks and Chicken tikka from Vasu’s mess. Our lodge was the destination for good times, conveniently situated near the College and in the outskirts of the town. In the college, we had gravitated towards each other, people with similar interests and attitudes to life. Most of the college teachers were busy with tuitions, making money.
The get together started with the inevitable topic, the forthcoming visit to meet Srikantan. People had done considerable research on him. Apparently, the Samhita contains stories about anyone who is likely to consult Srikantan about his future. The stories would begin from the person’s earlier janma and continue to the present and some indications about the future. The past was clear, the future less so, He simply reads out the stories written in the book. In a circular logic, the visit is pre-ordained and hence the likelihood of having information about the person in the book very high.
Unni said how his uncle, who was suffering from Cancer had gone to meet Srikantan and how he read out his story. Apparently in his earlier janma, he was a Village Chieftain, who, coveting his friends’s wife, had the friend killed. So being afflicted with a life-threatening disease in the present janma was the karmic consequence. This story was what convinced Unni that there was something strange about Srikantan.
The next week end get together also hovered around the same topic: Srikantan. Somebody said something about the responsibility of the rational minds to disprove charlatans. Not that Srikantan was one. But suppose we thought up something to verify that he was the genuine one. This was as good proving him a charlatan.
The seed was sown. I do not remember when the idea developed into a cogent one or who came out with the right idea. Suppose each one of us take on a false identity. A fictitious character with all details defined clearly and remembered well. For example Varghese said he would become Anthony from Angamali, one of three children, son of a merchant, married, his wife expecting their first baby. Anthony was more colourful than Varghese who was still a bachelor.
Withins a short while, each one had assumed an alt persona. I was an insurance agent, Chandrasekharan from Mavelikara, only son of my parents and with many fine brushed characteristics. Unni alone was reluctant but agreed to play the game on our insistence. But he repeatedly mentioned that we were playing with unknown forces.
Finally 23rd arrived and we all got into Lonappan’s van. The trip would take at least four hours. We shall stop for lunch at Kottayam.
The journey was without incidents. We were all a little tense, considering the game of deception that we were going to play. But we were young, resilient and could laugh away the discomfort with our usual banter, discussing the college politics, quirks of our senior colleagues and comparing the comeliness of the lady teachers.
After lunch at Windsor Castle, we started on the second phase of the journey. Some time was spent rehearsing our parts, trying to find inconsistencies and correcting them whenever that happened. We reached Adoor by 4 o’clock. We were to meet Srikantan at 5 pm. We crowded around the office where there was someone collecting the fee for the consultation. We paid Rs 100 each and were asked to wait. The clerk told us how the consulting would proceed. Each person would meet Srikantan alone in an inner sanctum. That is where the Samhita was placed. Depending on the identity presented, the appropriate portion of the Samhita would be read and interpreted. There would be nothing much to interpret as the Book was quite explicit.
Jacob sir was the first to go. He came out in about 20 minutes, through another door and sat in one of the chairs there. He was smiling and said that Srikantan had read a story for him. Others followed and came back with the same expression, joining him. All were too pleased that our plan worked in tricking Srikantan.
I was the last to go. Srikantan was sitting in the chair waiting for me to come in. The regulation free-flowing beard, piercing eyes and an air of otherworldliness. He was dressed in ochre with a rudrakshamala on his neck. He was quite impressive, even to my sceptic mind. As expected , Srikantan read an elaborate story about the past life of the character I had assumed. This made me laugh to the annoyance of Srikantan. He wanted to know why I was laughing. I told him the truth.
Srikantan was quiet for a while. The he asked me to get all my friends in. I went out and came back inside with all of them.
Srikantan looked at us for a while and said “I understand the game you are playing. Each of you had come pretending to be a non-existent character, hoping that I would read something made up from the book. You would then ridicule me and the book. But the book is all knowing. Your assumed persona is very much in the book. The only problem is that they are all characters from your previous janmas. You never asked yourself how you could assume an identity with such realism.”
He said that this was the first time that this happened and this in fact confirmed his faith in the book. I tried to make light of what happened saying that it was probably pre-ordained. Srikantan shook his head, said we should go back and do some research on these assumed identities. Wouldn’t it be fun to find that those characters actually existed?
He wished us well and bade goodbye. We were an unusually quiet group who got into the van for our return trip. We were actually afraid that what Srikantan had said would come out to be true. I imagined going to Mavelikara and enquiring about a person called Chandrasekharan and someone pointing the way to where Chandrasekharan with the identity I had concocted had lived and died many years before I was born.