This part of the town was clearly lived in by not-so-affluent class evidenced by the residential buildings and streets that had long left behind any claims to aesthetics, beauty and pride.
An area whose inhabitants forever needed to borrow funds. A need ably served by Ja and a few other smaller lenders, resident right in their midst; family gold, silver or any other valuable would be pawned with them in return for ready cash, at an interest rate far higher than banks.
In operation for years, Ja was comparatively reasonable with his interest rates. He played it by some simple rules giving away no quarter nor taking any – the debtor stood no chance of earning any remission under any circumstance. While compassion, mercy…did not find a place in his line of business, he saw himself, far from being a usurious demon, filling as he was a critical void in public services by helping out people in dire need who had nowhere to go. Funds were often needed for functions in the family that had to be celebrated in a certain style regardless of the means affordable. There were health issues, school/college fees and a zillion other reasons for needing money urgently. Not infrequently people even borrowed for helping out a relative or a friend too.
Looking at him doing well for himself and his family, it might seem here’s was a guy who did no work whatsoever, produced nothing, never sweated, yet earned a living and more sitting on his gaddhi. That wasn’t so. Ja too had his anxious moments and sleepless nights; some pawned clever fakes and, with some, the accumulated debt far exceeded the value of the pawned stuff. While his client-base and hence the business grew, repayment defaults were piling up, burrowing for the first time visible creases on his forehead.
Far from becoming an object of disdain generally reserved for his profession, he grew to be a respected member of his society. He was the community’s representative in dealing with the municipal offices over many day-to-day issues. And, even became the managing trustee of the local temple.
This time it was Navaratri – ten days of devotion and celebrations, including music programs, dance, drama and discourses. Ja’s young son recently inducted into the business undertook the task of arranging all these programs.
On the penultimate day, the discourse had attracted a reasonable attendance, Ja included, considering it was preachy, promising little by way of entertainment.
The pravachan was about: ‘There’s Hell To Pay – The Unforgiving Karma’.
Some excerpts from the pravachan to give a flavor of how it went:
“…When you wantonly kill an ant, not only you have committed the sin of killing a living being, but also the ant’s ledger book of punya and paap gets transferred to you…In our villages, they don’t kill creepies/crawlies. The generally immobilize them with a dollop of cow-dung. And then it is put away in the backyard…”
“…Bhishma Pitamah suffered his final moments lying on a bed of arrows. A karmic pay-back of his cruel act in a previous birth of piercing bodies of insects with needles…”
So it was an exposition at length on the theme of righteous living laced with illustrative and instructive anecdotes, to save oneself from inescapable karmic consequences.
The pravachan concluded with a mention of a few torments of Yama (God of Death) in Hell for sinners after their death, listed in Garuda Purana such as these:
“Tamisram (heavy flogging) – Those who rob/cheat others of their wealth are bound with ropes by Yama’s Servants and cast into the naraka (Hell) known as Tamisram. There, they are given a thrashing until they bleed and faint. When they recover their senses, the beating is repeated. This is done until their time is up.
Andhatamtrsam (flogging) – This Hell is reserved for the Husband or the Wife who only treats the spouse well for profit or pleasure. Those who forsake their wives and husbands for no apparent reasons are also sent here. The punishment is almost the same as Tamisram, but the excruciating pain, suffered by the victims on being tied fast, makes them fall down senseless.
Rauravam (torment with snakes) – This is the Hell for sinners who seize and enjoy another man’s property or resources. In this Hell, the cheated, assume the shape of “Ruru”, a dreadful serpent and torment the sinners severely until their time is up.
Avici (turned into dust) – This naraka (Hell) is for those who are guilty for false witness and false swearing. They are hurled from a great height to be utterly smashed into dust on reaching the ground. They are again restored to life and the punishment is repeated till the end of their time………”
Three days after the curtains were brought down on the festivities, Ja appeared unusually in good cheer. ‘Pink back on his cheeks, a spring in his stride, a song on his lips, his turban at a jaunty angle and all that sort of a thing…’ as PGW(odehouse) would have pictured him.
For, in those days, unexpectedly Ja received a slew of hopelessly overdue repayments, a great relief!!
Things turning out as he had intended and hoped was a matter of immense satisfaction to the son. After all, the discourse and its subject were his idea; especially closing with those slokha’s (verses) from Garuda Purana (a compendium of 19,000+ verses) designed to thoroughly chasten any hardened soul.
It also produced an unintended consequence: Ja dropped his interest rate by a couple of points with immediate effect! He also wrote off in deserving cases a good part of the unpaid interest burden. Recall, Ja too was in the audience.
Source: Images from Gyansagarji_Pravachan (Wiki), kismatconection.com and m.dailyhunt.in/