“The three companions whirled around to see the man standing next to them. They stared at him, each trying to fathom and understand the stranger standing in front of them. He seemed lean, almost thin. His face was lined and wrinkled, and yet he seemed young. His eyes, when they peered into them, had an oldness about them. The eyes were old indeed, yet they were not eyes that were tired. These were eyes that had seen the ages; eyes that had seen death, pain, hatred, sorrow. The secrets of men, animals and the spirits of nature seemed to be in those eyes. They had a depth that could not be fathomed.”
Smiling, The Shah Of Blah looked at his audience. His eyes were turned inwards, as he chuckled quietly to himself. Then, he continued.
“‘Who are you?’, asked Esmerelda. ‘I see you, and you seem old. You seem older than me, and I am old indeed. What manner of man are you?'”
“‘Call me Yama’, he said. ‘ I am just a humble ferryman, and I ferry people across this river that they call The Vaitarna'”
“‘Where do you live?’, asked Bismillah, sniffing as the smells of the rotting flesh pinched his nostrils.”
“‘I live here’, said Yama, ‘I live here, besides my boats. I am just a humble ferryman who ferries souls across this river. That is my job. That is what I do. There is nothing else that I can do. Oh, and I listen to the stories of those who come here. They have much to tell. Some would not like to be here. Others, they giggle with glee when they see what is around them. They giggle and laugh, and they make the boat shake so much that it turns, and some of them fall into the waters, never to be seen again. The creatures of the waters, you see, are very hungry.'”
“‘ But you three,’ continued Yama, ‘have come here before your time. You three seem to be early, it would seem, and this is most unusual. I am intrigued by the three of you. Come, let’s talk. Tell me your tales.'”
“‘Why should we talk?’ asked The Gypsy gruffly. ‘We are wanderers, each of us in his or her own right. We were wandering along the paths of the earth, searching for answers, and came across one another. From there on, we decided to wander together.'”
”And so, each of you- you know each other’s stories?’ asked Yama, without seeming to be in the slightest bit perturbed by the gruff manner that The Gypsy had adopted. ‘And, each of you knows the answers that each of you seek?’
“‘No……. we do not. We did not think it necessary’, replied The Gypsy. ‘Is it important, that we know each other’s stories, that we each know the answers that the other one seeks? Of what use is this to me in my journey? We are pleasant enough companions, and that is enough.'”
“‘Yes, yes, yes’, replied Yama. ‘Perhaps the joy is in each others company, and that is all that is needed at times. And perhaps it is the journey itself that is important. Who knows what you will find at the journey’s end? Who knows if the journey has an end?……. But forgive me… You are strangers here. I am forgetting my manners. You must be tired. You have come to my home. Let me offer you some tea'”
The Shah Of Blah looked down, and asked the rapt audience sitting there. “Will you all have some tea, while Yama serves tea to his guests? Story telling is thirsty business, as is the business of listening to stories.” So saying, he picked up a most strange looking kettle. Brown, it seemed to be a painting buried in a frame. As he lifted the frame, the kettle within it moved, and as he tilted it, a brown beverage poured out into cups that magically appeared before everyone.
“Drink”, he commanded, and such was his voice that no one dared refuse. It was a strange brew that they drank. Hot, sweet, thick and somehow tasting of liquorice and sugar cane, it was something that they hd never tasted before. As they drank, a languor came into their bodies, and they seemed to see a hazy film in front of their eyes.
The Shah Of Blah sat down, and his voice seemed to come from far away.
“‘The three companions, after drinking that strange brew, felt heavy, yet soft. They felt almost in a dream. What did it matter, they thought, if the journey ended or not? What was important – the journey, or the quest? And, when the quest was done, then what? Would the emptiness that follows fulfilment drive them on further? What indeed did the other seek? And, why had they not asked this question of the other?'”
“‘Come’, said Yama. ‘I have time, and you have come to my home. I have sat here, almost since the beginning of time, when my role was assigned to me – to be the ferryman almost till the end of time, and the ferryman I have been. Let us talk. Let us share this time that we have together. It is but a second in the wide expanse of eternity. Let us tell each other the stories of our lives, and let us debate great philosophy. And, at the end, who knows? Maybe, I shall ferry you across. My services, for a bit of your time. That is all I ask. Is the price too high?'”
“One by one, the three looked at each other. Esmerelda was the first to speak, ‘Then, we are agreed, O Yama. Let is talk indeed, and tell the stories of our lives and our journeys.'”
‘”Let me begin’, said Bismillah.”