angulimala, my cousin says,
i squint my eyes at him - i can't recall the story but i remember the image from amar chitra katha quite vividly. a bare-chested man with a necklace made of thumbs. dark, like all the asuras in the series.
my cousin continues - it's a story about a dacoit in the hills. angulimala is an orphan forced into dacoitry by circumstance. so infamous, even the sound of his name makes one shiver. he would take everything you had - and then cut off your finger to keep count.
one day, he sees a man in the forest. he shouts out at him - stop! i am angulimala. he chases the man but never catches up to him. he runs and runs and after a while, he tires. he stops running and calls out - do you not fear me? why don't you stop?
the man turns around. angulimala immediately sees that this man fears nothing. not even death. "it is not i who is moving," he says. (this man, of course, turns out to be the buddha).
what a thing to say. none of us understand what that means. not when we were nine. not today.
but it clearly works on angulimala - this cryptic statement from a man he couldn't catch up to. he gives up dacoitry, takes up beggary and lives in the city. until one day a woman recognizes him as the man who killed her husband. she shouts - a crowd gathers and throws stones at him. angulimala remains smiling and silent through this.
when buddha finally shows up, he collapses in his arms. "i seek refuge in you," he says, and dies.
after a quiet moment, my cousin tells me - it's an intense story when you're 9. i say - it's an intense story even now.
(i stayed in bed all day today. it was cold and raining and anywhere outside a blanket was hostile. but i've a story nevertheless. thank you sharan. :) )