Introduction: Devdoot, the cosmically travelled Angel Bird, was present when Jesus Christ lived, preached, was crucified, and resurrected. This is a dialogue between Devdoot and Christ, which the Angel Bird narrates in his dying moments to assorted birds gathered round him.
The birds’ conversation is in the present time.
Excerpt from Mahavaakya (The Jumbo Utterance), a Marathi epic by Sudhakar Gaidhani. Lines translated by Dr. Om Biyani.

As great as forgiveness
(Mahavaakya Canto IV)
( Devdoot says: )

Last time I saw
Lord Jesus was behind
Jerusalem’s holy wall, and well,
He heard my childish prattle
And smiled to himself.

With folded hands I said,
“Lord, I’m puzzled to see you
Here behind the wall,
Leaning your head –
Could you tell me the reason?
For, it is a long time since
The frustration of
Pilate’s ignorant design
Of condemning to death
God’s beloved son.

“Lord, shall I tell you something?
The stones which remained unthrown
At your command, have all along
Lain as such.
These stones have always insisted
On a sinless person’s touch.”
The Lord replied, “O lamb,
Before the tigresses from dark caves
Make an attack,
Go to the Roman beach
And have a sunbath.
And before sunset
Take in the empire of light
As much as you want.
If you meet
My executioners on the way
Take them to heart.

“Child, a tree doesn’t count
The wounds on it.
It spreads its shade
On the axe that makes a hit.
To him who never
Gave it water
It gives shelter
Without grudging a bit.

“Child, there is no act of love
As great as forgiveness.
No act of mercy greater
Than non-violence.

“May all sins be washed
In a sinless heart’s
Compassionate prayers.
May all be happily
Cleansed by remorse.

“Listen, repentance means
Tears of the heart.
Whoever sheds them
Must not be forgot. Amen.”

“Lord, if we started petting
Not cats and dogs –
But tigers and lions,
Would that be the final funeral
Of sin and violence?

“Lord, you live
A tireless life.
For this stumbling, tumbling world
You’re a blessed light.

“Lord, I need no camel
For an easy journey.
Except for your compassion-rich path
No path for me.

“Lord, those who witnessed
The superstar in the east
Were riding camels, too.
But their minds were open, by your grace,
To the Christian truth.

“The holy star and they
Were wide apart.
But still they were true witnesses
To the birth of the lord.

“Lord, if humans had programmed themselves,
Like chameleons,
To change their colours,
There wouldn’t be any strife
Between black and white brothers.
“There wouldn’t be the declaration
Of flooding the holy Thames
With black men’s blood;
There wouldn’t be colour-pride
Upon the earth.

“Praises to the Father in heaven
For his creative art:
Black and white skins
Have the same, very same heart.

“Lord, if like the rain-clouds
I had a dark skin,
Would the queen mother
Caress me, take me in?

“Lord, yesterday I saw
The fear-free nests
Of the ignoramus birds
Who crucified you,
I saw they were free to fly.
A river of tears
Ran down my eye.
Hence, God is yours
And yours is the sky. Amen.”

Let us now view
The Catholic ways –
Glimpse the glory of Mother Teresa
In the Pope’s eyes. Amen.”

One day a caterpillar
Said to a camel:
“O kind lord of the sands,
Give me a seat on your back.

I have to go
To the coconut grove over there,
Ferry me across.
Waiting for me there is my friend,
A sun-abandoned old horse.

“O King of camels,
They too get tired
Who ride a camel’s back.
So I wanted just this –
Two hands and two legs
To be able to walk.

“As they say,
What you readily find
Is holy defined.
Which is why your riders
Consider you a friend.”

“O caterpillar, O king of flowers,
My back is hired
By eastbound merchants,
My neck is a slave to their reins.
So if you wish to sail
You will find room
Only on my tail.

“Do you like it?
Tell me, make haste.
I have, my dear,
No time to waste.”

“O lord of the desert,
I am a mere worthless insect
But under a bond
To live my life –
How can I be tired?
Later, of course, in the ripeness of time
I may be fired.”

“Hey, you haven’t yet
Lived in a cocoon,
Not been in self-imprisonment.
Why are you in a hurry
To seek a nirvanic end?”

No more life
And death for me.
Delicate creatures
Have many tortures
I wish for freedom
From their memory.”

“Friend, there is no getting away
From transformation.
What kind of God’s disciples are they –
The blow-fearing stones?

“Before the cleverly organized
Ants and beetles
Surround you, child,
Hide inside my tail.
In this desert wild.

“As soon as you’re metamorphosed
Into a butterfly
Go into the world of
Seven-colored, star-spangled flowers
And fly, fly, fly. Amen.”
“O kind, kind desert lord,
I am beholden to you.
You have agreed
To carry me through.

“Even in my next birth
This is a debt
I won’t be able to settle.
For the sake of your gentle back,
Tolerant like a woman,
I’ll make a caparison
Of wings and petals.”

“Burning sand is under my feet.
A garish decoration
On my back
Will look indiscreet.
Spare the wings, the petals spare.
And forget the crazy
Idea, dear.

“Come on, ride.
For, before moonset
I must take you across.
Then you and I have to
Leave this place.

“I have to cross the Egypt desert
As fast as the moon,
And at Mecca put my burden down.
As soon as I hear the muezzin’s call
(And the day is a gift of
The merciful and benevolent lord)
I have to pray to Allah
For the happiness of all. Amen
“If you journey in the dawn
The spirit is opened up.
With his blessings,
The dawn hours are holy
The mind is calm and pure.
The birds chirp, a cool breeze blows,
There’s freshness in the air.

“The sun and the moon are then
Together seen.
So many times have I
Stopped and viewed
This indescribable scene.

“Come, make haste,
Moments flow down
Time’s river.
However much you pray,
No moment lives for ever.”

“Oh saintly camel,
I’m being sighted from the sky
By a hungry kite.
He has fledglings at home to feed
His piercing eye bespeaks
His hunger’s bite.

“Today, let me be the fodder
Of his clamoring little ones.
I shall feel blessed
If such a death is given.”

“We camels defend a refugee
Till our last breath.
And there is nothing more godless
Than to wed an unnatural death.

“This little one is already
In despair, my, my!
How will it ever
Become a butterfly?

“Look, playing with your frame
Is your own shadow –
It moves with you,
Stops with you.

“The shadows of the clouds
Run with you,
But your own shadow
Hides behind a mirror.
It has dreams of the moon,
In daylight they are cleared.

“Only objects have shadows,
And not their reflection.
Planets make shadows
Not a dot-form sun.

“Even shadows have their world,
They have their character.

“Shadows move, talk, blossom out,
Shadows contract and grow fat.

“Even little dolls guard their shadows –
They hide themselves when a hooligan goes.

“By whom are you accompanied
In your doom?
Except for your shadow
None is in the tomb.

“In the shadow of the infinite
I have rested just a while.
To the sun-moon shadows
Offered my life.

“Don’t measure the distance
Between life and death
With the length of your shadow
Short or tall.
Don’t divide anyone’s
Shadow at all.

“Look, in the sky
Shadow-dolls are sporting
With the stars and their rays.
Look, how even the moon
Hide-and-seek plays.

“So, we have reached
Your oasis.
Repay your debt to me
Fully if you please.

“Be born anywhere
Shape yourself like a flower.
Live a fruitful life –
A minute or an hour.”

Sudhakar Gaidhani
Translated by Dr. Om Biyani from the original Marathi
Canto IV of Mahavaakya (Marathi epic 555 pages)


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