THE MAD SADHU OF SILCHAR
My dominant memory of Silchar has spontaneously transformed to the memory of a very odd man there, then. Nobody knew his name. Everybody called him Luchipuri. It could mean a person who hailed from Luchipur, but I know of no such place. Or it could be a combination of Luchi and Puri – two kinds of Bengali bread. And we didn’t know where he lived or how he lived. He seemed to be a sadhu – a spiritual ascetic, a seeker. But he did not wear the customary ocher attire of a sadhu. Instead he wore a white sarong, and a long white collarless shirt. He had flowing white hair and beard. Though able-bodied, he carried a walking staff taller than he was. He held it Masai-like – parallel to his body. You saw him walking the streets of the town – never stopping, never talking to anyone, never actually arriving anywhere. Just always walking on. Children – cruel as children are – used to gather in throngs and heckle this ‘madman’ from behind, shouting: Luchipuri, khak thoo. (Luchipuri, Yuk! Yuk!). So occasionally he would suddenly turn and raise his staff as if to attack. On that, the children would hightail it. That was the fun. The adults would maintain a respectful distance from him. The only time I saw him actually arrive at any place was in the temple of Annapurna (Harvest Goddess) by the river. He sat in the lotus position before the deity, eyes closed, the staff lying on the floor next to him. There was a strange calm on his face – and on his beard the unsteady light from the votive oil-wick lamps flickered.
Nothing remains of Luchipuri today – not even a picture of him can be located. Another generation, and no one will know he existed. The temple lies in ruins. It now stands at a precarious angle on the slope of the river bank, about one-third way to the water’s edge. A new temple has been built on solid ground. Silchar today is definitely a regular town, moving at breakneck pace - noise and bustle and crowds and all. It is of no interest to me except as a memory. And of Luchipuri what remains is great puzzlement. The staff of Luchipuri the Madman intrigues me more than the lamp of Diogenes the Cynic.