(Based on real life experience of a friend: name etc changed)

Northern India does get its share of chill in January. Although it doesn’t snow in the plains, but night temperatures dropping below the freezing point are not uncommon. Coupled with blinding fog and wind-chill, the potion more than nips the bones and marrows of the mighty.

It was almost midnight and nearly six hours beyond the first full day since William had taken over the reins of his new job. He had been set up into a killer trap; had experienced the first-hand the mafia-power nexus; had understood the roles moles play in places of power and had finally had been protected by a lone black cat commando.

Finally, after 19 hours all was settled. The search party had gone back.

Home was a further forty five minutes away. The driver of the gypsy, Rabdev Singh, a lanky, tough Sikh said

“Sir, visibility is less than five metres, but I have driven even in thicker mist. Waheguru (for God) always guides us,” he said noticing that his boss had just been woken up by the freeze.

“Have you seen Waheguru?”

“Sir, only the fortunate see him. We just know that he is our unseen friend,” remarked Rabdev in complete faith.

“All uneducated, unfounded beliefs,” William thought, but knew better not to utter such verities.

Half drowsy, he opened his laden eyelids and looked out. The red beacon on the vehicle was rotating, its light spreading over the fog due to the scattering of energy by tiny droplets of water suspended in air. It somehow reflected the beauty of the Universe and its elements. He realised that nature was inherently exquisite. The natural state of its molecules, their equilibrium was that of splendour. This is how his engineering mind understood Nature.

As he looked up through the side window, there was only the reflection of the red light and the interspersed blackness.

Suddenly, the mistiness seemed to break and the night sky appeared into visibility.

William beheld a million stars, all of them reflecting the light from many Suns while some being the Suns themselves. He had never seen the dark sky so bright, so unblemished. What was even more amazing was that all the constellations were new. The Ursa Major, the Draco, the Orion, all had disappeared. It wasn’t the sky of the northern hemisphere of Earth.

He looked down. The driver was looking intently at the road. Fog lights were managing to penetrate the thick cover of blinding haze, an odd whiff of piercing icy wind still managed to enter the vehicle through the crevices in the windows. All was the same.

Then he looked up through the side window again. The magnificence of the stars was fabulous. They seemed to become brighter by the moment. Yet serene and impelling! His gaze grew even more bewildered as he saw the constellations rearrange themselves into a face. A visage made of a thousand stars. A stunningly enchanting countenance it was. Not the physical features and youth we associate beauty with. But a beauty beyond. A much higher level of magnificence.

The mien spoke thus, “Son, why do you deny my existence? Have I not answered both your prayers?”

William was quiet. “How does this ‘thing’ know that I’ve prayed only twice in my entire life?” he wondered.

His mind, trained in analytics through the rigours of electronics engineering was taught to question all such happenings. His belief systems being constantly tested by the theory of knowledge paradigm ‘How do you know?’

Yet at this moment there were no questions. All was peaceful. Somehow all queries had solutions attached to them.

The Atheist was tranquil!

“Do not deny me son. Did you not see how I protected you today? I have always done so. Even when you haven’t prayed, even in your denial of me.

I have sent you here with a special purpose. Help me to fulfil the Divine plan of your life,” The visage spoke again.

All that William uttered was “Yes.”

“I shall come into your life in myriad forms. Keep your heart open to see me.”

The face faded into the constellations. In a moment it all vanished. There were no stars, no sky, and no dance of a million Suns in another realm.

There was just the fog all around. The sound of the running vehicle, the dispersed redness of the beacon atop and the sleeping life forms all around in the night environ.

“Did you see what just happened?” William asked the driver.

“What happened, Sir? Are you still thinking about who had set up the trap? The mafia is all pervading. Like a cancer, Sir. They have sympathisers at all levels.”

He seemed not to have noticed anything at all.

Tears had already moistened his weary eyes. Saline drops, flowing from a depth much greater than that of the brain or of the wakeful, thinking, analytical mind. There was a dance of joy in his being. Something that he could neither utter in words nor explain to another. It was joy unlimited, the joy of just being, a celebration of life itself.

William closed his eyes immersed!

It was around 1 am when the Gypsy entered the long driveway of their bungalow. Outside temperatures had fallen to two degrees. The beautiful one acre house was barely visible in the fog. Only the hazy dispersed faintly glow of the garden lights and roof bulbs indicated its brick silhouette. The bougainvillea with its remnants of red and white blossoms looked amazingly fresh as the foggy dew danced on its nimble petals.

In that icy night, looking even prettier than the bougainvillea stood Simran, William’s wife since six months. Clad in woollens covered by a beige overcoat, she had been waiting there for almost an hour in the piercing cold. Praying!

He almost jumped from the vehicle. Gently guiding her inside the home. To the fire-place and the warmth.

Simran was also a deeply spiritual person, not the dogmatic religious kind, but one who had experienced the divinity inside, in a serene unadulterated way.  He trusted her fully in these matters.

He recounted the grand experience of the travel.

“What was it Simran?”

He knew that she would know.

She looked at him and smiled. Her stress relieved, she slipped into slumber, the fire providing a caressing embrace and her husband’s shoulder a sheltered pillow of love; his look, complete adoration. She was secure in the knowledge that her world was intact, safe!

While she was passing into sleep, she uttered

The Atheist just had; An experience in super-consciousness.”