Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Enlightenment

Copyright (C) Shubhrata V Prakash

The night was dark, my spirits low. I sat on the pavement, near the seashore, musing. I had tried sleeping without success. My restlessness had forced me out of the house - into the darkness of the night. It was dark and humid. Not a leaf stirred anywhere. The air was still. Sultry. The present state of my mind was in harmony with the night, both blending into each other. And this wasn't the first time either.

For weeks together I had stalked the seashore, trying to find some meaning to life, in the rhythm of the tide breaking on the sands. Only tonight, it was darker and more sultry. Even the little pieces of silver, sewn on the black satin overhead, seemed to be shrouded. No breeze. My mind - too weak and dull, after weeks of brooding. Still I had no clue as to why I was a living being. Why life at all? Why my life?

A kaleidoscope of images whirred past me. Images from the past. The future? Life had always been comfortable. But why life at all? What would have happened if I hadn't been? Probably nothing different from what was happening now. What if I don't live till tomorrow? Nothing different again. I had heard arguments. Life is enjoy. to create, to revel and to be happy. To establish yourself as "somebody". To be different from the ordinary. I was not convinced. Why be different? What is so great about greatness? What is happiness? Why to be happy? Why life at all? Why?

So there I was. Back to square one. Back to that night. The dark, airless night. There were few people around me - some on the pavement, some down below on the sand. Yet, I hardly noticed them. Neither did I care for the few headlights, which used to appear suddenly from the dark and vanish again into the darkness, with amazing speed, blinding me for a few seconds - disturbing my communion with the night. So it was hardly surprising that I missed a dark shadow that crossed me for a second maybe. But the trailing hysterical scream was too loud to be missed. The source of this high decibel scream was a half-bent, frail kind of figure. The light from the street lamp was not sufficient to make out his features. Yet, the urgency of his manner was too obvious.

"What's the matter?"  I asked in a calm and steady voice.

The reply was hardly coherent. Yet, I could make out something about someone running away with money he had saved all day to buy medicines for his sick wife. The unfairness of it all struck me full force. The coordination between my mind and the night was phenomenal. The roar within me was answered by a rumble in the canopy above. In a moment, I was off in the direction towards which a crooked and shaking finger of his was pointed. Soon I could make out a medium-sized figure steadily gathering speed. But his speed was no match for mine. To come out of it the best way, he dropped a small and dirty cloth purse and sped away into the night. I waited to catch my breath. Then, slowly, I picked up the dirty object from the pavement and headed back towards its owner. As I handed it over to him, amidst the rumble, lightening flashed. Just for an instant. But that instant was enough. Enough to see his face. Enough to read the expression on it.

And even after that instant was gone, I remembered it only too well. It was like Prince Siddhartha becoming The Buddha. I had this strange feeling of elation within me. Pit-pat-pat. Big drops had started falling on the pavement. The latter, having weathered the sun for days, devoured the rain with a vehement hiss. The few people, who were still out on the street, started running for cover. But I walked on at a leisurely pace. 

It was pouring now. I couldn't have welcomed it more - yet I couldn't have cared less. For I had known, just for that instant, what life was. What happiness was. And, for that moment, I did not bother to add 'why'.

(First published in Vibes '97. The blogger was a 1st year MBA student then.)

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