Sunday, 8 January 2017

Inception-- Of A Rendezvous

There are some things in life we seem to cherish only when our continuously ignored desires overcome our rational beliefs. I was undergoing the same thing when they crossed the threshold level in my mind and I finally decided to give into what my heart had been telling me to do since the past few months. Incidentally for me, it was a December night. It had been more than a year since my life had taken the most recent turn and I was on a journey that I pursued to find a destination I would love. I had come far from my history such that I could be ready to dive into the unexpected experiences in life. But I was unable to find a course on my journey. I was unsure of where I had wanted to go, may be not much unsure about the where, but about the how part.

                                                 
 

I had wanted to abandon routine for a while then, my job, my life, my circle(which is confined as such because I don't interact with people regularly)and longed to step out and find out what I had been looking for. I had wanted to shut myself from everywhere to set out on a new journey. 

Well, that isn't easy enough when you have 
1. a stable job , 
2. a dearth of leaves from your workplace, 
3. a bubbling desire to transform the mundane into magic,
4. your parents who are there and get worried if you talk about alienating yourself from the world. (They think you have undergone some Psychological change and ask you to socialize or worse, to get married, neither of which seems like an option to you, because they fear you might leave the routine and escape to the Himalayas, which isn't the case most of the times.)

So this was quite an insight for me to cover. But I wasn't going to a remote village in the Himalayas as my parents would think. I was going to a familiar place, a place that wasn't related to me in any way but which I had always loved, a place which unknowingly reminded me of my roots, of who I used to be when I was a kid. I didn't know if I had questions. I didn't even know if I sought answers. But I had an instinct which drove me to that place, and I had known that I never regretted my impulsive, intuitive actions. I was, at a bus station on a December night, because impulsive decisions don't give you the liberty to adjust the flight or train schedules, and I needed to accept that fact too. I waited for my bus to arrive, of course, enjoying the chill, because December brings warmth to me, for unknown reasons.
                                               
I had to switch two trains and a bus to and that was an intermediate station from where I had to board a bus to reach my destination. As I waited for my bus to arrive, I was engrossed in the book I was reading. It was by my favourite author of course, Paulo Coelho. My intermediate stop was a small but the most prominent and the safest one in the vicinity since it was a small hill station on my way. This wasn't the usual route but my impulsive plan had made me take the longer and the unusual route to reach the place. I wasn't there to visit hill stations for that matter. I was travelling to a place that felt mine and it was just going to be for a day. Amidst the cold night, I was waiting for it to snow but there were no signs of even a single flake.

I decided to take a look around and observe the place. There wasn't much commotion. The only passengers apart from me waiting in the lobby of that bus station were an elderly couple and a woman probably in her late forties. The old couple seemed lost, trying to find comfort and warmth in each other. Yes, it was cold. Just that I loved it much to ignore the fact. The elderly woman asked for a cup of tea and he rose, leaving the shawl for her. The woman noticed me looking at them and smiled. I smiled back and realized I seemed like a stalker, so I shifted my attention towards the woman. She was alone I assumed. I couldn't see her face clearly. Her gaze was fixed at a distance in the dark. I wondered if she thought about things which went on in my mind occasionally, but then sidetracked the idea because it seemed too weird.

It was 9:30 at night and the place already seemed deserted. My bus was expected to arrive in another ten minutes and would take 5 hours to reach my destination. I calculated that I would be just in time for something I didn't want to miss. The announcement for my bus was made at last. I grabbed my bag and headed towards the indicated area. It was going to be a long journey, so I plugged in my earphones and decided to get some rest. It wasn't my hour to sleep but it was my hour to contemplate in the most active form I could. I opened the pages in my mind and wondered what questions wandered in the deepest oceans I had been trying to avoid.

I didn't realize when I had dozed off. It was only when I heard the bus tires screeching that I woke up. Something had gone wrong. The driver informed us that the engine had broken down and it was difficult to get it repaired before morning.We were at the outskirts of the city. I checked the time. It was 2-30 in the morning and dark and cold. I had to reach the Peace Pagoda Monastery by 4-30 in the morning in order to join the prayer. I was going to be in Darjeeling only for a day and I didn't want to miss that. I looked around to check what the other passengers would do in the midst of the wilderness. Most of them decided to wait till the morning. I contemplated upon the lonely half an hour walk to the Monastery from there, the risks involved and the dangers of getting lost in an unknown place.

I gathered courage and decided to walk up to my destination. Just when I had started walking along the hillside, I heard footsteps following me in the dark. I turned around but couldn't see anyone. Baffled, I raced my steps and continued to walk. After almost half an hour of walking, I still couldn't see lights and began to worry a little. It was a hilly forest, an unknown city and its outskirts and I was alone. This could be foolishly unsafe. I wondered where this impulsive decision could lead me just when I heard my name. I got startled. It wasn't obvious for anyone to call me by my name in this place, in the middle of nowhere.                                                                                    

                                                     
Cautiously, I turned again and saw a woman waving at me. She approached me and it was only when she got close enough, I realized that she was the same woman whom I had seen at the bus station. I still couldn't see her face clearly though but I sighed with relief.

As she smiled at me, I blurted with a little anxiety, "Err..do you know the way to Peace Pagoda Monastery from here? I think I am lost and I need to reach over there by 4-30. Could you please help me?"

"I was going the same way. I stay in the Monastery. You aren't lost, you just seem to have taken a circled route around the hill. It doesn't mean you won't get there on time,"

"No, it doesn't mean that", I looked at her intently. Her gaze was different, more like a motherly gaze, but seemed familiar. I couldn't understand why. We started walking, rather I started following her, as if enchanted by her demeanour. She looked elegant in every way, a woman dressed in a simple saree, moving around calmly, with no visible aura of negativity around her. There was silence between us, but it didn't seem awkward. For reasons I didn't know, her presence made all my previous anxieties of being lost, fade away in the mist.

                                                 

And then she chose to break the silence, "What does a 26 year old woman in the middle of this hilly forest far from her world, think about battles?"

Her question surprised me. How could a stranger know about me so accurately. Did she look up for me purposely? I doubted for a minute and then composed myself to look normal and answered, "Well Ma'am, she thinks everyone fights a battle. They just need to know the purpose and their reasons."

"What if they cannot figure them out?", her question startled me again, because that was exactly what I had been thinking all along my journey.

"Eventually everyone does I guess."

"And what do you think about those who can't do it in the moment? Do you think they are lost?"

I didn't know what to answer.

She continued," I guess you know the answer. You just feel reluctant to acknowledge it."

"I am not sure what the answer should be. I feel it is alright to find answers on my own, the way I want. But I survive in a world where timing becomes a crucial factor perhaps. I could talk about battles, winning them, losing them or abandoning them for my own reasons, but nobody knows what will work out in the long run. I may not seem to know what I seek. Or may be I have the answers, but the questions which haunt me ruin them all."

She listened to me without looking back, but stopped and waited till I reached by her side, before she started walking again. My flashlight had turned off. She handed me a small battery-powered light. The wind seemed to creep in through my jacket but that didn't bother me. I had always loved this chill. I couldn't hide my smile. She had noticed it. She broke the silence once again.

"Have you heard the story of a girl who didn't know who she was until she lost a battle?"

I hadn't. I nodded in disagreement.

She continued, "There was this girl in an ancient kingdom. She grew up in the local tribe, but did not know how to fight. She wasn't supposed to join the wars that they fought. Years later, when they started teaching their girls how to fight, she learnt it too. But it wasn't until she found a secret hidden in the hills far away that she realized she could find her sword, and use it to protect her people and win over all the battles. She did find her sword and used that secret. She thought she had found her purpose. That it was all she had to do in her life. Little did she know that the misleading secret had been placed by her enemies purposely because they knew her abilities. And they knew that intoxicating one's thoughts was far more powerful than inflicting a physical injury, if they wanted to win over something."

"By inducing weakened ideas they could affect her mind forever?" I asked.

She nodded and continued,"You are getting there. A thought that is fed by a belief which turns out to be untrue, hampers a complete wave of actions and subsequent abilities. Everything was fine until she entered the battle but lost it."

"But she did have her sword? It wasn't governed by secrets! She knew how to fight, didn't she?"

"I am glad you can realize that. She hadn't been able to for some time. Like all of us. It was only when she felt completely lost and desolate, that she couldn't find a purpose on her journey. She didn't know why she was heading further and didn't understand what she had to seek. But it was then, that she wanted to go on and start over. All she knew was to sharpen her sword and use it. And that didn't require any secrets. She could hate that sword because it had made her forget her skills and rely on a secret which didn't exist. It was a reminder of her mistakes. But she didn't discard it."

I didn't want to interrupt her, but I could imagine myself fighting a battle without a purpose. I didn't know if she was making up that story, but it felt right.

"What happened next?", I couldn't stop myself from asking her.

"Again you know the answer already. She didn't have to discard her abilities or her sword for her mistakes. It is alright to make the wrong choices and not know where to go further. She didn't know what she could do, so she just did what she knew and wanted to do. She sharpened her sword and her abilities, which didn't require any secret. It was more like a penance for years. She felt she was lost but she wasn't. She was just rebuilding herself from the scratch not to fall ever. And then she entered the battlefield again. Of course she won this time. Can you tell me why?"

"Because she knew that it wasn't any magical secret which needed to be known now. Rather, she didn't rely upon it anymore. She only believed in her toiling efforts of valour and strength. She believed in her ability and faith to win, and in her conquest of being lost and found, she knew the journey had been necessary. She endured it all and admired it too", it was my turn to smile now, which she seemed to notice through the faint light.

"Well, it takes a lot to acknowledge this. People seldom find their purpose at the right time, but then all the turns they take lead them where they are supposed to be."

We had reached the gate of the Monastery. She directed me inside and said,"I am sure you will find all your answers within. Peace is what you seek outside, peace is what gets reflected from inside. But if it makes you happy, you can make it a point to visit this place for a single day, any time you like, or Winter if that's how you like it."

"How do you know that about me?" I was in disbelief.

"You know the answer", she replied.

As she said that, it started to snow. It soothened me from within. I had been waiting for it to snow ever since I had entered the vicinity. But listening to the story had made me forget that I had wanted to ask her how she knew so much about me. I directed her flashlight in my hands towards the point where she was supposed to be standing, but there was nobody. I tried to look for her everywhere, but she wasn't there.

The alarm in my phone notified me that it was 4-20 AM. I dropped the idea of finding her. Enlightened, soothened and a bit confused, I joined the prayer. The humming, chanting and praying made me enter a state of trance where I found myself in the middle of the same forest where I had been some time ago. But it was soothing this time. I contemplated upon all my life choices and questions which I hadn't been noticing till now. I knew the answers. As I opened my eyes in the dawn of realizations, I knew it was time to embrace the uncertainties and follow my road wherever it took me. I was going to find my abode and my purpose. It was more like a beginning, rather than an end.

                                           
   

With the blissfully calm Winter aurora, I made it a point to step out of the Monastery and visit my beloved hill station once before I decided to come back for another rendezvous some time. It was a day of peace and contentment. I had to leave at 5 in the evening. I was still wondering about the woman. I thought it would be polite to meet her again and return her flashlight. I returned to the Monastery and asked the Reception Guard, "Do you know where is the lady who lives here? I have something to return to her."

"Madam, We do not have any lady in charge of receiving people who come here."

"No, I was escorted by someone who said she lives here. I had got lost on the outskirts and she helped me find my way till here."

"You must be mistaken Madam. You arrived here last night."

"I didn't! I arrived here in the morning."

"No Madam. You can check your entry". He showed me my credentials with my signature stating the time to be 2-30 AM. I was baffled. I didn't know what to say. I picked up my bag and left from there wondering if everything I had experienced had been a dream.

I smiled at the possibility of such a dream and boarded my train. I decided to make it a point to visit the place nevertheless. As I took my book out of my bag, I found the small flashlight that she had given to me on my way. It still worked!

I turned it around and found the word inscribed, "RENDEZVOUS".

I closed my eyes, pictured her, my journey and my decision to visit the place again and realized--- It hadn't been a dream. It had been the Inception of a series of Rendezvous, may be in another world.

                                                     

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