Teacher had asked young Gautam to write an essay on something that is seen in the sky. She meant the sky itself, birds, airplanes, sun, moon, kites etc. Gautam had seen the moon previous evening in the garden. So, he chose to write about it.
I was in the garden. Big round moon was in the sky. It was yellow in color. Papa told me to run for some time. Moon was running with me. It was hiding behind trees. It was following me. It was looking at me. When I was running fast he was little behind. Then I waited. I played hide and seek with him. He is my best friend. He is always looking at me. I also want to look at him. I gave him a flying kiss. His color became dark yellow. He went behind a cloud. Don’t know why was he hiding there? He was not coming out. Then I went home.
It was 9 pm. The train was full. Gautam had been checking passenger tickets for nearly two hours. He is in charge of 4 non-AC-3 tier-sleeper compartments and now was at the fag end of the fourth one. No wonder he was tired. His face showed it, even through his beard.
“Ticket, ticket, excuse me, show your tickets please. Where are you going? Ok, here. What about you two? Fine here you go.”
He entered the last section of the compartment. Everyone gave their tickets but a young couple was sound asleep on the same berth. Woman’s one leg was on top of man’s stomach. “Excuse me”, he said rather softly. She had ‘mehdi’ on her hands. Newly married, he mumbled. He could not arrest a little smile escaping his face. Turning away, he switched the night lamp on. He took off his white uniform cap and shook up his mop of hair with his fingers. He felt relaxed. The waiter asked him if he will have dinner now. He nodded yes. He went into the toilet to relieve himself and wash his hands and face.
Drying his face he looked at himself in the mirror. He wanted to be critical of what he saw, but couldn’t. He organized his hair, beard, shirt, tie… The sound of train changes so dramatically in the toilets. It becomes much sharper or what they say, ‘shrill’. The rhythm remains the same, obviously. It is a part of the same train and compartment. He always enjoyed noticing such changes. He felt it was like a research topic on ‘sound of train in its various parts’; toilets have the potty tube that is open to the railway track or ground. That creates a lot of difference to the sound here. He wondered how it will sound to the person, placed in a hammock tied under the compartment; close to the wheels… he felt it was going to be too noisy. His face showed discomfort due to this sadist thought. It was like a torturous Nazi idea… Someone was knocking at the door. Enough research. He came out. Waiter had kept his vegetarian food tray on his seat.
He sat down, opened the foil and looked at the food. So unappetizing! Same dry rotis, dal and same color gravy in the vegetable. He hesitated. Waiter was waiting.
“No, not with the food… But my stomach is not feeling too good.” It was the turn of waiter’s research faculty to wake up, ‘now I know what he was doing in the toilet for so long.’
“I will take it back.”
“Sorry, I think I will have a vegetable sandwich at Jalgaon with tea.” Waiter took the tray back and Gautam lay down with his overnight bag as the pillow. His hair was flying due to strong wind from the open window. Tuk, tuk… tuktuk, Tuk, tuk… tuktuk, Tuk, tuk… tuktuk…
He wondered if the swings for little babies also were as relaxing. Why does he like this sound and this sideways movement so much? Was he born in the train or brought up in trains? Could be. His father was a motor man… His father always wanted him to be a motor man too, follow his steps… Gautam wanted to be a painter. His father couldn’t understand him. He thought of him as weird! Finally with mother as a mediator, they settled for the job of the ticket checker. At least I don’t get black all over; and my lungs must be in much better shape than ‘baba’.
Train stopped at Jalgaon.
Waiter was talking to the sandwich man on the platform.
After 5 min, train started. Waiter jumped in.
Gautam had turned to his side, untangling the numerous knots of his life.
Gautam was strolling alone in a garden. It had just stopped raining. So the ground was quite soggy. As a wave of that pleasant breeze passed, it unsettled the rain droplets hanging on tree leafs. Most fell on the ground but many were lucky to find their abode on Gautam’s face, shoulders and hair. He too enjoyed it. He said a quiet inner thanks to the creation for providing such an unbelievable magic. Water, coming down from the heaven! It made everything on the earth look fresh and revitalized. Trees, grass, plants looked greener and flowers brighter.
The air seemed clearer; to look through and to breathe in. It contained no dust or any other impurities. But yes it had the unmistakable smell of water meeting the warm earth. Birds chirped and bees buzzed around. Another strong wave of breeze passed and some leaf fell on him like a shower. He smiled and thanked the creation once again. He felt as though he was being honored by showering of leafs by an unknown entity. He felt that it was planned that the shower will occur just when he is just under the tree… just as it happened earlier.
A wave of a thought entered his mind. It was about a person, who had been very fond of him and of course the feeling were reciprocated by him. The thought played around in his mind. Gautam also played with it. Hundreds of related memories covered his mental space with another quick shower. He looked up at the sky. A cloud was passing by. He smiled and allowed the memory to pass by too. His mind was clean once again.
Another cloud came to hover inside his mind. It was the cloud of all the work he had done. He remembered the last time he got an untimely call from the office, he was worried. What now? He had wondered. What might have happened? So many worrying thoughts had darkened his mental horizon. Same phenomenon had been happening in current monsoon. A thick cloud cover darkens the horizon; but it hardly rains. He found a simile in it. He had allowed that call to make a darkening thought inside him. When you know the source of a problem, it vanishes. And it did.
His mental sheet was spotlessly clear once again. He felt fresh and energetic; not really to break into a run; but into a smile with abandon.
It was 4am and Gautam had woken up with a strange feeling – a feeling of control. The feeling of control strangely came from the feeling of ‘let go’. During the last few moments in bed, he had let everything ‘go’ mentally. It happened just a few moments ago. He lost interest or rather did not feel interested in controlling anything or anyone. He suddenly felt light as a feather because he had decided to ‘not’ hold reigns of any situation. He was enjoying this new feeling of lightness. It amused him. He might even be having a smile on his face. No, he did not regret that he did not learn it earlier. Everything and everyone has an assigned time and duration to enter the stage to perform an act and exit, exactly after it is over.
Gautam has been underperforming in his family scenario. He was either not interested to act, not expected to or not allowed to act as the decision taker in his family, of which he was the head. He was eldest; but over a long period of time he had allowed the leadership to slip from his hand. It may even have been taken away from him, which too he didn’t care, too much about. Whenever any family discussions took place, he occupied his favorite back seat; that is if he was in that room at all.
But what happened all of a sudden? Gautam just woke up and instead of feeling drowsy, he found himself so comfortably awake. He went to the kitchen, made tea, lit a few lamps and sat down with his palm leaf, peacock feather and the inkpot to write.
He has made up his mind or his mind itself got into this new phase, ‘today when the sun rises; it will show Gautam in a different light’. He was feeling completely renewed. New, lightness, new energy, new thoughts. And new power of control. Now he is not afraid that he might lose. He is not confidant that he will win. All he believes in is that all will be well. Regrets from the past don’t bother him nor do any hopes from the future. He just thinks it’s all right. It’s all fine. He was ready to be a part the natural flow of the universe without altering or correcting it. He felt immensely powerful to ‘be with what is’.
It was surprising. A person like Gautam involved in a road rage! He has been known to be very cool and calm. Perhaps times have changed just too much for anyone to be his normal self :-( you see wisdom of words do not help anyone whose nature is unchangeable… once upon a time there was a saint who lived on the banks of ganga near Haridwar. He was very kind hearted and compassionate being. One morning when he was praying in Ganga water he saw a scorpion being washed away by swift waves. He felt scorpion’s pain and decided to save it. So, he put his hands under the creature and picked up the scorpion with the water. He brought it to safe dry shore and gradually put it down. But sadly as he did so he was stung by the scorpion. It was very painful. Saint fainted. Other sadhus came to his help and asked him about how he got stung. After he narrated the incidence a senior sadhu smiled at him. A few days later similar incidence re-occurred and he again got stung. This time the senior sadhu told him, ‘ I know that you are very compassionate, but it is also important to understand the nature various living beings. It is in nature of scorpion to sting if it feels threatened. A scorpion has no concept of compassion or knowing that is being saved. It may not even realize that it was about to die! So do not waste your good heart in saving such creatures. Gautam understood it and installed it in his mind for all such situations…
Gautam was driving to work on an over-crowded road. Although the roads were very wide; the cars were nearly touching each other side ways or bumper to bumper. The traffic moved a few meters only occasionally. There was a cacophony of horns. People cursed under their breath, sometime even openly if cars did not move quickly enough. Gautam got few meters space in front of his car and decided he will move when traffic will actually start moving. But the car behind him started gunning, revving and honking. Some young boys rolled the windows down and asked him to move. Gautam indicated he can see the space but there was no way after that. So they should chill. They could not take it that an old man had not yielded to their demand. One of the four young ones came out. Gautam did not have AC on, so his windows were open and car engine was shut. Gautam said, I don’t mind moving ahead, but what is after that. I will start and shut the engine just for two meters? So relax when it moves we will all move. The boy looked back to his friends and indicated that this person has to be told in another language. He opened Gautam’s car door and asked him to come out. Gautam was fine with it. Other three boys also came out of that car and surrounded Gautam. “what is your problem? Why are you not moving? If you don’t move we will force you. You don’t know us. My uncle is MLA. My friend’s father is a police officer. His father owns a mall and…” Gautam said, “ok ok your uncle, your friend’s father and your father has a mall… but why don’t you tell me who you are and what you do? I will tell you that I am only an ordinary chap. I have this non-ac car and wanted to save fuel by not restarting the car when…” Before he could express himself completely, a blow landed on his temple! The boy in front caught Gautam’s shirt and shook it. Someone else slapped him and they generally started manhandling him. Gautam had fallen on the road and was being kicked by all four… one boy came close his face and picked him up by his collar. Gautam stood up with bleeding lips, bruises on his face and torn shirt. One boy went to his car pulled out a stick and shattered Gautam’s wind screen. Gautam thought, maybe it will give him better breeze in this northern heat.
When the strongest one held Gautam’s throat and repeated himself, “move your car now” was the first time Gautam’s hand moved, but totally imperceptibly. No one noticed the movement at all. The firm and threatening voice of the boy seemed to have lost. His face looked confused. He was trying look at his friends and say something. But they did not notice it until the boy started slumping down. They left Gautam and held their friend to help him. Someone said he has poisoned him. And he moved to get the gun from the car. They all started moving back to get their own gadgets. In a few moments they were back. The traffic has started moving by now. Gautam had lifted the injured boy to put him in his car for medical treatment. As he opened the door to place him in, a barrel touched his neck. He circled the boy being carried and hit others with his feet. Other two boys were pushed away and banged on a moving tempo. A hit from the tempo had blown the nose of the boy. He sat down instantly. A car reached close to him asked him to move away, “hey you are blocking the road! Move fast.” Only when the car touched him he realized he must move before he gets run over. He staggered to the side. Two other had a knife each. One of them was a Swiss knife and its blade shone in the hot sun light. Gautam said, “see, i want to take your friend to the doctor, so back off.” But they did not listen and simultaneously they did not notice that a sharp blade had passed through the chest of the boy in front. The boy behind noticed the blade peeping out from the other side of his friend. Before he could take a step forward, the blade grew and entered his chest too. Blade had punctured spines of both and their bodies lay like vegetables, disconnected to their brains. Gautam stepped back. The knife that punctured them was not to be seen anywhere. He glanced at the unconscious boy at the back seat, sat in and drove off.
Gautam thinks something is different since morning. He is mentally checking for the changes around his chest, but inside. And also a little higher around his head, around brain, he wondered. What must be happening around these two areas? Brain is an organ, he mentally argued; but mind is not. It is a soft-ware issue. Here he hit a wall called, ‘loss of clarity’. He was still in his hut and these strange blissful feelings had filled inside him in the hut.
He decided, no, nothing has changed in the outside world, but in him… inside him.
All those regular ideas, thoughts, disturbances… that stayed in his mind and played games in the brain, had disappeared… or so it seems. Gone away for a short while? This could be temporary. But how was Gautam to know that? All kinds of regular clutter, idle chatter, repeats, anxieties and distresses seem to have vanished. His mental space seemed to be glittering and spotlessly clean. His mind was feeling light, as if ready to fly. Brain seems to be idling quietly. Not revved up like it did, till yesterday.
Gautam found himself to be very unusually calm. He had woken up after an amazingly peaceful sleep. He felt no sign of laziness. He had never experienced this state of his mind; where he is not happy; but is blissful. His face has no smile, but his being seems to have blossomed. How a bloomed flower doesn’t smile; but its entire body seems to be smiling.
Something like that was happening to him. He stepped out of his hut. Many leafs fell on him. Whenever that happens, he always looks up and thanks the tree. A little ahead the yellow flower tree had shed numerous flowers. May be it happens every day; but Gautam felt that day it was done especially and purposefully for him. Birds in the sky seemed more noisy, perky and cheerful. The deer, rabbits and foxes had made a group and were huddled together. Small birds were perched on the lowest branches of the trees and seemed to be watching Gautam walk past.
He felt a strange lightness in his feet, in his walk. His body did not seem to exert to move ahead… very unusual. This can’t be heaven… He clearly remembers he hadn’t died… at least not as yet.