Monday, May 23, 2005

[Short story]A page from a diary

I take off my shoes as it is difficult to walk with them on. The sun is at its noon-high and my feet feel the heat that has been so greedily absorbed by the sand. I dance a little in the same place trying to acquaint my soles to the heat with each step. The fine silica grains gush in between my toes every time I lay my feet thus increasing the surface of skin in contact with the sand. A few steps have proved me wrong. It is more difficult to walk barefoot as the discomfort due to the burning sensation in my soles. I try to run but in the absence of a solid ground, it is a slow and tedious task. The beach seems a long way away and I stop on a mound of sand with some grass growing on it. It is cooler here and I rest here for a few minutes before making the final leg of the journey to the cool spray of the sea.
Standing on the beach, I eye the sea respectfully. She keeps spewing up these huge waves displacing tremendous amounts of water that by the time they get to where I stand have petered out to meek stream. I stand there admiring the vast empty expanse and am reminded of what Newton said. "I am but a little boy collecting pebbles on the beach while the vast ocean of knowledge lies undiscovered before me." Though he was speaking metaphorically, I understand the full import of those words only now. Human mind is incapable of imagining vast amounts and you never know how big the ocean is until you stand on the beach and all you see is water till the sea meets the sky. I am reminded of the frog in the well from the famous fable and I smile at the thought that I was the frog until now. And yet, I do not see the complete stretch of the sea.
While I was peering at the horizon, the sea and the sand have conspired together to root me right there. There is sand all around my feet which are almost buried in the wet, slippery surface. A roar and a wave goes crashing down into the water and comes to slish-sloshing with the joy akin to one who has just stepped off the ferris-wheel at the amusement park. There the water receded as its energy ebbs and it returns for another ride, and my feet have sunk deeper into the sand.
Just like that, I have been anchored. No questions asked. No introductions, no discrimination. The sea accepts all who come to her beach equally and provides the same, unfiltered joy that enthralls everyone regardless of age, sex, religion, or race. Once I was a little boy, free of all worries and troubles of the world; ignorant but curious; and filled with optimism and in active grip of unadulterated happiness. But here I am, shoes hanging by side held by two fingers of my left hand, lower part of my pants wet and sticking to my calves, knowing that I will have to return back to the drill of the real world tomorrow but still currently in a state of complete bliss under the Sun God who is right above me and with the Sea God at my feet.
Do we know each other? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
What time is it anyway? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
What is this place? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
Is this heaven? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
Is this where I...? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.

Lost. It's murky here, or is it misty? I cannot tell. Am I a part of the murk? I cannot say. Just a vague, formless matter surrounds me. Free, floating, am I? Am I still or am I moving? How can I tell in this place which looks the same in all directions? Relativity, you say? Time? It does not seem to matter here.
A distant sound. There! I hear it again. Is that... laughter? Sounds like a distant thunder. I cannot see who. Or fathom why.
A child's laugh! It is getting closer. A form pops up to my right. I recoil a little, startled. It smiles and I see the face of child with naughty eyes and a refreshing smile. What is it in a child's face that makes us forget everything? Is it the blessed ignorance that allows them to experience a world as full of wondrous things or is it the attentive and sponge-like nature of their inquisitive minds that is slowly tempered by society into passive inactivity?
Follow me, his eyes say. Where? In an instant, he is gone. I grope furtively in the mist, trying to find him. Where did you go! Come back! He is gone and I have been left alone. I feel myself thrashing around in the murk trying to scoop it out and make it possible for me to find where he went. In a few minutes, I am tired and have given up.
Just when I thought I had lost the one possible clue to the mystery of the situation, he returns with impatient eyes and a tight expression on his face.
Why didn’t you follow me?
How could I? How could anyone see anything in this dense fog?
he says as if the word was something new to him.
Yes! Don't you see it? It is all around us. So dense that I cannot find myself in it.
He laughs again and says with mysterious eyes, It is as clear as water. There is no fog. Maybe your vision is clouded.
I stare at him amazed at this revelation. I do not believe him. Yet I rub my eyes with my hands. Perhaps, I am going blind. Cataract? Oh! I never thought I had gotten so old. Fear of the loss of my eyesight seizes me and it is terrifying. I shiver at the thought being made to live this life without eyesight.
Looking at my anxious actions, he laughs again, a loud, ringing laugh.
Why do you laugh?
At you! Your foolishness is amusing to watch.
I am much too distressed to reply.
There is nothing wrong with your eyes.

And he is gone. Just like that! Leaving me to ponder over what he had just said. I do not understand. I close my eyes and it is much the same. See, he said but see what? A thousand questions rage through my mind and in the whirlpool of this storm, there is no answers. Where do I seek these answers? Whom do I ask? Why doesn't He answer me? 'See', he says!
I open my eyes and I see myself on the beach, rooted into the sand and with the waves higher and reaching more and more inland. I pull my legs out of the sticky sand and I walk along the beach for a little while. The sun would go to sleep in a few minutes and while he remained, I see his golden rays forking their way across the ocean and the play of light is hard to turn away from. I watch the sun go down into the vast expanse of the ocean and hand over the realm of the sky to the moon.
As the night deepens and the stars come out to play, I am still on the beach wondering where I would go at this time. Whose door to knock on and where to sleep. Sitting on the beach there with sand all around me, I realized that I had already knocked on a door and been granted admittance. It has been a long and tiring day, both physically and mentally. I lie down right there and shut my eyes for a few minutes.
B... BLI... BLINK...... BLINK...... BLIIIIINK.... BLIIIIIIIIINK......... BLIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKK......... BLLLLLIIIIIIIII but I do not finish that blink as I feel something hard bury itself in the side of my stomach. I get up fearing some large animal has taken a fancy to me when I notice that the object that has disturbed me is a leather shoe worn by a constable's foot.
"Oye! Who are you and what are you doing on the beach at this time of the night?" His accent is hard to follow and I understand the meaning of his question by a couple of words and his gestures.
Before I could answer his question, he notices that I am a tourist and asks instead, "Where do you come from?"
I tell him and he rudely tells me something that I take to mean that I am not welcome to stay at the beach. I argue with him for a while trying to explain that I just a harmless tourist but he does not seem to understand me or is too stubborn and he shakes his head to everything that I say. It quickly deteriorates to a futile effort. I get up wearily, and a little sad as these would be the last few moments I spend on the beach as I have to take the early bus home if I am to get to my work on time.
I collect my shoes that were lying nearby and I turn around to leave.
See! His words come back to me. But see what?
I look at the constable and what do I see? A uniformed enforcer of the law of the land who seems to be doing what his duty commands him to do? Laws of the land? No, more like laws of the society! Which seem to be quite out of the sync with the land that it is supposed to represent. A society whose laws seem to restrict some of its own members to do something quite harmless as sleeping on the beach; laws made by a few and enforced by a few and obeyed by all for fear of punishment by those in power just because that they have a gun or a post.
What do I really see? The disparity between reality and the actual? The difference between nature and man-made monstrosities. Yes, mankind has constructed a lot of things – material, philosophical, knowledge. Some call it creation but destruction always goes hand-in-hand with creation, does it not? Arnt the Nuclear bombs a direct application of the quantum theory and Einstein's E=mc^2? So, can we really create a better world without destroying?
Is there no hope at all?
Yes! The voice says. But you have to see with unclouded eyes.

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