Edited by Bishakha Jain
Byes are never good, I wonder who coined the word goodbye. What was his motivation behind the word? Was the person he was leaving behind so terrible that farewell made him feel good? I laugh out loud at my own musings and then I am startled by the sound. It feels louder in this serene landscape. Somehow out of place. The call of birds returning after long absence is the only fitting sound here. I look back and laugh again at the journey I’ve covered so far. Life is beautiful for those blessed like me. Those who have known the kingdom of love. Those have shared its joys and troubles know that it’s a sweet and sour experience. I remember this road from a trip long ago. My little brother’s marble game, my sister’s worry for her hair, dad’s constant check on the speedometer and mom’s exasperation at my evident lack of interest in local gossip. I am engrossed in my own world. I live a different life, unconfined, always travelling to far off places through the pages of books till I could afford tickets. My scrap book rarely records mementos from the past. Instead its filled with dreams and destinations of future, the journey that I wanted to take. The one I have embarked on now.
With a light backpack and a heavy heart, leaving behind all I hoId dear. My shoulders are still damp from the teary farewell. I hope they’ll understand why I had to leave. My beautiful world that lacked nothing had to fall apart someday. A perfect life is a myth, attaining perfection would mean stagnation at that point. Life is a journey with its valleys and terrains. It shouldn’t be stagnant. It has been hours without a vehicle coming this way. In the desire to travel light I have little to protect me from the chilly night ahead, maybe the next two hours will prove lucky and I can hitchhike my way to the nearest town. I look down at my sneakers, a gift from my mom, I chose them for this journey because I knew they’d hold steady. I close my eyes and think of you, we had decided to travel this stretch together. Don’t worry, I am doing it for both of us and with a smile. Please don’t let the droplets walking down my face bother you. I have no regrets. I hear a familiar sound and stumble on a little rock. Typical clumsy me. The sound was coming from a little frog. Seeing its innocent face, I choke down another laugh, you used to be afraid of them, remember? Are you still afraid of them? I’ll add these questions to the notebook, the one I keep for unasked questions. I’ve had an enviable life and never known sorrow and that does not sit well in nature’s balance so once in a while that tips to the other side to remind me that contentment is a transitory companion and love that I carry within is both my salvation and destruction. It doesn’t realise that we who conquered our fears, began another journey so long ago, know how difficult it is to fight your inner demons and then to rebel against the norms of the society that unites and divides us. A little tiff with destiny cannot scare the likes of us. Lost in thoughts I’ve covered another three miles. I’ve found an inn, they will let me stay. My feet are glad at the prospect of clean water. I remember my visit to the ghats yesterday, in the holy city.
The crowds and hawkers repelled me as they have always done. I sat on an abandoned step enjoying the symphony of gushing water, the breeze and the homecoming noises of various birds. An occasional diya floated by like a lost firefly in the dark river. Floral scents and the perfumes from incense carried over the winds. The perfect salve for my scorched soul. The pani-poori didn’t taste the same, did it feel your absence too? I fall from the bed to realize I fell asleep fully clothed. The warmth of memories that had engulfed me as protection from the chill has disappeared and I look for the threadbare blanket this place has to offer. Tomorrow is another day. I plan to go trekking. Please do not be worried I’ll find a way. I can read a compass now, and follow a trail. Bushes and brambles make me grumble but do not force me to quit. The physical pain only helps in numbing the emotional one. The pampered daughter has grown up, finally, reluctantly. Home was blissful filled with shared laughter and fighting over the last morsels, then distributing them after claiming victory. Home was a constant ache when studies demanded separation. Your sudden presence in my life created another dependency. I gave up one crutch for another. The few months we had, I clutched at them for dear life. Dreading the day we both knew was approaching. I made various attempts at self-dependence and ran away from you only to return again in tears. When finally you had to leave, somehow I found the courage to bid adieu. I asked for no promises because if broken, they are like shards of glass that would have pierced my soul worse than any words spoken in anger. In this journey I am discovering places but most of all I am discovering myself. You are not my crutch anymore. I can find my own way. I’ll read to you my notebook of questions and the accounts from this journey someday. Hope is my new drug, more addictive than any other, hope that our lifelines would intersect again. Thus I said Au revoir and not a goodbye for it means till we meet again mon cher!