He stood up and walked slowly and aimlessly, heading towards the edge of the hill.
Although he had sat there with the others, he stared straight, gaze fixed on the bottle of water, submerged in thoughts, isolating himself mentally. No comments, no jokes, he spent the time in silence while the others relaxed, had fun and eased away their weariness. The climb had been exhausting and everyone was trying to get back as much energy possible by consuming some snacks and fluids. He just took a few biscuits and a little juice, still mute in musing.
Several images crossed his mind... flickering, looping, growing dark and bright repeatedly like the fuse of a bulb moments prior to burning out.
He felt miserable at the control he lacked over his life. The independent, unstoppable way, in which it kept moving on, he felt stuck light years behind.
He hated every bit of his present state... his job, the 'software engineer' tag attached every time somebody referred to him, the talks about him 'settling down in life' which occurred almost every time relatives or friends spoke to/about him, codes and bugs, deadlines and commitments... it all made him feel sick, angry, guilty, helpless and lost.
The heat of the afternoon sun burned the skin on his cheeks as he stood, inches away from the edge, with an almost face-to-face glare at the sun.
the clouds, they appeared to him as if they were inviting him to float along, void of any responsibilities or constraints, nowhere in particular to go, no one in particular to meet, unstained and unstrained freedom.
"Just another step and you would be there" he said to himself.
"Would I really be missing anything if I were to proceed? Anything worthwhile for me if I restrain myself?"
As he continued contemplating, still looking intently at the silky white cloud, he heard someone approaching him. Not willing to be disturbed, he decided not to take notice.
"Hey mister software engineer... what are you doing here? Remote terminal bug
fixing eh?" said Anirudh, jovially, still a few steps away from sandeep.
He felt annoyed at this intrusion. He stayed inert, without responding, trying to neglect anirudh's presence.
Noticing this behaviour, anirudh decided not to probe too much. He walked up
to the edge, stood next to him and looked in the direction of the same cloud.
The next few minutes continued in silence, with both the men just staring at the sky.
Allowing the mind waves to settle down, giving it some time, anirudh said in a low, serious tone, sounding the least interrogative
"You seem to be looking for something".
sandeep felt he wasn’t being pulled into any silly talking and replied
"Hmmm... yes... searching for the thing i lost long ago... this thing called life"
"And what do you see up there?"
"Happiness... freedom... peace of mind... what not?"
"And how would you get all that?"
"Just another step pal... one small step" stressing on each of the words.
"Hmmm... damn simple right? Ok... go ahead... and then what would happen?...You'll be dead?" said anirudh in a bold, non-compassionate manner.
"Dead?... I won’t die ani... there is'nt any life left in me to die" said sandeep
trying to put across the statement as if it was a simple logical one.
While the conversation went on, neither of them looked at the other, still focusing on the same cloud.
"Ok... move forward slightly and look down" said anirudh, shifting gaze and looking directly into sandeep's face.
sandeep felt slightly puzzled at the pitiless way anirudh was talking, and could sense a small measure of fear rise inside. He just bent forward, firmly gripping his feet on the ground and looked down the drop. The wind was strong and it played silent songs into his ears. He stared at the bottomless depth. The openness and the emptiness that he saw made the fear inside him to grow. Just a few seconds and then he stood upright, looking at the sky. anirudh remained unmoved and silent. He could sense many things going through sandeep's mind. After a brief pause he said "so... what did you see?"
"Nothing... everything was blank" sandeep replied in a slightly scared and
"Hmm...you dint see a thing?"
"Ok... I’ll tell you what you saw." looking directly into his eyes "you saw life... its only when you stare into the face of death that you realize life."
sandeep dint say a word. His silence spoke it all.
anirudh tossed the bike key towards him and sandeep hurriedly caught it as if a
glass vase was thrown at him.
"Come" said anirudh turning towards away from the edge.
"Lets hit the road" anirudh walked away from him leaving him back in isolation.
sandeep looked at the cloud again, turned around and saw anirudh walking. The
rest of the group remained as it was, relaxing and having fun, unaware of the whole episode. He walked up to them and picked up a bottle of water and returned back to the edge. He let the water run down his face and watched it as it went down the drop, disappearing into the emptiness. He felt the cool of the wind blowing across his wet face.
He walked back to the guys, threw the empty bottle at one of them and said "ok guys... i guess thats enough of rest... get up.... lets go....
lets hit the road"
PS: This story nucleated from one of Anto's statements(antoniyms...as we know).
he one day said, when he was talking about the people at his workplace, "maam.... even if the floor above falls on them, they wont die maam... there's no life only...how will they die"
And this post is an ode to one of the few activities that injects a good dose of life into our lives... biking. Every single bike trip (and the small treks too) have been stand-out experieces in the otherwise monotonous life.