Sunday, October 08, 2006

Voices from the past

He didn't know what led him away from the crowd. He just knew he had to walk. A raspy voice within whispered, "Walk, my friend, walk..."

As his feet guided him into the darkened alleys, away from the crowd, the music, the drumbeats, the sweet music of the flute, he could feel a shadow rise within him. The occasional couple which was hurrying towards the huge garden party paused only briefly to watch the man walk away. And even though they saw a lonesome figure, he was already not alone.

Away from the garden where friends and lovers were alike caught in the rhythmic dance movements of 'garba', the shadow that had started forming had now risen to its full size; a warrior, powerfully built with sharp, intelligent eyes.

"How have you been, my friend?", asked he who was only known as the 'Lone Warrior'. The voice was no longer a whisper; it was now a gentle, baritone voice which, although friendly, made no attempt to hide the maturity and the deep knowledge of the world that guided his words. "It's been long since we last spoke."

"Much has happened since then, and oh, how my world has changed", spoke the man. There was a hint of emotion, a weak moment perhaps.

"I am aware of the changes, you know," smiled the Lone Warrior. "I never really leave your side. But come," he continued, "I haven't come to hear you cry and be weak... weakness is a crime, and you know that." The Warrior laid a heavy hand on the man's shoulder.

The man smiled.

And so, the two friends walked together, just like they used to in the days gone by. They spoke of the world, and they spoke of the happenings. They discussed issues of importance to our friend. They spoke strategically...and a lot of questions were tossed about. A number of scenarios were ruminated upon, always beginning with the 'best-case scenario' and progressively moving towards the 'worst-case scenario'. This allowed them to build up a momentum to concentrate most on that problem which might occur.

It was like listening to two friends strategize the friend's moves in a game of chess; only, this wasn't a game. The stakes were much higher here. "What if the competition reacts like this? What if the competition reacts like that? What if they take it all in their stride and decide to move ahead? What if, heaven forbid, they decide to strike back? (A silly option, no doubt, but one must always be prepared.)"

If someone were to overhear their conversation, they would perhaps laugh at the silliness of it all. After all, 'why ponder over issues which may never even see the light of day?' But the two friends, ignorant of the thoughts that others might have, continued to debate.

Their walk took them away from the limelight, from the loud, blaring speakers that churned out songs that Gopis sang for Krishna. Little did they know, that their Krishna had changed. He was no longer the same Devki-nandan who played the flute and gambolled around the forests of Vrindavan. He was now Parthasarthi, the charioteer of Arjuna, whose duty it was to guide the ever-focussed warrior prince in the battle of karma. Dharma-kshetre, Kurukshetre, my friend, Dharma-kshetre, Kurukshetre...

The walk had taken them to another part of the compound. The music had died a long time ago. There was just the sound of feet quietly stepping on the cemented path making childish attempts to disturb the the silence of the night, frequently helped in its endeavor by the chirping of crickets. It was a full moon night and the light cast a long shadow of the man, staring at the path ahead of him and walking with both his hands behind his back, the left supporting the right.

The man paused...and looked up at the moon. The 'poornima' night brought back a flood of memories. Nights like this would've enchanted him to write poetry, once upon a time. He would've written about the beauty of Nature, and the mighty hand of God and all the beautiful creatures that He creates effortlessly.

Yet, now, all that he stared at was the moon. A satellite of planet earth. It was now no more than a heavenly body which reflected the light of the sun. The moon was now just indicative of the fact that this was (perhaps) time to rest from the daily battle and for a few moments ponder over the challenges that dawn would bring.

And even as they completed a circle of the huge ground and made their way towards the garden again, the man could hear a female voice call out to him from a deep, misty end of his mind: "Can't you...can't you for once become who you were before? Why must you torture yourself so? Are you scared of the crowds of young people who dress up and enjoy themselves? Why the phobia? Do you feel that you won't fit in? Just because you know that you're different doesn't mean that you will not take a break from your ever-warring thoughts and enjoy yourself, does it?"

The Warrior stood aside and wondered whether his friend would remember the advice that he'd given him long ago. He prayed that his friend would have the strength of will to fight the current urge, for he knew this was just a fraction of the challenge that awaited him in the days to come.

The man paused. And smiled.

There were voices from the past, calling out to him.

"No," he replied, "I'm not scared of the milling young crowds...not any more. And neither am I jealous of them. Let them laugh and play and dance all that they want. That is the path that they've chosen. And I've chosen mine."

And having said that, he once again moved away from the glare of the shiny halogen lights into the dark avenue with trees on either side.

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