I was sinking in an abyss. A long standing career dream had crashed unceremoniously. The image of a “soulmate “ I had treasured forever had finally whispered mockingly “I am not real!”. I had begun to see how my life drifted and got stuck to an interface of real and virtual. All my friends had distanced with time and I was in touch with them in bits and pieces aided by the virtual world.The need to prove that I am a human and not Robot at various places in the web universe added exasperation to this grim scenario.I felt exhausted and took refuge in a cup of coffee.
I hold a somber cup of coffee and scratch the periphery of my existence to answer the questions echoing in my head..
“What is it to be REAL... feel REAL?”
“When was the last I felt real?”
“When was the first I felt real ?”
|(kaleidoscope: a color pencil doodle)|
I walk through the huge chunk of my twenties and I found that all I did was study and work hard to achieve my career goals . Yes I had seen diseased, sick , devastated and dying people . Held many hands wiped some tears.I had often contemplated and almost winced at how painful and suffering the “Real World” can be . How death and disease could penetrate suddenly creating deep irreparable gashes in the face of life and how the joy of healing could ease the existence of that" real suffering "a bit. Being a Doctor helped me understand the realities but drifted me far away from being REAL . I soothed myself with faith. Distanced myself from the pain and the cold touch of death. As if I was witnessing it all from a distance through a looking glass; like an alien intruder, just a spectator with a power to intervene but totally “reality-proof”. Amidst the reality of ephemeral life and suffering I did not feel real . I felt distanced and aloof.
I shut that door and walked heavily a little further back in the mind boggling teen years and all I could see was a struggle with Identity crisis . The whole deal of being a child trapped in an adult body was far from being real.With the metropolitan existence and mixed media messages I was just too busy chalking out a suitable identity for myself and weaving dreams of the future . I lived more in the imaginary and poetic world than real. Sigh! two decades of my life revisited and I failed to find “REAL” let alone define it.
Nevertheless I moved deeper into the crevices of my memory and a sudden flickering light danced on my face. Guided by the light I curiously reached a wooden withered door with innumerable chinks. Light sneaking out of those chinks invoking childlike intrigue. I instantly held the knob and let it open ... A flutter of butterflies goes swishing over my face and suddenly I find myself standing in the middle of garden full of flowers .
I feel a funny sensation in the fingers of my right hand .As I lift my hand up I notice a butterfly struggling captivated in between my thumb and index finger . Mesmerised I bring it closer to my face and almost overwhelmed by it’s struggle I loosen my grip. She flies away instantly and I watch it rise and disappear into the flower clad trees. I stand motionless my hand still near my face. As she disappears I take notice of my hand. I see my fingers glow with the colors of those delicate butterfly wings. I feel happy and sad . For the first time I realise in that confused moment I felt close to another living being and totally REAL. (I recall instantly that I was 10 years old and my garden was full of butterflies.Running around and catching them with my fingers , letting them go and then marvelling the colors left on my fingers always made me sad and happy at the same time.)
This thought was interrupted by a voice shouting out loud “DIDI!!!”
I turn around and there stands my kid brother on top of a flight of stairs encircling the neem tree in our childhood home , the bottom of which had flower bed filled with lovely flowers and lots of muddy water. He has a brick in his hand . He is challenging me for a 'stone throwing' contest. His idea being the bigger the stone the farther he can throw it. Oh! but he is just six years old. He is optimistic he would defeat me today. I look at him with apprehension and amusement . Before I could warn him he gestures to throw the stone and topples over rolling down those few stairs and falls in the puddle of muddy water and soaks up his clean clothes. I rush to rescue him and a while later we notice the brick lying right there on the top of the stairs motionless. My teary eyed vanquished brother and I laugh like goofs (amused by the fact that the brick was supposed to come down and not my brother ), loud chuckles emanating straight from our amused childish hearts. I hear that loud flawless laughter with my sibling and I feel rejuvenated and REAL.
Again the memory kaleidoscope shifts a bit and the “neem” leaves start falling like rain with those pretty wispy white flowers and I see myself eight years old dancing in circles looking at the falling leaves . My hands stretched wide and I twirl and jump and gesture to grasp those dreamy swirling leaves . The autumn brought dance and music to my childhood solitude. A solitude induced by lack of peers in my neighborhood due to a recent change of place. I felt aware of every movement I made , my limbs , my feet , my hands , my face filled with fathomless delight as I twirled and the wind twisted around me... I felt REAL!!!
A smile races through my face and my closed eyes perhaps twinkle as my coffee is going cold and I bask in the comforts of my childhood memories. I see myself seven years old and drawing hopscotch on the school ground with my friends. Minutes later we are hopping on one feet dodging the lines and picking up the play piece . I keep climbing the hopscotch ladder flawlessly and then almost screaming with delight I win. The REAL joy of victory exhilarates me. I find it through a silly hopping game of crisscross lines.
The kaleidoscope turned again and I saw myself enjoying a bus ride admiring the sun peeping through the canopy of trees on the road to my granny’s home. I engage every possible passenger with my excitement induced by the anticipated visit to my grand-ma . The fellow passengers seemed amazed with my stories and chuckles . It was the most REAL “excitement” and “anticipation” could get. A time when I didn’t try to emotionally insulate myself and even think of the possibility of disappointment and despair.
|(A rare childhood pic of mine )|
I was totally heartened by so many REAL moments in my childhood that I started straining hard moving farther back in time . Looking for the first real moment of my life. I kept walking through those lush mustard farms , I witnessed myself standing extending my frock as an inverted parachute accompanied with my cherub cousin to catch the falling fruits as my elder cousins climbed those guava trees in the dense neighbouring orchards .The tube well which seemed more magnificent than the Niagara Falls. Running around the fields, counting the stars, listening to granny’s bed time stories, making mud utensils,playing till we were covered in thick layers of dust , sharing meals with my extended family and several such loving memories. But still I couldn't reach the very first real moment . My life kept unfolding and my age kept decreasing and finally I landed that memory . I breathe deep and the image becomes vivid.
I feel the first touch of moist soil beneath my three year old feet. The undulating terrain keeps me from looking at the lovely colors of the sky as the sun is nearing horizon. Perfectly at a spot where one cannot distinguish between sunrise and sunset sans direction. My hand is held by the wrinkly large hand of an elder. I anchor to it strongly and try to pace up with those elder feet as they try to pace down to my tiny steps. My act of balancing on that sticky soil was interrupted by a horrible looking moving thing which seemed to have a zillion legs . To my nascent eyes that centipede in its solemn crawl seemed the ultimate threat to my existence. I jerked suddenly to halt and went jittery making those elder feet to stop and that bespectacled head to bend down and decipher the reason of my fear. That moment my grand-pa (elder feet) had almost chuckled at the source of my fear. Then without consoling or counselling me he lifted me and I was sitting on his shoulder a second later far far above my fear.. above that undulating sticky ground gazing right into the face of a melting crimson sun....
That was indisputably the first REAL moment in my life when I learnt fear and joy all at once and eternally bonded with the healing beauty of nature and the human capacity to bring joy and love into other's lives by simple acts of kindness.