Who teaches you to come back?

Travel—it’s a common theme these days. So many of the inspirational posts doing the rounds these days are about letting go of the vagaries of life and travelling.

Travel to your heart’s content. Travel until your feet can’t move anymore. Travel until your heart expands to fit the whole world in. And then, travel some more, they say.

It’s a beautiful concept. And travel one must.

But who will teach you to come back home?

Home with it’s chores and daily schedules. Who will remind you of their urgencies and the reason why you withstood the painpoints?

Home with it’s shackles and binds, heating your skin up that was, until a split second ago, cold from the breeze blowing against you on the tall cliff.

Home with it’s dull grey skies and polluted city centres, where only the young and foolish think they’re free. Wasn’t it not too long ago until you were one of those?

Home, where the parties have come to an end and the after-parties only rise and ebb in the chorus of the sonorous snores.

Home, where the 5.00 am alarm rings you, and you don’t jump out, excited about chasing the sun rise from the east. No, instead you drag your feet to the bathroom and drape yourself in the anonymity of dreary clothes.

Where all texts you get are from colleagues and a handful of friends left in the drainage pipe, ready to ride away the time train. Not, from friends made a few minutes back, making excited plans to discover a pristine hidden beach or get up close to a tall mountain peak.

No. How do you get back?

When all you’re faced with is the list of compromises you made to stabilize reality. When you have to relive the decisions—the friends cut off, the people you retain; the habits newly formed at the behest of old ones gone. Everything that formed the new skin you sew for yourself over time, shedding bits and pieces of the old one again and again, minutes and hours at a time.

Will you agree with each of those?

Would you take the time to mourn what you left behind long before you travelled? But adhere to what’s left?

Or will you rethink your life, change the compromise that’s no more comfortable, and chase after what you decided to leave behind?

How do you answer all your questions about yourself, the people and the world around you, when all you’re expected to do is be normal…again?

And so, you escape. You relive your travels again and again in your mind, avoiding the realities unfolding before your eyes. You forget the life you’re living, and love the past, holding onto it with a desperate vigour, all the while being painfully aware that those memories are fading.

Going, going…. Gone.

There. Now you’re back to reality.

Or are you?

On a starry, still night

In the stillness that is the call of the night, the lights reflect on the dark black irises that inhabit my face, embedded deep under layers of natural protection as God had fashioned. A tiny mist forms every time the human me inhales and exhales for oxygen. Somewhere a cricket sounds out to its brethren, what for, only it knows. That is all the action happening in the dead night. Miniscule movements – which would go unnoticed in the history of time, but universal enough to be as true as the starry sky.

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The pale lights twinkle, unaffected by their failure to lighten the dark sky. They simply go on, shining, blinking, and twinkling in their own right. Simple not bothered, embracing the stillness of the canvas.

In the stillness that is the call of the night, the lights reflect on the dark black irises that inhabit my face, embedded deep under layers of natural protection as God had fashioned. A tiny mist forms every time the human me inhales and exhales for oxygen. Somewhere a cricket sounds out to its brethren, what for, only it knows. That is all the action happening in the dead night. Miniscule movements – which would go unnoticed in the history of time, but universal enough to be as true as the starry sky.

Yet, the stillness is only a perception. Just like my lack of movement fails to reflect the inner restlessness that is waiting to burst free. No, not the action that keeps my heart beating, my blood flowing, and my organs alive. The restlessness keeps my consciousness alive, constantly aware of the lack of poignancy in the meaning of our existence. It is the teacher that subsequently pushes us to drive up to new heights, and then once there, humbles us to accept our smallness in the universe.

I see the mountain peak, white with snow and shining as the stars reflect off its surface. It is there, waiting to teach me my lesson. Yet, here I lie in the grass, surrounded by stillness and nature. Already learning the lesson of the universe. Does that make the mountain useless? Does it realise that I will never climb the peak to learn the lesson? That it was only a means to an already ended ‘end’? Does it suffer from the realisation that it is not indispensable?

I call out for an answer.

“No,” a voice like rumbling rocks grumbled. “I am not here to be the means to your end.”

“Then?” I ask, demand, beg for an answer.

“I don’t have the answer. It’s within you.”

Silence. The restlessness builds within again, waiting for an exit in the form of a scream. It builds, slowly and powerfully, like a tsunami waiting to ravish the landmass ahead. At the tip of the tongue, though, the mind exerts control. The tsunami inside abates, unfulfilled and unsatisfied, but by no means destroyed. After all, there cannot be a body without some darkness within. Light is always accompanied with shadows.

“Maybe there was more to be learnt over the course of the journey,” a meek voice sounded. Lost in the restlessness, I looked for the voice. Where did it come from?

“It was not just the mountain, but also the grass plains, the rocky plateaus and the vicarious mountain slopes that were to play a role.”

The voice seemed far away, but was steadily drawing nearer.

“Not just in shaping your lesson, but learning their own lessons too.”

“What lesson?”

“The same lesson you were to learn, and thought you learnt in the stillness of the starry sky.”

“Thought? I did learn the lesson. I am inconsequential. My presence or absence won’t cause any ripples in the universe.”

“Why?”

“What have I done that would have an impact? Nothing.”

“Haven’t you?”

“Look around, what do you see? Nothing. Who would remember me after I am gone? No one. Nothing I have done is out of the ordinary. Nothing that would last.”

“Do all ripples last forever in time?”

Silence.

I could see a shadow moving closer. Its clothes were billowing, even though there was no wind. A soft shine was emanating, stopping me from making out its details. It finally arrived and stopped in front of me.

The dark black sunken eyes, the squarish straight eyebrows, the dimpled chin looked familiar to me. Vaguely so. Its beauty was distracting, stopping my mind from making the connection. Caught in that moment, the restlessness within lost all impulse.

And in that moment of clarity, brief as it was, the beautiful shadow opened its mouth and spoke.

The voice came from inside me. “You just ‘are’. That’s all. Nothing else matters.”