She was very young then. And now, she is older. Not mature. But older.
There is a particular problem involved in this scenario. When you grow old, expectations from people around you seem changed. Seem is an important word here because they have always expected you to behave your age. What has changed now is that you cannot. You want to, but cannot. You have no idea how to. Is that a fault? Is delay a fault? Is ‘waiting’ a mistake?
What is a mistake, and what is right?
There are no fine boundaries. They are all relative. What are the standards this rightness is measured against then? A physical entity or a mental state? Both, I think.
When it is about you, the scale is the other person who is affected. When it is about your deed, it is the person’s responsive feeling. You are right until you hurt the other person. Physically or mentally.
This is the realization all of us feel at some point or the other; for someone or the other. Few of us once. A few others, multiple times.
At a very later stage from where we are, Ananda was packing her bags. She was packing everything she could, from shoes to toys to furniture and more. She was getting ready to move away. She needed to get away. The friend she was living with, followed her to her room to get a hint of what was happening. This friend couldn’t understand what was going on and why. It was her daughter’s naming day. Third child. This child completed their little family. There were two more boys – with all this, they painted a very happy picture. There were times Ananda was almost jealous of this fitting. Only she knew there was no need of it. She had labored a lot to paint this little picture, it was no easy task. She had quit work right after planning the second child until they grow up a bit. She could never picture Ananda doing this. Not that Ananda couldn’t, you cannot judge what a person can or cannot do. But the way she was moving away from them, from him, from everything for her freedom and her choice of life, it seemed improbable that she could be taking these tough decisions of another world. Wasn’t he obstinate as well? He could never leave his lovely suburb to go to the *bling* cities he so abhorred. Maybe that was why he was nowhere in the process of stopping her. Or maybe he tried? Who knows what went on between them, people. ‘Cause even I have no idea what they conversed about or thought of anything. That which I am telling you is only my version of them. Everything is so tightly coupled with perspective in this world.
Finally, this friend of hers asked her, ‘Are you coming to Niara Junior’s naming ceremony? You could always go after attending it.’
Ananda knew he was going to be there. He was Niara’a brother. Of course, he was going to be there. She faltered for a moment. But then, she too had to be there for her friend. And they should be habituated to whatever it is between them. They cannot change their world for it. So, she replied.
‘Of course, I am going to be there. You didn’t have to ask.’
And half an hour later, they got dressed and the smaller Niara was sitting by the holy fire in her abode, her father’s lap, to get her official name.
Very later, when people had had their lunch and were lounging about in the hall, Shiv sought a chance to talk to Ananda. But as everything seemed to have conspired against him, sooner than he could get a chance, all of his nieces and nephews rounded him, accosting him to sing a song. He had lost all interest in music now. But could he tell them that? Would they listen to him? Of course not.
So he took his old guitar he had gifted to Niara’s son and started humming. People gathered, keen to be bound in the aura he created. He didn’t have his fan base for nothing. There were kids dancing, older relatives relaxing and the neighbors flocked around him with their daughters. Situations like these seemed to be tedious for her sister later when these daughters were proposed for her brother. That very sister now stood, musing what she would say to them this time. Her brother seemed to be at a perfect age for marriage, and some of the proposals were worth considering.
Nobody realized in their own personal musings when the sun went to set.
Niara asked Shiv to take her relatives to the airport. And he was already out when Ananda got free from her packing and the chaos created around. She was visibly upset that he left without talking to her. But she couldn’t acknowledge it. Or believe it. She was determined to let this all go. Wasn’t that customary for them to move on?
So she started for the airport without any further delay, and without waiting for anybody. She bade her goodbyes and came to the porch when Niara approached her.
‘I pray with all my heart that you find what you are looking for. And I pray that you know what you are looking for. Otherwise, it is going to be a long search. See you again soon, Ananda. Take care.’
And it was with an utmost heavy heart and teary eyes that she was seen off. Even the little Niara (or Amrit should I say now), seemed to be sad with her going away.
On her way to the airport, she crossed the restaurant where they used to hang out all the time – Niara, Shiv, their friends and she, herself. This was the place which had seen the best moments of their lives – the carefree ones; where one could be pardoned for not being considerate. Or thoughtful. Next, she came across the chapel she had met Shiv’s mother. And that’s were she remembered with a heavy heart, a request.
‘Take very good care while you two are trying to synchronize your heartbeat. It is a very soothing feeling until it is working. But the moment the timing alters, be it your heart which is speeding or his which is slumping, it is not only you but the other half who gets disoriented with all that is going around. It may be the same setting as before, but you will have changed.’
She wondered if their hearts were beating as before now. She wondered if she will get what she is looking for. She wondered if she absolutely knew what she is looking for. And such was her state when she came across his orchard – the roundabout plantation of trees which created a circular haven of land in between. Their circle of happiness. Their abode where they used to sit for hours in a stretch, away from the traffic, away from the blare. She never knew she took a divergence to land here. But now that she had, she stepped down to feel the safety of the haven for once before jumping into the uncertainty which waited for her. And there he was. In the sanctuary. Finally, they got the time to talk.
But alas. What was she to say? She had either lost her abilities or ideas.
And now that she had lost all, she prepared herself to think that if this is indeed a haven, what is it which she is certainly looking for? Does it really exist? Will it give her the peace this place gives?
And worst of it all, if she found peace and happiness and love here, what exactly was it which she was looking for? Was this going away worth losing all that she has here – the haven? Their haven? She was standing still at the same place for fifteen minutes or so, thinking what was right and what was wrong in this greyed area. She was indeed looking for perfection, she was seeking what was out there. But in the meanwhile, she was running away from what she had. Was it all worth it? Will she be able to create happiness there – because everything around us is what we perceive of them. Situations are perfect only when we want them to be. Otherwise, a person could have all the pleasures of the world and still be unhappy.
She had had an enchanted time in this small place. And she wanted to cave it all in and return to the original time to create another enchanted time. But it wasn’t something you could plan. It was magic, it was luck. And magics don’t keep happening at a click of two fingers. You have to preserve it once it clicks or destroy it in your ignorance.
He knew Ananda was there. He had seen her coming which drew him into a wonderland of his own. He wondered why she didn’t ask him to come along on her journey. Was he so obstinate that she knew he would refuse even before asking? Would she have asked her had he been more malleable? And thus both of them wondered over the same thing but no one spoke and gave other the space to say wrong, one room for mistakes and another for caving in.
And both of them were stuck in the age-old fix. She was turning back to go to her car when she noticed the rock by which he was sitting. This was where he had proposed to her once. This was what figured in almost every gift he crafted for her. This rock. And she had no idea why all the packing up and leaving didn’t sway her but a sight of this rock formed a lump in her throat and her heart thudded. This rock caused a block. How figurative.
Once they talked, what prospered between them is something I am not cognizant of. But here I ask you to unleash your imaginative prowess and form – your and mine – own little world full of their heart-to-heart. And those little moments of self-actualization did make them understand that we cannot seek happiness, indeed. We can only feel it and cherish it. Happiness is not some rock we could trek and find. It is in the inside. It is always there. You are happy until you acknowledge it. The moment you let your mind wander and find it or be obstinate and ignore it, it wilts down in its own glory.