August 15, 2005

walk to the light, always

it was a friday night, like any other friday night.

cars and bikes zoomed on the motorway that circled london and on the motorways elsewhere in britain. inside (london) men and women fell over each other as they tried to walk straight on the footpaths leading to a(nother) pub. youngsters stayed in groups and passed the cans and joints around. their drunk voices rising high and falling with the chilly wind. behind a huge but presently-isolated construction site in hemel, we parked our car and briefly discussed who should go to drop in the videocassettes and dvds at blockbuster.

i think i fall into that category of people who would hate to admit to themselves that they are afraid. i like to think of myself as someone who tries to walk into her darkest fears, even though i might be trembling like a leaf inside. and so, “i’ll go.” i said bravely, stepping out of the car even before praveen could ask, “sure?”

the entrance to the store was from the other side, a work-in-progress-diversion for the mega shopping centre scheduled to open by the year-end. anyway…to get to the other side you had to cross an unlit alley, so quiet you could hear your own voice inside your head. so dark that if you stopped and stood halfway through, you would forget which way you were heading. it was beginning to be the loneliest and scariest three-minutes of my life, until i remembered…i just had to look for birbal’s light!

children have a vague manner of interpreting or understanding the stories they read. as a kid i used to devour a lot of stories myself and some of the simplest ones stay with me even today. this birbal’s story is one such unforgettable piece. although the plot here was about justice to the poor man who stood in freezing waters all night for a reward, i had, as a child, taken in another lesson from the same story.

i had learnt that however dark the night may be, there must be a light shining somewhere. look at that light, and the night isn’t dark anymore. i had practised this so many times…when i had to wake up at 4 am during vipassana practice and walk in silence, alone, to the dimly-lit meditation halls about a 100 yards away. sleepless nights where i waited for the headlights from passing vehicles to fall on the walls and wildly tilt and zoom across the rooms. production times at work where i reached home at 1 or 2 am, sometimes, walking all the way in the dark because there were no willing rickshaws to drive to that area. the beautiful minnaminungu (fireflies) when i lay awake and in pain in kerala more recently, or even the faint glow of the moonlight coming in through the window when i have to get up to use the bathroom… however bright or faint, the light left no space for fear.

light. hope. whatever.

back to where i was, sure enough, the tubelights from the store threw a tiny white triangle where the dark alley turned to the right. into the street where the other shops were. my thumping heart regained its natural rhythm as i walked towards the triangle of light, turned to the store, dropped the dvds and cassettes into the quick-return-box and rushed back through the darkness to where our car was parked. shutting the door i sighed, smiling at praveen. he had been fiddling with the mp3/cd-player in the car all this while, unaware that i had been through my entire childhood through that alley, in just six minutes.

to the country of light and shadows and rain, to the land of stories, myths and legends, to the country that was home to both akbar and maheshdas (or birbal), this is my message: walk to the light, always.

happy independence day 🙂


  • whocanbekar said:

    nice piece.
    reminded me of my brave walk through the
    dense jungles of mahableshwar 30 years
    ago. like a fool i entered the jungle to cross over to the other side of bombay point, but there was no end coming. amidst the ruffle and noise of dry leaves, i saw the board,
    ‘tigers water point ‘ and my heart sank. nevertheless i kept walking, not a soul in sight
    for another 15 days before i saw the clearing and some sound of habitation. my heart knew no bounds of joy as i ultimately reached civilisation. some taxi fellow scolded me for taking the trecherous walk alone. some things run in the family, i

  • Pratik said:

    Very nice post. Accidentally reached your journal from a comment you made on some post on live journal.

  • Chakra said:

    very gud 1.. well written

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