'The sad twist of life is not that we grow up, but in the fact that we never do!'
There was a whisper that goes by the name 'melancholy'. It is often induced by absence; it though, is also induced by fulfilment. It has been a permanent fixture in every life, but as much as it is induced by missing someone, sometimes it occurs when you are whole. Arihant had felt it when he was with Kamlesh in Shillong but had never thought about that, about the whisper. He felt it now, more pronounced, when he was with Kanya. He could feel her loss even when she was there with him. That was strange, being as it was that she was not gone, not an element in his life which he had lost, but she was very much with him and yet, yet he felt her loss. On the bus to Goa, Arihant and Kamlesh exchanged smiles over the aisle. As their bus was making its way through the streets of Bangalore and its periphery, they smiled because they were happy, or as close to happiness as they could be. Arihant though didn't know why he felt that this bus ride was a prelim to loss. He wondered who he would lose, if he did. Madhuri, seated with Kamli, looked like a girl who had found the one guy she would trust her life with. Yes, they made a good couple, Kamli and Madhuri. Arihant then thought of whether he and Kanya could be called that too. Whether he and Kanya could be labelled a good couple, he found himself turn to his left, to look at the passenger seated beside him. That she was beautiful was a question that never needed answering, he found himself catching his breath when he looked at her. She had her eyes closed, her head leaning a little and there was an off and on smile playing on her lips. He tried taking in her presence and he felt that he had grown up, enough to have a girl of his own, enough to travel as couples. His last thoughts were about the waves he and his friends would make in Goa...
'...they were caught in a bubble, the bubble wouldn't let them go; it held them as it would hold air. He saw the four of them caught in this bubble whose surface he couldn't break. The bubble then started imploding, inwards, into itself. Arihant pushed with all his strength, he tried making space. That was what they didn't have; space, and soon they found that there was no space for all of them. Arihant suddenly realised that if they were to survive, he would have to make space for them by pushing the bubble outwards. He realised then that explosion was release as implosion was annihilation. With a sudden understanding, he saw that this was what was happening to Earth. Our planet was imploding, much like this bubble that they were in! As human beings were slowly making their presence in all parts of this planet and they didn't have a way to control this implosion for space was the question. Earth didn't have it in her to control the human ascension. Things were being made extinct to accommodate this human growth, animals making way into non existence, land encroached upon. Arihant saw that there was less space everywhere, thus the fight for existence, for survival. In his dream, he suddenly saw Rajen and his gang telling him and Kamli that there was no space in Bangalore for them, he remembered their anger and their frustration. He suddenly felt trapped, he felt the need to breath but he couldn't, no one could, as the bubble kept getting smaller, as it kept imploding. It was the same in their Shillong or Guwahati, Arihant suddenly realised that the Earth was the bubble and that it was imploding, making less space available for everyone, space to work, to stay, to find food, to survive. As the bubble drew them closer together, Arihant saw a light, the light was above a ladder and he knew that if he were to free them from the bubble, he would have to reach the light. To do which he would have to climb the ladder and reach the light.
"Welcome Arihant, welcome to the real world."
The voice he loved, the voice he adored and respected, which showed him a direction every time that he needed it, which took him to sanity from his insane dreams because he suddenly realised that he was dreaming again. In his dream he realised that his Earthly body was on a bus, with Kamlesh, Madhuri and Kanya, but he was here now, in this bubble. As the bubble kept becoming smaller, he felt relieved that his Guru had sought him out.
"How do I reach the light Gurujona?"
"Wait, let the surface of the bubble break; let it yield all of you to the free air that is this cosmos that we are in."
"Gurujona, I do not understand. How do we escape this bubble? I know that I have to reach that light. I can see it, I can feel it and I know all answers lie in that light, but how do I break the bubble?"
"You do nothing. The bubble that holds you will break and the darkness that seems so vast everywhere will give way to light. That has been the norm of this world and that is how everything has always been. You will have to trust the law Arihant, you will have to let the light guide you."
"But, Gurujona, the darkness is everywhere and the light that I can see is just so small and that ladder to the light seems so difficult to reach."
"Arihant, have faith in what I say and let your steps guide you to the destination. You have come a long way and I met you here to tell you that we are with you."
The bubble now had no space to stand, then, with a sound that resembled an elephant's call, but of a much greater magnitude, such that it almost hurt their ears, the bubble broke. At once they were flooded; they were flooded in a liquid that was water and air together. Arihant wondered if this was 'ether'. They felt warm and started their way to the ladder where the light his Guru had mentioned could be reached. Unfortunately, they couldn't for he was startled awake...'
"D...uh! Who was that man, he was so calm, his presence, his voice, who was he?" Kanya seemed pulled out of her sleep and she seemed startle.
"Who was he?" Kamli had just woken up too.
"The light, the light...we can breathe!" Madhuri seemed startled.
Arihant took in the scene and he had a strange feeling in his gut, one that he had never felt before. He knew that it couldn't be true and he knew that he would have to ask them to make sure he was not still dreaming.
"Did you guys dream of a bubble?" Arihant felt stupid asking a question that could only be true in the realms of fiction and make belief.
"Yes, it was getting smaller." Kamli did!
"Yes, the voice. I wish I could see the person behind the voice." Kanya did too!
"The light, how will we ever climb that ladder?" It was only natural that the prudent Madhuri was the one who could have asked that question. She did too!
"Now, listen to me carefully, we are almost in Goa and this has never happened even in any of the books that I have read. We have all been in the same dream. First, promise me that we will keep this a secret!"
"We promise!" The voices chorused together. They realised the magnitude of this momentous happening which they had never encountered in their lives.
"The man you all heard was my Guru, Sankardev. He is the man who can release us and all in the world from this darkness that has pervaded this world. He works at the behest of the lord. Now, that all of you have heard him, do you feel that he can take us there, to the light?"
"I don't know about others, but I do." Madhuri was the first, trusting as she was.
"I do! I have never heard a voice that had given me such strength before." Kanya too agreed.
"I don't have to say anything, Rehan. You know that I revere Sankardev as much as I do Mahavira, our last Teerthankar." Kamli, Rehan knew would naturally agree.
"This is our secret then."
"Yes, it is!" So that closed the chapter of the dream that all of them had together. Arihant still couldn't believe that they had done something that humanly impossible but they had done it nonetheless.
Much as they would have liked talking about the light and other such philosophical issues brought up by their shared dream. What they saw made them forget even this occurrence for the moment. They were young after all, too young to let philosophy take over Goa...
The pristine beaches that they saw stretched out miles into the horizon. Then, their bus moved into what seemed like a town, signboards showed them that had reached Panaji.
"We are almost there..." Kamli seemed happy as was everyone else on the bus. Even the strangers they they were travelling with. Suddenly, the bus stopped for a minute and a man alighted on the bus. He had a leather jacket and seemed to know the place. He came up to passengers and it was only when he came close to them that they heard what he was saying. He had something to offer actually.
"Hia! Are you guys looking for hotels?"
"Yes, we are!" When Kamli was the one to answer, Rehan understood that Kamli wouldn't speak to the man if he didn't trust him. There was something in the man that he trusted and that meant that Arihant trusted him too.
"Yes, we are..."
"Budget or Luxury?"
"Something in between" Kamli seemed to know what he had in mind. Kanya and Madhuri left it up to the boys to figure out a place to stay and they said nothing.
"Where would you young fellas want to stay? Baga is lovely, right at the beach. Then we have Kalingut...Panjim..."
When Kamli heard the mention of Panjim, he at once latched on to that word for he had made up his mind that it was Panaji where they would stay.
"Are you fellas looking for somewhere near the beach?"
"Ok! We have a very good property there. It is called Casa Nunez. Lovely place with breakfast thrown in, near the Miramar beach."
"Does it serve vegetarian food?" Arihant asked for Kamli for he knew his friend.
"Yes, it has options of Vegetarian and Non-Veg"
"Cool, we would like to see the place."
As he said that, the bus reached a stop. They had finally arrived!
As they got down from the bus, they collected their bags and were led to a taxi stand by this man whose name they had not asked yet.
"How much would Casa Nunez cost?"
"How many rooms do you fellas want?"
"Ok, prices start at 1200 Rupees a night per room and check out is at 12:00"
"That sounds good. Can we go there and take a look?"
"I will lead you." So they got into the cab to their castle. The Casa Nunez.
At first sight, the roads of Goa reminded them of Shillong but there was stark contrast too. They felt like they were in some European town, beautiful villas and cottages dotted all over the town. A few Churches that boasted of early European lineage, but what struck them most was the people. In the sea of humanity that they witnessed, it would be difficult to say who was from the Goa and who wasn't. They understood that Goa was an all season tourist destination and it was Kamli who voiced their concern: "We would need some transport to travel; it is not as small as you'd think."
"Yes, we would Kamli, say Mr. We haven't even asked your name." Arihant asked their guide and he smiled back.
"I am Peter and I could get you two bikes if you have valid licenses."
How much would that cost us?" Kamli started his rational question mongering.
"That would cost you 500 Rupees a bike a day." The man they now knew as Peter answered.
Thus began their trip which was brought on by dreams, dreams that they saw when asleep and dreams they dreamt when awake. It was after all, the land of dreams...
(Arunav is an Asst. Professor in the Dept. of Management, NERIM Group of Institutions.)