The stage was set — decorated with lights, like vines falling from the heaven. That day, she was her best self. It was her best performance. There was no question of the possibility of a better performance in her life.
Avyaktha would often twirl around in continuous circles, at an age where she could barely walk. And once she could, her mother took her to a teacher nearby. That’s how it started : the tatkaar (footwork), the chaal (walk) — her love affair with the art form.
She walked onto the stage, her heart excited with anxiety. She did not remember the last time she’d ever been so happy. The last time she had danced before this never-ending wait ?
She grew up with it — her first performance on stage at the age of seven. She could not stop smiling to herself as she danced away like the wind. She would participate in various cultural activities every year.
At the age of 14, she was put in a residential school for her parents had to go away for work. She fell extremely home sick — everybody and anybody found pleasure in bullying her; student or staff.
The curtains went up, and the show had begun. The music reunited with her ears and the taal with her body. She flawlessly switched into the world she’d missed so badly, as she faced her audience — the biggest she ever had.
She tried out for the annual cultural fest’s dance team, for kathak; but was rejected. The lady barely looked at her — the team had already been selected. The try-outs were merely a facade.
The hostel, her class, the school – they never accepted her. Her mother forbid her from any cultural activity — focus on your studies. She did try very hard. The following year,the school did not allow anybody from the batch to participate in the fest, keeping in mind the board exams. But by then, she had lost interest in it.
The sound of her ghungroos in congruence with the taal brought her utmost joy. She twirled like nothing could stop her – the chakras she’d practiced to perfection.
She managed to do well in her exams, and begged her parents to take her back home. She was tired of searching for tiniest pieces of happiness, and an occasional nostalgia could barely calm her mind.
In her higher secondary, she was at home — on the condition that she would only think of studies. But how could she control her thoughts? The clatter of vessels often reminded her of her ghungroo. The subjects were going beyond her head, and her life beyond control.
Her teacher watched her with pride from the side, enjoying every bit of her performance. After all, she had been teaching Avyaktha from the age of five. The transformation was incredible,and she felt happy that she had run into her student after all these years — a serendipity that sealed Avyaktha’s journey to this very stage.
Avyaktha finally fulfilled the meaning of her name — one whose life is like the Gods’ — and that is exactly what she felt at that moment. She could not draw a line between heaven and earth.
She glowed as she effortlessly did her storytelling – her feet, arms and face coordinating with her. In perfect rythm. She danced like never before, it was her story. The music went into a crescendo, and her body followed. The story was at the turning point.
The stage disappeared, the audience vanished — only the blurred remains of the red vine lights glowed. She was wind, swishing to the music, twirling and taking her whole world with her ; all of it resting on her two light feet. The curtains fell down, and the music stopped — but so did her heart.
The galaxy was at unrest. The situation was such that Soorya and Chandra had to join forces, which was only possible during dusk or dawn. Together, they managed to banish the meteorite from the galaxy ; but Soorya was hurt.
Aysha was strength in beauty. She emanated everything she believed in. Whispers of her footprints echoed through the Palace of The Night. She left behind silver wisps as she twirled around the Palace —her home — and her long white hair obeyed accordingly.
A hurt Soorya had been resting in the Palace, when he woke up to the twinkling of laughter. That was the first time he saw her, the Moon Goddess; daughter of Chandra. Night was just about to set in.
It was her birthday, and she was her brightest self. Fireflies adorned her hair, and he found her happiness empowering. She was the only one immune to the effects of night and day; and she created a temporary shield for Soorya to protect him from the night – he belonged to the day.
That night his mind was in a storm — he could not rest. She sparkled in his eyes, and stirred his heart. The following dawn, he left to rise.
They met again often, and their lives instantly fell into place. She found a reassuring warmth in him, and she brought about a cool- headedness in him. They met at dawns and dusks, away from the celestial responsibilities and disturbances. They would talk effortlessly on everything and anything beyond bounds, but it was never enough. Then on a day when lightning illuminated the ambience, and the rain showered on them, they confessed their love to each other.
Their love could no more be a secret ; Chandra was unhappy. He and his daughter belonged to the night, and Soorya belonged to the day. He was convinced that this union was a bad idea, almost forbidden. Aysha did not oppose her father, but she stated clearly that she could not imagine her life with anybody but Soorya.
After quite a delay, Chandra finally gave in. The two got married at a grand ceremony, and that was probably the best day of their lives. They were the happiest that day.
Lightyears passed by, and their lives got busy — Soorya with his work, and Aysha with her heavenly chores. The dynamics of their relationship changed —it had become quiet, and they had fallen into a routine. Dates to the garden went down, and they often ran out of things to talk of. Or perhaps they were not required to speak up, they knew each other well. But with new founded leisure, Aysha found herself unimportant to the love of her life.
As time passed, the insecurities took a toll on her, she formed cracks over her body. This was a time when there was much turmoil around, and Soorya went away to protect the galaxy, fighting alongside Chandra. The fear of losing him made her realise that she still loved him the same, and perhaps even more. She had only got so used to him that her love had become latent, but it had never gone away. But this worry did much more harm to her.
The war had been over, and Soorya rushed back to Aysha. He held her in tight embrace the moment he saw her. She was overwhelmed by this gesture, assured that the warmth and coolness in their relationship was very much alive.
But by the time Soorya noticed her cracks, it was too late. He woke up to loud gasps. She lay near him— all ashened, shining through her cracks. The light in her eyes had shrunk, and her hair no longer had wisps. He held her face in his hands, looking into her eyes : “You dare not leave me.”
Tearful, she gave him a weak twinkling smile.
“I had to pay a huge price for rediscovering the magic I thought we had lost. Change is inevitable, but perhaps it does not mean love has to dissappear. You have to let me go.”
He watched as she disintegrated into shards, and slowly disappeared.
Day or night, she was always with him— though she was only visible in the night sky.
*This poem is dedicated to Linkin Park — for all those strongly worded songs that made my life survivable. There are obvious references to several song titles (including the title of the poem), with no intentions of violating copyrights.
Somewhere in the middle of the 30 feet descent, I walked backwards, araam se, like I do every once in a while. Only I was hanging on a rope. My legs stood firm like they had never been – for once they decided to listen to me. But only a few minutes ago, they had been quite an oxymoron – on vibrate mode.
Outbound Training Programme it was called, and true to its name, it was outside bounds. From rock climbing and rappelling, to crawling under rocks, it was as exciting as it was scary – one slip of the foot, and you could end up in an AC room for a decided amount of time – in a hospital.
The climb left me quite breathless – I don’t even bother to climb stairs. Sheeet, how it made me wish I had climbed all those floors in my apartment. The beauty of the place — right in the lap of nature – was that if you stayed still, everything around you came alive. Everything that you had assumed to be still, is not so anymore.
But at the top, everything around me was still, except for my own body, with my heart gasping for breath. So loudly that I could hear it everywhere– including my arms and legs. Here, one of the instructors divided the eight teams into two large ones: Spartans and Warriors. After a few breathing exercises, and a few games out there, we decided to return.
Now if anybody ever thought that climbing down was easier, I urge you to think again. The hill, combined with the Earth’ gravitational force, has only and only one aim in their lives – to pull you down; literally. At one point, we had to slide down a bit. How I wish they had actually made a semi cylindrical depression, with bars to hold on to. But this was more of strategic sliding. You had to slowly almost sit and crawl, sitting in the tiny craters so as to not slip. But unfortunately, my body weight easily pulled me down, and if those two guys had not been standing at the end of it, I am sure I would have effortlessly made it to my destination in lightning speed.
This was followed by walking on a slope — through it. The only thing around were bundles of lemon grass; comfortably rooted, sitting like fountains, laughing at us while we struggled to get a grip. And right after this, was a big rock – and we were to go under it. I began contemplating whether I will fit in there at all. Finally I did manage to fit in — barely. I crawled out of it as fast as I could, during which I wondered if anybody would know if something or somebody had died in there. Once out, one of my teammates apologised for having scrapped my bag a little – the only two girls in our seven member team decided they wanted to carry their bags; and we all took turns carrying them (only two bags were allowed per team). That poor guy did not realise I was too happy that we all had managed to get out of that tiny cave in one piece.
In spite of having such co-operative and supportive classmates, as well instructors, I had been carrying all this while the one most uncooperative thing with me — or rather I should say wearing them: my shoes. The soulless creature’s soles were coming off. Sadly, irrespective of whether the footwear I am wearing belongs to me or not, they are most rebellious – this definitely was not the first time this had happened.
Three years ago, in the last year of schooling, I was on a study tour with my class. A hosteller at that time, for some reason that I don’t remember now, I ended up borrowing somebody’s chappal. We had stopped somewhere near a beach, in the nattucha veil (burning hot afternoon). The chappal decided to die on me; and since the only support in it had fallen apart, I had no option but to walk barefoot. On the sand. Till the bus.
At a point in the descent, he asked us to stand with fellow Spartans and Warriors. He then asked us to find our way back to the kitchen. A beta version of human GPS managed to find another stone underpass. Thankfully, it was more spacious than the previous one. It did not really matter to me, as long as it took me to the kitchen.
After a satisfying meal, we all chatted for a while. None of us really had any idea what they had planned for us. All I wanted was a nice spot under a tree and a good nap. An instrumental version of the All India Radio whistled away, while we relaxed. And then two instructors, went into a room for equipment. Equipment??
I dragged myself, following others to another part of the campus, where military and police recruits trained. While others ran and jumped through the first obstacle, which looked like stepping stones on land, I preferred walking through it. Then there was one where slabs of stone projected off a wall: you had to climb through a side and get down the other. I don’t really recall how, but I managed to climb up, after which I was stuck. The instructor suggested I watch somebody else do it, and I agreed. I called out to a girl and warned her that I was already up there — hence it was not a good idea to climb up. I did manage to turn around and keep my foot on one of the projections, but after that I could not see anything except for the huge slab I was holding on to. I climbed down a little, and then jumped. The instructor said I was lucky to not have been hurt by a pointy slab.
It seemed wiser for me to simply stare at the rest of the obstacle course, while a few others tried some out. From there, we were taken to the cliff, or rather a 30 feet rock, where the Spartans were climbing down, with ropes and harnesses. Warriors had barely begun, when it started raining, and we were asked to return. I walked around in my Sherlock Holmes raincoat, even though the rain stopped the moment I had put it on. I had to consider the effort I had taken to put it on. Five minutes later, we were called back, as the weather seemed to have improved.
I sat down, looking at others climb down, and another who stood at the bottom to help them. Though, I was extremely tempted to try it, I did not trust my shoes at all. My classmates encouraged me to try it out nevertheless, and one of the instructors (who was sitting with us) reassured me the shoes were not a problem. Since the shoe was still in one piece – somewhat, I decided to go ahead anyways. One of my other classmates, also changed her decision: she decided to give it a try.
I knew that walking down backwards was not the challenge, it was to begin smoothly from the edge of the cliff. And that was the only thing that worried me. I collected the harness and gloves, and climbed up. Here, I almost lost my way— which I had suspected I would — but managed to climb up. It was then that I realised that it was less spacious than it seemed from down there. Three of us were waiting for our turn, two instructors were giving a fourth instructions, and there was another who clicked pictures.
I tried to stand still, so I would not tumble down. Looking around, or looking down was not a good idea, because this cliff was on top of a highly elevated landmass. As I waited for my turn, one of my classmates started thinking out loud, “What if I leave this hand?” I begged him to shut up. As he climbed two steps down, he paused to ask, “Are you not clicking pictures?” The other girl decided to go back, but nevertheless she did not move. And then, one of the instructors told her, “There is only one way down from here.”
I was initially standing so still, that I could barely move. I walked towards the edge, and one of the instructors spoke to me in Malayalam, while the other tightened the straps of the harness. For the first time, my knees were dancing — even though I didn’t ask them to. As if to show one last sign of rebellion, my shoelace came apart. I thought it could go die, I was not going to tie it.
I managed to begin smoothly, holding on to the ropes real tight. As I climbed down, I felt as if I were riding my office chair in reverse, back home – which I do when I am too lazy to get up and open my door.