The sun was setting somewhere behind me and I could see the moon gradually come up. It was the night of full moon, so during the sunset, so very evident was the game of dim light that sun and moon were playing with each other. The wind was chilled as it was coming from a distance somewhere far from east, fondling with the ocean and tickling every other wave that was hitting the shore harder. It was a heavy collision that could be heard every other second and with every blow the chilled shaking and shivering was seen. Sweaters were taken out of the bags and every effort was made to keep the bodies warm, but nobody thought of moving away from the place. People came to Pondicherry to have a ball, precisely to freak out as many would point out, but this evening time along the Rock Beach always had different intentions. It always did. It had the splendor of the divine and purest form of fragrance that prevailed in the atmosphere and turned extroverts into introverts and wise versa. It made you think of all the calculations and miscalculations and gave you a way out to put together things which were missing in some place or the other. I always believe it completed the puzzle that longed for the one missing part. The scenario had it for everyone.
The streetlights were lighting the larger pavements and coconut trees and making the evening walks even more beautiful. Lots of people were walking by and many children preferred playing alongside the beach in and around the Mahatma Gandhi’s Statue. For children it was all about climbing up on the tomb and holding onto the Mahatma statue and watching the ocean that spread across till the end. Their mothers and fathers told them that the ocean continues to the edge of the world. For that matter, many children believed so as they had interesting stories to narrate to their friends the next day when they went to school. Mothers and fathers had their own issues. Some held hands and walked along the beach secretly keeping an eye on their children while some preferred silence. Those who came for solutions talked their situations out, patched up here and there and went back and made love to each other. Younger couples had an escape so they busied themselves in making the most of their time together and the winter and the cold breeze just excused their clinging onto each other. Old men and women cursed the cold breeze but did not move an inch as the feel was much more for them and it was recalling time as it were.
The other side of Pondicherry which was prevalent and mostly talked about was cheaper liquor and a completely different lifestyle that mostly youth was attracted to. Hundreds of vehicles maneuvered towards Pondicherry loaded with youthful faces and entwined with loud music. This carried a debauchery that eclipsed one side of the dear Pondicherry. As the fact that Rock Beach neighbored the Sri Arubindo Ashram which in a way tamed the voyeurism in the area as it were. I just got out of Splendor and started walking towards the Ashram as I wanted to pay another visit and chant for some time. Evening walks were crowding the streets as the atmosphere was pulling different people out of their lavish and posh hotel rooms which were facing the Bay of Bengal. They soon realized that the balconies would not be enough if the view is to be felt. There were all sorts of people on the street. Out of all those, there was a specialty that I felt when I looked at few men and women dressed a little differently. That particular crowd was coming from the Ashram. The women were dressed in full off white gowns that covered them completely. The gowns had flowery design on them that made them look younger. Perhaps the gowns somewhat took their age away as most of them were nearing 60s. Men preferred simple white khaddar Kurtis and pajamas. Looking at them itself was quite a soothing feeling as the harmony they had in their lives was reflecting on their faces. They looked happy, their smiles were evident. I always wanted to be one of them, I wish I could be, I thought. It was way too impossible not just for me for many like me who longed for peace in their life and still could not locate it as we were so much lost in the complexities that we created around us. I always longed for a simpler life but every simple thing had the disarray attached with it. By now, it had become the part and parcel of it. I had many questions in my mind which I wanted answers for. By paying repeated visits to the Ashram I was hoping I would at least get some time off the thoughts in my mind.
As I reached, the man was about to close the door of the Ashram as some cleaning was going on inside. I asked him to wait as I needed to go in urgently. He agreed and waited till I get back removing my shoes in rack on the other side of the street. As I went in, there were just a few foreigners sitting by the Samadhi. I sat along with them for some time till I saw a woman coming out of the Library. She was nearing 70s but her face was fresh and energetic. She looked even fresher than a youth like me would look. She was carrying some books and walking towards the Samadhi. As soon as I saw her, I got up walked towards her. I don’t know where I gathered the motivation to go and speak with her from but I went to her. As she saw me coming, she smiled at me and started walking her way again. I looked at her closely; she resembled so very much like my grandmother. I thought of my grandmother. ‘Excuse me!’ I said as she looked at me with astonishment.
‘Yes beta!’ She spoke as if she was expecting me to say that. As if she knew I was going to tell her something about my life. I liked her addressing me as a beta. ‘How can I help you?’ She continued further. ‘I would like to talk to you for some time? Can I? I asked her politely wanting her to say yes. She hesitated for moment, and then said, it’s almost time for my evening walk, and you can join me if you are willing. I preferred walking with her. She carried her books while walking. I asked if I could hold them for her. She refused and asked me just to walk and talk.
‘I carry a bunch of books once in a while; I take them back home to read. I am used to it; you need not bother about it as I can see you have plenty of other reasons to be worried about!’ She said. Her frankness took me by surprise as I kept quiet. For a moment I felt she is being rude, insulting the kind of tougher patch of my life that I am going through. Perhaps she was correct. She was being honest. She was in fact hinting me at accepting things. There is no point in caressing the feeling of sadness, accepting it and moving on probably was the mantra that she was trying to convey.
I was thinking too much. In fact, I have been thinking a little more these days I thought. As we got out of the Ashram’s main door, we started walking towards the beach. She was walking slowly letting me speak. She didn’t ask me any question nor did she further the conversation. She was giving me the complete time and space that I needed.
‘There a very strange thing that I want to share with you today!’ I said, sounding as clearer as possible as I thought this was the platform for me get the answers that I was seeking. As I began to speak, a smile appeared on her face which for a strange reason made me look stupid. As we were passing from there, she was exchanging greetings with people like her who were walking along the rock beach. I saw many couples sitting on the rocks romancing with perhaps the best times of their lives. Here, I was trying to solve a puzzle which had kept me at bay from things like romance and love. Before I could say anything further, she said pointing towards the bench,
‘Let’s sit on the bench by the sea for some time son!’ As we sat on the bench she put the books on one side and looked at the watch and me. I got my message.
‘I don’t know how to say, but somehow I feel there is always something I am unhappy about. I feel I am not happy with my work, my surroundings; there is always one subtle thought which keeps me from breaking free!’ I said and paused; my mouth still open to say something more.
‘I very well understand your situation. Tell me what do you do when you get spare time all by yourself?’
‘I make up stories!’ I told her.
‘Oh so that means you want to be a writer, do you?’ She asked me with a smile on her face. One thing that I had noticed about her that she consistently had a smile on her face. As I spoke, she was looking at the deep sea, thinking, and the smile still there.
I hesitated a little then nodded. She coughed and leaned back on the bench and said, ‘tell me how you think of your stories?’
I told her how I think of my stories, how I build my characters out of people in my own life and how I weave one situation into another, perhaps the same thing which every story teller does. She was happy to see the concreteness that I showed at least in terms of my writing strategies. As all other things that somehow had a close connection with my life had a smell of ambiguity, confusion and unease. She quickly sensed my inability to decide what I really want from my life. How I want to go about living my life, on what terms and conditions. I was flowing with the flow which she believed was taking the strength away from me. She was coming up with metaphors to convince me the very small and simple things which I already knew but never realized. Interestingly she compared me with a fish, which does not remain still. ‘It keeps on moving from one place to the other, that’s precisely what is expected from it. You my son, are a human being, try to make difference!’ She remarked. She helped me understand that life is something which we should live by setting our own standards. ‘First of all you must accept yourself, think of what you want to be and decide how you want reach there. If you keep on deciding what you really want to be you will hardly be left with any time of decide the hows for it.’ She pointed out.
Whatever that she was telling was nothing but a clichéd message which almost every writer, film maker or for that matter every person has told the other one. Listening to her I felt I was so stupid that I did not understand such simple things that really mattered a lot in one’s life. What really struck me was the way she presented them. Every sentence she uttered had a touch of specialism which was meant especially for me. Satisfaction, finding happiness in smaller things, loving people, all were things we read, wrote, heard everywhere; but the way she put it and formed her sentences made me feel that it was meant for no one else but me. At the end of the conversation with Geeta, I realized I did not really have any problem as it were. After listening to her I was surely inspired but she knew of the inspirations that lasted till the end of the discussions and withered away the next day.
‘Remember, after we talk about our lives, after effect of the talk leaves a deeper impression on our minds till something else does not hit it. The fire that is ignited within soon extinguishes. Do not go on thinking about situations. If you become happy do not be conclusive that has gotten over the whole situation. Try to attain the conviction that would eternalise the feeling of happiness in your mind, strengthen you mind so much that it would always find ways to be happy in the toughest of situations. If you achieve that you are a happy and satisfied person.’
My heart was already lightened. I felt I could actually breathe free. Even at night I felt it was a morning. I leaned back on the bench and looked up in the sky. The moon was full and a straight line of light was coming from it. I thought the line is coming to us.
She again checked her watch and stood up looking at me. I checked mine too and it was really getting late.
‘Let’s walk back beta, I’m getting late!’ She said calmly and started walking back as I followed. On our way back she told me the most incredible thing that still remains in my mind and makes this meeting with her a very special one. She said,
‘You want to be a writer that is why you keep making up stories in your mind. You say that you look at your real life as a story. Every person you meet plays some part in the story of your life. I really appreciate the angle of a third person that you possess when you look at your life but do not ever forget that, if this is your story, then you are the creator of it. You precisely are the one who shall let the characters play their respective roles in the story of your life. You should write your story yourself and don’t let others write it for you. We all do not know what will happen to us tomorrow. As Sydney Sheldon says, keep turning the pages of the book of your life, the next page might bring you a surprise. I would suggest you write the surprise yourself. Weave all the characters so together such that they blend remarkably in your life, go on writing every page no matter what life has for you in future so that when you write the end of the last chapter, you will have created a very incredible book of your life that will make you happy forever.’
As she finished the last line, my eyes were filled. We had reached her home. As she went forward, I bent and touched her feet. She unwelcomed this gesture but patted on my back a few times.
‘Go and be happy son, if you do that I am sure you will make a good human being!’ she said, smiled and went inside.
As she left, I stood there for some time looking at the closed gate. She had closed her gate, but Geeta had taught me the most important lesson of my life which would open many gates for me. That night I went back home and had the best sleep in the recent times. I dreamed of my grandmother that night. The smile on my grandmother’s face was similar to the constant smile that Geeta sported. She was no less than a grandmother, because it was in the stories that my grandmother told me that I had learned the basics of my life. Geeta I felt was just an avatar of her who that had come to tell me the story of a lifetime which probably my grandmother had put aside for the right moment, the moment that would certainly change my life.