Journal : Serialised Story

Lifetime In 36 Hours

The last you heard of it was when the Chapter I concluded with :

… There was nothing I could add right then to what she was already doing to fill on her want. 

” Telescoping our sight on our being does bring much of our life into focus. They reveal the emotion being for us to know all that we are not. It is what we want in it that roots us, and lets it defines us. The want is the error. What is ours is the curiosity, the quest to know. Spot it and resume with the being in quest. Know and move on. There is nothing there to hold on to, nothing in it to claim as yours.” 

The distance must have shown on the visage, as she gravely pored over my face for the longest moment with a firmness of resolve. 

I picked up the book but soon snoozed over it. I had poured the oblations on the crackling fire within her. The result would arise. Read more here …

Chapter – II

I woke up to call for lunch. Silence through that tête-à-tête with food, the body and its vitality, served well. The train was rushing over land rich in Vedic spirit, Muslim life, British colonialism and Indian revolt. I was still at the window, legs folded, a pillow at my back. She, at the other end, a leg up, half folded, the other on the floor. Simple trapezoidal lenses in a light frame rested easy on the bridge of her nose. I felt, we were friends … a happy sense of togetherness. Priceless, I thought.

” There is an integrated form of grouped impressions behind this sense of being we have of ourselves, as this individual we each are. It appears to us as exclusively ours and extends all over the space our lifetime has covered, the experienced impacts impressed in the vital-mind, shoring up our I-sense. Its roots go fathomlessly deep into time. In effect, it subconsciously limits the content in our interpretation of what we experience to forms of reactive feelings — emotions that end at want or desire. All our animated life is lived as emotion.”

” I do see, above all, in my own instance. But where specifically is the problem with the process ? We do not seem to mind it. Why should we seek to change that ?”

” Because we are allowing what has been in our past to interpret what is happening in the present, now. We are not listening to what is before us, but to impressions from the past.”

” That’s horrible, like a prisoner blinded decades ago … who has no sense of what is in view now, has not connected with the present in a long long time. Horrible ! And he doesn’t even know. Most horrible ! Terrible ! Terrible !”

The reaction seemed a shade hyper. But I could se she has taken it very personally, intimately. She had pierced her heart with the thought of her wasted years, a life futile.

” It’s alright, Pam. The horror of this realisation is invaluable to rise of satya in our vision.”

I was concerned but could relate and empathise. In this country, people didn’t kill themselves with such an enveloping sense of annihilation. They renounced the world and walk away to heal themselves, serve in a temple, live with an ascetic, enter a monastic order, or simply disappear in the wilderness of forests and mountains. This darkness over the spirit was terrible, before the purge.

I could see her body heave ever so softly to her barely audible sniffs. She remained bent over forward for a while, closer to the ground, her head almost between her spaced out knees. It was exceedingly painful for the person with her pride, a life full of achievements and self-belief, I sensed. The universe was sombre just then. The noise of shattering completely clouded the pregnant opportunity for freedom and light to take over.

I was pained. We might know better but invoking that privilege for securing apathy was a greater darkness than all else. I could be as the train, railing forward without a mind to all that its passengers carried in their body, heart and soul. But the truth was that this being that was in me was also everywhere else, in all things and people.

She looked up. I gestured, if she felt better. She nodded. I sat a little more erect, breathing in deep and deeper, throwing out as long as it would. After the third, I let it on a more even course, deep but without the effort, more thin and easy. She straightened up, looked at me and held herself, and thought of using the washroom. Nothing would have worked better, to break the spell.

” Vam …”

The pause seemed significant … the sound of it certainly eased my concern. For a rebound, it was firm and clear. Seemed miraculous to me. I was all ears with abundant expectation. The smile was a consequence.

” Could I go back to truth ? It’s important.”

” Sure.”

” How do I regain myself ? My truth ?”

” First, you need to appreciate that the entire thing is a process of allowing ourselves to be charmed but refusing, in our awareness of ourself, to be claimed by anything, any person, any issue, any event, situation or experience, thought, idea or belief. They all are the other, not the stark self we each are. We can live without it all and must check ourself up on that. For a time, at least, we must be and know that being.”

” How about desire and want ? Surely, we are there where they are. Can’t say they are not what I am. They are our truth.”

” Seems like but no … you only have to look at a renunciate like Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Ramana … we have a whole tradition.”

Hmm … so why am I so completely identified with them ?”

Because you want to, you want the experience that identity leads you up to, something that answers the call of the starved mind. It gives the feeling then that you are now complete and quenched but only until another time, another occasion of longing.”

So why and how should I disrupt it, as it offers to happen ? I am out of it soon enough when it’s done with.”

Consider what you just lived through. It is suffering, misery and unhappiness. Besides, the craving is a carryover within you from a long gone past. It’s not, never was, about the object or the experience we ever again crave for, and are poised on having every now and then. The incompleteness is ours, on account of absence of our self in it while the experience happens. Only by restoring our self in our knowledge that the lack can be fulfilled, not by the object of our desire or by more of the same experience.”

I let the insight complete itself : “ I believe, every experience brings out something from within our self. What we desire is that which is within us, which we forget in time and long for again and again. The desire belongs to the past, which our first experience with the object left us impressed with; the same object now before us has more dimensions than the one we hold it in, out of our desire for it.”

I looked away, into the afternoon outside. It was rich and deep, resting in itself, in the distance. Speech must take a pause, a long one I felt. The sheep were there but I wasn’t counting. I knew she was heading towards a circularity, a singularity that she was just not in a position to accept. We never do … because what the dualistic position offers shocks us, mesmerises us blind and enslaves us.

I noticed she felt alone and wished she would break the spell, out of the emotional depths and go on top of her thoughts. A walk in the coach corridor or a splash of water on the face would have served well. I could create a light moment but that would let the opportunity take cover. The rock would then have to be raised uphill at another moment of intensity, which do not come easy for lack of our invitation; the demon of our ignorance would live to be met another day.

Presently I stood up, told Pam I’d walk the corridor and, perhaps, open the door to the coach and spend some time. She nodded, then blurted if I was disappointed. It made me sit back, closer to her. I reached for her palm and held it in mine.

I’m sorry, Pam, if you feel that it mattered. Let me tell you that it doesn’t, for one; I am unimportant, if not irrelevant. And besides, I have nothing to be disappointed about. Quite the opposite, without any hyperbole, allow me to say : you are one of the bravest person I have known. You’ve been great, so frank and deliberate. And I’m so glad, grateful, to have known you. Just get on with the task you’ve chosen to deal with and let me know if I could be of any help. I cannot do it for you but you only have to reach out and you’ll find me happily extending whatever strength I am capable of. You are stepping up to attain what I know is of herculean dimensions.”

I sat with her, her palm in my warmth, for long enough while… till her moist eyes were clear again. She nodded, looking me with a togetherness that that was enveloping. I leaned over to hug her ever so slightly. She stayed. Pulling back, I thumped on my knees with vigour before raising myself. I went straight to the coach door and opened it to the gushing wind on my being.

Serialised Story : LIFETIME IN 36 HOURS

The story untill now …

https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/category/serialised-story/

” Perfect. Let’s introduce ourselves.”

I was nodding at her ‘free-bird’ boldness and smiling of pleasure at having as frank an interlocutor as she was … of amazing mettle. I was again abrim with gratitude and gladness. 

The suggestion seemed to have finally broken the ice, in a manner. We spoke with some familiarity, then animatedly, as friends would. She was Pam : for Pamela, a professor of humanities. I very truthfully bared the mystique : I was Vam, for Vamadevananda, a nomad. That, I had retired early and did nothing for livelihood. I did things that served my peace, truth and happiness.

Kalka was not my destination and I did not know what was. I would be taking the connection to Shimla but would head for the bus stand, for proceeding to Kalpa. The district administrator, a younger man who knew me, had arranged for my lodging in a village nearby. But right then, sitting in the coach a thousand miles away, it was all tentative. It was somehow tiring to speak of myself.

She wowed, looking wistful. I looked at the fields passing by, at the transient objects afar as they gradually came in and receded from the view. The being, of which they arose, brimmed in my heart.

” I’ve decided to spend the summer interlude with my sister, in Shimla. I expect to finish these essays during my stay and hope they would yield their truth to my contemplation. Do you think they will ?”

” I wish they do. Sincerely. They might too.”

I knew, that transforming featureless fullness seldom happened with reading and thinking. It does not impact us enough to self-inspect the station we are at, along our inner journey : the purity and extent of love in our heart; and the knowledge at source in our eye. But everything helped … if the drive to restore our self, to the self in its solitude, was intense enough.

” You’ve done well till now, Pam, through over half a century, if I’m not wrong. Why are Vedanta truths so important for you at this late stage ?” I saved the thought to myself, ” Especially since you seem well off, and without any apparent crisis that might occasion the necessity.”

Truth, our truths, do not have a formal form. It is too tied up with ourselves. The subject could not be discussed from our surface. It needed informal communication of what we were perceiving in our mind just then, without also causing it. I was hoping to know her, in order to understand her words more fully, more accurately.

The introspection process does take its time. It demands that we wait. Time was essential to effective and efficient communication.

” Vam, I never married. When I looked about, after finishing my doctoral studies, I couldn’t be listed in the 20’s column of matrimonial pages. Too, I discovered, I wasn’t keen to hitch on. Life was engaging in the university, in the classroom and in my chamber, where I wrote scholarly papers that got noticed and always lead to more work, research and papers, more conferences and seminars.”

Concise, deliberate, critical and frank. Filled with truth.

” The campus was quiet, simple enough for my pleasure, liberal and liberating. I wouldn’t have given that up for anything just then, much less for playing the second fiddle to someone who had priorities for himself, his career or business. The fullness I was living meant everything to me. I was happy.”

“As was I, to have met her,” I told myself.

” There was money enough, which meant little to me except when it enabled me to travel. Have never been a shopper and had felt no need of more property than I’d already inherited. Investments, other than some tax-savers like insurance policy and fixed deposits, were completely off my radar…

“There were men who saw a future with me but no one I felt over time whom I could admit into my life for all time, into my house and in my decision making.”

” Does that make you sad, today ?”

” No … but I am seized by the need to make amends for not having a companion I could call my own, who would speak to me, be with me during my solitary departure from the world. Someone who would hold my hand and miss me while I breathed out my last. Having lived in the present all my life, I cannot ignore preparing well enough for what I am walking into, at the eve of my journey’s end.”

It showed in her eyes. A developed intellect that had sincerely fashioned a values system for all matters, moral and ethical. The moment was pure and fascinating.

Reflexively, I picked up the water bottle and drank to a thirst that seemed unquenchable. It was still in my clasp, while I assessed the need for more, when she reached for the bottle unasked, without a word. Our relatedness could now be categorised as informal.

” I sense that you need the skill to complete yourself in solitude, by and to yourself, and the capacity to choose emptiness than abhor it, even more than ‘ something intimate and substantial.’ It will likely free you from the need of having someone by the death-bed.”

There was nothing I could add right then to what she was already doing to fill on her want.

” Telescoping our sight on our being does bring much of our life into focus. They reveal our ego-emotion-being for us to know all that we, in truth, are not. It is what we want in it that which roots ourself in it, and lets it defines us. The want is the error when we need to be free of it…

“What is ours is the curiosity, the quest to know. Spot it and resume with the being in quest. Move on to knowing, and persist with moving on. There really is nothing here to hold on to. We could give to it, but give up we must because there’s nothing that would accompany us through our great departure, except what we are to ourself.”

The distance must have shown on the visage, as she gravely pored over my face for the longest moment with a firmness of resolve.

This was an unknown, unpredictable domain. I picked up the book but soon snoozed over it. The oblations had been poured in the crackling fire within her. The result would arise.

End of Chapter I. To be continued …

Serialised Story : LIFETIME IN 36 HOURS

The story untill now …

https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/?s=serialised+story&submit=Search

I turned to another live page of my book of rules. 

” Be mindful of all you perceive, within and without. Be aware of everything in your experience. Be giving, not wanting. Never use a word without holding its truth within. And, always … always believe that there is someone looking after you, that you are not alone. ” 

” Wait … I wish to write that down in my diary.” 

She pulled out a small notebook with orange plastic cover, a little thick for its size but looking somewhat delicate. She wrote from memory on its first page that had been left blank, and was stuck at a couple of places. I had no memory of what I had reeled out but she was accurate at prompting the keywords. 

” What you said seemed to describe the ways I would love to have and be. They touch me, as if they are my own long-lost nature, some of which I still have and follow but imperfectly. Thank you, for sketching so fully what I need to restore to myself.” 

” I believe every word of yours. Mindfulness and conscientiousness are supreme virtues on the path you seek to travel. There will be exceptions, some spiritually agreeable, some for pragmatic reasons, and others in error. Mistakes do not matter, however big, if they are clear in our awareness.” 

” I’m both elated and daunted.” 

” As it should be. Now leave both these imaginations behind.” 

I indicated a pause in our conversation and looked away. Speech was not the way beyond a point. Silence, contemplation and meditation was. Awareness of the involved fundamental drive, or cause, in the internal process was essential to know and free ourselves. Outside, it was mid-day for trees, cattle and herdsmen. 

I know there is no gain involving oneself with anyone other than whom the universe ordains. But we invariably transgress the law because of our wilfulness riding on aroused emotions and flared want. We all make moves of our own and arrive where we do. Then, consequences take over our spiritual lives : that evolutionary electable, which happens in moments, then takes years, decades and lifetimes. 

Ambition was an oxymoron in the spiritual context. 

* * *

I had been deep asleep : the body was at complete rest and so was I, absolutely. There was no other. Waking up, I found we were at a major station; hawkers were calling out for wares on their trollies. I found her gazing on me with a softness that tugged deep, triggering my alarm. I bought two rich chocolate bars and gave one to her with palpable joy. She took it with a laugh. 

It was just past noon and, I thought, dinner was an hour away. The train gave a heave and began to pull. The passing platform seemed crowded and colourful. A moment’s snapshot. It would take a compilation of all moments it offered, to present the content of what it was. How it relates to each person out there would be defined by how it serves, over time, and what that meant to each one. But a summary conclusion had to have its origin in the intent behind its creation. And that was true of each being, person and thing. Hard to find but … harder to accept. I smiled to myself. 

” I want to hear more from you.” 

This was bold and I met it with respect. ” About what ?” would have been pedantic, if not naive. 

” This is a call of love. Not necessarily for the person you believe I am but for what you experience with the words you hear. It is already yours. All of it. You do not need me or my words for that. If at first you can’t regain it, think of me and it will all come back to you.” 

” But why not directly from you ?” 

” Because I am just another imperfect person, who will be with you for a short while. What you need is someone who will be with you anytime you need and recede when you do not. It will be all you and yours, at your entire convenience. With perhaps better results and zero complications.” 

” Maybe I’ll do just that after we’ve parted. But for now … I am not at all apprehensive about imperfections and complications.” 

” Perfect. Let’s introduce ourselves.”

To be continued …   A spiritual thriller in the making.

Serialised Story : LIFETIME IN 36 HOURS

What transpires between a man and a woman when they spend time together in an small coupe all to themselves, on a train that will take them to Kalka and, from there, to Shimla through a journey of about 36 hours … ?

There’s absolutely no chance of it being a love story … but I do see a spiritual thriller in the situation.

“ What remains with two people who come together on promise of love but do not empathise in their unity, and diverge away from-each other ?”

“ What remains with two people who come together on promise of love, deepen their empathy, and unite to mean everything to each other ?”

[ These questions would occur to me when younger and I’d actually posed them to a couple of my friends who were in a relationship then.]

Chapter – I    … contd.

I could sense the difficulty in actually fathoming the difference between formal and informal phenomena. Living on the outside, among other matters and things, people and beings, and thinking … of all our concerns in terms of ‘others’ to oneself. We seldom look inward and observe this universe that is us, oneself, to oneself… in the manner of a research project for mapping the processes occuring within – body, vitality, vital mind and associated subconscious phenomena. The start was difficult; progress close to impossible for most. I prayed to this absolute prime mover within me. 

I can see now, why the word would seem so empty of content despite its familiarity. I’d heard of Satya all my life but always associated it with facts, the few I knew and the rest I still had to.” 

” We all did.” 

She was very serious, thoughtful, as if she were speaking to herself. I nodded, smiled with complete empathy before looking away. This needed a longer interregnum for the shock to subside. 

Sitting cross-legged at the other end of the berth, it was the longest she’d gone self-absorbed, in complete silence. Her state of crisis, probing into the darkness, unable to switch her own light… drove me up into my soul. She was physically still and her breath even, not truncated on its way in or out. A happy surprise, and a good omen. 

Looking back on events from that time she had boarded, I felt within an underlying gladness for having an evolved travel companion such as she was. Spiritually, it had been exceptional. 

A piercing whistle from the train caused me to glance at her, while the sense of gratitude still rested on my heart. 

She was eying the floor in front of her, rested but still absorbed. Amazing, I thought. She looked up from there, straight at me. 

” Yes, I can see the person, the events and mental space-time universe. I want to share it with you so that I can ask some more of you. I believe I am trapped in a fulness that has proved empty.” 

I wasn’t sure she should. I was no teacher. Nothing in my perspective or way of life resembled those set by the ideal ones. 

” Are you sure ? I would suggest you don’t, especially the personals that have remained private thus far.” 

” That, I realise, has been a mistake. They all now seem more universal than private. It remained with me because of the absence of someone I could confide to. And because I never felt the need or urgency to do so till this moment.” 

” And why do you believe you could share it all with me ?” 

” Because you have compassion towards my failings and the kindness to extend help. And you have no interest in possessing my body or mind. This is how fearless and venturesome I feel with you.” 

This was a high I was wary of. Very. But a hovering look at the being out there, reaching in through the window, set the matter to rest. 

” Yes, it is all more universal than personal; just the degree varied. They are aspects that qualify and distinguish the ‘ packet of being ‘ in an individual’s life from another’s. It wasn’t immaterial, for those variations of degree made a man’s experience rich or poor, but that still did not render it personal.” 

I looked askance when she looked up to me as if in awe. 

” How do you know all this… so exactly ?” 

” It is incidental that you find it to be so. I drew from what I know of myself. That makes it commonplace.” 

” So help me now. I can see myself but do not know, in the way you do… enough to know everything else.”

 

” Lead me on to how I may.” 

” First, why isn’t my truth not filled with as much content ? And, why does it not leave me free, to rise into its cause within me … and that into its ?” 

” Because, whatever is the context in your thought, its relationship with you leaves you dissatisfied. And, because it’s vital, that leaves you discontent with yourself.” 

” That should have been obvious. How to deal with it, as to move on ? That would be helpful.” 

” There is no set rule I know of, valid for every individual. Perhaps, if you keep the matter in your understanding without forcing a solution, a way out would appear in view. In the meanwhile, you could spot another context with which you happily relate, to restore the sense of well-being and gratitude for being how are. Everybody is dissatisfied in one context or other.” 

” Excellent. However unawares, I have actually followed the suggestion all my life. Yes… it is plain here and now.” 

” No wonder, you are so spiritually qualified, if not actually evolved.” 

” You really believe so ?” 

” Yes. It’s been, as you said, plain to me … here and now !” 

We laughed. The beauty of laughter wiped away her stress and anxiety of moments ago. I felt glad and grateful. The rhythmic rat-a-tattle of the train, cutting through the day, could now be heard, clear and pleasantly normal. 

” I was introduced to Truth formally, objectively, as a third or second person. I now find it positioned within myself, pertaining to my very being and to this subjective self. I have a notion it is independent of that too … that I may realise and raise myself free of my own subjective being. Please tell me it is true.” 

” It is true. And you will, one day.” 

” What should I do now ?” 

” Keep to it.” 

” And …” 

” Be happy among those who are, compassionate with those who aren’t. Be without fear, but not unwisely. Be kind to the miserable, unconcerned with ignorants. And be joyously forthcoming with one who truly knows.” 

I turned to another live page of my book of rules. 

” Be mindful of all you perceive, within and without. Be aware of everything in your experience. Be giving, not wanting. Never use a word without holding its truth within. And, always … always believe that there is someone looking after you, that you are not alone. “ 

” Wait … I wish to write that down in my diary.”

 

Serialised Story : LIFETIME IN 36 HOURS

What transpires between a man and a woman when they spend time together in an small coupe all to themselves, on a train that will take them to Kalka and, from there, to Shimla through a journey of about 36 hours … ?

There’s absolutely no chance of it being a love story … but I do see a spiritual thriller in the situation.

“ What remains with two people who come together on promise of love but do not empathise in their unity, and diverge away from-each other ?”

“ What remains with two people who come together on promise of love, deepen their empathy, and unite to mean everything to each other ?”

[ These questions would occur to me when younger and I’d actually posed them to a couple of my friends who were in a relationship then.]

Chapter – I    … contd.

Breakfast was timely and a silent affair. I ate without the dramatics but quite as animals do… single-mindedly. She smiled her satisfaction, looked out, read, but was mostly hesitant to launch an engaging conversation. I picked up the book barely read a paragraph or two, and snoozed. 

You know, this term for truth, “Satya,” keeps coming in but remains empty of content. It’s so familiar, almost intimate as it rings in the ear, but sort of undefined and unspecified.” 

I woke up. Anybody interested in truth was more intimate than a mere contemporary. 

What is the truth ? What would you look for and how would you recognise it ?” 

I really wouldn’t know… maybe facts…” 

To start with, look for what has stayed with you for the longest in effect.” 

My education… my parents home I inherited ?” 

No, in effect… it would mostly be food and sex, thirst and breath, the need and freedom to speak out, to choose, to love and be loved, to know…These are intimate in their effect on us all.” 

There was a deep hush for long. She did not turn her gaze away from me. Nor I. She took a deep breath, looked down and slumped against the backrest. 

I added, with a kindest tone I was capable of : “ Truth begins with parents, the body we have, the vitality, emotions – the vital mind, doubts and thoughts – the thinking mind, knowledge – the intellect, and the conscience – the soul being – that inexorably persists. These are our truths.” 

Where does sex come in ?” 

Through the vitality, the vital mind. That is how we all are created. It is through dealing with it that our thinking mind develops. All that is vital within us, that we refuse to acknowledge and deal with upfront, remains subconscious. Our emotions or interpretation of all that we sense, feel and experience, is then determined subconsciously. And we must be consciously on guard not to reveal to others what we do not wish to acknowledge to ourself.” 

I see. Indeed …” 

There was something stunning about this silence upon her. I was concerned but could only pray. 

Come, you are not alone.” She hesitated, then put her palm over my extended right. I sealed the gesture by placing my left over hers. 

After we withdrew, she was more at ease, uplifted, but thoughtful. As it was, she was forming her question. 

Is the truth one for all ? Or, is it many, one or one set respective to each of us ? 

From where we all start, it is the latter – one set for each. Where the journey evolves to and the seeking ends at, it is singular – one supreme truth.”

Of course … So, what do you feel, how should I proceed ?” 

I turned away from the window to look into her eyes. There was a self-deprecating smallness she did not deserve. 

Books are a great way to start. Apart from what you have in your hand, you could choose one on Raja Yoga. The formal introduction is very helpful but truth, its knowledge, is an informal matter. It is known first and fully in our own context.” 

Formal … objective, one among others, intellectual idea… hmmm.” 

I could sense the difficulty in actually fathoming the difference between formal and informal phenomena. Living on the outside, among other matters and things, people and beings, and thinking … of all our concerns in terms of ‘others’ to oneself. We seldom look inward and observe this universe that is us, oneself, to oneself… in the manner of a research project for mapping the processes occuring within – body, vitality, vital mind and associated subconscious phenomena. The start was difficult; progress close to impossible for most. I prayed to this absolute prime mover within me. 

I can see now, why the word would seem so empty of content despite its familiarity. I’d heard of Satya all my life but always associated it with facts, the few I knew and the rest I still had to.” 

” We all did.”

She was very serious, thoughtful, as if she were speaking to herself. I nodded, smiled with complete empathy before looking away. This needed a longer interregnum for the shock to subside.

… to be continued.

Serialised Story : LIFETIME IN 36 HOURS

I am encouraged. The decision to publish the story here had posed an embarassing possibility if, prompted by how it unravels in later chapters, I were to alter its content in its finished form. And, more importantly, how would I handle suggestions or serious criticisms at this stage of the work when, frankly speaking, I would be giving my whole attention at taking the narration forward than on looking back in review ?

The answers that set my doubts somewhat to rest came after I reached out to a few of my online friends : they all said I should serialise the finished part on the blog. Which wasn’t an answer to any of my reservations … but it enhanced my own desire to upload it re-read it myself along with the readers.

The answers I share here are what I provided to myself in order to go ahead with the doing : one, change howsoever I may in future, the laydown is still enough of a story, as it is now; two, suggestions and criticisms that might trickle in would be welcome anyway, now as info to what or how I will  express the parts yet unwritten and later while reviewing the parts already published on the blog.

So, here it is.

What transpires between a man and a woman when they spend time together in an small coupe all to themselves, on a train that will take them to Kalka and, from there, to Shimla through a journey of about 36 hours … ?

There’s absolutely no chance of it being a love story, fit for celluloid, but I do see a spiritual thriller in the situation.

“ What remains with two people who come together on promise of love but do not empathise in their unity, and diverge away from-each other ?”

What remains with two people who come together on promise of love, deepen their empathy, and unite to mean everything to each other ?”

[ These questions would occur to me when younger and I’d actually posed them

to a couple of my friends who were in a relationship …]

Chapter – I

I too am going to Kalka.” 

I put down the book. She must have seen my travel itinerary on the reservation chart posted at coach entrance. It was quarter to ten in the night now. The woman who joined in at Durgapur station looked middle-age but was all eyes, weightless and sprightly. It’ll be one more night before we will disembark at Kalka. 

But what was there to say. I was glad. The nod in acknowledgment was reflexive but the smile on my countenance had stayed on. The juncture was loaded with a tentativeness, I felt. It would unravel, I told myself, as it always does.

She did her bed on the upper berth. It was a two-berth coupe. I had the lower one. Despite it being late, she chose to sit at the other end of mine. She looked out of the window and I followed suit. It was dark and rushing past. The wind on my face left me indescribably connected. Looking back after a while, I found her watching me. 

Not sleepy, eh.” 

Yeah. There’s still much too excitement remaining to subside. Perhaps you would …” 

No, I hate missing out on so much of experience to sleep. Perhaps, by the early hours of the morning I’d allow her to take over… Are you a little taken up by the situation of spending the night in the company of a stranger, a male… ?” 

Could be, subconsciously. Anything could happen but I perceive no cause that it would. It’s your perspective to sleep that I am curious about. Most would find it not so normal. Especially at your age …” 

How do you see it ? And what’s my age, I wonder ?” 

You look late middle age. What exactly do you experience, looking into the blank depths outside the window ?” 

It’s chronic … this presumption of what it is from what it looks to be. At what age should one stop appreciating the night … It’s healing, wondrous, quietly alive and so very gathered in peace.” 

Are you a monk ?” 

No, just a recluse.” 

We slept. It felt good to be traveling with someone. I embraced the track and wheel sounds for long, the wind on my face, the indistinct hills and trees in a darkness punctuated by the amazing presence of light framed in black. 

It felt good to be travelling with someone,” she said zipping close her utility pouch in the morning. I smiled. It was the thought I had slept with… There was no point to it but the wonder turned in my gut. An extra dose of vitality shooting into the nerves, if you know. 

A pleasure.” 

I may have said that to myself. She looked moist and fresh and strangely familiar. The book she’d opened was Narendra’s essays on Vedanta. I stared through the window. This existence out there never failed to empty the mind and rest the gut. 

Breakfast was timely and a silent affair. I ate without the dramatics but quite as animals do… single-mindedly. She smiled her satisfaction, looked out, read, but was mostly hesitant to launch an engaging conversation. I picked up the book barely read a paragraph or two, and snoozed. 

You know, this term for truth, “Satya,” keeps coming in but remains empty of content. It’s so familiar, almost intimate as it rings in the ear, but sort of undefined and unspecified.”

To Be Continued …