It was a usual day at work. Like every other single day, I arrived 5 minutes before the scheduled time thus upholding my self-made image of a diligent employee; regardless of whether the boss appreciates or not. Subjected to the chronic nature of a once engrossing job, my life had now metamorphosed from the adventurous, outgoing lifestyle of a teen to the monotony of a paycheck worker, obscuring all the dreams I once had. Attending phone calls without a bit of genuine humour, replying to emails with much lesser enthusiasm, fake smile plastered on the face 24X7, walking with the gait of an aged old lady and a temper reserved only for the subordinates while ironically displaying complaisance towards the boss, I never realised when the very essence of life had started ebbing away. The bleakness of the old rustic workplace where the furniture was creaking and groaning from overuse, drab faded curtains that hung over the unaired windows against the equally pallid walls of the stuffy room, ceiling damp with green moss and the plaster falling off at places; the sight itself could wither the ebullient peppy spirit of anyone let alone invigorate even an evanescent thought full of cheer.
Finishing the stipulated amount of work hours, I stepped out of my office. A hot, humid breeze of the untimely brief summer shower in the afternoon, unlike the soothing one of the air conditioner’s, was very unpleasant and brought a frown to my face. A tenuous petrichor lingered in the air as I left the premises. Dusk was falling, and the roads were gradually getting crowded with loud, impatient honking and traffic jam. The street lights were awakening from their slumber, but I was unmindful of everything going around me. The hustle and bustle was just too much for my bland spirit; I took the quieter lane to reach my apartment.
It was a short walk back home. I stopped at the grocery store en route and bought some essentials for dinner. With my limited culinary skills, I had managed to survive a prolonged bachelor life with no griping whatsoever. An occasional hitch would mean sleeping on an empty stomach, but that could hardly matter to a person whose life itself had lost all flavors. Plodding down the street, I often contemplated about life. It wasn’t enough time for self-introspection, but nevertheless, I followed the routine tenaciously. “What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare,” the poetry of W.H. Davies crossed my mind, and a sigh escaped my lips. It was pitiful and to an extent even loathsome how much I had let time wreak havoc in my life. Time has always been the eternal enemy of man. Bitterness swept over me, and I kicked a pebble across the pavement out of frustration.
My pace increased as I neared my apartment. Another disappointment of my life - living in a cramped and constricted apartment instead of a luxurious villa with a lush green front yard as I had always imagined with gleaming eyes. As if to mock my fate and exacerbate my already let down hopes, the elevator had not been functioning for a whole week, and the maintenance staff kept procrastinating indefinitely. Such day-to-day hassles were not only exhausting but had also stifled my otherwise happy spirit. I started climbing the stairs muttering all kinds of curses under my breath. There were four flight of stairs before I could reach my room and just lie down till the world ends! It seemed infinite as I climbed one step after the other. “1st floor done”, “2nd floor done”, each floor I climbed seemed to be some achievement for my fatigued body. Finally, I was home. Pushing the key into the keyhole, I turned it and opened the door.
What lay before my eyes was utterly preposterous! Mouth agape with incredulity, I took a step forward entirely convinced that I had lost my mind. Like teleporting through a wormhole, out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself in the middle of an undulating valley with mountains clad in snow. I had no idea how I got there and turning back I found myself surrounded by this magical and mesmerizing place. Overwhelmed by this inexplicable and mysterious circumstance, I head for the opposite direction in a jiffy, away from the foothills. With equanimity, I try to comprehend the absurdness of the situation. I search my pockets half-heartedly, hoping to find my mobile and verify my location through GPS. As I feared, my pockets were empty. This further conformed the rules of all fictitious lands -there is no technology, you are on your own.
I approach a dense green forest with tall trees and a thick canopy rendering it a formidable look. A blanket-like creeper that overhung at the sides of the clearing seemed slightly more welcoming. I hesitated to stride towards this dark, ominous woods. At the moment that I paused to contemplate at the landscape, an epiphany overpowered me. Suddenly I was transfixed by the beauty of the forest. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I found myself marching ahead. I halt near the clearing and look up in awe at the breathtaking beauty of a trickle of sunlight shimmering down the narrow gap within the thick almost impenetrable foliage. I trace its scintillating path from the blinding halo high above amongst the leaves right down to the forest floor which looks aglow as if it was incandescent. The incredible sight worked wonders and resuscitated the nature-lover in me. Old memories of my passionate love for the natural world were unlocked, and the ecstasy of reliving the past put me in the state of euphoria. In a frenzy, accompanied with unbridled intrepidity, I start exploring.
The tranquility of the valley is soon disturbed with intermittent cries of the birds perched atop the trees as I draw closer to the woods. I desperately yearn for a camera to capture this intoxicating view forever. I tread deeper into the forest wishing I had at least a binocular to gaze at the iridescent birds which look like a mere speck of color from where I stand. An inane idea crosses my mind, and I fold my fingers to make an artificial camera frame squinting my eyes to look through. Defying all logic again, I am enthralled by the hypnotizing look in the eagle’s eyes that stare right at me in scrutiny! The laws of this unknown land keep bewildering me as I realize I can even focus and take pictures now. One by one I discover eagles, rare doves, cockatoos, a pair of flamingos and all sorts of exotic as well as common birds. Unfathomable and even more beguiling than the birds of paradise, they were simply a treat to my eyes!
Apart from the exquisite flora, the fauna soon revealed themselves as I laid still behind the bushes, capturing all the beauty in my make-believe camera. I see leopards, cheetah, and even a tiger which fills me with awe rather than fright. The butterflies that hovered were the prettiest of them all - not merely a coruscating kaleidoscope of colors, but the blend, as well as the nuance of colors, was so natural and perfect. One had a periwinkle-hued body, dotted with a darker shade which looked like tiny water droplets sprinkled over its dainty wings. Another type swirled around in a swarm, dancing and fluttering to a melody of their own. Oblivious of the silent onlooker, they passed right by me. It was a sight to behold. In a flash, it appeared as if there was one baby butterfly perched on the wings of its mother, taking flight in mid-air - it was an endless butterfly cycle that made it all the more beautiful!
I stood up and maundered deeper into the forest. After a few paces, I felt a slight tugging at my clothes. I turned around and was shocked to find Kitty, my childhood pet cat. She was hissing as if to warn me. The tiger had also moved to where I was laying a few moments back, and it was growling lightly. I paid no heed to them. Suddenly I catch a glimpse of a majestic lion, chasing prey. Freaking out, I start running back whence I came from. I see a barbed-wire fence from a distance and not confident if I can jump over it I bend around it. This minute pause in my sprint makes me dangerously close to the hunt, and I see with my heart beat rising, the hunted dash past me followed by the hunter, who thanks to my lucky stars ignored me. I lose sight of them for a while, but to my horror, I soon see that the animal is heading towards my direction. This time without a second thought I jump over the fence and run as fast as possible.
With my life in peril, I get a ray of hope when I see a car around the corner. I rush towards it waving my hands frantically in panic.The incomprehensible situation just keeps getting bizarre- the car nears me, and I can now see the driver, my long-dead Uncle. I let out a gasp of shock, nevertheless climb aboard as he flings the door wide open. On the spur of the moment, I could only perceive him to be my guardian angel rescuing me from inevitable death by lion mauling. I heave a sigh of relief at my narrow escape. When I turn around to thank him, I witness something that makes my blood run cold. His countenance has transfigured into an incorporeal spirit, a contorted specter. He chuckles at me nodding his head on hearing the faint whisper of “Thank you” barely escaping my lips and vanishes into thin air like an apparition! The fleeting sense of relief that had enveloped me moments ago wears away quickly as I realize the car was headed in full throttle towards the gorge, with no hands on the wheel.
My whole life flashes right before my eyes as I clutch the wheels tight, trying to steer away from the impending doom. I want to live. I cannot die. The river loomed into a raging torrent as I lost control of the car and was sucked into the turbulent flow. I was literally like a drowning man grasping for a straw when I dived out of the car window defying all logic and rational thoughts that screamed at me, “You don’t know how to swim!” .The cold water gushes all over me, and I was temporarily blinded with the foam, and the strong current sweeps my semi-submerged body rapidly down the ravine. I don't have the strength to fight the juggernaut. But I don’t want to die. My life cannot end like this. I splash my arms around in a futile attempt to swim. Desperately I pray for my dear life, “Lord have mercy!”
Miracles have never happened in my life, but now it did. I was thrown atop a boulder. Weakly I pull my body up to sit and look up at the sky, thanking the Almighty for granting me life. I close my eyes and sprawl all over the wet slime surface of the rock, exhausted from my near-death encounter.
“Open your eyes now.”
The voice is gentle yet grave. I follow the words and open my eyes slowly. The darkness all around me confuses me. Gradually it changes into a dim yellow light which soon floods the whole place. As my eyes adjust to the brightness, I find myself lying down on an armchair in a room with a man wearing a white coat. I come back to my senses. The hypnosis was complete. My doctor smiled at me pleasantly. He knew the therapy was working. So did I.
I felt alive again.