<%-- Page Title--%> Fiction <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 145 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 12, 2004

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Tanvir Manzoor Hussain

"All that we see or seem,
is but a dream within a dream"

- Edgar Allan Poe (1849)

Summer afternoons are always long and sullen. The air is suffused with slothfulness and the streets are dry and dusty. Vines that snaked up electric poles during monsoon are by now wilted and crisp; drunken mosquitoes buzz about in the humidity before dehydrating to death. Thirsty cracks in the footpaths widen, gaping open mouthed into the sky, in futile expectation of rain.

As I stared aimlessly at the deserted street from my bedside window, my eyelids grew heavier as laziness swamped me. I could see the sweaty bald head of the gatekeeper below gleaming in the sweltering rays of the sun, as he languidly clapped his hands in vain attempts to kill disturbing bluebottles. A couple of black hungry-looking crows were perched on the sagging telephone cables; both of them had weary eyes and were

I fell asleep.
I was immediately lost in a different world, and a mist made up of a mélange of colours enveloped me. As this strange mist cleared, a refreshing breeze blew across my entire body and I felt as if I was suspended in mid air. Suddenly I realised that I was no longer on the ground, but far above it, flying effortlessly through a clear pale blue sky, with majestic silver-lined clouds floating above me. All around me it was as white as snow and more clouds of a variety of shapes were now moving below me, from vibrant bubbly ones to neat plaited ones.

I now felt as if I was descending. As my feet approached the layer of clouds beneath me, I could clearly make out jagged peaks and snow-laden precipices. I landed on a soft ground of snow at the top of a mountain, and as I looked around at the magnificent surroundings, my heart was filled with awe and delight. The clouds merged with the distant peaks to create a truly heavenly scene, and the white misty horizon was dotted with grey mountain peaks, all standing regally like kings and queens silently watching over their realm.

Soon however these distant silhouettes began to rise into the sky, transforming themselves into large and heavy grey rain clouds ready to pour down their contents any moment. Then the heavens opened, and rain hammered down all around me, turning the delicate white snow into dark green grasses, bathing and dancing happily in the invigorating shower. My body was drenched from head to foot and water was dripping down from my sodden T-shirt. Puddles of water formed here and there on the muddy, ridged ground with lively little fish dancing in them, perhaps to the beats of the innumerable raindrops clattering down all around.

As I looked more closely at the fish, I began to sense a cool curving world taking shape about me. Before long I discovered myself to be under the azure ceiling of the sea, swimming through an underwater garden pulsating with life. Corals of different shapes and colours, from the flames of sunset and the pink of roses to the blues and violets of the skies, grew up on the sea floor. A myriad of creatures, some slow and relaxed, some large and stately, some spotted, some striped, were moving about in this mysterious garden, as if guarding and looking after the hidden treasures of this enchanted world.

As I reached out and touched the enigmatic corals, they turned out to be surprisingly soft and tender. Before I could withdraw my hand, the large cabbage-shaped orange corals suddenly began to fall apart and the entire sea floor was soon strewn with dry, dead leaves. Almost immediately, the aquatic silence was replaced by the sprightly chirping of a thousand invisible birds. The azure surroundings were replaced by a pleasant spring evening, and I was now walking through a narrow path lined on either side by trees full of the whisper and scurry of life. Wild creepers hugged on to their sturdy trunks; dry leaves crunched under my feet like fresh lettuce.

But soon I discovered that I was not alone in this path. A little ahead an old man and an old woman were strolling forward leisurely, hand in hand. They looked back at me and beckoned me towards them. They were my grandparents! I had never seen them. Grandpa, and Grandma had passed away many years back. I had never seen them together before in my life, except in frayed black and white pictures in my mother's old rusty photo albums. I ran up to them, with a mixed feeling of both disbelief and delight; when I came close to them, Grandpa handed me a beautiful red rose.

'We are always with you,' he said in a far-off, mesmerising voice, smiling at me. 'Never think that you are alone.'

They both looked so blissful, so heavenly; a silvery glow surrounded their figures, and a mist separated them from me. The birds seemed to have stopped chirping, and the trees seemed to be watching us silently and intently. But before I could say anything, they began to walk away from me, waving back at me. The more I ran towards them, the further they seemed to be, until at last they disappeared completely.

The red rose however was still tightly grasped in my hand. My fingers had been cut by the prickles on its stalk, and were bleeding; but I felt no pain, no feeling at all. As I watched the red blood trickle down the sides of the rose, the trees around me vanished away, exposing a marvellous beach of wavy, sparkling sand leading up to a sea. It was sunset time, and a tinge of purple separated the navy background of the sky from the burning orange radiance of the setting sun. Restless waters were gushing into the sands at intervals before receding back reluctantly, revealing lovely madrepores and seashells. Soon the sky was lavender, then lilac, and then deep black. I was once again left alone, and there was absolute stillness, apart from the periodic sound of the invisible waves.

The sky was now illuminated by innumerable shimmering stars, each contributing in its own small way to light up the imposing darkness of night that had descended upon the world. It almost appeared as if these flickering stars suspended forever in the sky were alive, whispering amongst themselves tales of their grieves and sorrows to while away the long and lonely hours.

Gradually the far off stars began to increase in brightness, and an entrancing, sublime glow filled my eyes. Soon all around me was a brilliant refulgent light, and a sweet tantalising fragrance smell was emanating from somewhere. A million stars seemed to have finally broken free of their timeless incarceration and were now rejoicing in their own grand way. The fear and obscurity of the night were lost forever, driven away by the triumphant force of the stars that had for so long prevented the world from being enveloped in perpetual darkness. And I was floating amidst them, joining in on their celebrations, forgetting all my pains and troubles, as if there never were any...

I woke up.
I tried immediately to shield my eyes from the dazzling light I expected to see, but was shocked to realise that it was only the off white emulsion paint on the walls around me. Confused, I looked around, and it took me a few seconds to come to terms with the fact that I was still in my bedroom, not floating somewhere up in the skies. So, had all my adventures only been a dream? I sprang up and looked outside the window, hoping to convince myself that this too was a part of my dream, perhaps even praying that it was.

The silent parched street outside lay totally deserted; the gatekeeper downstairs was fast asleep on his stool, his head awkwardly resting on his droopy shoulders. The sun's rays had clearly passed their noontime fervour and were now waning in their intensity. A dark crow flew into the shade of the trees on the other side of the street. A mongoose abruptly appeared in the midst of the bushes surrounding the tree trunks, and flashed across the street.

I was finally disillusioned. It had all been a dream then.

What a dream it had been! A dream that had taken me on my most memorable journey ever, from childhood fantasies to my greatest fascinations. A dream which brought out my deepest desires, my utmost fears, taking me from the land to the skies, from the skies to the depths of the oceans, and then brought me back to land again. From spring to summer to monsoon; from past to present to the future. Lost grandparents, hope and inspiration. The power to overcome all difficulties and forget pains. Discovering the guardians who protect us and look after us from above. The strength to believe in oneself, and yet surmount all vanity. To visit the heavens on earth and the heaven above. Sunset, raindrops, magical gardens, mountains and clouds. Revelry amidst the stars in the ecstasy of creation. The meaning of freedom, paradise, eternity. And a deep red rose a souvenir from the past, a road to the future.

Liberty to understand anything, discover anything.
Everything I will ever need to know was here right now.
In fact, everything I need is here right now. I just have to close my eyes, and wait.




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