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Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

"Yet mystery and imagination arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness. . . .
Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding."


"I saw no moon floating in the sky that night and the darkness-", that was all I read of my novel until I had a surge of frustration and threw across the dimly lit room. I could not tolerate the mention of 'darkness' any longer; constant utterances by doctors, family and friends has made me despise the dark and all that is related to it.

As a child, I was never afraid of the dark. I never needed a nightlight or a teddy bear to hug in case I saw eerie shadows on my walls. The dark was a constant source of interest for me. Turning off the lights in my room, making a tent and sharing ghost stories with my friends in candle light was a passion for me…almost an addiction. However, my world turned upside down after that fateful day, when, in sweltering heat, I relentlessly rowed my boat down a river, in search of a proper place to set up an ecology experiment. The pain started off a one of those simple headaches that I was so accustomed to, it culminated into sunstroke and I ended up in the hospital for a week. I had to live in a special dim room, because I had a condition where I was not to be exposed to bright light, especially from the sun. I had read about this in books and magazines and never imagined that I would be plagued with it. From then onwards, the dark has been my closest, yet most hated friend.

It has been so long since I last went out in the middle of the day to bask in warm sunlight. Cooped up within the small confines of my house, with low power lights and heavy curtains has made life monotonous. Darkness no longer creates the interesting atmosphere it used to. Now, it is sinister and ugly and so is the entire world and most of the people in it. The sleepy lights blur my vision and make me feel lost and mutilated. Not only has my body been crippled, but also my mind. The way my mind works has changed to the point where I believe that my life is worthless…futile…a bottomless abyss, somewhat like the dark side of the moon. The face, which hides itself because it holds all that, is disgusting and horrible and cannot let so much of its evil beam down upon the earth.

Selina came by my house yesterday with a bunch of chrysanthemums in her hands I could not tell whether they were yellow or white. She was my best friend since I was in kindergarten and I missed the long talks we used to have at the beach, just laying in the sun, or while on treks through the woods to study snake habitats. That morning, I poured my heart out to her about how I just had to escape the strangling darkness of my world. She looked at me with pitiful eyes and I felt bad for making her bear my pain as well. Being the helpful person she was, Selina recommended I see someone she knew, a lady who counselled the grief stricken, the depressed, the lonely and the frustrated. Those who needed to find inner peace. I laughed out loud at the idea that I could possibly go to some 'shrink' who does not even know me but can supposedly help me find 'inner peace'. Selina looked hurt, but she still left me Yasmin's (the counsellor) name and telephone number on a piece of paper beside my bedside lamp.

A few days had passed before I could gather the courage (and cast away my cynical thoughts), to pick up the paper with Yasmin's number on it and contact her. Before I knew it, I was on my way, boarding a night train, which would take me to an isolated area (where she counselled) in the midst of hills and valleys, before dawn. He warm voice over the telephone and the tone of sincere concern left me no choice. Upon reaching the area, I discovered that I had my own room to live in, which overlooked quite dull (in terms of vegetation) hillocks and a fast moving river at the base of them. The sunlight however, as I judged gazing out the window, was mild and had a softer touch than the glaring intensity of its rays back at home. Peculiar!

There were more people from all over the country, in my group. Although, I did not make friends as quickly as most people, I was never teased about or looked down upon because of my solo nature or my handicap by any of my fellow 'frustratees', as I liked to call them. Here, no one made me feel inferior to anyone else.

Days went by and I learnt more about my life and myself through an assortment of different exercises. We had meditation sessions, breathing exercises, reading, learnt relaxation techniques, mental games, had discussions and personal conversations with Yasmin. Through all of this, my willpower and confidence flew to a great altitude just within days. My favourite exercise was the "appearance versus reality" one. For example, once, the entire group was taken outdoors, when there was little light (for my convenience) and made to look at a tall pine tree whose tops seemed to brush against the menacingly against clouds. We were all individually asked what we thought the area around the tip of the tree would look, feel and smell like. Most of us thoughts that it would be unfriendly, scary and uncomfortable at the menacing tip. Yasmin told us that though it would be dangerous, the feeling of peril would subside if we bent down and looked hard enough through the branches, we would see a bird's nest with baby birds hatching from it at the tip. A particular person's answer told Yasmin lots about their minds. We also learned a lot about human psyche and our own minds more and more with every exercise.

A few days before the entire course was going to end, after dinner, Yasmin took me outside when the full moon was shining brightly against a mystical, cloudless, dark-blue sky. She spread a light blue sheet across a clean patch of grass, directly under the open sky. She sat on it and I was instructed to lie on it, face upwards looking at the moon. I wondered what the point of this was as Yasmin moved into the same position as me. After a few minutes of ambiguous silence, she asked, very sweetly, what I thought was on the other side of the moon. Absolutely perplexed, I turned my head to her and gave her a quizzical look. Calmly, Yasmin told me to concentrate on the moon and her question and to tell her whatever came to my mind.

I did not know what kind of an answer Yasmin expected,
but I told her what I always thought about the 'dark side' of anything: it was ugly and evil. All the world's dirtiness, conspiracies, treachery, violence and horror must be lying on that side of the moon. That's why it never shows its face to us, its just too horrible. She smiled smugly, and pursed her lips as if she was processing what I had just
told her.

Moments later, Yasmin said that pessimism was what was holding me back; I thought of everything in a negative way and had given up on the beauty of life too easily and too early. Maybe she was right. I could hear Selina's voice telling me almost the same thing when I began to complain or being cynical about something or the other. How could I look at life from a better perspective, I had no light in it. I was entrapped in darkness, maybe not forever, but for a long time to come. Yasmin them asked me whether I had ever tried to look at the beauty in darkness; how it was not evil, but peaceful and
comforting at times.

Light was not always the positive factor; in my case, Yasmin said, light was the devil, not darkness. Yasmin proceeded to ask me why I had never considered the fact that the other side of the rough moon, which was filled with craters, could not be smooth and serene. She suggested that there could be good, beautiful thoughts there. It did not have to be bleak and miserable. The other half could be cloured and filled with love, joy, loyalty and tranquillity. How could all these things lie in darkness? Yasmin answered my question immediately by telling me that I had to see the hidden beauty in darkness. She wanted me to rekindle the youthful passion I had for its mystifying ways; its unpredictability. You never know what exactly is happening in the dark and can easily let your imagination run free.

Yasmin told me to picture a pitch-black wall. In my imagination, she handed me a bucket of paint and pots of what she called 'illumination' with which I was to colour my walls as beautifully as I could. I did as I was told and conjured what I though was a masterpiece. Next, I was to colour with the same materials, on a bright white canvas in the same way. Upon being asked which one I preferred, I automatically said the black one. I began to see the light (in the figurative sense). Blackness can have its beauty; you just have to put in some effort to add brilliance to it. Light is nice and pleasant all by itself, there's no challenge in making it appeasing to the eye. I concluded that with me, the greatest obstacle, which still lay before me was appreciating darkness and discovering and taking advantage of the secrets in its depths. I would have to grab at them randomly and, pull them out and spread them all over my dark world.

That night, laying under the shining moon made a huge influence on my life and so did everything else that I had been revealed with Yasmin's guidance. I burnt away my pessimistic self and a new Rudmila rose out of the ashes. Even though I was still physically living in darkness, my mind was brightly lit with ideas of how to combat my insecurities and as many poets put it 'unchain the harmony deep in my soul'.

By Rudmila Rahman

Identity crisis

In my childhood, my mother sometimes used to say that I'm not her child. I'm the child of the "Bua" who used to work in her house. My mother wanted a sweet girl so when she saw me, she adopt me. Sometimes she also used to say that actually I was altered with her child in the hospital. I'm not her child cause her child can't annoy her so much!! Very confusing. This is called identity crisis. When I was little, I used to believe it and felt very bad.

Sometimes I also thought what would I do if the so-called " Bua" or "nurse" comes to my house and confess. Do I have to go with her? This was one of the scary things in my childhood. Sometimes I also tried to protest it by showing the same birthmark that my father and I have. So obviously I'm her child. Very poor but strong logic. Still now my mother sometimes says this bullshit story and tries to misguide me. There's no reason to believe this, but sometimes I unconsciously think may be I was altered in the hospital. But child of a bua? NEVER!!

Few days ago in an "ADDA" with the friends suddenly we guys have discovered that most of our parents did this kinds of mental torture to us. Most of them have the same story like they have found us in the near by dustbin wrapped with cloth. They felt so pity that they brought us home and from then they have became our parents. Some also says that they adopt us from the orphanage. Some parents make it more dramatize by saying that in a stormy night suddenly they heard the crying of a baby, they opened the door and guess what? Yes, it was a baby lying in a small basket. Someone left the baby there. They searched for the parents of the baby but couldn't find. By that time they had become so attached with the baby that they adopt it. God! All these sounds like fairy tales. I just wonder from where our parents get such ridicules ideas. May be by reading fairy tales or by watching movies, who knows? If it is from Hindi movies, then it's a very big problem. Cause in this case we have to take revenge. So guys, it's very important to know martial arts, karate etc etc. May be we also have twin brothers or sisters. Please search for any unusual birthmarks and also ask your parents whether there were any chains or letters with you when they found you. So guys next time when your parents will try to misguide you, ask them these questions. Nowadays, children are clever enough to teach their parents a good lesson. One of my cousins always fulfills his demands by saying " why don't you buy that toy for me? Oh, I'm not your real child, that's the reason? Ok, I'm going out to search for my genuine parents. They would definitely buy that for me."

Actually parents shouldn't do such jokes with us. These things create a negative impact on the children's mind. This could sound ridiculous but it's true. Cause I have suffered this torture. And I'm still confused about my identity.

By Meher Nigar






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