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A Lifetime's Endeavour

Sougato Sarkar

Desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
Devotion to something afar,
From the sphere of our sorrow.
      P. B. Shelley

It wasn't a sensation he particularly liked -- the feeling of weightlessness. It wasn't something he was used to and so he felt uncomfortable. The experience on the whole was totally unusual. It seemed that he was like a toy in someone else's hands and was placed in such an alien environment just because that someone wanted to get pleasure by watching his discomfort. The place was very strange. He had no idea how he got there. There was nothing around him at all and he could see nothing except his own self. It was a mass of nothingness and he was hovering about in it.

           He tried to move about by moving his arms and legs and found he succeeded. So he decided to move along since there was nothing else to do. It was partly like flying in air. Had he been twenty years younger he might have enjoyed the feeling. But paddling against nothing proved difficult for him. Moving about in this place was a strenuous exercise that he found very trying.

           So he moved along in the black mass, pondering over his present situation, thinking about the hard work and always worrying that gravity would soon take over leading him to his doom, when he saw something that attracted his attention. In the distance there was a strange light. It was hazy in appearance, soothing to look at. There seemed to be a strange warmth in it that attracted him, as if pulling him like a magnet. He decided to get closer. So he paddled about with more effort and vigour. He struggled on with his hands and legs to move towards the place.

           As he came closer he realized there was someone else near the light. He looked closely. It was a woman. She was floating there in the distance, apparently, feeling quite at home in this strange environment. The light, he now perceived, seemed to come out of her, like a strange aura, surrounding her, protecting her, nurturing her. It seemed strange to him, all of this. He did not understand why he was brought here in the first place. And then there was this woman with the strange light around her, almost supernatural, who seemed to be the only person here apart from him. Maybe it was she who brought him here. Or maybe not. But the only way to find out was to go and talk to her. So he pushed with renewed zest, threw his arms and legs about wildly and moved slowly towards her.

           As he came closer, he saw her more clearly. At first she was like a dream, a hazy image of a vision at the back of his mind. Then the vision cleared, the dream became a reality, he finally conceptualized. She was beautiful, unlike any mortal. She was heavenly, she was perfect. Her face was perfect, her eyes were perfect, her hair was perfect, her lips were perfect. The place was perfect. He realized how lucky he had been to witness such perfection, for mere humans had no conception of it. In this place he was made to conceive what men had only dreamt of, had spent their lives to conquer. It was like witnessing a goddess who had kindly shown to him how little man could imagine in his mind. Such a sight could only be seen. It could not be described for the language did not contain words to describe such fitness. It could not be remembered, for the mind of man was too feeble, tiny and limited to contain beauty of such magnitude. And the picture of it was not enough.

           The feeling itself was difficult for him to understand, for he was man, the mortal one, one who lived his life under limitations of all kinds. Here there was no limit. There was a woman of limitless perfection in a place that went on forever, and eternity was but a vague impression in his mind. As he came closer to her, he could sense some change within him. He couldn't take his eyes off her. He realized that if he did so, he would immediately forget what he had seen. His mind was too feeble to hold her image within it. He would only remember that he had seen perfection. That would make him mad. No! He would have to have her. She was Perfection and he longed for her. He would have her and then leave, not before that. No power would stop him.

           He had led such a meaningless existence before. It had none of the joy he was experiencing at the moment. The feeling of desire he felt for her was indescribable. That, too, was perfect and so, was beyond his limited capacity to comprehend. All that he understood was that the feeling was like something he had never felt before. The thought that he would soon have her filled him with happiness and the thought of attaining the perfection that she was, filled him with desire that was also limitless. So he moved towards her and came nearer and nearer. Then he came very near. He reached out his hands and tried to hold hers. She held out her hands and moved back. He came forward, pushing back with his feet till they pained, straining till his muscles ached with the effort. And all the while she kept moving back effortlessly.

           So they kept moving never managing to get one another. They were always so near and yet they failed. He kept on going. He wanted to have perfection and he was ready to even die in the attempt. He kept trying till his body ached in agony and he reached out his hand as far as he possibly could. And he came very near to her. But he never got her. He never did reach his object of desire. Just when he thought he reached her, the expression on her face changed. He was far too small to accept her. She was immortal, he was not. She was limitless, he was not. She was perfect, he was not.

           Then she backed off with a speed he would have never hoped to achieve and was gone totally. The beauty, the light, the perfection had all gone. They had disappeared -- as though they had never been there. He was left all alone in the midst of the nothingness. The joy had vanished and the happiness had faded away. The conception was not there anymore. The memory could not have been there at all. What remained was the desire and the thought that he had seen perfection and had felt desire. What had grown in him was the sadness and the loneliness. What had come to him was frustration and dejection.

           He stopped moving altogether. He was still looking at the direction in which she had gone. Finally when hope had left him he looked away. But all that he viewed seemed to be nothingness. With that came sorrow. He hid his face in his hands and wept. Then he looked up, as if to face God and screamed out of anger, sorrow and frustration. After he stopped screaming and he stopped weeping and only the silent tears rolled down his cheeks, all he could ask was, "Why?"

About the Author (click here) © 1998 Sougato Sarkar, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

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