The forest was getting roasted in silence. There was no movement in leaves as air had decided to hide itself. It had no desire to get burnt. The trees, the shrubs were lifeless and watching everything helplessly as if they all were in mourning. Even Sun was wondering at the intensity on its heat. The only audible sound was of cracking of dry leaves. Too fragile, too dry to bear the weight of a human foot, they were getting scattered into pieces. They were shrieking at the cruelty of Nature! Some were having sigh of relief on finding the foot miss them or seeing the sand coming to their rescue. And some were being forced to change their positions by the dragging foot.

One leaf was waiting for its death at some distance. It was very certain that it would be crushed beyond recognition. As it saw the monstrous pillar approaching, it stopped breathing and closed its eyes. A drop of water compelled it to look upwards. It saw a yellowish white sheet ! Confusion overcame.
A drop of sweat or a tear ?!

It saw that huge figure falling on the ground and trembled at the fate of leaves under that 'out of this world' figure.

That figure did not want to get up, was not effected in any way by the scorching sun. There was apparently no desire for that shape to feel alive.

He knew that sand had stuck on his face all over.

The burning hot sand!
He was indifferent to that. Indifferent was he to the bleeding blisters of his feet, bruises given by the thorns and to the emptiness within! He desired to be indifferent to his being as whole. A small insect, which had entered along with sand in his shoes, was crawling on his ankle.

It started sucking at his blood!

He looked at it, smiled and made an effort by his tongue to wet his dry lips. But of no use because dryness met dryness. The insect was bent on proving its existence. On finding no other alternative to kill the pain, he moved. On seeing his approaching hand, the insect winked at him and flew away noisily.
The heat of the sand beneath him became unbearable.

With great effort he stood up. He looked around and then at sun. His lips widened in a grin and blood started oozing out of the cracks on his lips. Looking at sun with eyes almost closed, he moved his head higher,' You can not distract me from my path......Yes, do you hear me ?.....You dare not distract me from my path.'

He started walking.

Unawaringly, he stepped on a sharp-edged stone. The waves of pain engulfed his whole body. He limped and then looked at the stone,' Not even you would be able to succeed in creating diversions in my way.'

He walked for three four steps and turned back again, picked up a stone, threw it at sun with full force.
A small child would have laughed at the distance covered by the stone.

Nature made him happy by covering the sun with a small cloud.

He gave a victorious glance to the sun and refused to submit himself to anything. 

Suddenly he felt as if some unknown but a powerful force was pressing him. When his trembling legs were on the verge of collapsing, he felt very light but uneasy. Uneasy because he saw something leaving his body. He looked towards his left and then towards his right. There he found a shadow, which was walking with him. 

Without understanding anything, he looked at the shadow and then at the surroundings. 

The visions around made him stop with a jerk. 

Everywhere around him there was the same shadow. For him it was the first experience of its own kind.  He thought, am I confused or scared?  The answer from within irritated him. 

But why should I be scared? 

He asked angrily, 'Who are you?' 

'The Answer', came a shallow voice from nowhere in specific. 

Failing to hide the expressions of fear, his eyes moved frantically. He heard himself, 'But I am not the question. ' 

There was movement in the shadows as if they were spreading but at the same time getting deeper. 

'You are full of questions, my child.' 

'Child!', he thought. How someone dare to call me a child? Even his father would think innumerable times before addressing him like that. 

It made him more annoyed. 

'I am a grown up man. Don't call me a child', he shouted. 

Without any movement an echo sounded, 'Shed these misunderstandings from your mind, son.' 

'Shut up,' he shouted more loudly, 'I am not your son. In fact I am no body's son. I am just ' I '. Understand?' 

The sound of shadows echoed in a mocking tone, 'Strange are the beliefs of sources.'

The shadows started coming towards his head. Out of fear he took a step backwards. Then, he felt touch on his shoulder and he turned around with a jerk. 

On finding a saintly person standing there, he had a sigh of relief. He looked at the smiling lips of that saint whose face was full of compassion. His white flowing beard, white clothes looked very odd on his childish face. 

The saint spoke softly, 'What is the matter? With whom were you conversing?' 

Very cautiously, he looked around again and on finding no shadows in the near vicinity, he said, 'Nothing. Which is the nearest place where I can find water to drink?' 

The smile became deeper on saint's lips, 'Are you wandering in search of water only?' 

He replied in negative and thought of moving ahead but his legs refused to take even a single step forward. He found a strange attraction towards that saintly person, 'No, I am not looking for water. I am in search of myself.' 

The saint kept an hand on his shoulder, 'What will you do after knowing yourself? 

'I want to know who I am?' he felt like talking to him,' I want to know the cause of my existence? From where I have come and where would I go after death? Why cannot I live like a normal human being, why such type of questions keep on lingering on my mental horizon? Why I.....?' He whispered helplessly, 'Oh God!' 

'On finding the answers, all concepts of life will change for you,' the saint touched his dirty face, 'go straight for hundred yards and on your left you'll find a pond,'  he slapped him affectionately, 'and your answer also.' 

He started walking in the opposite direction and was unaware of the desire in his eyes to stay for a longer time in the company of that saint. 

He was not thirsty anymore. The saint's statement had made him sure that he'll find his answer there. He was almost running towards the pond. 

He found it to be a very ordinary pond. The fungi on it with mosquitoes dancing around was certainly no encouragement to him. 

Disappointed, he moved his head and bent to drink water. In empty stomach, the water acted as knife. Out of pain and frustration, he gripped earth with whatever force he had. Few stones came in his hands and with tearful eyes he looked at them. 

Suddenly, he realised his hands were going out of his control. He saw his left hand coming to his shoulder level and throwing one stone in the pond. The pond accepted the stone in its lap and made a sound which echoed like 'One'.

He thought why can't I live like normal human beings? Why my thoughts, actions and reactions have to be different?' 

He saw his hand throwing the second stone. This time it echoed as 'Two' 

'Why I always desire to become important? Is importance in life everything to me? Can't I survive without it?' 

'Three ' 

He looked upwards and noticed a bird high in the sky. 

'Why sky seems to be so far? I also want to fly like that bird. Very my dream!' 

'Four ' 

'Why I worry so much? Why the future makes me so fearful and jittery? Can't I live without these self-made phobias?' 

'Five ' 

'Why I am so attached to my wife and children? Why I always think that they need me more than anything else does in the world? As if I have come in this universe to make their destinies !' 

'Six ' 

'Why do I give so much importance to my wealth? My nights pass without sleep; thinking of thefts and robberies. Won't I be able to survive without my possessions?' 

'Seven ' 

'Why do I think so much? Is it an indication of going mad? 

'Eight ' 

'Who am I in this world? This world is a stage but what am I doing here? If I am here just to play my part and go then why I make efforts to direct everything as per my whims and fancies? 

He found that his left arm was not moving as there was no stone in his hand. He searched for it and found a comparatively bigger and heavier stone than others. He picked it up and threw the same into the pond. 

He was waiting for the question to come up in his mind. 

He closed his eyes as there was no question. 

He heard himself, 'There has been no sound of Nine ' 

He opened his eyes and blinked for number of times. 

About one feet above the surface of water, the stone had formed the shape of  'Nine '. He felt the shadows to be emerging again out of nowhere but he did not take off his eyes from the stone. 

'What is it,' he thought, 'Why it has happened to the ninth stone.' 

Loudly, he said, 'Who are you?' 

A voice came from the stone, 'I'm nine,' it started moving as if it was in severe pain. 

On seeing all this, he stammered, 'Who....who the hell are you?' 

'Nine', it echoed and echoed. It subsided gradually and in soft tone he heard, 'You are also nine.' 


'Every human being is Nine.' 

Silently, he was looking at the stone. 

'All humans live as ninth alphabet' 

He counted and stopped at ' I '. Wisdom dawned on him and he realised that's what he had been living with. 

'The ninth alphabet is nothing but a superfluous feeling. Who are you to do anything on your own? You are just a tiny link in the Higher Scheme Of Things. Every human being is a source to fulfil His desires.' 

'You mean I'm nothing. I'm nobody?' 

'No, you are the most lovable child of God. He is very fond of all living beings and has immense love for all. He is Supreme. He is above all; since times immemorial and till Eternity. He is the Director. You are all puppets in his hands. Remember that always.' 

Then he saw the stone going into the water soundlessly. 

Everything was crystal clear to him by now. His lips were smiling and eyes were shedding tears of Compassion. He felt his face to be like that of Saint's. 

The rain broke the trance. 

He looked towards the sky and shouted happily, 'Thank You, God!'   


More by :  Rakesh Bedi

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