A STORY RETOLD – PART 2
SEASONS OF LIFE
Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Stephen King
While the first part of ‘A Story Retold’ covered ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ and ‘Darkness and Beyond’, here I continue my journey through ‘Autumn Leaves- Seasons of Life’ and ‘The Diary of Mrityunjay’.
The colors of Autumn has always fascinated me. I first had the opportunity to witness and be a part of it in October 2011 when we went to the US to be with our daughter and the newly born grandson. I did not have much opportunity to go out. I had the first glimpse of the colors of Autumn, though it was only towards the end. The colors were still there. When I looked from the balcony at my daughter’s place, I saw a lone tree with all its leaves turned yellow standing as a lone testimony that autumn was still there. I later learned that it was a green ash tree whose leaves turned yellow and slowly to brown and fell as winter set in. I watched daily as the leaves fell one by one, strewn on the ground. The first inklings of winter appeared, and as the chill breeze blew, the remaining leaves fell. And when the snow came, it was for the first time that I was witnessing it. Though it was exhilarating to watch the snowfall, it was for me an ominous sight to see the tree outside stand bare and its branches holding the remnants of the snow that fell on it: stripped completely of all color and the ground around it covered with a white sheet.
The next time I went, I saw Autumn in full bloom and was enraptured by all the color that surrounded me and this time when winter set in, the same feeling of despondency overtook me. It was while listening to Nat King Cole singing ‘Autumn Leaves’ in his hauntingly captivating voice capturing the poignancy of loneliness and a lost love, that I decided to translate those emotions into the written word in my book ‘Autumn Leaves- Seasons of Life’.
I recalled the poem ‘The Human Seasons’ by John Keats, which I had studied in school.
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
In Keats’s poem there is an indication that man is aware of every stage of life, he finds himself in, but never really accepts the transition from one to another for he foresees that at the end –
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.
With the younger generation moving further away and the older ones slowly learning to cope with being by themselves, the disintegration of families from what was once a joint one, with a ruling patriarch and the other members strewn around not far away, to single units ultimately spread out in far and distant lands, and the slow but perceptible shifting away in distance and relationships and acceptance of which as a reality was unalterable. The advancement in knowledge and the growth in opportunities away from home, contributing to a more independent individual learning to live life on his own terms, though desirable, has led to the splintering of families and in a sense an inevitable reality.
Krishnan tells his daughter (in my book ‘Autumn Leaves- Seasons of Life) – ‘When I was young, no longer a child, I used to listen to my grandfather’s narration of his childhood. How he spent his holidays in that small town where his grandfather lived as a patriarch of a large family. The house was filled with uncles, aunts, and cousins. He would say that he missed those days spent playing with his cousins on the banks of the river, the temples, the gods, and most of all the festivals which looked more as a celebration of life than mere rituals. As he grew old and shifted away, all these were consecrated to the shelves. He had accepted the changing times though reluctantly. As we grow older and see the years slipping away, we tend to grasp on to things that we have left behind us. We slip into our own fantasies as to how things could have been different and regrets do arise”.
Over the generations, the freedom of the individual to choose has only grown. It has been a natural process of evolution. I have also learned to accept that my beliefs will go down with me to be replaced with different beliefs and value systems and a different way of life. I can already see it happening around.
But despite all that moving away somewhere deep inside lies buried an ache to understand who you are and where it all started. It is best described in the words of Anu, Krishnan’s daughter who goes to the land of her ancestors to discover her roots – “Two years ago, I had undergone a period of depression. Maybe the result of doing the same old thing day in and day out, a Sisyphean situation. I needed answers to pull me out of this angst. I decided that it has to start with understanding myself and for that, I needed to go back to where it all started, my parents. And that was what took me to India, to search for the great Banyan tree under whose shade generations had come and gone, the sacred Peepal under which the Buddha attained realization, the burning ghats of Varanasi where one understood the meaning of life and death and the heights of the Himalayas which promised a peep into the unknown”.
It was a strange dream, the only thing of which I remember is of a woman who appears therein and when I ask her name, she replies ‘Amora’. I thought that was a unique and lovely name sounding like ‘Amour’ the French word for love. I do not know whether my subconscious was at work or whether hidden infatuations had surfaced.
Adolescence is that time of growing up from a child to adulthood. The onset of puberty brings with it, apart from physical changes in the human body, a need for exploration of one’s sexuality. This is a time when one does not distinguish between love and infatuation. Infatuation is a passing phase that we realize only when we move away. For some, this takes a long time, in the course of which they exist subjecting themselves to procrastination and in the process unfulfilled. Even what we call love is a fixation that accompanies us as long as we believe it exists. Once it ceases to exist, we are shattered, for there is always an expectation of reciprocity. A sense of betrayal of trust is predominant.
Aparajit finds himself bound between two women ‘Amora’ (love) and ‘Maya’ (illusion). Unable to initially accept the truth, he ultimately realizes that relationships are based on understanding and acceptance and that alone is permanent. When Maya leaves him for the second time she says - “What for Apu? The moment we both wanted has happened. We both understand each other as we are and that is more important. We have met after a long time and we meet as friends. There are no goodbyes or farewell this time. I shall only say ‘We will meet again”. But it is Amora who sums it up, “Growing up is wiping off the cobwebs of the past and moving on”.
Atulya was an enigma. Once considered a maverick but a brilliant one and life was to be lived to the full was what he believed in. It is when he confesses to Amol, his dearest friend and alter ego after emerging from a long hiatus during which he undergoes a life-changing experience, you realize that the maverick in him, at last, finds his authenticity and meaning in life. In his confession to Amol he says -
“Once I used to think that the world revolved around me. That’s no longer true for I have now come to accept that there is another world, a world in which you are also an inhabitant. Amol you belong to the other world. I remember saying that you live in a cocoon, but I realize I have also been in one. I now yearn to be the butterfly emerging out to explore the freedom that awaits. Soon Amol, you will also realize that you have to break out from the world you have built around yourself. Real freedom lies in understanding the world as it is. In a sense, though we have been different in our approach to life, you will agree that together we have been in harmony. We needed each other but now I am in search of yourself within me like I am sure you will also do in course of time.
I have hurt many people during the course of my journey through this life. At this point, I can only say I am sorry. Sorry for what I had been. But I learned my lessons and, in the end, I shall be leaving with no malice or regret in my heart. I have only one wish that I should continue to be useful even in death. For it is the only thing that will ensure I continue to exist in the hearts of those I have touched while alive and will touch others after death. In the end, when I go, I wish to go as one who lived life so as to perpetuate the basic goodness of humanity and leave this world a slightly better place to live in.
I wish that just as I have tried to be useful during my life, I should also be useful thereafter. I have registered myself as an organ donor and wish that after my death this wish be fulfilled. Maybe it shall ensure the prolongation of the life of another human being. It will be difficult for my family to accept that it will be just a shell they are cremating and that my soul will not attain salvation. Forget all that, for me, this will be salvation.”
Beyond all that austerity and the accumulation of knowledge in our search for self-discovery Mrityunjay realizes that there is also a life where the reality of our existence in this physical world must be accepted. Our emotions are real, our needs as human beings are real.
It is more important for me to live this life rather than speculate on the origin and existence of a higher power, of rebirth and redemption. It is more important to recognize values and live a useful life. Whether it is the Bhagavad Gita’s Karma Yoga or the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, the message of rightful action and rightful living is a universal message.
Mrityunjay concludes “I have learned my lessons. I have realized that the world is real and our existence a necessity. Life and death are certainties and so are all the gamut of emotions that we experience on our journey. The earlier we accept this, the easier would it be to live. One does not learn by moving away. One learns by sticking it out and facing the truth of our fallibilities and that alone is the only way to overcome them. I have also realized that relationships are pure when there is understanding and acceptance. Relationships are based on trust and empathy, to support each other and being there for each other”.
My journey does not end for I can still see the road ahead and wonder what lies ahead. It is Hope that has brought me so far and it is Hope that will take me forward.
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