The story of his life

An unknown town. A two-storied house. Many rooms in it, and 5 inhabitants, except him. They all fight, quarreling verbally, and at times physically. Abuses float around with the wind in that house. He sits in a corner, his head in his hands, wanting to get out of all this, wondering how. All the inhabitants, except him, have heads of goats. Ugly, angry goats. Human bodies with heads of goats, like those figures on the Egyptian pyramids.

And then he stands up. He walks with the dignity of a man who has discovered his life’s purpose and is treading the path of his destiny. He walks out and steps into a white car. Yes, it is their car. He turns the key, the engine quietly whirs. He drives away. The house looks at him in the distance, until the car can be seen no longer. It is night, it is quiet. The bright street lamp illuminates the quarrelsome house while he drives away into the dark unknown. His journey has begun. It is the great departure, the symbolic death.

He drives through the countryside. The English countryside, one of the most beautiful he has ever seen. It is past midnight and utterly dark. But the moon pours its white light over the rolling hills, rising and falling slowly in harmony. Silhouettes of the hills are faintly illuminated by that celestial lamp. He drives on, almost sensing a music in his beautiful surroundings. There is not a soul on the road. There is utter silence. A silence like none he has heard before. And through that silence, amplifying it, plays a song on the radio of the car.

It is Faiz.

mujhse pehli si mohabbat, mere mehboob, na maang.. 

don’t ask me, beloved, for the love that was once ours..

maine samjha tha ki tu hai, to darakhshaan hai hayaat
tera gham hai, to gham-e-deher ka jhagda kya hai

teri surat se hai aalam mein bahaaron ko sabaat
teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakkha kya hai
tu jo mil jaaye to taqdeer nigoon ho jaaye
yun na tha, maine faqat chaaha tha yun ho jaaye


the world was then luminous, because you were in it
you were the source of all joy, and all pain
your face was spring itself
your eyes contained the world
to be yours, such was my destiny
it was not so, but i desired it would be


It was a poem that had haunted him since he was seven. Even as he left his home, he took with him the sense of beauty he had inherited from those he was leaving. It echoed under the silence of the stars and the beauty of the hills that bore witness to him and his solitude, adorned by these words of the Urdu language.

The journey went on for three hours. Only this song played. Again and again.

Finally, he reached Essex. It is here that the elderly monk had advised him to go. He found the large medieval house that was his destination and parked the car next to its wall. Creepers fell over the wall. Had he entered another time, he wondered. Was this the fifteenth century, he thought, when alchemy was alive, and the human soul sought its own transformation through mysterious processes symbolised by the transmutation of ordinary metals into gold? Playing with these thoughts, he walked to the front door. A large, wooden, arched door with a parting in the centre. He knocked hard twice. An elderly couple opened the door. They smiled, as they were expecting him.

The man, thin, bearded, tall, congenial and wise, was John. John was a contemplative. He taught people how to meditate. The woman was Marion. Assertive, sure of herself and ready to correct those who go on the wrong path. She was short and wrinkled, but her soul spoke of power. She had worked all her life as a healer. They were two healers. He entered the house and walked with the couple to its other end. The house was dark. The only light came from torches of fire glowing in the corners. A dark house, glowing golden and orange in the corners. Fire illuminating darkness. They quietly walked across. They were happy in each other’s company. The house felt like an ethereal heaven where everything was in its right place. It did not feel a part of this complicated world. Bliss.

A cat quietly but intensely stared at him from a corner. A brown, golden cat.

They reached the other end of the house. Against the wall were stacked jars of honey, one on top of the other, in a pyramidal formation. It was a little pyramid of honey. He had two stalks in his hand, which he planned to plant in the jar so that they grow into large and strong trees. And the couple looked on. They knew he was there to get honey.

He picked up one jar, dipped his finger in it and tasted it. He said to the woman – “I’ll take this one”. The woman smiled. Then, a thought struck him. “But I should not have tasted this honey, should I?”, he asked. “No, humans should not taste honey until it is refined,” she answered. But he had already tasted it. He shrugged,   knowing nothing could be done now, and put the honey into his backpack. “Could you show me the washroom?” he asked John. John smiled and silently took him to the washroom.

He entered the washroom and closed the latch from inside. It was time to refresh himself before the long journey ahead. He turned away from the door, to the large mirror, and what he saw was not him, as he knew himself. It was Vincent.

Vincent the beggar. The schizophrenic beggar who his friend had been photographing on the streets of the city, and telling him about. Vincent had seduced his sister. His family had thrown him out. He was intelligent and well-educated, but mad, and hence, incapable of leading a normal life. He ate from the garbage and played cricket with street kids, until he got angry at them and left. Dark, long-haired, dirty, dressed in rags – Vincent stood in the mirror.

He stared into the mirror, stunned. He was Vincent. Vincent was he. Life came to a standstill. Frozen in that place, stuck in the washroom with his shadow, forever.

~ by tdcatss on October 24, 2014.

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