Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pilgrim




 
"You know I’ve heard about people like me, 
But I never made the connection. 
They walk one road to set them free,
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.

But there’s no need for turning back, 
cause all roads lead to where I stand. 
And I believe I’ll walk them all, 
No matter what I may have planned."

My feet felt like they weighed twice my body weight and Mother Earth thought it an opportune time to show me how relativity applies to gravity as much as it does to time. My feet could give way any moment. They were scathed and worn. I had lost one of my shoes crossing the frigid waters of the stream a few miles back. The water apart from being numbingly cold, was more boisterous than I had initially anticipated. Not surprising that when it decided it wanted my shoe, it took it rather rudely. I managed to keep the other one somehow and drew some pride from my small victory. It was short-lived as I threw the other shoe away a while later. The stream had eventually won, that cunning creature! It also seemed silly and somewhat annoying to walk with one shoe on. If I looked like a hobo, the least I could do was play the part.

The sun was just receding into the horizon and as I looked at the rusty sky I knew I needed to set myself down before I collapsed from exhaustion. After walking for what seemed like half a mile, I found what looked like an old shack, must have been unused for years, there were only two and a half walls still standing and no roof to speak of, like it had collapsed or burnt down. It seemed just right, I would be able to see the stars, I liked the comfort of them watching over me, the watchmen of the gods.

As I let my will loosen it's grip on my body, the languidness of my physical condition took over and I fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes, with a very literal plop sound. Only when I hit the ground and lay there for a minute or so did I realize just how tired I really was. To move a finger felt like I was moving a mountain. The submissiveness was liberating, another journey had ended and tomorrow another would begin.

As I walked from village to town to city, from green fields to concrete jungles, from wood and leaves to bricks and mortar, from sea shores to canyons, from plains and plateaus to the sands of the desert, every one I met had the same question - Where are you going traveler? I gave them all the same answer - "To this moment". They always had a bewildered look on their faces, they seemed to think I was playing a riddle or pulling their leg, humoring them or just being rude. I was just being honest.

I was not going anywhere, I was already where I needed to be, the song has already been written, I am simply playing to the tune. There is no place I need to get to, there is no place I have set my mind on reaching. I don't remember when I started walking and I don't know when I will stop. I only hunger for experience, knowledge, stories, incidents about people, their lands, their dreams, their wishes, their pain and their joys, their plans and their rituals. Each encounter has left me richer and each road I have taken has left me wiser. I don't worry about the roads I have missed. I am sure that no matter which road I had taken, it would have led me to where I stand now. I am grateful for the times I have been lucky to escape disease and I have looked death in the face and smiled back. Some call me a hermit, some call me a witch doctor, a thief, other say I am a messiah, a prophet, a deity. Some love me, and give me a place to stay and food to eat, clothes and shoes to replace my old ones. Others shun me, throw stones, and begin reciting words from scriptures as I knock on their doors. To some I am a brother and to others an outlaw. I am eternally obliged and indebted to the ones who were kind to me, and feel no angst or hatred towards the ones who were not as thoughtful. It is instinctive for people to be afraid of anything or anyone they cannot understand and whose purpose they cannot comprehend. I have made my mistakes, I have gone down the wrong roads and I have paid my price more than people will believe. My virtues have been tested and I have failed many times. I have walked with shackles around my feet and have had nails punctured through my palms, tasted my own blood and the blood of my fellow man. I have saved many a life but taken far more. My life is a blessing, and like all things that hold value, it has not come without a price. My gift is my savior but it is also my curse, one albeit I am glad to live with.

As these thoughts trailed through my mind faster than the blood rushing to my head, I broke out of my vegetative state. I could still not gather the courage to move. I had let my thoughts drift away with the evening breeze like floating seeds. Maybe they would germinate in some other minds and they too would seek out their destiny and answer their calling. Using my shoulders and elbows as support, I turned my body around so I could look at the sky. As I did, I looked in awe at the pristine view, it was exhilarating and no matter how many times I had seen it before, it still took my breath away and for a moment I was a child again looking in wonder at the heavens above. Celestial Lamps lit up in the sky and all of them looked back at me, some recording my thoughts and some planning my fate, but all of them summoned as if to my service and to aid in my comfort and pleasure. No matter where I went, they were the only constant in my existence, they were my only family.

As the night placed a warm blanket of self belief over me, I thought of where tomorrow would take me, where I would sleep, who I would meet and what I would learn. However, I had become certain of one thing, this journey would not have an end, only pauses, I was a pilgrim and as long as I kept walking, my destiny was only as distant as my next step.

(Opening stanza credited to the song - Crossroads by Don McLean)
(Image credited to Sgrazied)

6 comments:

Saru Singhal said...

Beautiful post, I like the opening paragraphs. I will check the song as well...

Saru

IMROZ NAQVI said...

@Saru: Thank you :) and please do check out the song, it's very soulful!

KP said...

The post is so good.. I liked it.. reminded me of a movie I watched.. "Baba aziz.."
The walk without aim.. and destination and greed.. and the self realization.. I liked it.. wonderful!

IMROZ NAQVI said...

@KP: Thanks a ton for liking...and am glad you were so in touch with the spirit of the post :)

aarts said...

With each subsequent post I realise the depth of emotion that you are capable of...and it never fails to astound me...amazing post...as always.

IMROZ NAQVI said...

@Aarti: Thank you so much :)