With the boarding pass in my hand, I alight the shuttle bus to the aircraft… edgy, eager and looking forward to my trip to Pondicherry. Since yesterday evening I have been feeling a pounding void inside of me. A deep longing… something gnawing at my core.
The news channels were abuzz with Pondicherry bring in the watery embrace of a cyclone. But I was not moved… the cyclone within was perhaps calling out to the two cyclone without.
I boarded the aircraft and was ecstatic to get the seat I yearned for. Window seat at the wing. I could see the clouds and also see the propellers and the entire right wing. I kept staring out. People filled in. It was time for takeoff. I was too lost… too fascinated looking out of the window of our stationary metal bird.
Outside were many more of these metal bird monsters. To me they appear like Garuda, the vehicle and emissary of lord Vishnu… only that these were metalized.
And then my favorite part of the flight the sudden thrust and off we are on the tarmac… surging towards the sky and in a jiffy lift off.
The entire episode happens to be the only interesting part of a flight journey, except may be the mid-air turbulence. Otherwise flights are boring. I am train journey chap. That too second class. You have not traveled to or through a place unless you have breathed its air, heard its voices, felt the verve.
Anyways the metal beast thunders and shudders and we are air borne. The ear starts to hurt as the bird soars higher.
For the first time I look to my left… at the passenger sitting next to me… and I am shocked beyond my wits.
Its him, the Wanderer! Boom!!!
“Goodness gracious! What the hell are you doing here”, I scream. But my scream is drowned in the jet propulsion.
And he is grinning at me. Wow!
“I can’t believe this. I knew this trip will be flushed with strange things. I knew it.” – I tell him. My voice hardly audible. He continues to grin, the Wanderer!
The Wanderer speaks – “Let me start with quoting the American poet, ee cummings,
“here is the deepest secret nobody knows
here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud,
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;
which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart… i carry it in my heart.”
These lines dear Balaji, ought to establish why our lives are crisscrossing. Need I say more? I know not. Well. How have you been? You look sleepy. Sleep then. Don’t worry I will be around with you, through your trip. Intruding once in a while.”
Although I was indeed sleepy, I was too astonished to sleep. I had to speak with him, query him, understand and probe…
I said, “well, tell me. What is this entire deal? You speak about love, about wandering, about seeking, about pursuits. And your friend on the other hand comes down hard and tells me to think about bigger things. About the cosmos, about the universe, about finding the true purpose of our existence. Both of you are supremely compelling in your own ways and I am at tenterhooks. To believe or let go, to plunge or withdraw. You both speak of opposite things. What do I do?”
To which the wanderer said – “dream boy… dream. For dreams are our only saviors. It is through our dreams and your writing that we will be able to make sense of this. Worry not about my friend. He has the purest of emotions and sacred is his concern about me, about you, about both of us, about this story. In all my wandering ages, I have found him to be my safest escort. Take my word, it is all for the good, as you people say.
I know what makes you take this trip and I am here to help you on this journey. The way you are helping me with my story and with my journey. Quid pro quo!“
The wanderer puts his hand over mine in a reassuring gesture.
I look at him and start talking, “I feel often lost, rudderless, free flowing without a tangible direction, I feel like a kite whose string has been snapped and the passing wind is taking it along to wherever it is going. I offer no resistance. I flow, madly without reason or purpose. I feel an urge… an urge to explode , to create a huge thump, dish-dash, cling-clang, slam-baam, like the propeller of this jet, like an exploding supernova, to burn like fuel, to consumer all and be consumed, like a burning comet, like Dhumketu, like a cosmic storm of fire raging in the dark universe, like a Tsunami, like a blind hurricane, like a drunk tornado, like an all shattering earthquake, like a raging forest fire, like a cyclone, like a ….”
The wanderer interjects and completes the thought – “… like a supersonic jet tearing through the skies and bursting the heavens at the seam. Boy you feel like a Sonic Boom! Don’t you? Boom! Boom! Sonic Boom!”
I smile back at him and say, “Yup, like a Sonic Boom!
Boom, Sonic Boom, Boom Sonic,
I am on my own, not on gin n’ tonic,
I blaze the sky, with the look in my eye,
I got no wings, and that’s why I fly,
Boom, Sonic Boom, Boom Sonic,
I tell the velvet eye, to wander the sky,
To the French town, to eat all the French fries,
Boom, Sonic Boom, Boom Sonic!”
The wanderer is humming a tune and he takes my words… “Boom, Sonic Boom, Boom Sonic,” and asks me to look outside the window.
I look out and I see the absurd vision. It is me outside, on the wings, not one but four MEs.
Spaced out over the right wing in a rhombus formation. Four freaking ‘MEs’ The one at the front, near the edge of the wing, was me with an ESP Explorer guitar with an ebony inlay fret board and with a steel mesh mike in front; the one to the left besides the window was me the bassist, to the back was me on 14×6.5″ Bell Brass Snare Drum with All Zildjian Cymbals and the heavy duty works… the Cymbals were flying through the air as if in a fit of air trapeze feeling my hand only once in a while; the one to the far right was me, the lead guitarist with Gibson Firebird, bending and manipulating the air around the aircraft with my soul aching liquid leads. Those were all ‘MEs’, singing to the tune the wanderer was humming, singing to my lyrics, I could hear “‘em”… could hear me.
The one at the lead guitar had already started to peddle up, complex flow of fingers almost gliding through the fret board, so fast that only a haze of the hand is visible, only an approximate hand; the one on the bass was shaking his head like a monster and banging the living day lights out of the strings; the one at the drums was pounding so hard that the with every cymbal stroke the aircraft twisted toward the right and lost its balance momentarily, the one at the front , the front man, manning the vocals and rhythm guitar was screaming the all too familiar song, the one that was just conceptualized…
A deafening rock concert on the wings of a plane… I watched them as they played out the rhythm from my mind, dripping words into the raging sea storm of the music. Boom Sonic!
Then suddenly, there was turbulence in the air and I peeped down the wings to see how the world looked. The moment I tilted my head, hoping to get a better view of the world from the window, the metal beast, the Garuda, swayed to the right, plummeting rapidly. I sensed it was to do with my vision… I had caused it to drop, my need to see the world below has pushed the aircraft to drop… now I was in a daze… the drop in altitude had caused the blood to rush up to my brain… I was feeling light headed… I tried to look up and focus on the monster band playing on the wings… what I now saw was very different… instead of four ‘MEs’ it was only one ‘ME’ but like a headen god, like Ravana meshed with Vishnu, I had four heads, eight arms, like one composite stage act, each doing his own thing, playing to the Sonic Boom. One gothic monster playing out my song. The bassist, besides the window was now one of the heads protruding from the analogous neck, was giving me an eyeball. I looked out at him in amazement. He looked at me with rage. I heard them out play my song, multifarious variations of it, numerous times over and over again.
I looked inside the airplane and the Wanderer was staring at me. I asked him if he also saw what I saw.
He said – “I was too busy being me, my dear, I was watching the night scorpion circling the sky, looking at mortals below, eyeing her target, mounting her sting and inflicting me with her venom, the venom that makes me the wanderer, the one who rides the desert winds, the one who understands each one of those mirages, the one who forever seeks the oasis by the palm tree.”
I ask him, “how does she look like, is she really a scorpion, an arachnid?”
I turn to the wanderer and say, “I saw her. Was it her? Was it your night scorpion? Well she doesn’t look like a scorpion. The face was beautiful.”
The wanderer responded, “Well she has many faces, she too like us is a shape shifter, she is both the sun and the moon and the intervening darkness.”
He then takes out from his hand baggage an ivory saucer and a vial of purple serum. Pours out the liquid from the vial into the saucer and hands it over to me.
I drink without question. And then my mind slowly blurs. Before I passed out I recall the Wanderer’s words… “I will be with you through this trip, in you, you won’t even notice for most parts, but then you will know that there is someone inside of you, inside your freaking head who is not you. That would be me Bala. We wander together for some time now.”
I passed out.