In an upcoming novel by Richard Payment, a young boy sees something he does not understand. That memory stays with him for years, awakening in him a desire for truth and meaning: “The Want for Wonders.”
I am remembering something.
At first it comes to me as a feeling. It is comforting. It is a place I want to be. It is home.
Then it comes back all at once: a woman on a beach, a tree, a wind that is calm, a rain that cleanses, but does not wet.
My memories are nothing but looped reruns I cannot change. But this one memory is different. There is no regret, no disappointment. I do not want to adjust it, fix the focus or rewrite the script. I return to its shores because this one memory is my comfort. It is not the past. It is not the future. It is my home beyond my home. It will always be the present.
Stop me if you have heard this all before. It might sound familiar. It might have happened to you.
Remember this: my name. It is Vishesh. Vishesh Darshane. Can you remember that? You can call me Vishesh or Vijay, Raj or even Jimmy if you wish, if it is easier. I have been many things, but none had anything to do my name. And, if I am to admit the truth, none of it had anything to do with me as a person.
Be still. Remember my name. It is the label that is attached to me. It is the one thread that is sewn through this entire story. Your story or my story — it is only the stitching that changes. The want is the thing that drives us.
Trust me: I have a story to tell.
I would have been ten. It was in the Spring or early Summer of 1970. I was near the beach in my hometown, Nargol in southern Gujarat, near the border with Maharashtra, on the west coast of India.
"Oh, Earth," I thought, "if the ball rolls this way, use all your grains to stop it. You are so many. The ball is only one." It was a prayer more than a thought.
I know now and I knew then. There was nothing either special or unusual about me. There were five million or more other boys my age in India, every one of them as cricket-mad as the next. I was average — in height, in schoolwork, in talent and temperament. The only way to get ahead, I was told, was to work and work hard. I didn’t listen.
I was in the middle — in Gujarat, in Nargol, in my school and in my family — five children, boys and girls, with me in the middle. In all of India, I was only one grain of sand, a speck. I was in the middle of the pack, neither losing ground or gaining. The world was another place — beyond my contemplation, a place beyond and beyond again.
My crystal memory of that day is this: the game soon ending, the boys tired but not dispersed, the balls still occasionally knocking through the air. I see a woman in a white sari and a red shawl. At first it is the colour that catches my eye, then it is her grace and movement. She is at the shoreline, the very edge of the water.
I follow her. At a distance. Compelled. The cracking bat and shouts recede, erased by the waves, the continuous roll of water. My distance from her is respectful.
She turns from the shore and towards a grove of small trees and bushes. She sits under one tree, much like the others, windbent and weathered. She closes her eyes. It seems like meditation, not sleep. It is silence. Deep.
My attention is sharp and focused. I am closer than the actual distance between us.
She is beauty. And she is peace. She reminds me of no one. Do I know her? Is she from Nepal. Is she Gujarati? Her age is beyond determination. My math does not work. The moment is complete to itself. It is both new and familiar. It is real and vibrant. There is a gentle power and a perfection.
Then it came. Out of a clear sky, a rain, torrential. Not water so much as light and energy — vibration. She does not move. Shelter is not needed.
If you have this feeling as I did, you might also never forget. It was magnificent and grand. If you had this experience, you might want to run and tell the world. But after the running, the words fail. Language is limited. But my awareness did not fail. My awareness, my attitude and understanding did not change. They opened. Like a door. Like a curtain. Like a current of electricity that reaches a bulb. The filament glows in the glassed vacuum. It glows. And then, all at once, it fills the darkened room with light, a rich and bathing light.
She sat there for some time. I also sat. For how long, I am unsure. Meditation does not know the hand of the clock.
© Richard Payment 2014
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