Zigzag To Enlightenment By Shashi Gupta (India)
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A Zigzag To Enlightenment
By Shashi Gupta (India)
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Zigzags are interesting geometrical concepts wherein the zig remains confined to the zag by means of a singular half-asleep, half-awake part of an angle, which hangs between the two for lack of a more useful preoccupation. Having been bestowed with such amazingly thoughtful proportions, it should come as no surprise to the reader that I have taken upon myself the task of allegorically studying the concept of a zigzag, while using it as a means to draw some philosophical conclusions. You need not share a similar perspective on this matter, but I do hope you at least have an enjoyable ride along.
The anecdote which I am about to narrate is of my school going days. It mainly describes the short journey between my home and my school, and the going-ons in between. Although I have used the term zigzag to trace the path that led to our school (supposed to be no less then a Mecca of enlightenment), in truth it was more of a square, wherein the point from which we would begin our journey would remain the point where it would come to an end.
To explain this more simply, or to make your task easier, it would be better for me to just state that the building in which we resided and the house that stood right opposite the school we went to, shared the same boundary wall. I guess this should make more sense. At least I hope so. Anyways, in pragmatic terms, it was mostly a 10-15 minutes walk - of course subject to variations depending on several factors. For example, if our chauffeur drove us there (which happened occasionally), then it would barely take us five minutes to be at the gates of the Mecca. But in case we decided to buy a thing or two on the way, then it could take us well past half an hour.
During childhood there are numerous situations that keep repeating themselves, as would a time-warped saas bahu soap opera even after the nth episode, and getting ready to go to school was one such thing. Pulled out of a warm and comfortable bed, you would be bundled into the bathroom where, while your hapless teeth would be almost screaming for help, you would be forced to hastily usher them into a bacteria free environment. All this while your mind would be running at a pace designed to make even the likes of Milkha Singh hang his head in shame, about the maths homework you have failed to finish. As if that were not enough, while you were inflicting torture on your tummy by throwing in morsels of soggy cereals, glancing at the watch would most likely make you realize that you are late for school once again; and then you would be seen scurrying away, as though you were about to miss the last train.
I am sure most of you can empathize with the situation I have just spoken about and in all likelihood have outlived it, at least the school going part of it.
Although one may have gone through the above lunacy on more than a single occasion, there were also those instances when one had all the time in the world for a wonderful leisurely walk, in spite of the back-breaking burden that one towed along, as would an industrious ass for his indolent master. On such instances one would simply amble along, bathing in the morning sunshine feeling pleased about nothing, while throwing a greeting at some schoolmate or classmate passing by. It would be a peaceful and mostly uneventful walk except for…
As I have mentioned some time earlier, it was a squarish route that we had to follow. Just a few paces ahead of our apartment building (soon after the 1st turn) there was this quaint little shop. It was a tiny place tucked away in the middle of nowhere, as there were no other shops anywhere near its vicinity. The shop sold all the possible goodies and candies that could make a child’s taste buds go lickity-lop and what not… stacked away in it’s minute corners. Thus, as we hurried to school, the chhota dukaan stood there, offering us a tantalizing kind of hope of better things to come.
All throughout our childhood, and even much into our adulthood, we never ever thought that this place could have been called by any other name besides the nickname we had chosen for it (or which got bestowed on it) - we called it simply ‘the small shop’ or ‘chhota dukaan’, which of course means one and the same.
The small shop would be a regular stopover for us, either on our way to school or while coming back, and sometimes both. I think it became more of a habit than a need to just stop at the shop and look into the treasures that it so shamelessly displayed - chocolate bars of varying sizes and shapes, mini and big packets of those multihued Gems, chewy Chiclets and sour-eyed jeera golis, and not forgetting my favourite - the zebra-striped lozenges. Then there were those slices of sweet milk bread, biscuits of all kinds (salted Monacos and cheeselings, sticky jam ones, chocolate bourbons, crunchy kharis and plain ones like the evergreen Parle-Gs). The list could be endless. However, not being certain of your interest in the priceless riches of chhota dukaan, let me proceed further on my deliberations.
Right in front of the small shop, as it usually is in most establishments of this breed, there would be a row of glass jars which (goes without saying) offered an enticing view of one or more of the above-mentioned items. Jeera golis, Cadbury’s 5-star bars, Milan suparis, etc. all sat there, almost awaiting something. One can hardly blame a 10 year old, when such a divine spread can put the good intentions of even the saintliest in a quandary.
I would like to, with your kind permission, take a brief detour over here.
In my growing years, as it happens to most of us, I began to imbibe many of the values, which would eventually make me the person I am. From where these emerged and finally conjugated into is all the more complex and better left unanalyzed. Simply put, the foundation of my personality was slowly but surely being built. But is that likely without a few hiccups along the way?
As we all know it is not always possible, least of all when you are a child, to discern the right from the wrong, the black from the white. There is a thin line between the two, which makes the task all the more complicated. Thus, as time and again I found myself in front of the chhota dukaan, I soon found my mind forming many an evil configuration. It never takes too much for a desire to turn into a temptation. And a temptation into something more…
It was on such instances, when I would have to wait while being attended to or to be attended to, that my hands would surreptitiously make their way into one of the many glass jars displayed in front of the chhota dukaan, as my eyes kept darting around like a burning flame caught midst the wind, to check out the possibilities of being discovered. With my pounding heart almost in the mouth, nervous fingers would clutch at whatever there was, carefully observing the back of the unsuspecting shopkeeper, hoping to retrieve the bounty before he turned around.
On some occasions I would indeed be rewarded for the bravado I had mustered, while on others I would have to simply make do with my own purchases. Not surprisingly, although I would be consumed with some amount of guilt while carrying out the awful act, the cold thrill of that moment bears upon me even while I write presently - the very same excitement which probably delights humankind on defying the rules of the game.
I am able to recall quite vividly as to how I would pounce on all those chocolate éclairs and bubble gums, fear writ large on my innocent face. It was as though the devil inside me was dastardly determined to make something of my benign soul. Thus I continued to be a slave to Lucifer. I suppose all was not lost for me, as thankfully I was never discovered. I can now imagine the embarrassment I would have plainly suffered if I had ever been found out.
I must have run out of this iniquity soon enough and it is hard for me to remember the reasons, as it is equally tricky to understand why it happened - tricky and elusive enough to be able to know the complete truth.
This episode in my life may or may not have influenced my eventual moral attitudes and social behavior, but it most definitively made me understand the wrong from the right, the black from the white, for which I am thankful.
There are things, certain things, big or small, that are able to convey to us much deeper meanings of existence without even attempting to do so. Thus my friends I have proceeded to my very own Mecca, while having circumambulated the route to it totally.
And the journey, which still remains incomplete, has been the greatest teacher of all. It is a conclusion which I have perhaps correctly or incorrectly reached. Life offers to us just a zigzag and it is up to us to be able to make out the zig from the zag.
Name: Shashi Gupta
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org