“Does the thought not frighten you?” My reverie snaps in two as I stare at the Himalayas’ western anchor, the cold mountain shrouded in snow, vanishing into the static avalanche of clouds suspended in a whirlpool around its head, through the window between the mahogany walls of the tavern - scarcely visible anymore under the advertising stickers of a million adventure clubs - too vivid in all it’s exhausting delineation to be real; toweringly august to be the product of a mortal’s nebulous dream.
I tear my eyes away to find you drenched in lukewarm gold of the morning sunlight, blurred at moments by wisps of steam from the tea mug, brows and lashes bleached to rust by the distilled light - I almost think I see your irises constrict and quiver, sending a wave over the tufts of brown like seaweed in an undercurrent on the ocean floor, all so graphic as if in a macro dream - so carelessly unsuspecting of the brilliance of the sight nature chose to make you the primary subject in that moment’s composition, a sight I find myself the lone witness to.
“Does it not frighten you?”
You ask again, half laughing as if there isn’t an idea more ridiculous, half troubled as if the thought had kept you up at night. The resounding silence makes you listen with all senses, the unadulterated quality of light makes you look without blinking; you do not want to look away for a moment’s repose as if afraid of missing some sudden, more breathtaking development in the scene.
So unlike the towns where the more the sounds, less there is to hear; the less there is to see, brighter the lights burn.
In my head, I have always walked in cities with invisible hands clasped over my ears.
You ask if it does not trouble me, the overwhelming realisation that we have squandered a rough third of our average lives - probably the best third, the healthiest, the lightest, the boldest - away.
That if it is not disturbing to be nearing milestones still dazed in the layered cocoons of a hazy sense of a beginning, enveloped in this deep penumbra of drunken expectation.
Perhaps not me but the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar might have shared your grave concerns, I reflect, amused.
“As answer to my quest for a long life
Four days were granted
Two, wasted in prayers
Two, in anticipation”
(Translated by Syed Ahmed Shah)
What if I told you I am glad it is over, every year of it. Perhaps it was worth it, to come through each time with a mind badly bruised and hope stubbornly, miraculously, foolishly intact; spirit a little more shattered; faith tested, shaken, restored.
For most, it would probably be the flashback of graduation caps in the air or that moment of held breath before making a vow of a lifetime’s devotion or of bags packed for a new life in a foreign land that would mark the end of an era in memory’s winding lane.
For me, not by choice but by chance - as arbitrary as the card pulled out from a deck of memories - it would be the image of you, in the brilliantly lit corner of the meadow tavern, an incandescent reminder of the naivety of youth breathing its last, the awakening of the eye to beauty, and the traumatic reconciliation with the tragedy of its transience, the stubborn, unrelenting sense of extraordinary possibilities, the bittersweet calm settling in the face of impending doom, of us running out of time.