Monthly Story, February 2022
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
Image → @r1g
Rasa → Peace (shānta), with wonder (adbūtha) as secondary.
Archetype → Utopian
A car and a house to himself. It was all he wanted ten years ago, at nineteen. Ananda couldn’t help but smile at how, now that he had them, it meant nothing. Life was a strange river to swim in, he thought.
Ananda walked past his grandmother’s Mercedes-Benz and into her old house. The monthly cleaner had kept it relatively clean but, the house had that dense blanket of quiet found only in places unlived. Ananda stopped for a second to marvel at the golden tubes of sunlight streaming in through the tall, narrow windows that his grandmother had installed facing east. Although the house had been closed after her death, Ananda still felt her aura of gentle warmth. She had left the entire estate to him knowing how far a property like that would go for a young man like Ananda. He was always her favourite, Ananda remembered fondly. He was certain of her presence when he spent nights alone in the house, that year when the wound of her loss was fresh. It is then that Ananda started working on his manifesto to heal this broken world. But eventually, after each of his ideas shattered against the brutality of life, he stopped visiting the old house to dream alone. Ananda’s father had sporadically called him from his travels with advice to sell the property or lease it out to one of his many friends in hospitality. But, Ananda could never look at something function-first like his father did. Ananda saw feelings first. He watched all the opportunities that the immense property presented free-floating many and meaningless—like the dust caught in the beams of light streaming through the windows.
Ananda caught his reflection on a mirror—warped a fraction through the thin mist of dust on the surface, made oddly unfamiliar. How different of a man he was just a few years ago when joining his father’s political campaign, Ananda mused. He was convinced that they could build utopia. But, the years that followed showed Ananda that paradise was a very personal thing; Each to their own version; The older he got, the more alone Ananda felt in his version.
Ananda followed the trail of dampness on the wall. His father’s warnings about not attending to the old house had grown increasingly dire over the months—gathering gravity like a grey cloud in Ananda’s mind-sky. But, it felt small compared to the large monsoon cloud looming over his entire existence—that one question. Where is paradise? If paradise is just another figment in the mind of the perceptor, what was he doing here like a madman trying to keep sand from the sea? Ananda had no answer.
At the turn of the damp wall, Ananda spotted a young banyan plant. It had sprouted from a root creeping in from the door crack. He stared at the deep green leaves and the uppermost new leaf tinged red like a crowning flame. Found sanctuary, the plant stood perfectly at peace within that crisp morning inside the house. Banyans devour buildings with their persisting roots, Ananda knew. But, the sacredness of a quietly lived life spread through the air, taking hold like soundless music. In that contentment resting between life and consciousness, Ananda finally had the answer. He stepped outside the door leaving the house to the banyan.
Ananda turned the key in the lock and decided to hand it over to his father personally. Instead of driving back the old Mercedes-Benz like he’s been asked, Anada left it behind to take the train. He thought it’d be nice to sit by the window and watch the ocean, instead of sitting by the wheel and watching the road. Ananda knew that his father would eventually understand his decision to become an ascetic. Maybe not today, but someday. Trees that grow from the same root can belong to different gardens.
As he started walking towards the gate, Ananda heard a voice calling “sir, sir”. A middle-aged man with a familiar air hurried up to him. This must be Jagath—the village contractor that his father had asked Ananda to meet regarding renovations. Jagath’s initial confusion on hearing that his services are no longer required melted away instantly when Ananda handed him a one-thousand note; He left, beaming over making a thousand for just turning up.
Ananda took one last look at the old house. The window of the room that he used to sleep in as a little boy looked back at him. It was a beautiful morning. Ananda suddenly realised that he now had all the mornings of paradise. He couldn’t help smiling as he set off walking down the quiet shady street lined with the tall māra trees.