• anjali mohapatra

All the world is a story!

Life and death are two sides of the same coin. Everybody knows that- one day, we all will face death, yet the desire of living grips us tightly. What a magical spell all over the world!

Suddenly a group of birds flew to the sky. A sign of freedom.

Someone new has been set free from their mortal body. Yes, not me alone, hundreds and thousands of lives are set free from their mortal bodies every day. This is a freedom that I cannot explain to you, this buoyancy, being free from all tethers to the ground. I am no longer bones or flesh. Would someone still tethered to the world understand what it is to be pulled apart in a million different directions and yet be as compact as the core of a dying star? Would they understand the freedom this brings?

I am free…free from those illusionary bonds that tied me to everyone and everything. Incomprehensible happiness descended upon me, this I will not explain, you will not understand. Despite all this, I can recognise my decorated, empty body below me.

A few hours ago, the doctor announced my death.

The funeral was a standard one, my family mourned- some quietly, others not as much- a couple of friends and others I had left an impact on came by to pay their respects to my hollow shell. Good and bad comments came my way but it mattered little, I did not care for the body below and the life it had lived.

My death didn’t catch me by surprise, I had calculated it. I used to be an astrologer and a good one too, my calculations were never wrong. The stars answer every question I asked. In a moment of fear and insecurity, I had asked them when I would die and the answer I received was quiet. Then, a year later, my kidneys began to fail. My first response was fearful but it hit me. To live in fear of death would be foolish, I decided then to stop searching for replacements and to die in peace.

This is what that silence of the cosmos must have meant. However, I am getting distracted, it’s hard to keep track when you’re spread everywhere and yet nowhere.

Right, I was narrating the aftermath of my decisions. My family will mourn for now but after a while, the pain will ebb away and I will exist only in the outer edges of their happy lives and minds. This does not bother me, in fact, I hope that this sequence happens. I am neither cruel nor selfish enough to wish for them to live in grief. Time is short for them and I am gone. Perhaps they will join me here, in this vacuum, perhaps they will go elsewhere. Yet, we will be together again.

His voice was as clear as the cold wind that bit at my formless self.

Was this a memory?

The scene unfurled like petals around me, a cold October morning my grandfather had taken me to buy sweet potatoes. He was telling me a story of demons and divinity as usual. His stories often enamoured me as a child, I was eight on this day. I let the memory and childish glee envelop me, its warmth comforting despite the winter. This particular story was of Lord Vishnu’s unending intelligence, my grandfather’s deep voice took over all else:

“Ah, you want to listen to another story? I had told you two last night already. The one about Lord Vishnu again? Very well, long long ago, there was a very powerful demon named Brutrasura. The demon was powerful but crooked. He wished to become unbeatable. Unchallenged even in the face of the greatest warriors.

He worshipped Lord Shiva with great devotion. Years and years passed, but he failed to satisfy Lord Shiva. Refusing to give up, Brutrasura committed the highest form of worship by stepping into the sacred flames of Havan Kund, sacrificing himself. Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati appeared before Brutrasura, unable to ignore such a solemn sacrifice.

Lord Shiva was so pleased with Brutrasura’s worship that he promised him to give anything he wished for. The crooked demon, of course, asked for a boon of destruction. Brutrasura said he wished to have the ability to reduce anyone to ashes by placing his left hand on their head.

Without a second thought- careful with that! It’s hot! Right, where was I?

Yes, without a second thought Lord Shiva granted him the boon for his dedication. The demon was beheld with the beauty of Devi Parvati so he immediately tried to use his newly earned boon to destroy Shiva.

Realising his own mistake too late, his words can never go wrong Shiva ran. At last, he came to Lord Vishnu asking for his help.

Lord Vishnu soothed him and took the form of a dwarf Brahmin. Disguised, Lord Vishnu appeared before Brutrasura. The demon in his glee didn’t recognise the disguised Lord, making it all the easier for Vishnu to fool him. The dwarf Brahmin (Lord Vishnu) asked Brutrasura about the cause of his hurry. Heedless of any possible tricks, Brutrasura narrated the whole occurrence. Taking advantage of his pride the Brahmin mockingly challenged the truth of such a boon. He lured the demon with sweet words and advised him to test Lord Shiva’s boon.

The crafty Brahmin said, ‘Oh, Brutrasura! Why are you wasting your time? Why don't you test it over your own head to test the truth? Shiva can never be true.’

Brutrasura, angry at his authenticity being challenged took his hand and immediately placed it on his head! Lord Vishnu stood over the ashes brought about by greed and arrogance. A boon is a special and rare gift, had Brutrasura not been blinded by his own greed, he may have lived and found a better purpose for his boon. Humans aren’t much different with their boon, you know.”

Before my eight-year old self could ask what he meant, the scene melted away, no-

No!

I tried to grasp it, to tightly hold it to my soul, but I had no form. Helpless, I watched as the memory, my grandfather’s deep laughter, my childish glee, the cold October all slip away like water. I let it go, there was no keeping it.

Instead, I opted to look downwards again but there was no one there. My body was long gone, as was everyone else. Time had passed me by in the span of a single memory.

I wondered at the lesson in the story, all of grandfather’s stories had a lesson. If there was a lesson there I missed it, I wonder if my mortal life would have been any different if I had understood the boon that grandfather was alluding to.

It didn’t matter, my time was over. I had understood only one thing, a different quote from a different story: all the world is a stage. The world was much like a stage with various tragedies, romances, comedies all playing out once.. Much like a play too, it was an illusion. Each and every story was intricately connected, separation was an illusion. However, these words mean little to me, I have dropped that illusion now. I am one with everything and soon you will be too, the stars had answered every question I asked and it is time I went to sleep among them.

Be careful on this stage, it is a slippery one.

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