Fiction: Ramada

Dev Vrat Sharma

Dev Vrat Sharma

The sand beneath my feet is still warm although the sun died two hours ago. It is slippery, the loose rubber sandals do not adjust to the thick layer of fine sand, the feet sink at times, I have never ever walked such terrains earlier. A few dates around, heaps of accumulated sand at intervals, oceanic currents of sand spread unto the very last the eye can see, suggest that - this could be the ‘Gobi’ or even the ‘Sahara’ but certainly not the Indian ‘Thar’. How can I say with such certainty … yes not because I have seen the ‘Thar’, travelled through it… the feel here is very exotic as if something eerie seems to pervade the whole being of the land.                                                               

I am walking, rather made to run, to catch up with the exceedingly tall figure, all clad in white, pacing ahead of me. His hair, full shiny-white, open, flashing in the radiance of a ‘moon blenched earth’, flowing as waves in the cool breeze, against the amazingly serene and beautiful, but mystically intriguing desert.            

I try to recall as to why I am here? 

But for the while the more pertinent question seems; whether am I here?

A landscape so outworldly not even descended upon me be it the pictures, the documentaries, running films, poetic configurations, even dreams or any other agency. The distinction is more perceptible in my mortal being a quaint lightness that I am feeling all about myself – the limbs moving forward, up and down bending almost effortless. Even the consciousness has come to settle down onto the serene surrounding – no far fetched thoughts, no indulgence, no foreboding seem to torment me....

I faintly recollect my meeting with Ramada as he appeared instantly the previous day, as of emerging out of nothing. This is how his presence as also his disappearances, are registered objectively, by my brain, so swift are these acts and with such resilience that I adjudicate the phenomena as ‘from nowhere to nowhere’.

“Ramada tell me; is there a rebirth, a re-embodiment if it might be so called”.
“Yes and No… both”
“Now this is tantalizing… as usual, you are evading a direct answer”
“Not at all, I assert it is both; yes for those who believe that there is a continuation of some sort and no for those whose belief system negate the possibility of such an
 extension of the being”
“I still don’t get it proper”.
I said conniving of how things would assume a practicality. I knew that the battery of questions which my mind has started to perpetuate would not be answered within the domain of conjecture.
“I’ll show you this”.
Perhaps he could read my mind; my snooping, but much more the scheming of the wily mind wheedling him to such an indulgence. Nevertheless, it was going to be fun and I promised this to myself. He always does what he commits, with such exactitude and these nifty exhibitions are amongst the very best that life can unfold… Hence this vision, this exotic landscape, this dream walk and this seemingly other-worldly experience. What exactly is this spectacle, I do not know nor have I have any means to find it out for myself.

The landscape where I am presently located appears to be a tableland slightly raised from the surroundings in the likeness of a plateau. A hundred yards or so hence, scattered all over are structures which appear to be tombstones….yes tombstones they are, as the vision gets clearer with my getting closer to them.    The tiny dot like objects, which so appeared from the distance, have emerged as human figures; only a shade or two fainter, all clad in white, men women usually old, some young ones and  a few very small children as well. These people, as now I am only a few yards away from them, have turned out to be stately, with impressive features, prominent cheek bones, sharp and long noses drooping a little toward the descent, with almost chiseled lips, some with grey beards flowing exuberantly in the gale.                                                   

Now I am nodded to stop, Ramada, who has been walking all the while without uttering a word or even looking back, turns looks at me and gesticulates…. I must stop. All the eyes are now set on the two of us, these probing, suspicious… piercing eyes, conveying that our presence here is not welcomed. And then comes the thought; even more trenchant than the gaze, emerging from the mind of the elderly and the most majestic of the lot, perhaps the chieftain or a self-styled leader of the clan. No audible words, just the thought flowing … floating as the air current, or like the notes flowing from a composition in a graphic representation on a screen; to be seen and not heard. And thus, the conversation begins.

“Who are the two of you?”
“Humans”
Here comes the instantaneous response of my mind.
“Humans! Then how come your bodies glitter and radiate light, quite unlike ours.”
“How long you all have been here and for what?”
Echoes the deep melodious voice of Ramada, these are the unspoken words winding from the being of Ramada, the resonance produced by the jingle is clearly discernible if not to be heard.
“Some of us are here for not more than four hundred years; others are longer like me… almost a thousand”
The banality of the voice, conveying much more than was intended.
“Why”
“Why... how ridiculous… don’t you know we are waiting …? waiting for the qayamat.”
These people had by now gone weary of our questions and much more by our presence.
“I think you better be leaving my men are getting disconcerted … this place is no good as of now for you!”
But Ramada is not one bit scared and is not to be disposed off thus:
“We have no inclination to offend you… just one more question before we leave….”
“Okay the last… and hurry up”
“Practically for how long you will wait here?”
“Till the day of qayamat… I told you!”
“And how far would that be?”
“Can’t say for sure… in fact we don’t know… all we know is that  it would come one day … when… we do not care”

It is a fresh zephyr rubbing against the window glass with a fresh scent of the early morning hours. With the gush of the breeze a fine fragrance permeates the room with an invigorating energy, welcomed and much desired.  This abrupt dislocation from the erstwhile scene is as unexplainable as was my placement into it. I am not able to relate; … the vacuum, the in between occurrence if there is any. Yes the previous night is there in front of me, clear… strikingly naked, as inseparable from the present moment; as a breath from the preceding one: The soaring; seemingly human figures, their enigmatic expressions, the bizarre habitat, the dream walk, this other-worldly experience and of course Ramada, are all too… too  fresh for me… Ramada… did I pronounce his name…..hang on…. he is there right in front of the divan sitting on a befitting grand imposing mahogany chair.

“When did you come?”

Awestruck I ask, never at ease with his sudden emergence and vanishing acts, his answer is no answer, it enhances the bewilderment:
“I am always here, I never come.”
“Oh … anyway … explain the previous night to me”
“It was real”
“How real”
“As real as you and me at the moment, and yet not so real in the larger frame of things”
“I cannot establish… kindly elaborate”
“Okay you can take this existence to be an intermediate reality”
Unable to grasp fully what was intended I revert to the issue:
“Do you think these people will have no re-incarnation?”
“Because they don’t want one, their belief system has conditioned them thus”
“How long will they stay there?”
“Eternally”
“All of them… not even a single person would have a rebirth”
“No it is not an impossibility, if someone opts out, de-conditions his thoughts and belief system, is surely to find for himself a womb, but then this is difficult”
“Yes…yes Ramada I know how deep religion impacts us.”
                              
 The breeze has receded considerably and is warm and cozy and I at the writing table musing from where to make a beginning. Ramada having departed as softly as he had come; has taken over load of queries away and has left me to my pen and table.

9 comments :

  1. This is a wonderful story that mixes the real and the surreal.The landscape seems fantastic and at the same time an actual place and the dialogue between the narrator with his pen and the mysterious Ramada feels grounded and yet extra-terrestrial. This story is Dev Vrat Sharma at his best. It takes the reader on a wild and eerie journey into the known and unknown. Bravo!

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    2. Great to see Jonah's appreciative comments. Congratulations.

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  2. It was surreal, complexity of religion explained in a fiction. Loved it...

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  3. It is an amazing depiction of a vision, an experience, a journey to an unknown terrain where the sun doesn't set but dies. Then the appearance of Ramada guiding the traveller further through the mysteries of that unfamiliar domain is a masterstroke by Devvrat Sharma. Brilliant !!

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  4. Yes..it was "In an Antique Land" ! Long back I had chanced upon Amitav Ghosh's book which had a similar tone, with only Ramada missing. Devvrat has filled the gap and has the man showing the way ahead ! Must say, Devvrat has a beautiful aesthetics of words, a wonderful knack for language which comes flowing free from his pen. Do you also write about the springs and vales with a similar ease, Dev?

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  5. Impressed by the optimism of the dead or the living beings waiting for "Qayamat" or "Acchhe Din" ???? A deft delineation of the real through surreal, so candidly! A symbolic story with deep meaning! Well done Devvrat!keep it up! Best wishes

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