“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” ~ John Milton, Paradise Lost
Silence and Darkness. These are the only two things that reign here. Silence that veils the loudest of the noises, the shrillest of the voices and darkness that blankets the brightest of the lights. He stands at the terminus a quo of the place. The transitory state that separates light and dark; obvious and latent. Here, the obscure (dark) and the light belong together because they are inseparable for the dark is in its essence the light and the light is in its essence the dark. His arrival into this cold, damp place interrupts the prevailing silence. The sound of dripping water droplets from the roof and walls of the place takes a cue from his thumping heartbeat. He frisks his t-shirt, not to console his heart but to look out for the matchbox. The matchbox is wet from the sweat drenched t-shirt. Beads of sweat emerge from the minute needle pricked pores which join hands right from his forehead to form small tributaries that make their way and glide down from his temples to his cheeks and thence his neck and merge with the fabric fiber just like the streams descending down a mountain merge with a river at the bottom. He strikes the burgundy-colored head of the match, that has lost its identity in the darkness, against the side of the matchbox. The matchstick glides smoothly over the wet surface failing to yield any result. He strikes the match head again and again till the matchstick gets beheaded and then draws another matchstick from the box performing the same futile exercise. To his luck, after some attempts, the side of the match takes pity on him and provides the minimal amount of friction required to set the burgundy head on fire. The flame growls and grows big on the onset of the chemical reaction. The flame too, yellow, black and blue with yet another latent component hints at the plurality of the place. The flame of the matchstick flickers on the rhythm of his pulses. The flickering action of the flame betrays the anxious, wavering and wandering nature of his mind. There is no might in the air that could make it flicker. So, does that mean that the flame is afraid of the darkness of the place, just like darkness which is afraid of dawn? He manages to keep the flame steady. The feeble flame fights with all its might to stand before the dense mass of darkness but alas it fails to dispel it. Who lives here? He wonders. He is ignorant to take the silence of the place for its abandonment. But there are continuous sounds. Sounds with a potential which if he could hear could make his eyes bleed and relieve his ears from the power to hear. Fortunately, he cannot hear the high-frequency sounds of the creatures that dwell in this place, for he is not designed this way. He moves forward, cautious of his movements. The floor is not uniform. It is as if heaps of small sand dunes had solidified. The place seems alive to him. It looks like he is inside the body cavity of some creature. There is a certain warmth in the surrounding, and a certain chill as well. The place has profound radiance in certain places and yet deep unrelieved obscurity in others. In this place arise the clamorous clatter and conflict of the contradictory worlds of light and dark, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, infinity and finitude. The place is flooded with stagnant water. It is a water tomb for dead insects and animals. He can barely conceive the stench of the place. There is a plethora of unwanted articles. A clutter of things is scattered all over the place that have clogged the underground drainage. The putrid squalor makes him feel as if he is in the intestines of the Leviathan. The flame traces the length of matchstick, turning the slender wood to ash. The flame extinguishes. He lights another match. ‘Chirk’, the sound is born. And as the match catches fire, several winged creatures fly over his head and make their way out. He is
frightened yet amazed at how these nocturnal creatures, despite their poor sight, have developed echolocation, helping them to sense their surroundings better. The need and necessity to see and survive must have compelled bats to develop this mechanism, he reasons. He walks and walks amidst the stinking air. Ironically, he finds himself lost in the place where he came in search for self. He continues his search and his way out. He looks for the boundaries of this plenum which has no boundaries but only depth, more akin to a void. He sees the light penetrating through the other end of the tunnel. “There” he exclaims in mind. “There is my way out”. He reaches the terminus ad quem of the place like an insect towards a flame. He cannot go outside for, can a prisoner, who is unable to open a door, ever escape from gaol? It is covered by a giant web. His eyes catch the sight of a writing engraved on one side of the wall which is lit by the incoming rays. It is not clear at first but he finds out that the writing is the same as that inscribed on the gateway of the temple of Apollo_ “Know Thyself”. The inscription looks as if it has been inscribed by the same spider that has weaved such an intricate yet orderly web. A fascinating architectural design as if inspired by the works of Lord Vishwakarma. The labyrinth of web looks like as if a large piece of metal has been punctured by several bullet holes, nay, it looks like a giant leaf that has been eaten by insects exposing its veins. The architect of this web glides along the fine silk threads. It seems it is inspecting and taking pride in its creation. To his surprise, it is not weaving anymore but eating its own spun web.
He steps out. His parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, constricting his pupils and his eyes take their time to accommodate. The bright summer sun, for him, as hot as it is, sheds more discomfort than happiness. His eyes hurt. He finds himself in a crowded street. A potpourri of creatures- humans, animals, insects etc. swarm the filthy boulevards. The sun is at its zenith. It is bigger than usual. The radiance of the daylight can be easily felt on the skin. The sun seems to ripen not only the mango and other fruits around but also the earth. To this heat, there is an unbearable accompaniment of noise, a noise so intense and deafening, of honking cars, the buzzing of bees, and continuous chatter that drive him crazy. He blinks. He blinks again, this time deliberately, trying to take a mental note of the place in his subconscious. He wonders whether the chaotic events of the particular moment reflect the unimaginable, unperceivable events of the cosmos? He stares at the sun without caring for his eyes and thinks whether every single being reflects a galaxy of the universe? Are the events of daily life some mirror events that skip unnoticed? He is bewildered. To him, the human mind seems to be a reflection of the universal mind, operating through the innumerable material bodies. He walks and to his perception, the people outside have taken the shape of cells of our body. The patrolling policemen have become the white blood cells; the nurses have become the macrophages; the thugs and ruffians have turned into cancer cells. They are all out there in the arterial avenues that connect the different parts of the world. At one point he wonders whether the people are really out there? Or is there an emptiness? Is it his elevated senses or his lack of understanding that has led him to people the void with phantasms and totipotency. He wanders like a soul among the pool of dynamic bodies with a full gamut of human emotions. Nobody can see him. Nobody can feel his presence. The sun has painted the shadows of the creatures on the streets so that even the loneliest people have a companion at this hour. But ill-fated that he is, he remains a man with no shadow. The trees
which line and decorate the surroundings have shed their leaves as if in submission to the scathing daylight, revealing the naked, gigantic and regressive meshwork of the tangled branches which resemble the bronchi and bronchioles of lungs, that extend ad infinitum. All the other things have a part of everything in this universe and had he the ability and an unwavering mind to look closer at the branching pattern of the trees, he would have certainly known what Charles Bonnet had observed; a mathematical spiral pattern that the branches and leaves of a tree follow, which was the same as that formulated by the medieval mathematician and an 18th century naturalist, Leonardo of Pisano also known by the name of ‘Fibonacci’. But ignorant that he is, he does not know that just like the ever-bifurcating branches of the tree which have their common arche, this discovery too had its source in the Sanskrit poem of Pingala who had already discovered this ‘divine’ sequence many years ago. He does not know that the senses are feeble for they fail to grasp things too small for them, what they can grasp leads the mind to distinguish what lies behind the appearances, the imperceptible reality behind the perceptible. At the amazement and deception of his senses that led him to see the unseen, he wonders where might be the heart and brain of this giant, complex organism. He is dehydrated. His pants and gasps result in a zephyr as if the winds had been released from years of imprisonment. The warm, soft breeze rejuvenates his soul. He wonders if the world is alive just like him? Whether the world was an organism that breathes air in a way just like he does. Does the zephyr of the moment indicate the breathing of the universe? Do the gusts hint at the panting and gasping of the cosmos? If the air stopped blowing and if the universe stopped breathing, it would die and so would he and so would all other things. All the things in their prime would perish and eventually rot. He assumes that everything in nature is manifested in the human form. Humans, like cells wait and react to various stimuli. People perceive and respond to different situations. The perceptions and triggers vary from person to person. People respond only when they get a stimulus from another being or thing. They act as mere receptors waiting for an outside signal to respond. They are puppets being manipulated. Sometimes, in this process when they fail to perceive or receive the stimulus, they lose their meaning of life and eventually wait for death to come in a hope that all along their life, perhaps, they had been waiting for a wrong stimulus and that perhaps, death was the only stimulant, the only truth. The burning wheel of fire suspended in the vast emptiness brightens its luminescence and glows brighter than ever, and he falls to the ground in a swoon.
He is devoid of repose. He is weak. He is drab. His head hurts, his body aches. He has a fine dark, dense, untangled long hair, like a hippie. He wears a bushy beard. He has not slept days and nights at a stretch. The goddess of sleep has forsaken him. Large amounts of DMT have been gushing in his encephalon. He is soaked in sweat. The ceiling fan is dead. A small iron
bed without pillows lies naked in one corner surrounded by dark, damp walls. The moisture that has seeped in these walls and accumulated over years reflects the patterns of souls trapped inside the walls that may come alive any moment. There is a small window in one of the walls that overlooks a pharmaceutical shop. Fresh air outside the window struggles to make its way in. The air inside his room is stale and he stinks like a dead dog, but he does not smell anything, for people become deaf after hearing loud noises and after smelling profound and intense odors their sensory power of smelling is impeded. The floor is the dump yard for cigarette butts and dead moths; ashes and wall damps. He looks still, but in his mind, a cyclone of thoughts has disrupted every synapse. A nest of newspapers, books and crumpled
papers lie scattered in the spaces between the utensils kept on the floor to hold the dripping roof water. He sits lifelessly in front of small cubicle screen in his poor wicker chair. The text cursor keeps appearing and disappearing like a snake that goes into its nest only to emerge again. He gazes at the white screen hypnotized. He suffers from metamorphopsia, he suffers from madness. Bits and chunks of food are scattered all over his working place. He needs a plot for his novel. The manuscript is due next month. He is resolved to finish his task. His eyes make a slow, effortless movement to look at the keyboard. The arrangement of the alphabets makes no sense to him. They should be in orderly fashion. He notices a movement on the keys. He bends forward and to his surprise, an ant crawls out through the peripheral crevices of the ‘Enter’ key. In the following seconds, another ant crawls out beneath the ‘shift’ key. He presses the enter key first and then the shift key. Then he glides his finger starting from Q to P, A to L and Z to M and reverse, thus bringing the lifeless white screen to life with ‘qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm’ and ‘mnbvcxzlkjhgfdsapoiuytrewq’. As he finishes a paragraph, and hence forth a page with similar gliding movements, trails of ant emerge from beneath the keys. He keeps performing the same task till no more ant appears on the keyboard. He has fed his body with everything but food. Psychedelics have failed. Or haven’t? He must do something. He musters up the courage and manages to stand up and go near the sink. The sink is placed in one corner of the room. It looks tired with the burden of dirty utensils that have piled up in due course of time. He opens the tap. The tap lets out a sigh and a thin discontinuous line of water drips like dew drops falling off from the tip of a leaf. He splashes water on his face. He looks up into the mirror. He cannot see his face. In a vain attempt, he shrinks and rubs his eyes to focus for a better vision. Is it the hallucinogens or is the mirror dirty? He is a fool to not know that the stains do not remain present on the old mirrors because they cannot penetrate deep enough but can only smudge the surface and that it is only the brightest and the cleanest of the mirrors that reveal even the slightest of the stains. The white portion of his eye is dabbed with red spots and decorated with fine blood vessels as if painted with fine brush strokes which add a cloudy blood-colored haze to his already struggling organ of brilliance and color. His eyes catch sight of a spider that has weaved a web in the upper corner of the mirror. He looks around and finds that the spider has managed within days to weave and cover almost all the niches of his room. He must get an idea. He must talk to someone. But he does not know anyone. He must step out. He must get a walk. As he advances to leave his room, a printed page skids off the table. He picks it up. The paper reads: “What we commonly call the mind is a set of operations carried out by the brain.”