Where life begins

Where life begins

I studied in a convent tucked in the verdant foothills of the Himalayas. Nainital was often cocooned in a fog that cloaks the hills and valleys; obscuring the vision. When it rises there is a crispness and clarity in the air. Metaphorically, I’m not sure for how long our childhood remained cloaked in this mist. This literal and metaphoric haze first started lifting in a Hindi class when we realised we were at a threshold where life as we knew it then was dissipating and the future tickled our young minds.

Our new Hindi teacher Maya Ram, was tall, sturdy and formidable not just in appearance but also in disposition. She made us sing the ‘Gayatri mantra’ at the beginning of the class and ensured that we learnt what it meant by heart. Used to the casual approach of our old Hindi teacher we thought this as an intrusion. While we were still deciding whether we feared her, respected her or just plain hated her she came to class with a poem; ‘Ek Boond’ (A drop) by  Ayodhya Singh Upadhyaya “Hariaudh”.

Now, poetry they say can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it. The sentiment and passion with which she taught us the poem made a dent in our impressionable minds and we realised it was not a lesson in Hindi but in life.

The poem talked about the feelings of a drop of rain when it is leaving the bosom of the clouds. She contemplates and shivers in fear wondering why she must leave the safety of her home. She is petrified that she might just get lost in the sands of time. Apprehensive about her future, she tries to allay her fears by thinking that she might just land on a lotus blossom. The drop’s hesitations at leaving her comfort zone are so vividly elucidated that they resonated with us as at that moment, we felt we were poised to take the world in our young hands.

The drop’s fate was important to us as we corroborated it with ours. Maya Ram continued to explain; “at that moment came a gust of breeze and carried the drop unheeding to the sea where a beautiful oyster opened. The little drop fell into the oyster where she became a lovely pearl. People often hesitate and worry when they have to leave their homes, but quite often, leaving their comfort zones transforms them like the tiny drop. You can contemplate going back toward safety or move forward toward growth.

All of you have the potential to become beautiful pearls” she concluded. The class took on a different dimension and meaning. We knew that Maya Ram was teaching us more than the poem and we all fell in love with her despite her rather austere ways. The fog lifted. We learnt that there is only one way of finding out what life brings us…by going forward.