THE TUNNEL

The city was inundated with incessant rain for the past two days. The heavy downpour had brought everything to an unwelcome standstill. The constant lashing and pelting of raindrops from the over-zealous dark clouds had shrouded the whole city in an apocalyptic sense of doom. Our ancestors would have expressed gratitude for this generous gift of bountiful rain. But in present times, it only means the arrival of a series of exasperating problems like long hours of power cut, heavy traffic, water clogging and the like. Despite our perceived sinking in our set of exaggerated problems, we still wade across, and move ahead. The same could be said for these rains which I perceived as the harbinger of change and rejuvenation.

I welcomed my Monday morning not with a frown but with a warm smile as I heard the gentle tapping of the raindrops on my windowpane. I felt the soft kiss of the cool breeze on my cheeks as I embraced my pillow, and turned to the other side to get some extra sleep. It was soothing to hear the faint whisper of the wind, and imagine the quaint dance of the surrounding trees in this pale rainy morning. The sky seemed to be coloured in black ink, lending it an artistic touch with ash coloured clouds changing shapes with the blink of an eye, thus adding to its beauty and grandeur.

I would have snuggled in my warm bed for some more time if I would not have been jostled out of my sleeping state by the sad reminder of heavy traffic. I crept out of my bed, humming an unknown tune softly to myself that seemed perfectly in sync with this rhythmic atmosphere. After completing the routine ‘morning ritual’, I had my breakfast, collected some work flies and headed for the office. Even though I was no longer humming, the tune was still playing inside my head. It somehow percolated to my heart through the network of multitude veins, and cheered it up with its effervescence and exuberance. It restored my faith in the belief that something good was coming my way.

I always turn on the radio while driving as it helps to ease my mind, and provides some enjoyment especially while driving to ‘work’. I have no qualms in admitting that I was actually habituated to this daily routine of listening to the radio. Our lives are driven by this foundation of habits that all of us start constructing from the time we are born. It is unimaginable and also slightly difficult to do something that we are not habituated to do. For most of us change accompanies uncertainty, contemplation and fear, that is why we avoid it.

Today I gave way to change by trying something different. Instead of listening to human voices, I made an attempt to listen to the umpteen voices of nature; the conversation among its different entities, and observe its delightful swooning to the tune of the surrounding gentle breeze.

The window of my car was rolled up to prevent the rain from dampening the seat but I desperately wanted the invigorating raindrops to trickle down my face, and wash away all the sorrow that I had felt till now. I was elated in the company of fierce wind, soothing rain and intimidating lightning. I felt at peace with them maybe because my soul was caught up in a cauldron of mixed emotions.

I had taken a shortcut to avoid heavy traffic but luck had something else in store for me. According to my previous ingenious planning this route would have saved me twenty minutes but this route was also jam-packed with vehicles. My car entered the tunnel and all I could perceive was the serpentine row of cars on my either side. My view of the outside world was obstructed, and slowly, silently loneliness started creeping inside. With the onset of rains I had felt a surge of new found vivacity and happiness; reaching out to my distressed heart enslaved and crippled by loneliness.  Even though the tunnel was well lit with neon lights, I felt gloomy and despondent.  The tunnel seemed to mock my spirit and self belief with its army of harsh light and cacophony of shattering noises. Fear lurked around like a phantom, ready to attack and tear apart its victim. It was slowly gnawing on my strength, and making me hollow. I started feeling dizzy.

My phone suddenly rang, and it put a halt to my debilitating thoughts. I had thought so but it didn’t. An unknown number flashed on my screen, and I received it thinking it to be from some consultant.   As soon as I heard the voice, I was swept by a whirlwind of agonising memories. The voice unlocked those painful memories that I had buried deep inside my heart few years back but was still trying to overcome from the indelible scar it left on my soul. Indelible, as I thought it to be but was it? My mind was blocked, and even though I could comprehend every word, I still didn’t know what to think and how to react. Memories are fleeting instances from our life, intangible but still worthwhile. They make you happy or sad, and stimulate strongest emotion even when you think that it has lost its hold over you.

I felt the turbulent pounding of my heart as these fragmented memories flashed episodes of my past before my eyes. It pierced my heart as if a brutal blow had been cast on me with a dagger. My impalpable injuries started crushing me. I ran down my fingers on that place which few years back was the custodian of my future happiness and life. I touched my ring finger gently and stroked it to feel the absence of something. It was my engagement ring. After two years of courtship, I was marrying the ‘love of my life’ (I had thought him to be so). We were extremely happy with each other, and I was very sure that now nothing could go wrong. We got engaged as we saw our future with each other. It was a happy union where everybody showered blessings on us and participated in its celebration with great joy and fervour.  Until one day he came to me and said, “I am not sure.” My whole world crumbled when I heard these words. My eyes welled up in tears like broken pieces of glass that cannot be joined. I succumbed to loneliness, despair and excruciating pain.

After three years I heard him again. I could imagine his quivering lips as he said, “I am sorry for what I did but I want to meet you. I want to be with you.” I did not have the strength to question him or reason out so I just said ‘okay’. I don’t know why my heart did not take the predictable course of leaping up with joy on hearing this. I certainly failed to comprehend my own feelings at that time. I can’t tell if I felt happy or sad.

The long wait was finally over. I was nearly there. Cars stood in neat queues, waiting for their turn.  It was comforting to reach the exit of the tunnel. I was greeted by the gentle spring of soothing rain as my car emerged from the tunnel.

I heard my heart saying to me, “I left all my past memories of you behind. I left it when I came out of the tunnel.”

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