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Ranjan Nautiyal

On the roof of the fourth floor flat in a metro stood a room. It was there because the man who owned the flat on the fourth floor thought it was a good way of making some extra money. And in it lived all alone, as a tenant, a young man far from his hometown. Come here to seek his destiny and fulfill his dreams. Or forget them. But at this stage in his life he was sure he was close to doing the former. Though he was equally far from both the prospects ≠ good and bad.

On this fine spring morning he was getting up to get ready for work. Till he opened the door he didnít think much of the day outside. His thoughts were on the work ahead, his body on autopilot as he went about his morning routine not even thinking about what he was doing. As it happens to us all when our senses let go of our surroundings, having seen the same things over and over again. Like always, he put a cassette in his stereo and undressed for bath. But as he got up to go and threw open the door that opened out on the terrace, he was hit by two things simultaneously. One was the warm spring breeze having traveled over numerous trees and streams and beating the vehicle exhaust by a few minutes. The other thing that hit him was the sound of a long forgotten song that he had first heard in his boyhood and had now accidentally picked up and played after a long time.

These two, together, somehow broke through the indifference of dulled senses and aroused them. For a second or two he stood waiting for the wave to pass and let him walk on to his bath. But instead, they made him do what he had totally forgotten to do. He took a step backwards, took his eyes off the hands of the clock that ruthlessly moved on to the combination that signaled his time to leave. He went back and lay down flat on his back on his hastily abandoned bed. He shut his eyes as the breeze swept over him in ripples and the song lapped and surrounded him like waves. He lay there for the time the song and the breeze danced over and about him. He was a fish in the ocean, a bird in the sky and every little thing that he ever was in his wildest dreams. He couldnít remember when he was happier. But he didnít know it. He didnít think he deserved it, because it didnít seem to have taken any effort to achieve this moment. It had come too easy and even though in a remote, detached way he felt an ecstasy that he had never felt before, he wasnít aware of the truth as he let himself be borne by these waves.

What he didnít know, however, was that unknowingly, all his life he had been setting himself up for this moment. All the time he was working towards this climax. That every single step he had taken ≠ figuratively or otherwise ≠ it was to get to this day and time. Unknown to himself, he had passed exams, dreamt dreams, failed interviews, taken one offer and refused the other. Chosen one career over others, befriended some people and forgotten the others. Spent hours on cold winter nights cramming notes as he skipped movies and dinner. All to get to this moment. He had gone through his life preparing for this. Picking up at various points a stereo, a tape and a room on the roof of a fourth floor flat overlooking a park so that at a given moment he might throw open the door and let the breeze and the music carry him to heaven. Everything else was like pieces of a jigsaw that are essential to complete the picture but are not the picture. Only he didnít know all this. He didnít know that the heaven he had always dreamt of and left his home and family for and struggled all these years for had come. And gone. Because just as the song got over he opened his eyes with a jerk and as if gasping for breath, jumped out of this ocean that was his heaven and his destiny. And as the song died in his mind and the breeze swept aside, thrown off by the sudden movement, his routine took over. His eyes automatically went to the clock that stood looking down at him like a master. Cursing himself, he jumped up and rushed off to his bath. He would miss his bus today and get late to work. In a weekís time he was up for appraisal and a promotion. He couldnít make a mess now if he wanted to live his dreams and get all that he had been struggling for all his life.

This copy is posted as it was received. It has not been edited by TLM

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