I applied for the job and I remember feeling happy that there would not be any night on-calls since patients were just picking up. Unsure of what lay ahead, I stepped into my new job. I used to drive down initially, stop at all the places that were phenomenally picturesque, and take pictures. People would stop to watch in amusement, and I would silently pray for them to leave me alone.
The landscape was right out of a fantasy world. I could not believe that this was real.
Never before had I seen such a fiery play of colors….such sharp contrasts.
Dawn and dusk would drape the same landscape in entirely different costumes. The fiery colors of summer contrasted sharply with the rejuvenating green monsoon canvas.
Everyday, I allowed myself to be mesmerized by the changing canvas I was treated to. These images awakened my mind to perceptions I had never felt before.
I felt within me the nothingness and stillness that can only come from witnessing something overpowering.
I ceased to exist, for my mind was brimming with something far more profound than me. It was the first time I felt the throbbing of a universe within me. Work was a blessing for I had plenty of leisure time at work. I would write pages and pages from the beauty of all that I perceived.
I thus discovered my freedom- on new terms.
Rural life also attracted me. I was thrilled by the sight of old houses that stood majestically in the premises of untended orchards. They seemed to be brimming with the stories of generations. Coconut palms and mango trees stood in the premises, perhaps whispering ancient tales that only they had witnessed. Barns and cowsheds stood in the premises, some empty for lack of hands to tend to the animals.
There was the familiar odour of smoke from the hearth. My heart soared at the sight of silver-haired grandmothers and grandfathers in the courtyard of houses, their faces mellowed by life, their eyes closed in prayer. I loved the sight of men and women toiling in the fields, washing away the exhaustion of their lives of struggle in their togetherness.
All around me, I saw stories.
I saw souls who mimicked the beautiful souls I had seen in malayalam cinema. I stopped paying attention to my life. For the first time, I learnt to be still and absorb the ocean of life that surrounded me. I realized that resilience came naturally to these simple village folk. I admired their ability to ask so little of life- their ability to endure so much. We urban folk take pride in our ability to be bold, but we often confuse it with courage and strength.
For the first time, I understood that the kind of courage and strength that life demands for survival, is altogether different.
Rural life humbled me. It destroyed all the ego I harboured. I allowed myself to be awed by the resilient spirit of my rural patients a lot more than the awe they perhaps felt towards my urban, independent spirit.
As I dwell upon that phase of my life, I find myself struggling to write. For the stories around me were infinite. My life brimmed with interesting characters and their stories. I loved being a part of their lives. Those characters did not know their worth.
Beneath their ordinary exterior, I could always see the extraordinariness of their souls.
A few faces come to memory. Lakshmanettan, the old driver of our bus who would drive us across the plantation, never losing his composure, highly attentive and sensitive to the comfort of his passengers. Fousiya, the young dark-complexioned nursing aid who had learnt to smile at the complexity and unfairness of the problems life thrust on her, but never come to terms with her dusky complexion. There was not a fairness remedy she had not experimented. She was a girl with a kind and compassionate heart, and I lived on her sense of humour. Fousiya’s grandmother who unabashedly told the doctor that she had put her ECG recording into the chulha. Subeesh, the medical representative, who entertained us with the wildest stories. Fousiya and Subeesh were a deadly combination when it came to humour, and I looked forward to such sessions. Beena, who had lost her father, and suffered a lot of abuse. I was happier than her on the day she got married. Never before had I looked at marriage from the perspective of defense for a woman. The Muslim woman who was battling cancer, and her 10-year old daughter who managed the household. Rosamma Ma’m, who loved plants. The ivy gourd she gifted me continues to give us little harvests. Kunhikannan sir who wore a mask of seriousness that made his humour all the more hilarious. The psychiatrist who gave us many reasons to laugh. Venugopal Sir, who was a father figure to me. The old Muslim patient who touched me with her sensitivity to others. The poor elderly Muslim couple who hesitantly gifted me a toffee as a token of gratitude. Our bus driver Sanesh and the school kids who boarded that bus. The stranger who sketched me while i waited at the bus stop and then gifted me the sketch, taking me by surprise.
And a million other faces….