THE SECRET POOL
I was alone in my house. The scorching sun outside made the moving air, sweaty hot. So, I closed all the windows and doors and sat beneath the swirling ceiling fan. I looked around the room with an empty feeling. I surveyed at the walls, the hanging papers, those old bags, those hanging clothes. Suddenly something caught my eyes.
My ancestors have one unique hobby. They would collect rare things pertaining to their own times---coins, notes, knives, waving cane mat, musical instruments made of bamboo, aged old costumes, and many more. If you happen to come to our house, it’s like retracing back history in slabs. I have grown up seeing strange people coming to our house every now and then, looking at the collections. Some even tried to purchase some of the rarest items. But none of the collections were sold. They were all regarded as sacred and my ancestors determinedly kept as a family heirloom.
I could recollect few instances, maybe three or four instances how determinedly my father and grandfather withheld those valuable collections. Let me tell one of those instances. I was 8 years old then. One morning, a tall, dark man came to our house.
He said to my father, “The locals here are telling me that you have vast collections of old coins and notes. Can I see them?”
My father said, “You’re welcome to see them. We indeed have a vast collection.”
My father went inside our room, and then came out with a brown plastic bag. The tall man looked at the notes and coins one after another. Five rupee notes with three and five peacocks, fifty paise coins with two boats, one rupee coin that can deflect needles and attracts uncooked grains, 20 paise coins made of nickel brass, bronze, etc. The man was stunned.
He said, “Offer me a price. I will buy all of these. These are collectibles and I am sure to make huge profits.”
My grandfather, who was in his 90th birthday shouted from the adjacent room. “Nothing is to sell.” He hurriedly instructed my father to keep them back in the trunk immediately.
After the man left, embarrassed and unsuccessful, grandfather called all the family members to his room. He said, “This trunk box contains secret of which I will not reveal now. Life is a riddle that will never get solved. The future is unknown, and the only thing we can do about it is to collect the collectible past. The only secret we can have about the future is from the past. And that trunk box contains all of it. Sooner or later, the secret will reveal itself to the one who needed the most.”
My grandfather died the following week.
It was that “trunk box” which caught my eyes, thirty years after. I stood up and strode towards it. It has been with my family for generations, but none of the members have sensed a “call” from it like that day. I sensed it was a clear “call,” but I did not know why it called. I took it down from the shelf and laid it on the floor. I opened it and surveyed at the items one after another, just like how that tall man did. Coins and notes as usual, a different looking smoking pipe made of bronze, old photographs, unusual looking needles, etc. Underneath these was a small sculpted box made of stone. I opened it just to see one brown folded paper, covered with dusts. I unfolded the paper and read the scrolls on it.
“Head where your forehead points the weary sun on the longest day of the year. Don’t be mistaken—let the timekeeper strikes four. Carry no water for, you will be thirsty. Carry no food for you will be hungry. Walk like an arrow until you reach the valley, and then the rocks. Until the weary moon over the shortest night of the year shows you the secret pool. When you find the pool, be careful to make your rightful wish. Wish for what you need the most.”
I said to myself, “So, this is the secret my grandfather and his great grandfathers have been hiding?”
I gathered all the geography books I could collect. I found out that the longest day of the year is June 21st. And that the moon looked beautiful in that night. I needed to head west, and walked straight like an arrow to lead me to the secret pool.
I looked at the calendar. I have exactly 5 days before I set sail for my adventure, to find out the secret of my ancestors. My mind was filled with only one feeling. That's when I get there, in the secret pool, I will wish for the thing I need the most. And all my suffering will be gone. The more I thought about the bliss the pool could give me, the more I was hallucinating with the belief that if there is suffering, there has to be a place, somewhere, which can cure it all.
Great expectations can chase sufferings away. Those five days were the greatest days of my life. I did not mention my planned adventure to my friends. I presumed they would think it was a silly decision. But beneath this kept secret, I was happy. I remembered the word of my grandfather. The only reality I can have about the future is from the past. And that trunk box contains all of it. The secret will reveal itself to the one who needed the most.
Maybe I needed the most.
I roamed about the city. All my envies have been chased away. Hatred was gone. Loneliness were gone. Weakness turned into strength. I was flying with that hope that when I reach that pool, I would be as happy as anyone.
On June 21st, the sun rose up again. Eagerly I waited for the clock to strike three. I kept my compass ready. I was already in my new pair of shoes. I also arranged a small rucksack wherein I kept one towel and mosquito repellant ointment. On the side pocket, I kept the brown paper that instructs the location of the secret pool.
When the clock struck four, I hurried out of my door. I looked towards the sun. It appeared as if it was still overhead. I said to me, “It’s going to be a trying job to follow the sun until it gets weary,” I pasted the compass near the windshield and started my vehicle. I headed towards the west.
The city looked rusty. But I thought beyond the city. I chased the secret pool- let everyone knows it- and that had made all the boredom of living away. I passed by small roads and traffic jams, selfish crowds who all said, “Don’t trust this guy, trust me!” as if they came from another planet. I said to myself, “It’s the law of nature.” At last, I landed on the outskirt of the city. I see greenery and tranquility. I drove along and my windshield showed nothing but the secret pool.
I came across paddy fields. For this time of the year, the paddy were tall though! I saw scanted houses with cows and goats. I looked across the direction my forehead pointed. I saw the sunlight, with tall mountains under its glare, but not the sun. I sped under the governance of greenery and tranquility. My compass needle was pointing a perfect “West.”
I reached a spot where a billboard said, “It’s this far. Walk further, and you risk!” Still then I carried on. The road was still straight and the silence was calling me. I kept on driving until the road ends in the middle of nowhere. I slowly parked my vehicle under a tall tree and many small birds flew away from its branches because of the roaring sound of my vehicle. But one big bird kept on looking down and called, “Keeou!Keeou!” The sound echoed the valley and then across the mountains. I looked across, and wondered at how big hope could be!
Dearly I closed the doors of my vehicle, stretched myself and looked for directions. I had never been stronger. I started walking across valleys and then mountains. I would reach a top. Then I could see another mountain. And then more plains. And then more higher mountain. For six hours, I kept on climbing and diving, energetically. No tiredness could defeat that hope---the secret pool..
The sun was too, already weary. I kept on walking towards the direction of my forehead that was projected on the sun. Hope rejuvenated me. I did not walk. In fact, I was always running. Quickly enough I always felt I crossed another plains and then another mountain. Always and always. Sweats poured out like thick drizzles. For the first time after four, I felt thirsty. But I always knew the word, “Bring no water for, you will be thirsty. Bring no food for you will be hungry.” I opened up my rucksack and pulled out the towel to wipe my sweat.
It was 7:22 PM. The sun had gone down on the western horizon when I still saw myself chasing at the sun. The transition from light to darkness is the darkest. I saw it all, all alone in the jungle.
Under the darkness, I calculated the time for the moonrise in the shortest night in a year. The moon was already risen at 5:07 PM, but I never felt that. But then, slowly but diligently, the moon kept its promise again---moonlight chased darkness away in a jungle.
Within thirty minutes after the sun had gone, the moon took charge. The foliage appeared thicker, the plains sweeter and mountains darker. I was not worried, because underneath any changes, my compass needle was still showing a perfect west.
The longest sun had drained me off. I had never peed. All my pee had gone in the forms of sweats. Thirst erupted and so, I collected water with my cloth and drank it filtered. It was the sweetest water life could ever give. I drank in plenty.
It was 10:07 PM, and the moon was at its peak. From the books, I knew it would expire at 3:07 AM the next day. I applied my mosquito repellant over my whole skin and climbed the most promising tree I could see, to sleep away for at least one hour. As I laid down on its branch, I looked over the horizon. I could see high rocks under the glare of the moonlight. The tops were pointed like the tip of arrows and on one corner, I could see a faint light.
I adjusted the senses of my ears and I felt I could hear callings. So, I climbed down the tree and headed towards the light. I crossed the plains and then I scaled up the rocks. The more I neared, the light got more profound and the sound got more clear. They were human sounds. When I reached the top, the first thing I saw was a pool, glistening under the shortest moonlight of the year. I approached the pool and then I saw things clearer.
I saw all of my great grandfathers sitting by the edges. My father was being hugged. And my brother was playing the guitar. When they saw me, they all stood up. I embraced each and every one.
I looked at each one. I recognized each one from the sound of my blood. But the family heirloom was the pending question from my side.
I asked them, “So, this is the secret pool?”
All of them answered in unision, “yes!”
I frankly asked, “Can I too dive in so that all my sufferings be gone?”
Then my father stood up and said, “My son, think of what you wish! Your fate has led you up to here. You have learned a lot now! Is it not more precious to cherish your experiences than forget everything by diving in this pool? My son, know what you really wish!”
There was a strong whirl-wind. All of them disappeared from my face one by one. And the secret pool was more beautiful under the moonlight.
But I chose the more precious! I chose the more precious me! I chose to embrace what fate had given me, and not tried changing it.