Found in The Woods
In our middle class Indian family, myths make us who we are. Stories allow us to make sense of our existence. They’re not only entertainment to us, but they are like the instructions’ manuals. We don’t always want a reason to do something, but we need a story. Give us a reason and you have our support, give us a lore and you have our faith.
This is because we don’t know anything better than myths to teach us how to live. The epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, manifest the evils of men like lust, envy, greed and ego. These are the myths that were fed to us like a pop-cultural anecdotes. But these were just the ‘broad strokes’. The real ‘fine-tuning’ myths and stories that carefully chiseled our souls and nuanced our psyche, were the tales that made us pee our pants in the night.
I must have been 5, or 6 when I visited my grand parents. Their village was in the middle of nowhere. And what I clearly remember was an odd night because I’d never slept under stars before. It was past midnight as the moon had almost hidden itself behind the Eucalyptus trees that waved like an old woman’s braid. There was a sudden noise of beating drums that woke me up.
“Nana! What’s that sound?”, I asked my grandpa.
My grandpa was in his cozy slumber and ignored me. But I kept asking. It might have been a group of drunk young men practising drums for an upcoming festival, but my Nana thought of giving me more than the truth. He served me a lore that would shape the way I imagine the world for the rest of my life. With a dry baritone, coming from a throat was rusted with consumption of tobacco, Nana whispered into my ears,
“This is the sound of ghosts dancing in a graveyard. They dance when everyone is asleep and don’t like to be seen or heard by anyone. If you are awake and by mistake hear this sound, ignore it; because they’ll come and take you away”.
That night I developed extra muscles around my eyelids and shut my eyes tight like my fists. I hugged my Nana and glued my ears to his wheezing chest. But I swear, those drums…they kept coming closer.
As a 5 year old, I experienced what fear feels like. I had tasted the power of myth, and till date I carry that fear. Some might think that it’s the lack courage, but I know it is the gift of imagination that makes me a vulnerable target for fear and makes me feel more alive.
So when I am asked to write any story, I imagine myself as a kid lost in the jungle, trying to find his way out through constantly negotiating with my fears and hopes. Every time I am working on a brief, it is like I wake up in middle of a pitch dark forest surrounded by rustling Eucalyptus trees, and there is no Nana to hold me. I can sense the rhythmic thuds of ghosts coming closer to take me. All I must do is move ahead, to follow anything that seems familiar. The only thing that I trust in these woods is Deja-Vu. I have been here a thousand times and I did not die. I will survive and will be not lost but found in the woods.
The search for an opening, in these deep dark woods enervates me. Sometimes it seems inconsequential, just like life. Without any idea of where to go, I keep moving about this labyrinth of thoughts, emotions, expression, words and sentences. And I keep ramming myself into infinite dead-ends. But the very idea of ‘keep going’ becomes the reward that I can give myself. And that’s what I do best – keep going, feel alive.