“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

It has been almost 7 years since I had first heard these lines in one of my post grad classes on Hamlet. I was never really fond of Shakespeare. Yet, that infamous Daddu, with his pointy beard and flowery ruff, did manage to create some remarkably profound lines! Bole toh angreji sahitya ke don the Shekhu daddu apne. Poori ki poori bhasha ko apne tamanche pe nachaaye hain sarkaar!

Life looks all glittery inside the four walls of college campus, isn’t it? All these 7 years, I have hardly come across anything mindboggling enough to fall in the category of Prince Hammy’s ‘more things’.  As Paulo Coelho ranted in his novel, Aleph

“What has that got to do with the world we live in today? Graduates leave university and can’t get a job. Old people reach retirement and have almost nothing to live on. Grown-ups have no time to dream, struggling from nine to five to support their families and pay for their children’s education, always bumping up against the thing we all know as “harsh reality.” The world has never been as divided as it is now, what with religious wars, genocides, a lack of respect for the planet, economic crises, depression, poverty, with everyone wanting instant solutions to at least some of the world’s problems or their own. And things look only bleaker as we head into the future.”

Ah! Coelho. I call him my Brazilian Beauty. If Shaks Daddu was the Dumbledore of words, my Brazilian Beauty is the chosen one, Harry Potter of portraying reality.  And that’s life summed up in the 7 point something lines above. Where’s the room for anything beautiful in this cycle?

My bematlab ka bhein-bhein was cut short by a phone call. I had no idea that one phone call would change my entire perspective in the coming days.

Ladki! We found a pristine place for you to start your Babagiri. Aasan-Kamandal baandh liya jaaye. We are leaving on Sunday.”

That was Kabeer aka Kaala Kauwa, one of my chuddy-buddies (ofcourse not literally!). Since, I found life generally to be Ublaa daal-chaawal, my friends have caught me stealthily indulging into my own Biryaani– Spirituality. And since then, there has been non-stop name-calling and leg-pulling which is fine by me, I guess. Life is a tragicomedy as it is. The super soiled diaper of my everyday fate being the tragedy and these little blood-sucking leaches are my share of comedy!

“Finally Satan cleared your long-awaited Visa to Hell?”

“Only if his hell was as beautiful as ours! You are coming, Baba. Be a teddy at 8am sharp on God’s blessed day of rest!”

Arey! Par kahaan?

“To hell, Baba, to hell. See ya!”

And the leech disconnected the phone. I didn’t give it much of a thought. So it was another surprise trip and being a PhD JRF Scholar surviving on Sarkaari Paisa, I had plenty of time to kill (Holy Lord of all sweet things! May my supervisor’s golu-golu eyeballs float all the way to the back of his giant head before he reads this!)

It was Sunday. My leeches gathered near the Lanka Gate of BHU or more correctly Bechchu.

Arey Baba! Bag bottle? School jaa rahe hain? Kamandal kidhar gya aapka?” Manjunath Sarkar aka Moron spitted out his poison.

“Stop blabbering or else usi kamandal se kapaar phod dengey aapka.” I replied while putting my bags in the trunk.

That’s Kashi and going by Kashi’s tradition, we insult the ones we love the most. Merging of dualities and paradoxes, you see😛

Summing up the 7 hours journey into 7 teeny-tiny seconds- flew with the leeches from Varanasi to Cochin via Bengaluru and floated on the vast Arabian to kiss the pretty Agatti Island. From there, we took a speed boat ride to Bangaram Island. Our ‘Hell’ was the Molten Blue land of Lakshadweep.

Moron and Registhan (Miss Taniya Sehgal. She deeply “feels” that she was a Cactus in her past life 😂) stayed back in resort (don’t go by the name, you’all. We are just a bunch of research scholars! It’s a 2-star hotel in Bangaram Island which is otherwise 120 acres of uninhabited piece of land. Yeah! We were a gang of Robinson Crusoes😉)

The travel-bug inside me jumped on the beach and started to hop like a baby monkey all around. The place was literally a coral paradise. It was a pristine island in the lap of a shallow turquoise blue lagoon enclosed in a coral reef as if this Bluish Beauty was wearing a colourful girdle belt! The shiny silvery beach went on to be Her Majesty’s flowy Ball Gown with the lush green coconut palms embroidered on its edges. My Bangy Baby was just perfect!

Being a renowned explorer himself, Kaala Kauwaa accompanied me in my quest for Mysteries. We both transformed from Robinson Crusoes to Leslie and Jesse in search of our own ‘Terabithia’. Walking for a while, we came across a deserted part of the island with dried branches spread all over. I had always been fond of abandoned places. They had an attraction that went beyond just love for me. They would serve as my anchor, my lighthouse, my pole star reminding me the ephemeral nature of all that I love. All the majestic monuments of yore that stood so proudly and royally on the bosom of Time have turned into ruins that people fear lingering by even during the daytime. What, on earth, are we really clinging onto!

I was deep in my thoughts, when like always, Kaala Kauwaa crowed right into my ears.

“Come out of your philosophical musings, Babaji! I know you like the place. But I would still say wait till the night.”

That made my Adrenaline go bonkers! But waiting was the only option. This leech always delivered what he said.  It was almost evening and we walked back to our resort.

At night, what we saw was beyond words. The sea was sparkling as if a thousand galaxies were merging and emerging out of it. If it hadn’t happen in front of my eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. My Hogwarts was right in front of me and it was breathtaking. After all, deep down, what are we if not little Harry-s under-our–staircase-cupboard-rooms waiting for something magical to happen!

All my life, I kept calling everything ordinary and monotonous. All my life I kept on battling to see The Mysterious. I didn’t realise that the beauty of Life lies bare in front of naked eyes! It lies all around us…everywhere…every moment is a blossoming miracle. The ordinary sea of the day can turn extraordinarily magical in night. I searched for the beauty of life in The Mysterious when it has always been hidden in the plain sight, in The Obvious. Mystery lies nicely tucked in the Mundane, The Special in the Regular and The Ordinary in the Extraordinary.  It was my eyes which had the specs of monotony. Life was just being herself, Life, with all its flavours and varieties.

We kept basking in the beauty of our ‘Terabithia’, our ‘Hogwarts’ and our ‘Hell’ till late at night and then went up to our rooms for we had to resume our journey in the world of muggles back the day after. Having realised that true beauty can lie in most mundane of things, I felt like a true Baba even without any kamandal that night. Alakh Niranjan, Bachcha!

PS: The writeup is based on a visual prompt given in this workshop.

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