The simplicity of life in hindsight
As the sun beat down on her, she could feel the twinge of her muscles as the pail of water weighed down on her, reducing her strides to those akin to an infant. She was guided less by her sense of direction but more by fear of what lay behind her, she knew that he needed the water, and more importantly, she knew that he needed her. She wondered how long he had, she wondered if he would make it to see her one last time. She prayed that he would.
It had infiltrated their community, and found him, and there was no escape. It was a matter of time before it found her and consumed her. She hated what it had done to him; it seemed to have slowly sucked the life out of him, it felt like it had chewed away on the insides and on the outsides at will. She could feel him burn, and she could do nothing but watch the flames engulf him.
She was almost there; she hoped the water would extinguish the flame. She could now see him from afar, or was it a mirage? She would never know. The woods played its own tricks on her; the woods had a mysterious way of giving hope when there was none. On another day, she would have sat there and listened to the rustling of the leaves, the wailing of the birds, the chatter of the crickets and maybe the odd roar of a wolf. Today, it felt like the world was closing in on her, it felt like the woods stopped singing, it almost felt like the beast had infiltrated the woods, her woods. Her feet started to bleed as it stepped over twigs and rubble, she could feel the blood clot over her feet, and just for a moment she thought that the beast had smelled her blood. She waved away those thoughts and forced her mind to focus. The sand was getting warmer under her feet and she took tiny steps. She could see the hut in the distance, and she could see him. She stopped and squinted, and she heaved a sigh of relief as she saw his chest heave in and out. He was alive.
The hut was in epicenter of the African wilderness, with no civilization for miles. She had watched him when they first moved here; she admired his resolve as he swiftly cleared the woods for what would be their humble abode. He had stood by her through her wildest of pursuits and had always stayed by her side as she dreamed of conquering the world. On that first day, as he cleared the woods, set the fence and even brought home their first meal, she thought to herself, how lucky she was to have him at her side. The hut had seen beasts come and go, but none attacked like this one had. Then again, none moved as surreptitiously, nor attacked with such deadly prowess as this one had.
She looked around nervously, and gently trickled water along the side of his lips, hoping that he would open his eyes. She could sense the leaves rustle around her, she hoped that it didn’t smell the blood at her feet. And then it happened, the tree collapsed, and it bounded towards them in fury and pounced on him and consumed him until his very last breath. She hadn’t noticed the beast take his life away, she kept giving him water hoping for a miracle, and then she noticed that his chest had stopped heaving and his eyes looked beyond her. She knew it was over, and that the battle was lost.
She loved him more than the world itself, but was it her greed and her desire to be among the elite that got the better of him? She was a microbiologist and he was a musician, he promised her when they took their vows that he would follow her to the end of the world, and to that last day, he did. She thought of the strain that she had come to isolate, she thought of everything that she lost in this pursuit of glory. She knew it was a matter of time before the beast got the better of her. She lifted him on her shoulders and took off to the woods to stare at the beast and let it take her, because without him, her life and all the glory that she sought meant nothing. She held his lifeless hand, and waited till it came and consumed her as well.
The virus that we call Ebola, whose name originates from the Congolese river where the first case was identified, has consumed lives of 20,000 people in different parts of Africa. The battle against the beast is always going to be uphill, but is one that we will win as long as we fight as one.
He left his familiar surroundings wrapped in an attire that seemed rather ludicrous for one that lived in a land that’s used to being perennially watched over by a sheath of grey clouds. He strutted off under the familiar greyness with a large rucksack that somehow looked disproportionate, as it wrapped around his back. He was weighed down by the familiar feeling of uneasiness, but was excited about the road that lay ahead of him.
The train, bus and flight were all but a blur, especially for one who was so fixated on the destination. The temporary utopia couldn’t come soon enough, but then it did. As he stepped on foreign soil, he was received, like a master would be received by his adoring dog after a hard day’s work – the warm winds, the joyous people, the skip in the step of the locals, and the sun – he could feel these forces akin to a dog charging toward him and licking him with delight and love. Just for a moment, as he stood there, he thought he heard his senses cave, he thought he heard them resign and give themselves up to this wondrous place.
He roamed the port in search of a bus that would take him to his hosts for the weekend; he didn’t need to walk far to see another lost soul on her way to another land. The world is so full of us beings, wandering and chasing our hopes and dreams. Most of us in pursuit of salvation from a falling out with a world that we used to inhabit.
He struggled to come to grips with the route; he knew that he needed to disembark and let his feet do the rest, but he didn’t know when or where. He got off anyway, more as a leap of faith than anything else. He stood at the cross-roads with emptiness ahead of him on all 4 directions. The walk to his destination was more of a battle against heat and dehydration; the walk was longer than he envisaged. He soldiered on the lonely highway; the barks of dogs and mooing of cows were his only companions. The road seemed to get longer under the wrath of the sun. Civilization was nowhere to be seen. As he walked, he could feel the rucksack weigh down on him, he could feel the water evaporate from his body, but he soldiered on after the reassurance from a local that the destination was not far away.
He began to appreciate the metric system at times like this, when terms such as “not far”, “a few minutes away”, were all but open to interpretation. The destination loomed, finally, the beach on his left and the warmth of his hosts on the right. He took a deep breath and stepped forward to meet his hosts, all the while knowing that this was truly the point of no return.
The people seemed to be scripted off a science fiction novel – The warmth, the love and the grace that they exuded were surreal. They welcomed him with joy, benevolence and unconditional love that almost seemed alien to him. He was taken aback in disbelief. Slowly, the people grew onto him, some grew on to him more than others.
He was alien to the atmosphere, but he knew he had to fit in. He had 2 days to recreate the reality of the utopia that he had created in his head. He let himself be swept off his feet by beauty of the land, and the grace of its people. It almost felt like the land had given birth to these people, he could see a little bit of the utopia in each on of them.
The city was lodged between two hills on either side and the bright blue ocean in front. It felt like the city was cradled in white sand and protected by the hills on either side. Utopia was full of secrets. The hills gave way to more beaches and ledges of rock that opened it’s doors to lands that were so remote that you would think that utopia was intentionally hiding them from you.
The world’s most popular sport, the cold delicacy and the famous cheese crusted delights were almost like frosting that made the cake that was utopia ever so delicious. The campfires, the treks, sunset on the boat all added to the mystery that was utopia. He was beginning to feel a part of a group, he was beginning to enjoy himself, and most of all, he was beginning to get away. He slowly adorned the gregarious cap and was beginning to feel like he finally belonged, but he knew better than to get too close to the feeling of belonging. He always knew at the back of his mind that allure of utopia would lead to a romance, but one that lasted just for a weekend.
As he got into the groove of the city and it’s people, he began to search for the little things that made him love the city. He searched for the little things in the people who drew him to them – he found their cheery nature endearing, he found their care-free nature refreshing and he found the atmosphere intoxicating. Night slowly dawned on utopia. The streets were adorned with lights of the evening, utopia looked like it had invited the starts to rest on its belly while it let its children dance around the stars. The place looked magical, and he was lost once again. He was lost in the beauty of this little gem.
The night passed, as did the following day, and before he knew it, the familiar sense of listlessness and dread overcame him. He knew that the end was near. Salvation was temporary, but the memories and alliances would last him a life time. This was his first leap of faith, and at the end of the weekend, he knew that this would not be his last. He now knew his path to salvation, and he had utopia to thank for it.
Nuclear war heads. Bio terrorism. Stealth drones. The internet virus.
The English language would wave its hands at me, admonishing the sheer lack of grammatical acumen in my first line. Words after words, not continuous, not rational, and yet so complete. The 4 phrases, together and each on their own paint a lucid picture of the extent to which humans have gone to serve the purpose of nature.
Like every powerful race that has ever inhabited the earth over the past hundreds of thousands of years, the human race will face extinction. Nature will purge itself every now and again to breed new inhabitants in an effort to sustain its existence. There was a time when the dinosaurs walked the face of this earth; these were enormous creatures that dominated all other species. There is evidence that these were creatures whose intimidating physical attributes were outshone only by their intellectual capacity. Dinosaurs sustained their existence for a long period, and it took an asteroid to wipe them off the face of the earth. That was nature purging itself. The human race will be treated no differently. We will be purged out one day. The difference between us and the dinosaurs is that we extend our generosity to nature by finding ways of serving his purpose of purging us out.
This brings me to Haiyan, the most devastating typhoon on earth. A typhoon that brought a country of 9000 islands to its knees. Millions of humans affected and thousands recorded as casualties, this is mother nature at work. She doesn’t need a plane to crash into a building, nor does she need nuclear power. Each of you lucky enough to not be affected by this typhoon, I ask of you, not for your money, not for your sympathy, but I ask of you to take a moment and put this event in perspective. I ask of you to think of your life and think of Haiyan. Think of everything you thought about misery and hate. Think of everything that you thought you lost and put it in perspective with Haiyan. I ask this of you, not because I deem your troubles to be insignificant, but I ask this of you to take a moment and size up your life and maybe reevaluate.
I ask this of you, because I was forced to reevaluate. I would never have understood the nature of my problems if Haiyan wasn’t as close to my heart as it is now. Haiyan is interwoven into my life through someone dear to me. The pain and suffering that Haiyan inflicted is etched into my mind, it has forced me to look at things differently. It has made me thankful so much in my life. It felt like I was pushed into an elevator and taken all the way to the skies, only to be introduced to the devastation and pain that exists all over the world.
We live in the world for a tiny period, our race will soon be banished from earth. We will not be banished for who we are, but we will be banished because it is the way of nature. We have the power to choose love and sacrifice over hate, and now is the time to make that choice. Nature has started its process of purging us out, we cannot fight it. We can choose to love and care for each other and stand tall to face Nature in all it’s glory. And maybe then, we can live to love and care for another day.
The world coming together as one:
I’m proud to be in the company of a dear Filipina who has made the choice to love and care. I’m proud of everything she’s doing for her country. And I’m proud to have learned this lesson from her.
- Typhoon Haiyan and the Outpouring of Help from Different Countries (savagexrowds.com)
- Typhoon Haiyan: survival, loss and humanity in obliterated city of Tacloban (theguardian.com)
- Super Typhoon Haiyan Hits The Philippines! Causes Death, Destruction & Sadness! (perezhilton.com)
- Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines prepares climate change plans for worse to come (theguardian.com)