पिछले दिनों सामाजिक कर्तव्यों और पारिवारिक संबंधो के चलते कई जान पहचान वालो के घर जाना हुआ| यूँ तो अक्सर ही ये मेल-जोल लगा रहता है मगर इस बार कुछ अलग सा था| जहां भी गया वहाँ एक सवाल तो हर किसी ने उठाया, मगर अलग बात उस सवाल में नहीं थी| “शादी कब कर रहे हो?” इस सार्वभौमिक सवाल के बीच मेरा ध्यान दीवारों पर टंगी तस्वीरो पर गया और कम से कम तीन घरो में मैंने पाया कि जिन लोगो को मैंने अपने अभी तक के जीवन काल में अपने सामने चलते, फिरते, बोलते, हँसते देखा था, बस अब दीवारों पर उनकी तस्वीर मात्र ही बाकी थी| इससे पहले भी परलोक गमन कर गए लोगो की तस्वीरें मैंने दीवारों पर देखी थी पर न मैंने कभी उन लोगो को अपने सामने उतना करीब से देखा नहीं था| क्योंकि वो वे लोग थे जो या तो उस वक़्त गुज़र गए जब मन में स्मृतियाँ उतनी गहरी नहीं उतरती है, या तो मेरे जन्म से पहले ही गुज़र गए थे और मैंने बस इनके बारे में किस्से कहानियों में सुना था| इस बार कहानियां सुनाने वाले ही खुद कहानी बन गए थे| ये वो थे जिनकी बातें, यादें एकदम कंचन की तरह साफ़ मेरे मन में अंकित थी|
मैंने मन ही मन हिसाब लगाया तो पाया कि ऐसे लोगो की संख्या तीन तक सीमित नहीं थी| और इसी विचार के साथ एक ऐसे बोध ने मुझे चित कर दिया कि मैं सोचने समझने लायक नहीं रहा| बात कोई नयी नहीं है, रोज़मर्रा की ही बात है – म्रत्यु| जी हाँ, म्रत्यु यानि की मौत| बड़ी ही आम सी बात है और क्यों न हो, जो भी पैदा हुआ है उसे एक न एक दिन मरना ज़रूर है| और मरने का मर्त्यु के सिवा कोई और तरीका नहीं है| जिन लोगो की शादी हो चुकी है वो इस दावे पर मुझसे एकमत नहीं होंगे, पर खैर|
म्रत्यु और उसके साथ जीवन की समाप्ति एक अटल सत्य है| युधिस्ठिर ने भी यक्ष को यही कहा था कि विश्व का सबसे बड़ा आश्चर्य यह है कि रोज़ लाखो स्त्री-पुरुष दुसरो को मरते हुए देखते है पर खुद कभी यह स्वीकार नहीं करते कि वो खुद मर सकते है| सोचिये तो कितनी देहला देने वाली बात है यह| जो लोग कल तक आपके जीवन का एक अभिन्न अंग थे, एक चिरकालिक सत्य थे, साक्षात् उपलब्ध थे, आज नहीं है| और ऐसा नहीं है कि उनकी मौत से आप अनजान रहे| लेकिन जब आपको इस बात का एहसास होता है कि एक दो नहीं पूरी की पूरी पीढ़ी ही साफ़ हो गयी है तो मनो धरती डोलने लगती है|
फिर ध्यान जाता है छोटी-छोटी बातों पर| हर पीढ़ी एक-एक सीढ़ी उप्पर चढ़ गयी है| जो कल तक जवान थे, स्वस्थ थे आज वो बूढ़े और कमजोर हो गए है| आप सब जो कल तक बिना वक़्त की चिंता किये अथक क्रीडा करते रहते थे आज समय के पिंजरे में कैद पंची है| है न!
एक मिनट, क्या कहा मैंने, समय? हाँ सारा खेल समय का ही तो है| अब जा कर समझ आया कि ‘काल’के दो मतलब नहीं एक ही मतलब| और काल का चक्र अपनी निर्दयी चाल से अनवरत चलता ही जा रहा है| आज तो हिस्सा उप्पर है कल वो नीचे आ जाएगा और जो आज नीचे है कल वो उप्पर| और इस पहिये की गति में फँसी है हमारी जान|
और यही बोध मुझे हुआ जब मैंने उन तस्वीरो को देखा| कहते है न कि एक तस्वीर हजारो शब्द कहती है, मुझे भी कुछ ऐसा ही एहसास हुआ था| हर कोई मनो कह रहा हो कि बेटा इस चक्र में तू तो उसी दिन फँस गया था जिस दिन तेरा जन्म हुआ था, बस इसका ज्ञान तुझे आज हासिल हुआ है| उस क्षण ऐसा लगा कि बस उठू और दौड़ लगा दूँ, जब तक कि उस जगह न पहुच जाऊ जहां दुनिया अभी भी वैसी ही है जैसे मुझे याद है| सड़क का वो मोड़, वो पेड़, वो लकड़ी का दरवाज़ा, वो चौराहे का टुटा सिग्नल, वो चाट की दूकान, वो गायो का तबेला, कहाँ गया वो सब? काल के उदार में|
तो क्या ये सिर्फ मेरी मनो स्थिति है जो मुझे परेशान कर रही है? शायद हाँ| मैंने अक्सर यह अनुभव किया है कि जैसे-जैसे हम उम्र में बड़े होते जाते है, काल में पीछे देख कर दुखी होने की प्रवृत्ति हममे उतनी ही बढती जाती है| इसे नास्टैल्जिया या विरह भी कहा जाता है| बड़े-बड़े लेखक इसके चक्कर में चुकता हो गए तो मैं किस खेत की मुली हूँ|
तो मुद्दे पर वापस आते है| इतना सब सोचते हुए मैं एक ही निष्कर्ष पर पंहुचा कि मनुष्य उससे कही ज्यादा शक्तिहीन है जितना वो खुद को समझता है| काल और उसकी शक्ति के आगे न तो कभी मनुष्य की चली है न चल पायेगी| मनुष्य की महानता वही तक सीमित है जहां तक काल उसे सीमित रखना चाहता है| और हम चाहे जितना भी रो-पीट ले काल हमे एक बहेलिये की तरह अपने साथ घसीटते हुए आगे ले ही जाएगा| तो भलाई इसी में है कि काल के साथ आगे चल दें| पीछे देखते रहने से कुछ हासिल नहीं होगा| भला को सफ़र पीछे देख कर चलते हुए पूरा हुआ है क्या?
गुजरी हो भले पीछे बहारें अनेक
प्रिय हो भले तुझे ग्राम प्रत्येक
राह की यही पुकार, मुसाफिर तू आगे देख|
We ran for about 10 minutes, but we never seemed to find our way back. The bells were now silent and we were exhausted. She had a mysterious smile on her face. “I told you we’ll have to stay here if we don’t catch this boat.” I explained in panic. “So let’s stay here. We’ll get back tomorrow morning.” She said with ease. “Well we don’t have any arrangement for shelter and do you know how cold it is going to get in the night.” I was irritated with her attitude. I knew how cold it would be. This was an island and due to the water all around us the wind gets colder than the mainland.
Finally we got out of the forest and the temple stood in front of us. I ran towards the river but the boat was long gone. I was agitated. Now what stood in front of me was the sight of a distant village where smoke rose from various houses, most of them lit by a single light bulbs. These were the homes of the poor fishermen. The reflection of the village in the river created a magical scene. I stood there; it looked like a huge painting of a brilliant painter.
“How beautiful it is.” She said. She was climbing down the slope. The atmosphere was so calm and peaceful, that all my panic and anger was gone. The wind blew through my hair. It was truly divine. The fishermen were moving in and out of their houses on the other side. They were involved in their daily works. We, on the other side of the river stood secluded from the outer world. There was no light on the island so they could not see us, but we could see them. It made me feel that how far we have come from this world yet how close we are to it. I turned to her “thank you.” I said. I realised that if it would not have been her we would have gone back.
The river was calm and placid. It reminded me of her eyes. As I looked into them I fond them to be a bit more damp then the usual. The water in her eyes moved and a small tear rolled onto her cheek. She ran towards me; I hugged her. It was soothing; it felt very light. I felt like…. My brain went dead I had no thoughts. There were just she and I. We stayed there for a while.
“You asked me, ‘do I love you?’. I don’t know much about love but if this feeling that both of us share is love. Then yes I do love you.” I told her as we moved towards the temple complex. We decided to spend the night inside the temple near the altar. There were still some embers left in it, so it would provide some warmth. We lied on the temple floor and kept talking.
“You know when I was a kid, I was afraid to come to Bet after sunset. There were stories about ghosts roaming here.” We decided to restrain ourselves from any philosophical discussions. “Really? But we are in a temple now. I don’t think there is any reason to be afraid,” she said smiling. The naughtiness in her eyes was clearly visible. “When I was a kid my father used to tell me that we have a body and a soul but the ghosts have no bodies. So we are more powerful than them. This was enough of a reason for me for not getting afraid of ghosts.” I could easily make out from her face that she missed her childhood. “You love your father a lot, don’t you?” I asked though I was still not clear about love. “Yes, actually dad always teased mom that I love him more than I loved her.” Her eyes lit up as she said this. “What does he do?” I asked. “He runs a transport company.” She continued “he is my best friend.” She was in a different world now. “Do you know who my best friend is?” I asked. “I think I know. The trees at your farm aren’t they?” she guessed. Although they were among the best friends of mine, but there was some one else who was the best of them all. I took her outside and pointed towards the sky. She was puzzled. “Do you see that? Orion, he’s my best friend.” I said pointing to Orion, a constellation.
She was puzzled. “When I was a child I had very few friends. We had this big mansion in central Indore. There were lots of trees in our house. Many birds and animals dwelled on them; we even had a small pond full of fishes. The trees and plants, the birds and the squirrels, the fishes and the flowers were my friends. During the daytime I spent most of my time with them. But at night I was not allowed to go there. At night after I had my meals I used to go to the backyard and watch the stars. There were these three stars arranged in a line that I thought of as a stick. In class 5th or 6th I came to know it was the Orion’s belt. It was then when our friendship started. Few years from then, we left our house and moved into a flat. I lost all my friends. The trees were chopped down and eventually the creatures dwelling on them moved elsewhere. But the one friend that remained with me was Orion. The best part of our friendship is that he travels with me wherever I go. Apart from him I have the trees at the farm.” I went deep into my childhood, memories of leaving our home and separating from my friends came back to me.
“Each star in that constellation is so many light years away from each other.” She said with an explanatory tone. “Yes-yes, I know everything about Orion, even the mythological part of it. The Greek, Indian and the Chinese.” I said, after all we were the best pals. “In Chinese philosophy they believe in two principle forces of nature yin-yang.” She said. “Yes. Yin represents female force and yang represents the male.” I added. I had read about it somewhere I don’t remember. “There’s another explanation for it. Yin, which represents the feminine force, also represents the night. It is amazing the way you are fascinated by the night sky. Surely, you are attracted towards yin.” She was on to raillery me.
“One more thing, this may sound foolish to you. Listen, my initials are KR and yours are RK. So in a way we both are opposite and complementary to each other. Just like yin and yang.” She was sounding childish. “And this suggests that we both are made for each other.” I said jesting and both of us broke into laughter.
We went inside the temple. Although the serene settings provided freshness to our minds, the bodies were experiencing fatigue. I fell asleep. A thought about everyone at home kept reoccurring to my mind. I realised how tensed they would be to find out that I was missing. And what about Mrs. Rajput? They might take a boatman and come looking for us here. I must go to they riverbank. As I opened my eyes to go to the bank I saw a face staring at me. It scared me; I was not able to recognize it. I thought of running but found that I could not get up. My body was paralysed, maybe due to fear. I felt the pumping of my heart in my ears. As I tried to gather all my energy to get up, the haziness due to the exhaustion was wiped away. My vision got cleared. I found that the face looking at me was none but hers. I breathed a sigh of relief. She was looking at me.
“What happened? You look terrified.” She asked me. I got up. The words were not coming out of my mouth. Her face was placid contrary to the excited one; her eyes were lit up contrary to the peaceful eyes, her hair…. Suddenly she started changing. Her face turned into that of a male. I knew to whom she turned into, it was me. I was scared to death. The chill in the air went through my spine. I ran, I ran into the woods. The leaves cracked beneath my feet. The branches bruised my arms. I was running; it was a moonlit night. After few minutes my body gave way and succumbed to the fatigue. I fell on the forest floor. I could not move. Blood was flowing through a dozens of holes, made by the thorns, all over my body.
What was it? Was it a ghost? Yes it was surely a ghost. It couldn’t be her. Suddenly a thought struck my mind; what about her? Where is she? I have to retreat for her. I laid there for a while trying to lift my ailing body and then I heard a cry. Somebody was calling my name; it was she. I ran towards the voice. It was coming from the bank. As I reached there I saw a silhouette standing there calling my name. I thought it was her, but when it turned I saw, it was not her. It was the other I. I was confused, terrified and devastated. I turned back to run. A cold sensation jabbed my left leg and then a sting.
It was black and long. The cobra venom kills in less than 12 seconds. Already I was on the ground. The other me came closer and the snake went into the bushes. He was crying; he sat besides me. And then I realised it wasn’t any ghost it was actually her who turned into me. Now I knew what she meant when she said ‘love is death’. Her words echoed in my mind.
It felt light, very light much like it did when she first hugged me. I could see my body lying on her lap. She was still crying. It took me some time to understand that I was dead. I was not feeling sad or mournful. For most of the people death of a loved one is a very painful experience, but what about the one who dies? If you ask me it is the most heavenly experience. It feels like a long lasting thirst is about to be quenched, an eternal quest is about to end. I will soon achieve my love. I felt fortunate, for who would be so fortunate to die in the hands of the one who loved you and to pass on to the one you love. If death is like this, I would like to die everyday.
She was still me and I was now nobody.