There are some moments when Life flashes by, in little neat packets of frames - You drop everything that you are doing or thinking to stand in awe of those moments.
Sounds dramatic, doesn't it? But that's how it has been for me. Sometimes it is like an out of body experience, where you feel like you are standing on the side, a silent observer as your life plays itself out around you. The real You is there, playing out her part while the other You stands on the side, in quiet observation.
I can vividly recall three huge moments in my life, when life has flashed by in frames. Every time, life was at a turning point. The crossroads beckoned, I stood there on that deserted road, looking in all directions, dazed. With each choice, flashed different moments of life...Faces half forgotten, expressions that remained engraved somewhere on the corner of the mind.
The first time I felt like the audience in my own life was surely on that horrible day in June, over a decade ago. On route to Pune, our car turned turtle, my uncle who was driving the car got trapped under the upturned car. I, who sat an arm length away, was thrown out of the car. I lived to tell the tale, he didn't. I don't remember the last moments before the accident vividly. However, every now and then, the memory of the next ten minutes comes to haunt me - that bitter mix of helplessness as you lie dazed on the grassy turf by the side of a slippery road. The impact winded me..I lay there, trying to get a bearing of myself, hoping there was someone to turn me over. In that moment, I saw my first trail of snapshots. I was sure I heard noises, I saw my uncle's face and the jokes we were cracking in the car before the string that held the chain together burst. What followed remains like assorted pictures I rarely want to see. That feeling, though, of utter helplessness, lying face down bleeding while life whizzes pass - someday I'll figure out the words to explain that hollowness...
The second time, I distinctly remember was in Mumbai. My personal and professional life was in tatters. I was spending nearly 18 hours in office, 7 days a week. On one of those days, I remember standing on the footboard of a speeding local train, looking at the railway track. Fascinated. Knowingly fully well that all it would take was for me to leave the handlebar I had my grip on. Another set of snapshots, this time mostly sad...were there faces? I'm sure I saw my parents...more compelling reasons to surrender to that vacuum I could feel inside. At that moment, if you had thrown a coin down my soul, it would have clattered a million times. A young girl who moved forward as the train approached the Lower Parel station broke my trance. She smiled as she walked out of the train, I remember so clearly...I smiled back, shivering in the knowledge she did not have. That she had perhaps saved a life without even knowing that her interference had meant that a choice was made.
The third time - this seems anticlimactic as I write it. There I was, sitting in a TV studio, all ready for a show, my hair set into place, my emotions hidden behind a mask of makeup. All that was allowed to be let through was the facade of cool professionalism. As my producer gave me my 'On Air' cue, I felt that again - that old, by now familiar feeling of an out-of-body experience. The Me somewhere by the side, watching my automated performance. A question asked, a reasonable answer given - the other Me feels proud of the real Me's performance. Through the ten minute 'On Air' performance, the other Me was busy tallying up the losses and gains, getting rapidly disillusioned with the futility of it all. That was the moment I decided it was time to end this phase of life. Time to pack bags, unsettle the seemingly settled. Draw new patterns, see new horizons.
The other day, I went with my friends to Seven Sisters - chalk cliffs along Seaford in UK. One of the cragged edges really looked like the endpoint, were the earth really flat. I walked till the tip, like an explorer, keen to stand on the edge and stare out down at the waters hitting the rocks and foam that spewing. Just when I thought I reached my end-point, I realised that was not the Land's End...
The landscape stretched on, it was my mind that saw it as the end. In reality, life lies elastic, ready to be moulded and stretched, the way you want to. Shorten it, and it condenses itself. Stretch it and it expands to encompass everything. This time too, the neat frames of pictures flickered through my mind. But for once, I was at peace - with life, my place in this vast universe.
The real Me and the other Me were in sync. That's the moment you know you have anchored your life right.
I might see those neat packets of life frames someday, but now I know how to create equilibrium.
I'm a survivor. This is catharsis.
( All the pictures taken at Seven Sisters - Berlin Gap and ahead)