“I am the deep blue river, bubbling and burbling, through the forest. I descended from the heavens, the liquid soul of the earth. I glitter like thousand diamonds, the sun shines on me glowing like gold I nurture and provide.”
Six-year-old Narayan, named after the Lord himself was river Ganga. He moved around with his grandmother’s blue saree. Extreme poverty and forced Narayan’s parents to move to Shimla for better opportunities. Narayan was left in the care of his grandmother at the native village of Dharampur. Short for his age and gruffy, with wild curly hair, Narayan had a vivid imagination. He lived the stories his grandmother told him. He was moving around imagining that he is river Ganga. Each story he heard set in him, a powerful emotional connect to a particular character or event. Ganga fascinated him and he would be Ganga, the purest river.
Soon he had to start school. Narayan went reluctantly, but he did like the stories being told by teachers. He would come home and relate these to his grandmother. He was no ordinary story teller. He would enact as he told his stories. His movements were fluid, his expressions flawless and he would become one with the character he liked. He began to live that character, the character was alive and ticking for him. As years passed, he was intrigued by the stories he read during his Hindi and English classes. He would pick up characters following their life, their emotions. He managed to dress like most. In school is teachers triec to get him to study which he did not. He went there to listen to stories.
He soon became an oddity in the village. Everyone looked at him with suspicion. Whenever his parents came home people would suggest taking him to a doctor, thinking he had some mental illness. Some suggested witch doctors, some suggested offering prayers at the temple. His parents too were not in agreement of his actions. They believed something was truly amiss. They blamed his grandmother for spoiling him. She tried to tell them that it was evident his interest lay somewhere else, but his parents were convinced that he needed some sort of treatment and something was askew with his brain. They decided to take him to Shimla for treatment. Narayan overheard his parents and ran away from his house deep into the dense pine forest below.
He knew the jungle like the back of his hand for he had been there so often to enact the characters he loved. He knew of a man who lived alone in a hut. He had told him once, that, he used to live in Mumbai and write stories for the movies. If Narayan wanted to listen to stories he was welcome. Narayan had for long been contemplating on going in search of this man with dreadlocks, long flowing beard, dressed in a hoody and worn out jeans. He looked tall to him, almost like Indra The king of Gods, that their teacher spoke about. His mind was made up, and he sauntered along to reach his destination. Once in the company of Indra, who did not judge him, neither for his looks, nor for his eccentric love for the characters, Narayan felt as close as possible to his true self.
Narayan was christened dream catcher. Indra reinforced the idea in Narayan that, life was like a dream, you can filter out the bad dreams and keep the good ones and you could be like a dream catcher living and loving what you like. Thereafter he began narrating his story to him everyday a story of a man young, handsome, sauve and rich. He was successful in every sphere, business and women. Narayan was fascinated not just fascinated he was infatuated.
A little beyond Dharampur, the village of Naddi, had become popular with the tourists, as it was the most picturesque place over there. During the summer months it was dotted with many eating joints and Narayan started working at one, he had to after all, meet his daily needs. This cafe where he worked, had a relaxed atmosphere. It was mostly frequented by young crowd who played guitar and sang and danced while enjoying their pizza, waffle and mojitos. Narayan liked the feel of the place.
Here, he spotted a beautiful young girl, definitely not Indian, tall, blonde, blue eyes and with a mesmerising smile. She would come everyday for lunch and he gathered that she had come for the yoga and meditation camp in the village. To him she embodied the heroine to his hero. He was drawn to her, watching her everyday but not going anywhere near.
It was a particularly hot day, of June and the cafe had been busy all afternoon. She hadn’t come and Narayan sat at the cafe stairs, staring at the cobbled path. The bright rays of sun, the opening and closing of the creaking cafe door, a song on the guitar. He heard the gentle breeze ruffling the pine tree tops. Everything was serene only his heart was not calm.
He was sitting in a black limousine, dressed to the best. The door of the car was open and he could see the red carpet rolled out. And he was running his hand through a girl’s hair, she was holding his hand and smiling at him. Oh! that smile seemed to pull him towards her, tugging at something deep inside him and now he was falling falling into the endless pit. “Wake up! Wake-up boy! You’ll get a sunburn sleeping at the stairs in the blazing sun.” She was giggling and shaking him awake. She had come walking out of his dream. Yes! Her only her had to be his heroine.
Eighteen year old Narayan, borrowed a suit from a shop and made a bouquet of wild flowers and decided to go to the village, years after he had run away. His hair wilder than ever before, but the constant labour added muscle to his short frame. His hands were gruff and his shoes were torn. He washed his face in the stream and try to tame his hair. He waited outside the yoga camp, for his heroine to come. The sun was now meeting the earth to bid farewell for the night. In the twilight she looked prettier than ever, the flowers in his hand had wilted, yet he went to her. She recognise him and smiled and then laughed at his audacious dress. He was nervous now. He offered her the flowers and she tenderly took them in her hands. He managed to say friends! She laughed and laughed. He looked at her confused. He said friends again. She said no, no, never. Returning his flowers and walked away.
Narayan could not comprehend what just happened. She is not supposed to say no. She is supposed to be my side. I am the hero. No! No! Maybe she misunderstood. But she had returned the flowers. He felt lost. How can the story change? Surely she missed out something.
He was alone, his mentor had gone to Mumbai to narrate the story for a movie. Narayan wanted to seek his advice. He was lost. The story cannot change, at any cost. He couldn’t sleep or eat. His story had to remain constant. After three long days when his Indra was back,he saw him haggard looking, in a dirty ill fitting suit, lying on the floor of the hut. Narayan sprang up as soon as saw him and asked whether his story script was accepted. Yes! He said. “You will no longer have to work at the restaurant”. “And the story? Was the story well received.” “Yes!” Narayan was told, but, “I had to make changes in the protagonist life to suit the movie makers.” And he narrated the new story to Narayan. Change! Narayan was quiet for the rest of the week. Silence seem to have engulfed him. Everything seem dark and unpleasant.
He had made up his mind. He went to the town and got himself a well fitted suit. Got a haircut and looked gentlemanly. Thereafter he went to the village. The summer festival was going on in full swing. Folk artists were performing on the stage. He could see his grandmother in the audience, he felt ashamed. He had not met her even once. He saw his mentor and the girl from the yoga camp. His teachers, classmates, and villagers many of whom he recognised. He had to take his chance today.
He hijacked the stage. There was a murmur of discontent, but he began his performance. His mentor recognised the story. Narayan was enacting scene upon scene and the audience was gripped. There was pin drop silence. He moved on the stage with such fluidity and grace. His expressions, his actions and his movements were all flawless. The story of a man who was rich and had everything in life, a beautiful house a beautiful wife and all the luxuries money could buy, but he could not buy love. His unfaithful wife stabbed him one day and he lay in a pool of blood, on the cold floor of his house.
The story ended. The audience applauded, a standing ovation. Only two people had tears in their eyes. Narayan’s grandmother and his mentor for the knew, Narayan had given the performance of his life. His heroine alas understood the meaning of friends… But it was too late. Narayan hadn’t stopped for a second chance.