Zeenath Jahan

The Journey had started early for her, as it had for them all. The Path was shadowy in the dark before the Journey started, but with the coming of Dawn visibility gradually improved. Looking around, she noticed that her fellow Travelers were a mixed band of people from all over the world. There were men and women, brown, yellow, black and white; old and young, fat and thin, weak and strong. Stretching ahead, the winding Path was dotted with rocks and crevasses. When the unwary stumbled and stubbed their toes, some sat on the roadside crying over their misfortune while others shrugged their shoulders stoically, deciding to be more careful in future. Getting to know her fellow Travelers, she realized that there were many who became too, too careful and kept their eyes on the Path missing the grandeur of the changing terrain.

The sun rose to its zenith; searching the edges of the Path she saw tall shady trees and rested for a moment. She realized that not everyone noticed the trees and some Travelers continued on the Journey without protection from the blazing sun, often perishing from the heat. When clouds covered the sun some cowered in fear from the dark of the day, while others reveled in the changing light and went on. Then there were times when Thunder and Lightening burst forth from the darkening skies. Screaming in terror and running off the Path some Travelers lost themselves in the Desert that lay on either side. She and some others grit their teeth and went on, knowing that to reach the Destination they had to continue, come what may!

Then came the rain drenching every thing in sight, washing away the landmarks; but after the rains flowers sprouted along the Path. Stopping to wonder at their beauty she saw some of her fellow Travelers, grind them underfoot.

'How can they not notice the splendor of it all?' she wondered, carrying their memory in her heart even when they were gone. In the dark of night she remembered them and was glad.

The Journey continued, day and night, one foot before the other, on and on went the band of Travelers. Some Travelers bought trinkets from the peddlers who had caught up with the caravan, others brushing them aside. She came upon some Travelers who had lost their curiosity about the Destination. Giving up the struggle they lay by the roadside, their bare bones were bleached by the hot sun. Others went on, forcing their aching bodies to take the next step, the mirage of the Destination forever dancing before their eyes.

She walked on and on. Often so exhausted she could barely summon the energy to lift another foot, yet she plodding on. Jostled by the crowd, losing her footing and falling to her knees; she always managed to jump up; dusting herself, and continuing, one foot before the other. Ignoring her aching body, ignoring the pushing, shoving, jostling of the crowd, sometimes even ignoring the Path itself, she went on and on and on; one step at a time.

Then came another of the cross roads that intersected the Path every now and then. Hoping it was the last and wondering which to take, she looked from one to the other weighing the pros and cons of each. Making a choice wasn't always easy.

As always, one path looked more inviting. It was almost as though she would be able to traverse it with little or no difficulty. The gradually, winding, rambling decline ended near a sprawling village at the bottom of the Path. Some villagers were sitting in their yards, staring into space. It seemed peaceful and inviting. Yet, it was the stillness of the village, the absence of movement of the people that chilled her. The monotony was unthinkable!

There were many who ran pell-mell down the incline, pushing and shoving each other to get there first; yet there were many others who turned to climb the other Path that rose steeply to the Right. From what she could see of it, the Path was an almost continuous steep incline, almost unswerving in its uphill Journey. It was covered in mist and the end was not visible. A hint of mystery that enshrouded the Path to the Right beckoned; but she was tired, bone tired and in no mood for adventure.

"What if this Path ends up Nowhere?" She wondered.

Turning once more to the Path to the left, imagining the ease with which she would reach the village in the foothills she almost took it, yet remained rooted to the spot. The other was so much more challenging, fascinating in its mysterious allure; and she had always been adventurous.

Squaring her shoulders, she made her decision. There had to be more to the Destination she had traveled to with so much effort than the almost bovine immobility of the village below. Climbing through the mist, visibility just a few feet ahead she frequently stumbled on the rocks and boulders. The Path was as demanding as she had imagined and yet exciting too. When she heard strains of a heavenly Music in the distance she knew she had taken the Path that was right for her.

"Who has taken time off from the rigors of the Journey to play such a lovely tune? Who had the energy while climbing the steep ascent to play such heavenly music?" she wondered.

Enchanted she went on. This Path was so very different, so exciting, so enervating. Each bend and turn brought new vistas; vague and indistinct, yet mesmerizing. Though the path was demanding, her jaunty gait belied it. With every step she felt strangely uplifted and energized.

"Maybe the Path will clear after a while, I am glad I took it!" she thought, looking up while getting her breath back after a particularly steep ascent.

The Path gradually did become clearer and she noticed that there was no jostling and pushing here. When exhausted she would find an encouraging word from her fellow Travelers and found the strength to continue. Each person on the Path was willing to offer a helping hand to those that needed it to climb to the next rising. She was helped, and in turn helped others along the way. Soon a sort of camaraderie developed amongst the Travelers, the air ringing with song and laughter.

The sun shone as brightly as before; but it warmed without discomfort. The further she climbed the brighter it became and the Path was more clearly visible. Then she came upon an unearthly luminosity that seemed to radiate from all corners. She could not see the Source of the light; it seemed to pour out of everything in sight, from the luminous flowers to the Travelers on the Path and everything else around. The earlier exhaustion fell away and she felt she was walking on air. Then turning a corner she almost lost her footing; there was a burst of color and light enveloping her; absorbing her; consuming her. She was Home at last!

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