I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane last night, at one sitting (My review is here). It was short and beautiful. When I dropped the book down, it was 4 am. I was tired, but not satisfied. The story shouldn’t have ended, I thought. It sent me into an infinite loop of thought, making me sleepless till the dawn broke. I halfheartedly went to the bed, only to wake up in a couple of hours again. My brain was impregnated with thoughts about… a window.
In Gaiman’s book, the protagonist meets a girl, who calls a pond, an ocean. In due course, he learns too, that the pond is an ocean. I don’t want to write about it more and spoil the story for you. But what kept looking like a pond to him, beautifully revealed itself, at the right time; the ordinary became extraordinary. In a terrific, magical way.
When one believes that there can be something incredible beneath every common thing, the world doesn’t look the same anymore. What’s apparent might, after all, be an… illusion. I am thinking of the window again.
I think I was about five then. Am I sure? One shouldn’t trust memories. Some are distorted; some are mended. Memories are capricious. But the choice is to believe.
So, I was about five then, when I recognised the existence of that window in my drawing room. There were two windows. I could climb onto a chair and look out one of those. I could see my father arrive, pedalling his favourite cycle. I could see my mother rush home from work. I could see my sister play with her friends. Why was I not playing with them? I don’t remember. I was at home with my grandmother. I was small, and melancholic. I was sad for reasons that had escaped my memory. Maybe, I was like Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh. Like sad for no reason at all. In my most memories of my childhood, I was gloomy. I think about it often, and give up ruminating when I can’t understand why. It’s like somebody had snipped off that part from my memory. No distorted images. No faint memories of conversations. No trace at all.
And then, there was another window. It was near the ceiling. There was no chair at home that was tall enough to help me reach it. When I saw it the first time, I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t doubt its appearance. It had always been there, I believed. I would see the window everyday. I would see the blinding sun-rays shine through it, as though a dozen humans stood at the other side, holding several torches, and sending lights through the window carefully. Tiny particles, dust, floated in, like it did through every other window. But this one was special. It was unreachable, and so, I was looking forward to discovering what was on the other side.
I had no sense of direction then. Naturally. I was just about five. I didn’t know routes. Hence, I obviously didn’t know if there could be a road behind it, and if humans used it. I also didn’t want to disappoint myself by starting to believe that it was yet another window. In my imagination, there were no roads and humans on the other side, but just a mountain. A mountain that looked green and sunny. No animals. Just a bright-looking mountain, with a clear blue sky behind it, like the ones on postcards.
I chose not to discuss it with my parents. It was my little secret, and it was comforting to realise that the window was always there, and I would reach it when I grow up, just to see the beautiful mountain. I didn’t want to know if I would be able to find a way to go to the mountain. The numerous years of wait that I had in front of me didn’t look daunting. To go to the mountain was my only dream. I waited with all my heart.
I woke up one morning, and found myself in a van that was loaded with all of our stuff. Desks, furniture, clothes, utensils… In a while, we reached another house. There was a window in the drawing room. I didn’t need a chair to look out of it. I walked towards it, and saw a group of men unloading our stuff from the van. I began to miss the sunlight, the mountain, the clear sky, and… the window.