And it is in one such calm moment – when he had stopped to relax after having given in to the temptation in order to prolong the moment of his tranquility that his gaze fell on clouds illuminated by setting sun behind the mountain on the left side of the arena’s path. And it was thus that he, who had, for some reason unknown even to himself, associated sunsets with sadness, now discovered the beauty of twilight. And he was filled with regrets for all the sunsets he had missed. For the first time, he let himself lie down on the ground – letting go off of the steadfastness which he needed to win. And went to sleep to the silent lullabies of the stars.
When he woke up to the sight of the birds singing songs that praised the rising sun, he discovered that his entire approach to life had changed overnight. He couldn’t care less for the victory now. Instead, he wanted to see the mountains, enjoy nature’s beauty, talk to fellow travelers – even go back to the starting sight and start again making sure he won’t miss a single sight. Even fall if he could – only to feel the sufferings of fallen and see their land. Show everything you have to offer, oh arena! Good or bad, pains or ecstasies, all the sights, and all the feelings – give them all to me. I no longer care for winning, give whatsoever much you can offer in exchange.
Over time he started getting frustrated – having come to believe that being too careful with his steps had become his second nature. And since you can’t fall consciously, there was no way he could fall at all and thus there was no way he was going to see the land of the fallen. When it seemed an easy thing to do, he had avoided it. Now that it had seemed impossible he was desperately anxious to fall. This curiosity and the desperation resulting from it had replaced the discipline and the boredom of his previous value system.
One day, when he was attracted by the sight of a river coming down from mountains on the far left side of the arena, he turned his steps towards it as even from far he could enjoy the tranquility of watching the play of colors on waters but he wanted to look at it from close and as he moved closer, he discovered that a girl was already there washing her hair in it – the curve her body formed as she sat there was in itself a pleasure but it was what she was doing which attracted his attention. Can we do that? How come it had never occurred to him to touch the water of all the rivers and springs he had crossed so far and to feel it on his skin? Instinctively, he walked forward and put his hands in it. And discovered a new sense of joy. What new pleasures Arena had to offer, he marveled, which he hadn’t yet discovered for himself!
For a few moments, he had almost forgotten the girl but then he suddenly felt drops of water sprinkled on his back. He turned around annoyed somewhat; only to find her laughing, putting her hand to her mouth, her stray hair kissing her cheek as she did so. And his annoyance was gone in a moment and replaced by a strong desire to be that stray hair. Wasn’t she too like a river just coming out of the mountain of her innocence? He felt a strong desire to feel her touch too on his skin. But he was too scared to do anything.
The girl was surprised – for anyone else would have responded by throwing water back on her. He. He just stood there smiling at her like a fool.
She did it again to annoy him. And again. And again. And he just stood there laughing by now.
“What are you looking at?” She said still laughing, “come on, throw water at me too. It is . .”
But even as she was finishing the sentence, he felt the ground beneath his feet shake and tear apart. Though he had no way of knowing, he knew by instinct that he was about to fall – the ones who had told him about their fall had told him, he was remembering now, that when one was fated to fall, one could lose the very ground beneath one’s feet but he had always thought they were merely exaggerating to hide their carelessness. And for a moment the fact that he was falling scared him even though he was hoping for it for a while. For, he discovered at that moment, he didn’t want to part from that girl – not already, it was too sudden a parting! And since something in his throat won’t let a word pass through it, he tried to reach out to her by hand, even as he was already falling into that ever-deepening pit – not with any meaningful intention, just a gesture of desperation.
The expression on her face too had changed – the mischievousness was gone and a concerned expression had taken its place. Desperately she grabbed his hand with both of hers and tried to pull him back only to herself fall down the pit herself.
Before he realized what she was doing and could tell her not to do so, the ground had already merged above their head forming a new dark sky above them. She was the one more scared now – and had put her head on his chest, her eyes closed and her cheeks wet with tears and her arms around him as they sunk deeper and deeper. He forgot his own fear as he tried to soothe her by running his hand through her hair.
Neither of them knew anything about when and where they had fallen asleep … or had they lost consciousness? But he woke up on a seashore, she was still clinging to him and he tried to look around to discover that this was definitely not a place he had seen before – the tracks one was supposed to be walking on were nowhere in the sight. There was a new shade in everything – sea, mountains, sky; they all seemed to be blushing. And the noises – Nah, the music of the birds, beating of his own heart, of the sea waves; these sounds which he had heard all his life now seemed to be hinting at some elusive, yet beautiful truth. And he picked up his head to discover the valley in the behind of her neck and his heart started beating even faster – as if telling him, ‘that is what it is, that is what it is’
He didn’t want to move and disturb her sleep – wished for that moment to last forever. But it didn’t. Even as he was only starting to enjoy the feel of her body against his own, she woke up and started asking where they were. And he discovered how much he was yearning for her voice too. He told her he had no idea either. Was it the land of the fallen? But she didn’t even know what the ‘the land of fallen’ meant. He doubted he knew much himself, for there were no tortures here. This was far from what he had imagined the land of the fallen to be. If this was the land of the fallen, how could people who return from here ever feel sorrow? It seemed he, for one, was rendered incapable of it by the very dint of being here. He had never felt this happy before – it seemed he won’t ever feel any sorrow whatsoever after this.
But she … she seemed too scared. He tried to calm her down – but no longer felt brave enough to reach out to her head as he had done before. He could only use words to comfort her which he did and, after much effort, she seemed to have gathered enough courage to agree to his suggestion of hunting around for some food or shelter.