Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dreaming in Kalahari


In the continent of Africa, there is a place that inhabited life for centuries yet got being labeled as a thirsty land- the Kalahari deserts. No doubt, the deserts do support life in many forms but the Kalahari is a special case. Unlike the heats of Sahara or the colds of Arctic, this place supports a variety of flora and fauna than is expected out of a desert. And so, there thrives a human community, preferably called as the San people. This tribe has lived here for decades and their bond with the place has grown stronger with each passing day.

The life of the boy was very similar to that of his family, except for the feature that he was a dreamer. Living in a hut made up of mud, stone and straw, the boy had gained a little knowledge about the world outside. Due to his keen interest in the language, he had learnt many dialects that prevailed in the adjoining regions. At the age of 17, he had started thinking about the world as a magician’s creation. When he had looked upward at the sky, it appeared as if it’s a void overhead, but then he came to know that there is something called earth’s blanket of air that enveloped this pretty planet. When he sat outside his hut gazing the plants grounded in the soil, he never knew that they all were living species. In his notion, the stars came, and went somewhere when the sun arose, before he became aware that they still were very much present in the daylight. The wind across the deserts had often created mirage, to which he was familiar now.

In his entire lifetime, the only man-made thing that he had seen flying was a kite. And Zaheer was fond of watching it, rather than flying himself. He loved when the kite rose upward, with fliers trying to cut another kite’s string. And as soon as someone would cut the string, a moment of ecstasy began for him. The very sight of kite flying freely with the wind filled his heart with joy, maybe because deep inside he too longed to sway freely, without any string holding back.

The days passed by and much of his life remained the same when one day, he woke up to the sounds of pacing roar. He had never heard this sound before in his life, and within seconds the sound grew louder and louder. The tribesmen ran out of their huts fearing danger and gathered nearby, when each member whispered prayers for their safety. But Zaheer was busy gazing upward. After few moments of silence, the sound came again but this time, it was not the sound alone. The crowd saw a huge dragonfly with abnormal wings flying over their huts with two similar dragonflies following it. The tribesmen thought of it as a sign of God’s displeasure and started fearing for their lives, but the boy watched them as they flew. Zaheer noticed one such dragonfly coming down with a flame on its tail. And when the sight of fire trembled most of the tribesmen’s heart with fear, Zaheer ran in the direction of its fall. The people called him back but he ran as if no string was holding his back.

And soon he saw a man inside that huge flying object that bumped into the sand with fire starting to envelope it. The injured man tried to crawl out, when Zaheer ran for his help. The man looked different from his attire, and looked like a fighter with wounds on his head and arms. Zaheer pulled the fighter out, and soon the helicopter disappeared into the flames. The 17 year old Zaheer was still in the state of shock and excitement, when he heard the fighter’s clarion’s call for help. Zaheer pulled the fighter under the tree and ran to call his people for help. But when he reached there and narrated what he had seen, the tribal leader frowned and yelled at him for helping a soul that he considered to be evil. Zaheer was again hit by surprise and his adolescent mind demanded reason for considering the fighter as evil. Knowing the time was crucial, the boy ignored the clan and ran with water in his ostrich’s egg shell. The fighter was still alive, breathing hard, when splash of water rejuvenated him little bit.

Zaheer never knew the exact reason that made him go against his own people, but he thought maybe it was the action of a rational mind. But instead, the reason was a bit different. The boy was so fascinated by the flying objects that when he saw a man inside it, he reckoned the fighter as a noble soul empowered to fly, which was contrary to what clan’s leader had thought. For that entire day, the fighter was recovering in Zaheer’s hut unaware of the fact that entire clan had abandoned this young boy. And soon the air force traced the location of the accident when next day, other aircrafts came for rescue and enquiry operation. The fighter was expecting that his people would come, and when they came, he asked the boy to make a wish that he could fulfill to pay his gratitude.

Zaheer thought for a moment and to fulfill his fascination that came with flying objects, he asked for a ride in the helicopter that once he had thought of as a huge dragonfly. The fighter amused by the boy’s wish ensured that he could keep his words, and Zaheer was all set to fly.

With sand and dust flying all around, Zaheer rose above the earth into the skies. He was looking at his hut that gradually looked like a tittle on his village. He was flying above the heights ever touched by the kites, and with a pace that could beat the fastest bird in the sky. And the ascent was so favourable, that when the boy descended into his village, the people held him on their shoulders and treated him in a way he was never treated before.

The Kalahari saw a brilliant example of the man’s desire to attain something. As it is rightly said, that when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true. And same happened with Zaheer as well.


-Arpan Khare
 Mumbai