Back in middle school, the school held an art competition themed ‘Oceanic Wonder’, giving us about a week’s time to prepare. Participation was mandatory, and being the accomplishment-obsessed enthusiast I was, I began my preparation right away. I came up with a draft wherein a placid ocean mirrored the intense blue-black night sky bejeweled with the moon as a wave attempted to rise in order to bare its bosom to the moon. I also added a few gold specks to the sky and the silhouette of palm trees swaying at the shore. “Perfect!” I thought and went on practicing, my strokes growing bolder and more confident with each passing day. Certainly, nothing could go wrong.
On the day of the competition, I felt overly jubilant as each and every neuron in me sent sparks all over in anticipation of a formidable victory. Around me, the atmosphere was one of delirious excitement and each participant’s eyes seemed to pose a challenge…except one pair of eyes. These eyes belonged to a petite girl who sat aloof, deep in her reverie. Her softened eyes held a mystical, crystalline sheen that I couldn’t quite decipher. I just shrugged in nonchalance and began with my work. As I began, I felt my surroundings melt away as I focused every fiber of my being over reproducing the image imprinted in my head just the way it was. Just as I finished up with my work, a loud, reverberating bell silenced everyone, signalling the end of the competition. With my heart freed of all apprehension, I submitted my work and left for home, eagerly awaiting the results the next day.
The following day, when I arrived at school, everyone was berserk and the excitement around me was almost palpable. Soon enough, we were summoned for felicitation of the winner. Unlike most, my body showed no exaggerated response for I was thoroughly sure of my work. “And the winner is…Tasha.” I felt the ground beneath me slip away as I blinked in an attempt to register what I had just heard. I hadn’t won! Strange as it may seem, Tasha happened to be the girl with the ethereally sparkling eyes. Now my interest was piqued and I reached the office desk, requesting that I be shown the winning painting. The lady at the desk was kind enough to oblige and as I glanced at the girl’s work, I fell in love with it at once. It was audacious and brazen expression of thought: There was the ocean alright, but its water was replaced with liquid, swirling color and rainbow. The ocean was devoid of calmness as huge, tumultuous waves reached up to the moon, lending it their color in the process, bit by bit. Far in the distance, the painting depicted a girl witnessing the scene from afar in wonder and awe, her eyes mirroring the enticing blend of color. “Well deserved,” I said and left, no more crestfallen now that I knew how great the winner’s work was.
On my way back home in the school bus, I found my moment of enlightenment. During that hour long ride, I usually contributed to the hubbub the atmosphere was always thick with but that day, I had something to contemplate, something to reflect upon. I figured that we humans also constitute nature, and nature loves courage. That’s why the glitzy-eyed girl won – her courage had fought its way through to the top and what the world desperately needs is people who have come alive. We dream the impossible dream and make the commitment. Nature responds to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles because dreaming the impossible dream will not make the world grind us under. Rather, it will lift us up and show us how magic is done. It is done by hurling yourself into the deep, perpetual abyss of imagination and discovering it’s a feather bed.
All along the way, I inwardly marveled in my thoughts over how my failure was inevitable, for I had made no attempt to create, only reproduced a banal everyday occurrence. This failure, I believe, endowed me with a lifelong lesson- the lesson of ‘the rising phoenix’. The phoenix has earned itself a name, for even at death, it keeps up its audacious vision to come alive, defying all established notions in order to rise from its ashes, urging us to shun the mundane monotony we are accustomed to and dream in color. Life is not about staying in, waiting for the storm to pass by. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!
The writer is feature editor with The Legitimate