Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
- Hal Borland
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She was stunned to look at the figure walking towards her.
It was half woman and half spider. No. Not in horizontal halves. Not with the bust of a woman and lower body of a spider or vice versa. No…
It was split vertically: the left side of the figure was that of a woman, and the right side was that of a spider! The spider’s half-head was as large as the woman’s half head and its body was as big as the woman’s. A hand and a leg on the left, it had four thin spider legs on the right side. The entire part of the spider was pitch-black and it had four eerie eyes, shining bright. Its long serrated antennae were twitching above its head. The woman half was as delicate and flimsy as possible, kind of cute, with long locks flowing below her hip. The face was not very clear to Neora from the distance.
In spite of the asymmetry, it walked steadily and was pacing towards her. Its walk was graceful, with the single human leg and two of the spider’s legs.
Neora was dumbstruck. Paralysed. Even forgot to breathe. As the figure came closer, she felt like there was a big cork in her throat, painful and no voice came out of it. She stuck her back to the tree she was holding, as if she would merge with it.
“Who are you?” the creature asked in a coarse voice.
‘Oh! It speaks English!’ thought Neora. Still she was not able to open her lips.
“This is a dangerous place. I’m surprised you made it till here. What do you want?” asked the being.
Neora felt her throat totally dry. ‘A drop of water would help’ she thought. With much effort she opened her lips and whispered “I think…” she panted, “…I lost my way”. Her throat was dry and parched that she felt it would crack. Unnecessarily she was reminded of her boss. She had felt so immobile, about a month back, when she was interviewed by her boss, for her performance review. ‘Oh my God!’ her thoughts raced, ‘let this be a dream, touchwood’ and she grabbed the trunk of the tree more strongly.
“No, you may not have got lost”. The creature seemed to smile. “And there is plenty of water nearby. You just need to look for it” It then went past her, in a slow stroll.
Neora did not know if she should follow it or run away. She moved slowly, very slowly, looking around. ‘And did it mention about water? But I never voiced out my thirst.’ She looked around bewildered. It was dark. There was suddenly a movement at a short distance in the dark. She twitched. Seemed someone darker moved amidst the dark. Her heart went throbbing. ‘Hope it’s not any demon. Touchwood’ and she grabbed the next nearby tree.
Neora could hear her own heart beat. ‘O my God! What is happening? Why things seem to go ebb and flow? Why did I start at all from home on a Sunday? I should have worshipped the TV as usual’ she grumbled to herself. Neora swept her eyes around. She could see nothing. Only light that emanated was from the creature that was walking past her. A dim reflection of the strolling figure through the canopy of the woods was really frightening.
‘Should I follow it? Or should I not?’ as usual her ambiguity killed her.
The figure seemed to smirk.
“Excuse me” Neora spoke so faintly, that the figure didn’t seem to hear it. It kept walking. ‘Will the creature show me a way out? Or is it dangerous?’ A doubtful Neora followed her, dragging her injured right leg, and holding her staff, gripping it harder.
“How long you think the staff is going to support you?” asked the creature as it was walking without turning back.
Neora felt slightly relieved that she was being noticed, yet felt weird about the entire surrounding and its question. She did not answer. ‘How did the creature find that I was gripping the staff harder? How did I come to this place?’ she thought.
“Well, it was your decision” replied the creature. Neora was totally taken aback. ‘Is it hearing my thoughts? Or is it merely presuming like how my boss does with me? O God! This is really eerie. Is it really safe to follow this strange creature? I want to quit this place’ raced her mind.
The creature unexpectedly turned back in a jiffy. It was so quick, that Neora jolted and fell back. It now suddenly stood very close to her and its eyes were piercing hers. There was hardly an inch gap between them. Neora could feel warmth from the half woman and felt icy cold from the half spider.
“Quit?” its voice was now even coarser and rude, “You wanna quit again?”The beast seemed to be suddenly angry. “After all these years of quitting whatever you took up? You weak critter” its voice grew coarser.
‘No, this is too much. Is it speculating? Or does it know? How did it hear me? Why does all this happen only to me?’ Neora became still and got perturbed that she had invited further trouble.
“Why should I speculate?” the creature sneered, staring at her. “It was your choice. You choose and you quit. You choose and again you quit. Not a vertebrate enough to get hold of your own decision” it chuckled. The silvery web flowing down the spider’s mouth and dangling in the wind was awkwardly touching Neora’s cheeks.
Feeling annihilated, Neora closed her eyes. ‘Yes’ she thought. ‘I am weak. I am afraid. I can’t stand such gruelling tasks. O God! Please get me killed soon. What is this strange thing happening to me? I can’t take this. I wish to vanish away from here, touchwood’ her thoughts pathetically pleaded and she curled on the floor, ready to admit the wrath of the creature.
“Vanish?” its voice was steady but hoarse. “You do this day in and day out? Are you not tired of yourself” roared the creature, “Touchwood for what? To hold your ground on your positives? Your luck? Do you know what is positive? You are in the woods. And you want to touch wood without moving a nerve?” Suddenly it seemed to move away at a distance. ‘May be even this beast considers me unbearable!’ Neora felt bleak and gloomy. It was her habit to utter touchwood whenever she thinks she says something that would save her. ‘The creature is mocking me’ Neora felt ashamed and offended.
She had always given up tasks half way through, fearing if it would fail her. Or she would never volunteer to take one. Even if she had a point to state that is right, she hesitated to voice it up in her team. ‘What if I am laughed at? What if it seems silly? What if I’m rejected for the next project?’ She always had the doubtful what ifs that stopped her from taking any initiative.
Neora shivered but wondered, ‘Why do I oscillate so much? I am not able to complete any task that I take up. Do I deserve to be rescued? Will the creature eat me up now?’ Before she finished her thought, she got reminded that the beast would hear her thoughts.
“Ha! Yeah! I would eat you up” bawled the creature. Seemed it had again sensed her worsening vulnerability. Its teeth, sharp and long, were ready to tear her, when she also noticed that the woman part of the face was still looking kind. A perplexed Neora, sweating tremendously, gathered all the courage she could manage and dragged the staff from her hand and hit hard on the spider side of the creature. Blood oozed out from its neck and the beast became more furious.
Neora was surprised that she made that attempt. ‘Am I able to do such feats?’ she astonished at herself. The growl of the creature seemed to tear her eardrums. It raised high to strike again. At that moment, as the figure moved a bit back, Neora was able to see the face of the woman part, which seemed dizzy and not in control.
Her feelings and thoughts ran erratic. ‘Is this an animal to be pitied or killed? Will I be able to kill it?’
“Kill me?” bellowed the creature and it sprang back on her, now with sharp claws at the end of the limbs of the spider. Neora was more alert this time and she rolled to her right, leaving the wrath of the spider to the mud. She quickly was on her feet and started to run fast in the opposite direction.The intention to get away from the creature made her to run as fast as she could, making her forget that her leg was hurt.
A little effort against the beast gave her hope. ‘No. I will not allow it to feast on me. Let me determine my fate’ her thoughts sprinted. She ran as fast as she could, amidst the trees.Now instead of fear there was determination and fire in her. ‘There is no point in falling prey to it. Why should I accept other’s views about me? How long do I keep running petrified of others and their views?’ she panted, yet she increased her speed. ‘Whatever I’m able to do, I do. If it is not fulfilling your expectation, it is your problem. State it to me. State clearly what is wanted. I cannot beat myself. No point in it. No point. I am NOT going to run away from your taunting’ apart from reproving the beast, she was conversing to all people in her mind, at her home, at her workplace, at her team.
And then it struck her. That she was running! Suddenly she stopped running. ‘What am I doing? I keep running again. Unless I face this creature, how am I going to escape it?’ She turned back, stood a firm ground, tightened the hold on her staff and looked in the dark where the beast was approaching with a pounding heart.
Neora was basically a timid person who always had repressed her anger. She almost always had adjusted with her peers and her family fearing she would lose their company. And she never volunteered a new task, fearing failure or would voice out, fearing rejection. She wasn’t assertive enough to show her anger, even when she was genuinely angry. This Sunday, unusually, she opted to visit a park, that’s what others said, near the outskirts of the city. Some said it’s called Kammavana park. As she was bumping into stress and deadlines wherever she turned, she presumed she would get a little calm if she is away from the regular stuff. But only when she was half way through, she realised it was not a small park, but seemed to be a vast forest. She has heard that it was engaged by some monks who rarely come out of the woods. Though known for its sanctity, the park appeared quite mysterious for the locals, as they knew nothing about its inland. And very rarely people ventured into the Kammavana, she has heard.
Neora felt tempted by the calm tall trees and the cool breeze that enveloped the entrance of the Kammavana. It was all interesting and seemed attractive and curious at the beginning. Neora started to feel that she had been missing so much because of her shyness. She loved the smell of the fresh green which was unlike the city gardens. She suddenly became aware that she had walked long, when she found that the woods were thicker. When she chose to exit, wondering which path to take, there was a stormy wind and a heavy downpour that swayed her around, hurling her up and down. It grew dark very quickly and she found herself a broken branch to use as a support and looked for getting out of the forest. A bleeding ankle slowed her further.
It was then, she encountered with the half girl – half spidy creature that is now raiding her. More than the fear, at present Neora felt very intimidated, as she was not even able to think anything at her will and the creature was getting hold of her - assaulting her reading her thoughts. Neora’s hands were shivering, tightening the grip on the staff and she could feel shivers throughout her body, as she was expecting the beast to pounce anytime.
The spider-girl which went for the mud, sprang back and chased Neora in vengeance. The creature shrieked intensely, opening its mouth and making an annoying noise. As the yelling creature neared, with its bizarre and dreadful teeth, Neora screamed thinking, ‘O my God! Do I have to be bit by such ugly teeth?’ dropping the staff from her hand in fear.
She fell back as the creature attacked her with its claws and knocked her down. “Oh! I look ugly! Do I?” roared the creature, in the most abrasive voice that it seemed deafening Neora’s ears.
“O… No… This can’t be. Am I not free to think?” she panted heavily ‘I’m heard again’, her breathing was faster and she sweated very badly. She felt frustrated that her thoughts were heard by the beast against her will. She had fallen back with her elbows painfully on the ground. The spider girl guffawed wickedly. Neora’s despair turned into annoyance. ‘That is it!’ she thought. As an unexpected gesture, she swiftly got up on her heels with all her strength and rushed towards the creature, yelling loudly and banged its stomach with her head. The creature toppled down.
Neora shrugged off her tormenting head and watched the fallen creature. It stood up very slowly, seemingly groggy and with its head bent down. It seemed a little misty.
‘Is it disintegrating?’ thought Neora. The spidy girl seemed feeble and exhausted. ‘It is not disintegrating, it is transforming’, she thought. Now she was quite sure that the creature was not spending its energy in listening to her thoughts, or attacking her, but in its transformation. The spider part seemed to slowly change its color from black to a lighter shade. And then slowly the antennae and the eyes were fading away. The thin long legs were altering. ‘Is it altering to the limbs of a human?’ as Neora watched, the figure was slowly moving backwards into the darkness. Now Neora was not afraid of the dark wavering shadows. ‘It must be trees’ she said to herself and proceeded slowly towards the creature. It has, by now, vanished into the dark shadows.
When she moved past few dark trees and bushes, she saw the faint figure in the dim moonlight, now seemingly a full woman. ‘The spidy is gone?’ she thought. As she approached the figure, it slowly raised its head. On seeing its face, in the faint light that came through the tip of the trees, Neora was stupefied!
“What?” her eyes widened in disbelief. Her heart rate was rapid and her face scowled in such a way to twist all her facial muscles. “Are you… are you…” she stammered.
“Are you… me?” Neora was in total shock to see herself standing there in that frail structure. The spider has gone and there she was, standing weak, fragile but with a determined and unwavering calmness. The structure was slowly dissolving, seemed slowly vaporizing.
“What is it? I don’t understand. How is this possible, what place is this?” Neora was disturbed to the core.
“This is the Kammavana. It brings out the real ‘you’ without refining, and presents before you forthrightly. For you to work on your own-self” said the transformed girl.
“I didn’t understand. I just visited a park. But what are you saying?”
“This is not just a park. Only those who are courageous enough to discover themselves, look into themselves and stand the truth of their weird self, will be able to travel this far. The Kammavana presents this only to those who are courageous and those who are willing to look into themselves. Kammavana signifies the jungle that presents opportunities, which seem like hurdles, to dissolve what you wish to dissolve. It is a miniature life you would opt to live. Kammavana, the forest of karma, is touched by your emanating courage” the girl spoke as her body was dissipating in thin air as white fumes.
“What are you saying?” Neora looked puzzled. She became restless on not being able to comprehend what was going on. And this figure seems diminishing and getting paler. “Are you… are you going to disappear?” stammered Neora
“I am happy for you. I am glad you acted the way you acted. It now releases both you and me” replied the fragile figure with a mild smile.
“What? So, you are not me? Or what… I don’t understand” Neora’s brows knotted in confusion.
“I was your sheer reflection. You see me as you really are”
“What do you mean? Was I a half spider?” asked a devastated Neora, “and how is it that you seemed… eh... cured now?”
“It was your fear”
“What? My fear is what?”
By then, the girl fully evaporated and no one was standing there. Neora was totally stunned. She didn’t understand what just happened. Or was it a vision or hallucination?
As she was pondering over whatever happened, she heard a subdued sound of trickling water. As she walked towards the sound, she noticed, she didn’t have the stick with her. Yet she was comfortable to walk and her ankle wasn’t hurting much, she realized. She wasn’t uttering touchwood for quite some time that was even more surprising.
There was a small brook, flowing beautifully. The water was shining in the little light that fell to the ground, escaping the tall trees. She sat down on a rock near the brook, with her legs in the flowing water. She now felt totally calm inside. She realized she wasn’t thirsty now, even when pure gleaming water was right in front.
She contemplated on the spider girl. ‘What was it? Why did it haunt me? Was it real? Or was it my imagination? No, I still could feel my throbbing head – on thrashing it. It was real, isn’t it? Whatever. But it did dissolve. Yes, after I rammed. Now there is a change in me anyway’ she nodded to herself, ‘I feel calmer’. “Yes” she whispered. And then it flashed as a spark to her: that it was her fear that took the form of a spider. She felt she had seen her own real-life expression as concealing her Self in the form of a freaky spider, feeling shy and terrified about everything in life. And when she had decided to encounter her fears, the spider was ready to dissolve. Her courage has released her fear as well as herself. Her pure focus on her Self has removed the need for other supports. Holding a support or not, doesn’t really matter when you trust yourself, in the here and now. “Yes” this time she said aloud.
She felt blessed in the interiors of the Kammavana, the forest of karma, for driving away the beast that was irking her. When ready to face it, it is ready to dissolve and also ready to take away the injuries and stifles along with it. ‘What more, does the Kammavana hold for me’ she thought with a clear and calm mind, ‘Can it dissolve my anger too?’ she giggled to herself.
Just then, she heard a growl at her back!