You ever get the feeling that you are drowning? Water all around and you kick your legs furiously, screaming, hoping, praying, anything really, just to stay afloat a while longer, and still being dragged down the icy depths, not a single person willing to help you, not a soul around to hear your pleading cries. Life feels a bit like that nowadays, like you are drowning. The world around is running ahead and you are desperately trying to keep up without a moment to catch even a single breath. It’s just not enough, no matter what you do, you still fall short.
Do well in school, your ranking could be higher. Get into a good undergraduate university, there are still plenty better. Get your degree, your CGPA could be higher. Get a job, pay could be better. It just doesn’t stop. You are still drowning, you are still left behind, one among the faceless mass, common, forgotten, the world has already moved ahead.
So you try again, kick again, push, paddle, sweep, need to break through to the water surface, and suddenly, miraculously, you succeed. Glorious, deep, heaving breaths of air gulped down, a drowning man knowing no greater joy. And for a while, you float; warm beams of sunlight providing a short respite as you close your eyes, getting ready for the next great wave that will as surely arrive as the rising and the setting of the sun and the tide.
But there’s something strange this time around. There appear to be people, floating, just like you, all awaiting the rising tide. Hope blossoms in your heart. At-least for a short while, you feel – I am not alone. You shyly look around, waiting for someone to notice you. They all do. Smiling, they move to you, surround you, greet you and within moments, you wonder if this is what its like to have friends.
“Ah, are you here to learn from the masters atop the hill too?”, someone asks. “Well, of-course he is, he surfaced with us near the hill base, can’t you see?”, another replies. You dumbly nod your head, wondering what was going on. You had of-course heard of the masters atop the hill, most exclusive, most elusive; had you really managed to surface near this elusive summit? Students of the masters atop the hill, so few ever managing to find them, were famous, life conquerors they are called, for they had truly conquered the seas, it neither overwhelming or drowning them, their secrets known only to them.
Indecision grips your heart, could you actually do it? You stare up the hill, jutting out of the seas, rising high into the sky, a shining beacon, radiating hope, warmth and joy. But you have heard of the illusion, the promises the hill whispers to all and yet so harshly denies those too weak to climb. You had heard the impossibility, so few survived its assault. People perished on its treacherous and desolate slopes, a fierce wind blowing off all those it deems unworthy and the ever present mist, twisting and turning, misleading even the most cautious. Was it worth it? The pain, the suffering, the heartache, all for something that you may never truly reach. And yet, it looks magnificent, beckoning all those nearby to climb. And so you decide, ready to traverse the treacherous slopes, eyes fixed atop the hill. After all, no pain, no gain, life has taught that lesson quite thoroughly already. And, hence the climb begins.
A harsh wind bellows, threatening to blow you off, sharp stones cut into your feet, the mist playing mind games, trying to make you fail. It looks to be a failing venture, and yet you push ahead. Just a few more steps to the top, just a few more. People keep falling and tumbling around you and yet you persevere. Rocks and stones and winds and mists and torrents of rain, you brave them all, the elusive hill top still beckoning. So close, just a few more steps. Dogged steps fall in line, one after the other, mind numb from the effort, a hazy view finally appears, like a morning fog slowly lifting, a mild chill in the air from the early dawn, the sweet fragrance of blossoming flowers, dew still on the leaves dripping, something shimmering ahead, the golden gates of the hill top. Lips parched with thirst, cuts and bruises at the odd places, the weary survivor has reached the gates of the masters atop the hill.
You take a moment to remember. So many started, so few remain. It makes you appreciate the journey more. Take a deep breath, remember your privileged position, not all survived the journey. The view around is magnificent, like a garden from heaven, divine and sublime. The senses explode from the beauty all around. Wonder seeps into your very being. You enter paradise. All is provided by the masters; rest, food and water, and after a long time, you sleep as you once did as a babe, the fatigue slowly leaving your body.
You awake the next day, afresh, recalling all you have been through, the worry begins to return. All the effort, all the hardship, will it be worth it. Were the legends just that, legends? Or is there some truth to them? What will the master atop the hill teach? Will I just drown after my time in paradise? What? What? Did I choose wrong? Is it too late?
The masters arrive and say just one line, banishing all worries forever from my heart, mind and soul – “Welcome, we shall teach you how to build a boat.”