She took the longest route possible – the one which was perhaps the safest to take – and also the most dangerous one. The horned deer kept mostly to themselves. The foxes were unlikely to come her way – she had never seen them – even though she knew they were there. Perhaps the rabid dogs were the only threat. She had once faced them, but now she knew how to avoid them.
It was not the external forces that worried her. And it wasn’t those external forces that made others discourage her from taking that route. It was their lack of faith in her. She loved that route. And if she was going to go, she would not go any other way.
She’d walked so many times. But now her own family forbade her to go there. They said she couldn’t make it. It had been so long…
She was sick of others constantly doubting her, and could bear it no longer. She slipped away from the house.
The initial stretch was a long straight road, directly under the scorching sun. She felt the heat pierce her skin, so unused to light now. She allowed every pore of her skin to soak up the sun – the harsh sun, as they called it. But to her it was liberating.
Within no time, her first milestone was in sight – the thick forest. The entrance was just as it had always been – welcoming. The cool shade of the trees rejuvenated her – if at all she needed it. The dusty path coiled around itself, the butterflies leading her to the steep rocks – her second milestone.
She began her ascent. It was steep – and perhaps the toughest phase of her journey. She encountered the first signs of weakness. Out of the thin air, voices came. They grew around her, showing concern. She slowed down, breathing heavily. The voices grew louder. They were admonishing her for her mistakes. She should not have stepped out. They were warning her of consequences.
Her eyes began closing. She paused. For a brief moment she looked up. A peacock was taking a stroll. A mongoose quickly ran across the path. Were they worried about her inabilities? Perhaps. Were they unaware of her abilities? Likely. Were they scared of her strength? It was that thought made her shake.
She took one step at a time. Every step growing more and more painful as the voices tried dragging her downhill. She fought everything – the voices, the forest, and her own body.
Until she became numb. She took one more step. And then looked around her.
It was a sight she had longed to see – the forest, and all its life, stretching as far as her tired eyes could see. She had reached the highest part of the slope. Her fourth milestone.
The plateau was bustling with activity. But no one bothered to look at her. They were far too busy in their own lives. And she couldn’t care less about them either. She was busy with her own journey. And then came the fork in the path. She knew which one to take – the one on the right. Her fifth milestone – the garden of the most exquisite flowers – greeted her with bowed branches. The scent in the air was mesmerising.
It was a downhill path. A winding one at that. One which was also notorious for trapping travellers. She knew it was a misleading path. Few people actually crossed it successfully. And she was one of those few. At least that is what she believed.
She heard a faint sound in the distance. The temple bell.
It grew louder as she walked along the winding garden path. She felt it coming from somewhere very very close. She kept on walking. The bells kept ringing. She walked, for what she felt, was eternity. She had taken the route so may times in the past. Why was she taking so long? It was the temple bell which kept her believing she was on the right path.
And she was.
At long last, she saw the last milestone. The opening at the edge of the forest. She left the forest with the energy of a little child, eager to enter the temple – to see those bells which had been ringing for so long.
But the moment she exited the forest, the bells stopped ringing.
She stood between the two entrances, facing the temple, her back to the forest, in a state of confusion. Why did the bells stop ringing the moment she was about to reach?
It was then that she realised, that the bells were the sixth milestone. The bells had drowned out all voices of doubt. And she had not felt even the slightest hint of discomfort. She had undertaken that route to the temple several times – and yet, this was the first time she had truly taken the journey.
And that realisation led her towards her destination. She felt light. She was at peace with herself.
Music began playing the moment she entered. Her family had been waiting for her, and they welcomed her with open arms. The festivities at the temple had just begun.
* * *
Even though this post talks of a temple, it is not intended to be interpreted as a religious post. You could easily substitute the temple for any other spiritual place.
Image Credit: JamesDeMers Public Domain (pixabay)