16 October 2014

You can fly if you want to

Pic courtesy www.flyingtots.co.uk
There was a little boy who liked to write poetry.  He was about 12 years old.  He wrote of waterfalls and forgotten islands.  He wrote of colors so new that they were not yet named.  He gave them incredible names.  He showed his poems to his father who smiled and asked him softly, ‘when did you visit these wonderful places?’ 

He was embarrassed by the question, but he didn’t stop writing.  He didn’t share his poetry with his father though.  He just wrote. He described things he had never seen.  He wrote about places he had never visited.  He wrote about people he had never met. 

That little boy was living in another world.  Well, he lived in this world too. He got up reluctantly every morning like almost all children his age.  He waited for a reasonably empty bus to come along. He went to school.  If he got there early enough he played cricket with other boys his age.  He did all these in-this-world things. 

If he was asked to write an essay about the best ever cricket match he would write about a real match he had either watched or had read about.  He preferred to write essays whose titles began with the words ‘If I was…’ ‘If  I was the President…,’ for example.  He would have loved to write an essay with a title such as ‘If I was the Principal,’ but he never got that opportunity.  He did write the ‘If I was a bird…’ essay. 

That was when he realized that he had wings.  He was weak, this boy.  He was timid.  He was scared of heights.  He didn’t climb trees.  He never went to the edge of a precipice.  He was scared to lean over a balcony or stick his neck out of a window.  But when he became a bird, all those fears vanished.

He flew to the highest branches of the tallest trees.  He would find himself on top of the tallest building in the country and swoop down.  He saw what a forest looked like from way up in the sky. 

All this was before there was the internet.  Long before google maps.  Long before Youtube and satellite images and footage.   And yet, he could see what Sri Pada looked like from Kirigalpotha.  He could look upon Devundara Thuduwa (Dondra Head) and with the slightest turn of his face look down on Peduru Thuduwa (Point Pedro).  He went to the top of Sigiriya without having to navigate the dizzying staircase. 

He was at one moment on the tip of one of the Giza pyramids without a bead of sweat glistening on his brow and the next moment he could feel like Edmund Hillary on top of Mount Everest without wearing even sweater. 

And as he flew from one end of the earth to the other, as he flew over ocean and mountain, he felt he owned the earth in ways that he hadn’t ever felt he owned anything, not even the bed he slept on or the school record book where his term tests marks were written on. 

The most beautiful thing, though, was when he stopped flying, when he stood with his feet firmly on the ground and when he could not figure out what had happened to his wings.  That was when he felt he was very small, smaller than the smallest thing he knew about – a speck of dust.  It was beautiful because when he felt like that he knew that he could be whatever he wanted to be, wherever he wanted to be, any time he liked.

The little boy didn’t know enough words to explain all that to his father.

Years passed and the little boy was little no more.  One day he was seated on a bench in the garden.  His grand children who were playing nearby saw him.  The youngest of them, a little girl just 4 years old, saw that his eyes were closed. 

‘Seeya is dead!’ she exclaimed even though she didn’t quite understand what death meant. 

‘He’s just fallen asleep, nangi – can’t you see the smile on his face?  Dead people don’t smile’ her nine year old brother said in all his wisdom. 

The little boy, now an old man, opened his eyes. 

‘Were you asleep, Seeya?’ the little girl wanted to know if her brother was correct.

‘I was flying,’ he said.

The older grandchildren looked at each other. Some of them knew how to roll their eyes so they did just that. 

‘Why were you smiling Seeya?’ the little girl could ask hundreds of questions if she wanted to.

‘I smiled because I remembered drawing maps as a school boy,’ the old man explained.

‘So what’s so funny about that?’ the wise young man asked.

‘Nothing.  Maps are important.  But I was just flying over the Niagara Falls, moving from the American side to the Canadian side and back, again and again and again, without a visa, without being asked to show anyone my passport – and I realized how strange and even silly the lines of a map can seem in certain situations.’

The little girl’s eyes lit up.  She flung her arms around the old man, who used to be a little boy who wrote poems about waterfalls and forgotten islands, who wrote of colors so new that they were not yet named but to which he gave incredible name.

‘I also fly, Seeya – whenever I feel like it!’



sajic said...

At last. One of the beautiful ones. Were you that little boy, Malinda?
Tell that grandkid that people do smile in death because they've seen over the horizon.

දේශක යා said...

Really enjoyed like a fairy-tale. Now that Seeya can still fly. That's great.. All the best Seeya

Anonymous said...

loved this one :-)nutella

Malinda Seneviratne said...

There's more in this series