He held one end of the long thread in his left hand, between his thumb and his index finger. Tightly. As if his life hung by it.
I have been away for a while. And I have been away in a way that I haven’t been away before. On my return, folks have been impressed, surprised and even suspicious about my being away for twenty days. Mostly, because I did not do what we do before we go away for a while. Social norms are such.
I did not make a big announcement of my absence of my being away. I did not tell anyone where I was going. I did not say why. I did not say how. I left my laptop behind. I left my phones behind. I even left my camera behind. I went alone. I didn’t drive. Apart from single-cell powered wrist-watch, I did not take anything electronic with me. Or anything that could transmit or receive. Except my mind. And I used it mostly as a receiving device.
He knew the thread was red, before he slowly closed his eyes. With the index and the thumb of his right hand, he held the thread, leaving just about an inch of the red thread between what he held in his left and right hands. The left hand still tightly holding one end, he started moving his right hand away, along the thread.
It is not that I was sorely missed during these twenty days. I mean, I know I have been missed by some, but nothing in this world came to an earth-shattering stop while I was away. In my world, their world, or the world. But curiosity was apparently increasing with amoebic complexity. Information and knowledge is so over-rated, we think we might actually devolve into Neanderthals, if we didn’t know. Like the commonly used, Oh-if-you-were-on-Facebook/Twitter/RSS-you-would-know statements that we often make.
When I came back, one question prevailed. Where did you go?
I answered: various places. The most disappointing answer I ever gave, I felt, looking at their expressions.
As he ran his pinch along the thread, he felt the texture of the weave of the thread. After a while, the texture and the pull made tunnelled grooves between his fingers, the friction giving way and the thread passing through without resistance.
Most of them were not happy with my answer. The destination — a geographical lock of a latitude and longitude that has been named something, is what we are all used to knowing. That creates a map, an image and a story; instantly in our heads. Maldives, for example. Or Las Vegas. Goa? Varanasi. Phuket, even. These are pre-packaged impressions of the nature and characteristics of “where”. It is often this clarity that we seek when we talk of travel. The destination has to be a tangible surface in this world. All travel experiences thereafter, use this destination as a point of reference.
The feeling of the thread passing through his fingers was an experience that he sought. He didn’t seek the other end of the thread. Though he knew he would eventually reach the end of the thread, that was only an indicator of the end of the experience. Nothing more.