Shahid Ridad Hassan
“Numquam desistas ex somniis tuis”, he said to his little sister, who was listening intently to him. She smiled and blinked. He said, “Did you even understand a word, I just said?” She giggled quietly, gave out a calm sigh and nodded two times. He said, “it meant never give up on your dreams.” He found it scribbled on a wall on his way homewards. Then he took his sister in front of their room’s wall mirror and announced his name, “Name and this little wretched naughty gal here is…”
He gazed at his sister who was trying her best to supress her laughter. He frowned, made a face and declared, “You are quite dull for method acting, go to sleep, you little elf.” She quietly obeyed and in the stillness of the night; plunged herself into a serene slumber. He laid awake siting at the edge of his comfy bed, reflecting on the day’s events. It was raining and the night was cold and quiet. The air flawed about the open window like thick molasses, and the shadows from the moon and street lamp split like schizophrenic blue phantoms, grotesque and fairly repetitious. The rustling of the leaves and the gales roaring against the window and the air with the peculiar smell of mould and decaying leaves filled the room.
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He closed the window and heard the sound of drops splashing against the panes. He listened to it; it was soothing and elemental. He tiptoed to his sister’s bed, gave her a good night kiss on her forehead and slipped under the blankets on his bed. He was astonished to find himself in a state of darkness, pleasant and restful enough for his eyes, but even more, perhaps, for his mind. It appeared incomprehensible, without a cause, and something dark inside. He slowly traversed to a universe of his own.
I wake up and realized I was a character in the Arabian Nights. Next flash, I was riding the magic carpet with Aladin and the princess. The beautiful and glimmering lights of the city seen from the sky and at that moment the words, “What if my country was like that?” slipped out. While we were treating our eyes to the picturesque scenery, the sharp-eared gennie appeared. Monstrous and humongous as he was, he started making baby faces. After riding we landed and the gennie approached me with an offer: “I give you three boons and you leave the company of Aladdin and the princess.” He confessed that since my arrival in their lives, he felt lonely. I shared my sympathy with him. He granted me three wishes and I gain traversed into another space.
I opened my eyes and saw myself siting on a cloud, at top of the world. I imagined what if I get a chance to create a new world; a place of my own; a country of my dreams. I was lost in these thoughts and lo and behold I fell. After regaining my senses, I retraced to my thoughts, “How would I see the country of my dreams? And more importantly what would be my role in it?” Immediately, I plunged into dilemma; it felt like my thoughts were a complete chaos and I had no idea whatsoever. I tried to lay my ideas in a synchronization manner and found little success.
I thought about it; I would want country filled with lush green forests. It should also be surrounded by calm and serene waters. The trees, plants, herbs along with the rare animals in it, apart from being resourceful, will add beauty to my country. The rarest plants and herbs will grow in the soil of my country and it will cure many diseases. Practice of medicine will be carried out; all varieties of fruits will be available here. The vegetables grown will be the freshest in the entire world. The food items produced in my country will ward off the hunger of millions around the globe. The air here will be the sweetest and purest. My country will also have the sweetest producing perfume plants and these will be craved by people all over the world. The scenic beauty of my country will mesmerize everyone. The country will have diverse climate and georphay. One place will have scorching heat and another will be draped in a blanket of snow. It will have the highest mountain summits, deepest oceans, tallest trees, largest plains and deltas, rivers and streams, calmest ponds and lakes. The waters surrounding my country will have the most glorious marine life. From the largest animal to the tiniest insect, everyone will live in harmony in my country. The animals and birds will be friends and take care for one another. I will inculcate tokens of friendship, humility, kindness and patience in them. It’s funny but I imagine the tiger learning medicine and healing the deer.
My country would be the most beautiful. King ‘Solomon the Great’ will hear about this mystic country and would want to visit here. I will tell the animals and birds to extend hospitality. love and help to them and treat him as one of theirs’. Visitors will be enchanted on landing upon this heavenly abode. They will be welcomed by majestic sunrises and the fading twilights of the day. I imagine myself walking through these woods; the chirping of birds breaking the dawn and tranquility and secrets whispered by the trees at night. The smell of the leaves and grass in midsummer, the cracking of dry leaves and branches in fall, the bare trunks in hostile winters, the blooming flowers swaying their heads in the gentle breeze, everything will be most precious and mesmerizing.
As I was pondering, the genie reappeared and started throwing a thousand questions. I painted the sketch of my country I dream and he was delighted. Before granting me the boon, he suddenly asked “What about humans, though, they must also be in your country?” I thought about it, I was startled, how could miss humans. Maybe, the scenic beauty of my country was so enchanting that humans slipped my mind.
When I say humans, the matter gets scary and tricky. A lot of questions pop up: How would the people of my country be, what would be my role in moulding them, what if everything falls apart? Many questions clouded my mind. Then I remembered-
“He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and dawny flake.”
~ Robert Frost
I believe in my country and I believe the people living here will be the harbringers of humanity. A country where there will be equality prevailing in all spheres: no discrimination based on gender, caste, creed, colour, economic status and prosperity will prevail among all. My country will possess the finest minds of the era, with men and women of wit and intelligence, it would be self-sufficient, not only in natural resources but also in human world. The people would have a vision and they shall works and toil hard to achieve that. Men and women would work together for a common goal.
In my country different places would be suitable for different purposes, I would advise the people to work wisely and harness the full potential of the resources available here. Then at this moment dark clouds covered my mind, what if things don’t work out as I intend, what if people inculcate ideas of malice to harm the country and ultimately themselves. I became grief stricken but I remembered a quote put up by Nelson Mandela, “Human goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” This reassured me on my faith in my people and my country.
As I was about to ask for the genie, I realized he was sitting quietly beside me all the time. He saw my face looked so sweet that he didn’t intend on causing any disturbance. I told the genie about the people in my country. I had three boons, two were already in my mind; for the third one, the genie said, “Tell me something, what is your role in everything?” I was a little baffled and replied meekly, “This is my dream, and this is what I want”. The genie added, “I get you, but what do you have to contribute in this country of your dreams?” I felt like the words stuck in my mouth.
The genie then said, “Are you happy only with the country you have? Don’t you plan to sail the new waters, discover new horizons, cross galaxies, explore the mysterious stars and universe?” I asked him if it was possible to fly and added we don’t even have Aladin’s magic carpet. He laughed heavily and said, “Yes with hard work, perseverance and a will to go beyond the conventional, it is possible”. And he even said, “This could ward off your unfulfilled role in your dreams.” But I was confused, “How do you even reach the stars, they seem so far away. And I don’t have anything to reach there.” The genie smiled softly and said, “Similarly as your country rose from mud to the stars, you must also do the same.” He quoted a Latin phrase, “Ad Astra per aspera” and quietly vanished in the thin air.
I became lost in my thoughts, how do you cross galaxies, I wished humans could fly or even had the magic carpet. But that was not the brewing situation. I began pondering and wrestling with my thoughts about a craft which would take us cross galaxies in the infinite space and time. I remembered a quote of Dr. Kalam, “Adversity always presents opportunities for introspection.” As I was drifting in my ideas, I heard a voice. Again I heard it, it was behind me.
I looked back and saw a boy standing at a distance. He came near and told me, he was observing me. As we got in a conversation I realized there was something that was making our bonds stronger each second. Suddenly a flock of birds swashed through our heads and danced in the skirts of grey and blue. He said to me, “I wish we could fly like them.” And my eyes shined at these words. Did I just find a mate for my dream. I then filled him with the details of my dream to cross galaxies and explore the universe. His face bloomed with joy as he heard this words.
We immediately ran crossing fields and mud pools. The boy took me to a deserted ware house and said we can fulfill our dream here. We smiled, it felt like a beginning of something new, something pure. I then looked at the sky and said, “My role will be to take my country across galaxies, reaching the stars and learn about the unknown and unheard.” And I also wanted to give it a try without any miracle or boon.
The alarm clock rang, I buzzed it off. My sister came at the foot of my bed and off flew the blanket. I was raged as she opened the window to let the chilly January air in. I was unhappy on being woken up. The fading memories of my dream were still echoed in my mind and as Khalil Gibran said, “But memories are like autumn leaves that murmur a while in the wind and is heard no more.”
After coming back from school, I sat down at the edge of my bed. My sister joined me and started reading a book. I said, “You know I had a beautiful dream last night. She slowly kept the book down and folded her tiny hands and said, “Tell me all about it.” I narrated her my dream and she listened attentively. There was a curios look on her face as she listened. After I ended my narration I asked, “What do you think?” She said, “I think the country of your dreams is magical.”
Her words made me very happy but she went on and with a tone of satire in her voice and said, “Do you think you will be able to cross galaxies by just sleeping all day long.” And we both laughed. She then asked, “What will the name of your country?” I looked into her eyes and said. “How about ‘India’?” “But that’s our country” she said. I smiled and with an air of surprise said, “Do you not like it?” She gave a smile and said she loved it and hopes she would also have this sort of dream someday. I attenbded my tuition class, before leaving the room, I quoted a Dr. Kalam to my sister, “Dreams are not that you see while sleeping, but the ones that don’t let you sleep.”
The author Shahid Ridad Hassan, is a residential student of class 11 in Jamia Senior Secondary School, New Delhi. He hails from Assam. This essay on the topic: ‘How I see my role in India of my dreams” was adjudged the best one and gets a reward from the Khushro Foundation, New Delhi.