The Summit

Written by Anil Z. Mathew |
Published on:

                                                  The Summit                            

The mirror looked as it always had. The image sagged as it never had. Why, you're nudging 59. Give another year.....and you'll be ticked off to a rounded figure. A sour-faced 60. And over the hill. 

Time’s running out, I told myself. And I could hear that familiar ringtone echoing down the ages. 

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.To meet the Maker.

And how on earth do I do that ? Never given it much thought. Besides, I’m new in this business. Just don’t have the experience.

I sat on the summit surveying my kingdom. I had arrived, after all. But where? And how high? I mean how do I measure it all? Ah! Of course, there was only one way. The litmus test. Of dreams realized.

Were my dreams realized?

Sitting on the summit I looked up at the sky, shaking my fist at whoever- was- supposed- to be- up- there. I’ll be quite matter-of- fact with Him, I told myself.

Dear Sir, I addressed Him, mind if I ask you a probing question? Okay? You know I had many dreams for myself......(And I still haven’t given up on some of them.) And, when I was all set for it with the blueprint in hand why on earth did you set out to obstruct me and replace some of it with things I didn’t even have on my agenda? And you never even consulted. Or gave me a clue. And all this against some real heart-felt wishes. And my better judgement, of course. Can’t help feeling bitter about the whole thing. What was the big idea, I ask you...and why?

What do you mean....... you’re saying it hasn’t been all bad for me? There are some redeeming features? Well I don’t think so. Hmmm....I don’t remember ........hmmm...... can remember one thing that you mention it....  

Okay.....I’ll concede that. You did give me a good soul mate. Wasn’t of course the one I’d dreamt about. In the first place, that is. Like others, I have a story too, I guess.....a dream girl who never materialized.......... but now that I think about it, guess you knew better. And ever since you gave her to me come to think of it.....I’ve felt good. Yeah okay, I guess in this instance you’re right. You did give me someone better. And I’m a one-woman man. No other woman. Just the two of us. The guys call me a little ancient ....but just for the record, I tell them....after so many years.......the honey-moon’s not yet over....... 

My achievements? Can’t help feeling a little disappointment there. You know I can sing and write and teach.... and had all my dreams charted out. Thought I’d be kind of famous and make it big. And here I am ........dreams now haunted by that word modest. You never made me get to the headlines. And how do you feel good about modest success, anyway? Ugh! 

Of course, some of the kids I teach do sort of pay attention to what I’m saying, I guess. I don’t always have a full class. But some of them do come back for more.

And I guess I write okay too...didn’t exactly get nominated for that coveted prize ...for that matter haven’t even come too close either... .......but I have done a good job of writing now and then.....and a couple of my readers say I sure do have the ability to laugh at myself when I write.......which comes in real handy when you know you’re not going to get that prize or make a big dent in the literary world. 

And singing... well I’ve belted out a couple of solos in my time...Didn’t quite make it to Indian Idol or....... since we’ve gone global......never made it to American Idol or Britain’s got Talent either. But I did get close to winning an Inter-collegiate solo  competition.....and at least I have no withdrawal symptoms after getting over the trauma of not-ever-making-it-big. Oh! And I’ve survived it all with my joy of singing still intact. I guess as you say that isn’t too bad.

The social circuit ?..........I sure do remember the time when I was riding that popular wave and got hungrily on to that friendly networking site and broke all records by clicking my way to an all-time-best of two-thousand-I-want–to-be friends. Believing what they told me...that a click a day keeps the shrinks away. But I’ve got to admit, however ......I remember I’d be caught in a frenzy as I’d tally up my score every now and then....though sometimes I did feel more like a junkie out for his fix. 

But you’re right, of course. And thanks. For leaving me those few faithfuls. Sure can depend on them, you know.   

And that dream house? That seven-bedroom plush bungalow in that oh-so-cool swanky neighborhood? The one I’d feasted my eyes on? With bathrooms attached ( just in case). And the state-of the-art decor....that glossy finish on the walls..... tailor-made for my guests from overseas and inquisitive neighbours keeping tabs on me....Another dream denied. Unfair!

And instead? A two-medium-and-one-small-sized-bedroom compromise. And let me remind you there’s still that one bedroom without that attached you-know-what.....’re right,of course....There’s no clutter in the house...... And the maidservant doesn’t complain about too large a carpet area when she’s housecleaning..... Get the idea you’d foreseen that. Besides the house is air-cooled in summer too........and pretty cozy with the heater on when it’s quite cold out there.

But wait a minute....... I get this feeling that I am being a bit too generous with you. Conceding too many points. Besides what’s wrong with those unrealized dreams of mine? You must be a dreamer yourself if what they say is true and you dreamed up this whole mind-boggling beautiful universe. Before you set it all into motion, that is. 

But look...I’ve got this real complaint against you. Why do you let so many others get away with all their plans. They get every single item on their agenda ticked off and achieved according to their blueprint. That’s real tough to take. So many of them have all their dreams realized. And here I am acting as if some of those dreams don’t matter to me at all. Why are you so quiet…….? Say something..... 

I looked up again expectantly, my fist still clenched.

Look! I have this idea. Here’s a suggestion...... I know what I’m going to do now. You know how it is. I’m nudging 59....and as I said....time’s running out got to be careful. I’m going to have one last fling. At those unfulfilled dreams.  

And, by the way, if you don’t like the idea, too bad. Couldn’t be bothered, really. I’m going ahead, anyway, like it or not. And who wants permission? Didn’t you hear, it’s a free world. And you sometimes take your role as spoilsport too seriously. Don’t worry, I’ll work it all out.  

Just for a while I’ll make out a plan. Something that will get me those dreams you didn’t realize for me. Besides I deserve this last fling. Having conceded so much. You really have no cause to complain. And I have a request, if you don’t mind. Do you mind if you leave me alone for a while....just leave me and go somewhere busy...somewhere else like.....let me just do what I have to .......I mean it.......would be real grateful if you do...

Thanks......1 do appreciate that.

                          * * * * * * *

I felt free now He wasn’t watching. Ah! This is real cool.....No restraints.....just go get those dreams ... feel excited....... I can hardly wait for those Wheeeee....I'm- as- young- as- I- feel thrills I am going to embark on tomorrow. Sounds so good

I went to bed expecting to sleep soundly that night.

And talk about sound. I woke a thunderous uproar. It was 4 a.m. My teen-aged nephew was wide awake. What's that awful noise I yelled at him. It’s Heavy-metal he yelled back. No wonder I feel so weighed down. He screams in ecstasy. I’m rocking. He adds, and Uncle, the word's awesome, not awful. All I could do was to simply gape at him with all that awe. But he adds. Uncle, didn’t you know, these are Bose speakers. He says this with an air of finality. I sure would like to speak to Bose or whoever. Give him a piece of my mind. It was going to pieces, anyway.    

Since I wanted peace at any cost and reluctantly live up to the image of an amiable old man ... I clammed up. I stepped in front of the mirror. Surveyed my  image. I was undaunted. Time to prepare. For my fling.

To begin with....... some heavy-duty damage control, I told myself. I sucked in my stomach prophetically. My abdominals. That was the problem. They needed toning up. Must get them back into shape. Into which shape ? Mine? Are you kidding? Ever seen what my abdominals looked like at twenty-five? Nothing to write home about, I tell you. Blame it on the genes. Hey maybe I should write to dad about that.

I have to get those other activities going too.........go on a whirligig of a buying spree... get a new wardrobe.....some cool new trendy footwear, for instance, ......a sports car.....a ear-ring to match (What?The sports car?) no.....I’m getting the order wrong....back to the wardrobe....more natty formals and casuals ....and some can’t’-forget usuals and a couple of those unusuals too, maybe......

And got to pool in those savings and apply for a loan for that (My nephew’s right...the word’s awesome not awful ).... that eye-teasing model of an SUV. For better family life, the ad says. A car to beat all cars. And be sure to get a ticket for the ride, too. 

Got to spruce up my C.V. For the market. Acquire some soft-skills and not to forget some other harder ones too.....hey, why not mention all my skills on my C.V?.....even that coming- close- second by a whisker in that elocution competition at Kindergarten (didn’t really have whiskers then though)..........Sure, why not go the whole hog..... with so many hogs selling in the market....what’s one more....Include...Include..Include.......  

And this a definite must that celebrity hairstylist for an image makeover........soft sell...hard sell...or to keep it simple....simply sell..sell....Oh and .....of course .....

Update my social networking profile (haven’t logged in for ages)....must make sure I stay hidden sometimes too...behind that profile .... you never know.....which reminds me.....must do a course on Cyber law.... The market isn’t  really safe you know....There’s no mercy at all....there’s a lot of hacking going on out there. And that too in broad daylight. They don’t even have time to wait till it’s dark.

Going to have a blast.....come what I’m free. And I’ll be free to do all this I’m sure now that you, Maker, have given me a break and are probably relieved you don’t have to bother taking care of me. You, my dear Maker, can go about without having to pay any attention to a 59 year-old guy out to repair the damage you did to his self-esteem depriving him of all those dreams.....and since I believe you’re not much of a multi-tasker yourself... a little old-fashioned like me....I know you’ll do a better job now handling one assignment less. Sure, in a way it’s good for you. Less stress, you know.

My nephew switched off his digital player. I was relieved....I heard him go and open the front door......he came back with the morning newspaper. He was staring at the front page excitedly. He was shouting “The Delhi daredevils did it...they did it...they’ve won......”He was jumping up and down deliriously happy.

I don’t care much for cricket (I know declaring this is close to blasphemy). I somehow managed to get my nephew to calm down, though. I took the paper from him, ignoring the front page. My early- morning curiosity scanned the other sections. 

Hey.... what’s this? It was the site of an accident......and what a sight...a badly damaged SUV....and an upturned truck.......who on earth were the unlucky ones? What? Can hardly believe it. Nitesh Sharma? My classmate back in school. I remembered him. He had it all. As far as I knew he was ...a runaway success. A public figure. He’d always got what he’d wanted. All his dreams realized, I’m sure. And what’s this? A woman killed too. Not his wife? The other woman, the news confirms. Both bodies disfigured. Been having a blast, maybe.  

I didn’t feel too much like a daredevil now. Not really. I put down the paper. Killed in an accident...The SUV and the couple both mangled and disfigured. Could hardly be identified .....Sharma....nudging 59.....and given a year. 60. I corrected myself . Not given a year. That’s final.  

I had to do a double-think maybe. Maybe.....just maybe ....I may be asking for trouble.....It was too big a price. Maybe I had to make a decision. After all I did look at the obituary column in the paper more often than I used to. And it always said that the death was untimely...... And it didn’t just happen only to the oldies either....death came sudden or otherwise to all teens, folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s.....and so on.....and it didn’t even have to be a round figure. 

I had to make a timely decision.....Maybe I wanted control of my life ....I wanted to do my own thing......and perhaps....but though I didn’t like the idea....but  maybe better- late- than- never I had to come to the realization that I was not in control....not even in my daily many things happened daily that were unexpected.

And it was so easy to delude myself that death would always happen to the other person..... never me. Maybe none of us have the controls, really.....maybe our times are really in His hands, after all. Though everything was not all sorted out in my mind and there were still some questions, I knew that I had to sort of make a new beginning.....start somewhere. Maybe some of those unanswered questions would sort themselves out in time. For the moment I was at a kind of cross-roads. I would have to choose. Make that decision.   

And I realized that if the truth be told.... there was much to be thankful for. So much, really. Just got to jog the memory a bit. Then you realize. As for some of those aborted dreams..... maybe there were strings attached to them I had no knowledge of. You realize only when you get there. Couldn’t help thinking of unlucky Nitesh. Maybe the Maker did create a free world that we would be free to turn to Him or away from Him. And all of us got enough daily reminders, I guess. 

Maybe I should trust The Maker more. If he made me the way I am...he sure must know better about what makes me tick. And as for those dreams I’d actually achieved so far, I’d really never felt as fulfilled as I’d was only when I arrived there that I realized that... there was still that restlessness. ....and that’s probably how we’re programmed, I be restless till we come back to the Maker and find our rest in Him, as someone said. But what was terrifying was that I was free to choose either way. And I could see from my own experience He would never force me.  

I decided to call Him up..........something told me he’d probably be waiting for my call. I got through to Him without much trouble. 

O.K.....I said, Hey ...Sorry about that. Thought maybe I’d check-in just to see if you’re still around. Hope you’re not going to rub it in? About my decision to have a blast? It’s okay as long as I’m back? Didn’t mention it to anyone else? That’s sure nice of you. Maybe you understand more than I thought you would. Maybe you do understand me. More than I do myself maybe. Come to think of it’re my Maker, aren’t you? 

Now that I’d decided, I knew I had to move on from the summit to my way down. To get back to my life below. I was prepared now. Felt somewhat lighter. Before  going I knelt on the summit, unclenched my fist and freely offered Him my open palm....offered Him the whole package, in fact...... .dreams to deny....dreams to defer.....dreams to life, all that was left of it.

And as I descended......a curious calm seized me all the way down......Like a lost-and-found child I felt like cheering......imagine...of all the cheering nudging 59!   


                                                                                          Anil Z. Mathew









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Author: Anil Z. Mathew
I retired as Head, Dept. of English, Hislop College, Nagpur,India. I love creative writing, and have written poems and short stories and blogs. I am an avid reader, eclectic in my taste. I am a christian by conviction and have a spiritual bent of mind.


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