I remembered the frail and wrinkled old form that I had left behind last night. It had been a sunless, cold week and I had suffered from pneumonia. My lungs were choked and I was breathing heavily. There was no one to attend to me; I lay alone on the bed in my room. Though I felt a natural detachment towards my aged body, having lived for ninety-four years in it, made it difficult for me to leave. I had to untie many memories before I left.  Saying farewell to your own abode is never easy!

It was becoming increasingly challenging to continue in a body that had become so weak and inundated with phlegm. My heart had been trying hard to pump but the lungs had already given up, as they struggled with dipped oxygen levels that had dropped heavily. I gasped for my last breath and pushed myself out of this ancient frame to have a look at it from outside. I hoped to set it right, if at all I could. That was honestly an attempt of self-help, the only principle that had helped me sail through my life as a hermit, so far.

Once outside the body, I looked at it closely. It looked like a human version of the ruins of some ancient building; wrinkled, battered by age, with fragile and weak bones wrapped in a thin coat of skin. The hairs were all white, the eyes sunken, the face lack-lustre and the teeth all gone.  I questioned myself, “why would anyone like to inhabit this building that’s in such a bad shape? It could fall apart any time.” There were no chances of its restoration, as it was located in a deserted forest, so far from any city or town. I knew no magic to restore it and going back to stay in it didn’t seem like a good idea, so I decided to leave the body as it is and moved on. 

I had nowhere to go, this body had been my home for all these years and I had taken care of it to the best of my abilities. I had a healthy lifestyle, and lived in harmony with nature, but death comes to all humans. No matter how well you keep this body, take care of her, pamper her, she will make you leave her alone in the end. She’s so much of a hermit, who loves to stay all by herself, I learnt it that day. One can learn from the body, perform through her, stay with her for years, but no one gets to stay with her forever.  I was glad that I made it this far. Though I was never tired of taking care of the body, this sudden illness had broken me down. I had to move out, feeling like an inhabitant of a collapsed house, who has to leave the shelter as a last resort to save himself.  He looks back at all his efforts to raise the house, to run it, to keep it in a good shape, but a calamity brings him to helplessly witness a voluntary eviction from it.

 But where do I go now, was the big question that loomed in front of me.

I wandered through the forest like a free bird, liberated from the tasks of the body. There wasn’t any hunger to coax me to find food and now I was also free from the responsibility to take care of my limbs, muscles, eyes or other body parts. I realised that I was also unable to detect any stench from my decaying body and though the weather outside was still the same, I did not feel cold. I was now living a reality outside the physical body, where all its functions, including breathing and hearing had ceased, but somehow I still continued to think and see. Perhaps I was still having a mental body around me. I noticed that since I could not hear anything, there were fewer distractions to disturb my peace.  It felt heavenly and so peaceful, but I still missed the warmth of the body, the secure cover that it had offered me all along, and even though I felt free, I felt vulnerable too.

As I wandered through the forest, I reflected on the fleeting nature of life and pondered if I should take up a new physical body. It seemed too much of a task to get back into a body, all over again. I imagined having to retrain my nascent senses to gather information and teach my brain to process it into responses. Getting back into the rut of time and daily routines with the body and its accompanying aches seemed  like reconstructing a huge building all over again, then learning to master its nuances and watch it grow old all over again. 

All this as I imagined, appeared as a futile cyclic repetition and a tedious task to my old soul that had yet to dissociate itself from the perils of living in an old frame. So I bid farewell to the idea of entering a body and began to feel at peace with my passing, as I knew now that my seeing spirit will live on, even if my body was left behind.  

The loss of my body made me realise that I now inhabited the entire world around me instead of just my limited body frame. The entire world was now my body, my home. It was way too big and the transition from the body to the world could be described as something like switching over from a swimming pool to the sea, to swim in. I started to get friendly with my environment and learned from it whatever I could gather. Having mastered the art of living in the finite body equipped with senses, living in the infinite world without them was tough but not as difficult as I had imagined. Since there were lesser disturbances, I could focus better and learned things faster than I could when I was inside the body.

I kept learning and gathering experiences in this ethereal state, but had no outlet to express what I experienced.  I was missing my voice, my hands and this creative urge to express, made me restless.  Even though there was nothing much to disturb me, my own thoughts did not let me rest in peace.

As I pondered further, I felt that bodies are functional units of expression for us. They are shaped by this creative desire or thought. I decided to tap on the energy of this desire to shape a new body for myself. I felt the liberty to create it in a shape I imagined and slowly I started to grow. I discovered that I could condense my learnings and experiences to create a body around me. My thoughts were shaping it. The fresh learnings were its building blocks and the experiences were cementing them together. I had just managed to create a fresh new body! I had just given birth to myself all over again!
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Jyoti Prateek
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