"'Truth is strange," you know, "stranger than fiction' - besides being more to the point" - Edgar Allan Poe

August 02, 2005

The Maze

I don't know if reading the Sandman has affected my real life, or if it's the other way around. Hmmm, that's silly, I don't know if my real life could affect the way I read.

Or could it?

Anyway, what I'd like to say is, last night I had a dream. Not exactly a dream, more like a memory being brought to life in the realm of dreams, like so many other imaginations do. And I remembered when I was 10, and I'm walking back with a friend, whose voice I've forgotten ages ago, and truly he belongs to that age I've left. Anyway, so we're scribbling things on paper, like little kids would with pencil, and it doesn't bother us that that paper's been recently trampled upon, hell, we're already drawing patterns around the neat footprint that's been left on the paper. And my friend, he decides to draw a maze. One with turns and twists and traps and tricks, one that'll be both fun and frustrating for all who try. So he grabs the paper away, goes to the back of the class, and is furiously working to finish it before class gets over.

So we're heading home now, and there's a little drizzle, and I'm loving the way the water's trickling into my mouth and the way it's tasteless and sweet at the same time (I remember this because I felt it last night in the dream) and he pulls out the badly folded paper from his pocket and shows me the final maze. And it looks impressive, in my eyes atleast, and it's all looped around, with overlapping paths tha can only be traversed in one way, and there're really cool dragons in 2 corners which'll eat you (!) if you take the wrong turn. In my dream, I remember how the lines seemed to be moving, and the dragons were breathing cartoonstyle fire, but this I blame on the dream itself. And I can remember the sheet getting damp but shouting 'wow' again and again. Until it hit me... the maze had no solution.

Which isn't a normal thing, yes, but let's give the friend the benefit of the doubt, shall we? So I ask the boy "how do you win at this thing?" And he says "Win? There's no such thing as winning, Sunil. It's all about reaching an end. And never reaching what we all want to" Yes, I know that sounds a little too weird for a 10 year old to be talking like that, and I remember being quite confused at the time, but R_ was always like that, saying things I never really understood. Sometimes I even thought about whether he liked me because I was humouring him, or whether it was the other way around.

But the maze... so I start arguing with him, saying that it sould have a goal, and that nobody'd want to play it. So he says sure thing, let's give it a goal. Let's say that the point of the maze was to never let it end. To never reach a dead end, and never to stop. So I say, alright so you want to loop the whole thing.

Sure, sound simple. So under the shade of a tree right in front of his house, we sat down with the same chewed up pencil, and figured out a route in the maze that would go down all the paths in the maze, and then start repeating itself. And he said to me, "See? That's how it's done. That's the real challenge, to never let it stop." (Of course, later math discussions on hamiltonians and eulerians would reduce this to boring old numbers, but at the time it felt like pure magic, trust me)

So he went off inside, and I walked all the way back to my place, in the drizzling rain. I'd taken the long route, just to figure out what my friend was talking about. And that fifteen minutes I spent walking back slowly, unlike my usual rush to get back and play videogames. It seemed quite magical, the way he'd made a new game (on purpose? I dunno). And my dream's still going on, I'm seeing a lot of visions of how the guy was always trying to beat the smartasses in our class. And life accelerates in the dream, and I'm seeing the transition from navy blue shorts to khaki pants, and comics to pornmags. And we're sharing secrets in the hall, talking about the mighty fine woman in the Biology class, and cycling past the local temple, and slowly I feel reality flooding me, and I wake up to a sunrise outside my window (somewhat, because the Bangalore sky affords no sunrise anymore).

And I'm wondering if my real life affects my dreams, or if it's the other way around. If my dreams will guide my life, through all the turns it'll throw at me.

Dedicated to the memory of Rahul D., 1984-2003.


Kini said...

I don't quite know how I can say anything without disturbing the sanctity of this post, but I have to say this, it was moving.

Mr.Gaiman and the real world seem to be teaching you many things. I'm happy for you.


Mukka said...

This is lovely writing. Just brilliant. Thanks for prodding me to read it, bitch. Amidst the endless 'value addition' that accrues every day, I need someone to give me a kick once in a while to tell me what an utter bastard I've become.

Thanks, neighbour.

Sometime in the future, when we get our own growing-up serial on air, we all know what the script's going to read like.

You always tug at the right chords, dude. Always.

I'm already looking back in wonder.

kiki said...

This is just a brilliant piece sunil
Really loved it

Pi said...

Hey, my pleasure.