For me, the word Sanctuary is a metaphor. It could be a location, but then it isn’t the place alone. Or it could be a moment in time. It is a place I often visit at times of distress. For me, it is an intersection of space and time that I can crawl back to, sit there, or spend time in that – sanctuary of peace.
A quarter of a century ago, we used to go with our parents after school hours to our industrial establishment. It was the one dad founded way back in 1988. We still continue to own and operate it. It was a lifelong dream for me to work there. I love every waking day and look forward to work. Back then, it all started as a small place – a tiny one. Like how these things have small beginnings, but memorable ones.
It was located in an area earmarked for industries that wasn’t very much like an industrial locality at all. There were no harsh fumes, no lunch break sirens, no noise. It could pass off as a residential neighbourhood if not for the orderly sheds, like Spartans in a phalanx. They stood painted in Ochre Yellow which resembled the shields. The pillars painted in white looked like spears emanating from the phalanx.
From afar they looked like they could take on anything you throw at them.
Our establishment was one of these tiny little sheds that bordered the industrial area and the adjacent residential neighbourhood. The street on which it lay was a quaint one with hardly any people at all. The street saw a majority of the people just twice a day – once during opening hours and again during closing. The street longed for people to walk on it – that’s the entire purpose of a street isn’t it? It exists for people to use it. From this perspective, the street seemed devoid of its purpose. I pitied the street for it wasn’t serving its purpose – other than twice a day.
6 industrial sheds lined our street, and the land opposite to our shed was vacant. I remember our shed and our immediate neighbour’s were the only ones that were functioning. Even now they’re the only ones that are still up and running after three decades. The sheds stand evidence to changing time and tide – except they’re painted white now. They’re at peace now. They stand apart – pristine and in immaculate condition when compared to the others around it. The phalanx has all but fallen. Like battered and bruised soldiers, patches of paint falling off, exposing the nakedness of the building. You can even see the steel framework holding the structure together – the flesh and bone exposed.
During our summer vacations back then, my younger brother, myself and a couple of our friends used to meet up there. It was time to let loose our hair and play to our heart’s content. Presumably, that was also when the street was the happiest. It was being trodden upon for hours by tiny feet, some not so tiny, for a month or two and then things would go silent again. The street would ache and long for the next summer vacation.
During one of these days, I sat on the stairs leading up our establishment – looked around and then at the street. It was evening, there was twilight, and the sun was beaming down on the entire scene. It was one of those summer evenings which you wish never ended. All of a sudden, a feeling of peace swept over me. I didn’t and still don’t have words to express the feeling of content that swept over me at that moment. It was a divine experience. It wasn’t just the sun beaming down on me. It wasn’t the stairs I sat on either. It was the street. A perfect moment birthed in the intersection of space, time, and light. It may have been a tiny moment, but its effect on me was momentous. It remains with me to this day. I have vivid memories of that evening.
Fast forward 25 years. Whenever I go there – I make it a point to walk to the exact same spot, look around, then look at the street and experience the moment all over again. The street is still there, it has been asphalted in the recent past. A larger number of people use it these days, but not as many as the street would want. The street also longs for the tiny feet that ran, jumped, and tripped on it.
My sanctuary lies in that moment. It isn’t by the beachside, by a mountain, or anything grand – it was the street that my heart went out to on that day. Even as I type this sentence, I pause, close my eyes and think of that pristine moment, and it brings me peace. Not happiness, not joy, but peace.
I use that place as my anchor – during times of distress and times of chaos. When I am lost, or when I am angry, I visit that moment. I’ve noticed that once I go there and come back, everything seems more transparent to me. Everything seems open. It feels like I was blessed to experience that moment. I pray that everyone gets to experience something similar.
Life’s most precious treasures are hidden within such tiny moments. Seek them out, hunt them down, and I know you will find your sanctuary too.