I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I stood leaning on the wall facing the road, arms crossed over the wall and resting my chin on them. It was a warm summery evening, the sky hued with brilliant shades of yellow and orange, interspersed with birds returning home. The fading blue sky fathering them. I turned my attention to the lone vehicle passing by and simultaneously towards one of the thoughts passing my mind.
Do thoughts have a life of their own? Like a river, perhaps?
What about rivers? A river originates at a sacred source, from some mysterious orifice in the ground and navigates its way around every possible obstacle to meet the ocean. The water originating at the mouth of the river and the water bathing the shores of the ocean seem like polar opposites – strongly attracted to each other. No matter how long the journey takes, over space and time, water from the river eventually communes with the ocean. An estuary is a poetic spectacle – akin to two lovers embracing each other after a painfully long wait – and a wonderful sight to behold. The journey, the hardship, and yearning, all meld together at this point.
What of thoughts then? Thoughts arise from some mysterious source in a remote corner of the mind. Thereafter, they race along its narrow crevices, encroaching swathes of consciousness, escaping every effort of the will to restrain them. But contrary to the river, what purpose they hold and what draws them out is still a mystery to me – and it will probably remain a mystery because unravelling it may cause seizure of thought itself. And without thought, there may be no existence. Treading this path will take me on a completely different journey, but right now, I don’t want to take that fork in the road – it is for another day, and probably another time.
Coming back to the vehicle and the accompanying thought – there was just one vehicle and thought to begin with, but soon I would realise that the thoughts would far outnumber the vehicle. One thought led on to another and soon there was a train of them. And these thoughts didn’t have an end in mind. They just made way for other thoughts. Who knew thoughts could be chivalrous? Long and extremely delicate, these fragments of thoughts were held together by a fleeting alliance between them. Their fragility was evident by the common occurrence of losing track of these thoughts. When it would seem like I was going off the rails, I would dart swiftly on the back of these thoughts – like a Basilisk Lizard does on water – to go back to where I started from. But every once in a while, I’d lose my footing and fall hurtling through a swarm of these, frantically trying to hold onto the last one so I could make it back to where the adventure started.
Over the years, the busyness of life chased out instances of boredom from my life and I missed taking these trains. I’d forgotten the thrill of boarding one of them and also the adventurous feeling that accompanied finding my way back. Now, as I slowly make my way past the humdrum of life and the constant drivel of information, I realise the busyness and the immediacy life demanded was probably a damned lie. A few days ago on a random evening walk – to run an errand – I consciously made it a point, to drown myself in a train of thought, letting my mind wander, amble around the dimly lit streets of my past experiences, the concocted meanings of life, and reached the station where this train departed from. It’s not an easy one to find, especially having ignored it for decades. You forget it’s on a platform similar to 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station – it’s there hiding in plain sight, but only available to those who really know what they’re looking for.
Here’s how my experience went – the train of thoughts started from the varying intensity of the sound of a honking horn from a passing vehicle, going down to wondering what made Doppler think about this and come up with the Doppler Effect and the transmutation of this principle into so many wonderful pieces of equipment which broke frontiers in medical technology and space exploration. They then latched on to the days when my wife got her scans when she was pregnant, and meandered onto our multiple rides to the Ob-Gyn in our bright Red hatchback, and why hatchbacks were no longer in vogue; to how challenging it is going to be to replace the traditional automobile with an electric one. I don’t remember where I alighted from the train but it always used to go like this. Seemingly random on the outside, but connected under the hood. Connected for you, and connected by you. This last part, I realised is the specialty of these moments in life – they exist purely for you to savour and thereby enrich your life.
While reading Robert Pirsig, I wondered why the narrative was so captivating? Why was ZAMM clawing its way into my heart? Why did it grab at the core of my consciousness and make me reach out for it again and again? Come to think of it, the mind-wandering approach of putting Phaedrus’ life to words is what got to me. One thought leading to another. From the physical to the philosophical. In the end, for me, Pirsig ended up putting words to life. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reached for the book, recognised something new every time I did, and experienced some watershed moments in those pages.
In between memories of childhood, and the pages of Pirsig, I’ve found my platform nine and three-quarters – a secret place to hop onto my own Hogwarts Express, to experience a journey that adds flavour to my life – to give my thoughts a medium to ride on. As they say, in the end it is the journey that matters.
May you find you platform 9 3/4 as well!
This post first appeared on The Lighthouse newsletter.