He landed on the floor, face forward. His arms trying hard to resist the impact, but failing. He gathered himself up, bending down gasping for breath. Droplets of sweat trickled down his temples to the floor. He saw a drop of blood fall as well. He touched his nose, it was bleeding. He could see his shadow : dark, frail and tired. He saw his worn out shoes, trying to recall for how long he had been running. He looked up to see where he had reached, but the solar flare gleamed in his eyes. He immediately covered his eyes with his right arm. He had no clue where he was, but he had lost the voices behind him. Those annoying, screeching voices, full of shouts, hails, and questions. But it was peaceful here. Now, so quiet that could hear his heartbeats inside his head. “It is unusually quiet”, he thought. “What place is this”, he looked around murmuring to himself. He could see a figure a little ahead of him, probably an old man, dressed in a long white kurta and dhoti. He walked up to him limping slowly, dragging his strained leg behind him.
As he approached the old man, he realized that he faintly resembled someone. He couldn’t recall who. “Hello”, he said. “Could you please tell me what place this is?”. The old man slowly turned and looked at him. He had a wide wrinkled forehead, and very peaceful eyes, his lips were barely visible behind his neat moustache and wise snowy beard. “Who is this guy? I have seen him somewhere…”, he thought. “Sir, what place is this?”, he repeated.
“Where do you want to go, son?”, replied the old man in his deep, booming voice which trailed off dramatically. He realized that the old man was very old, as his pale lips trembled behind his moustache.
“I was just… never mind. What are you doing here, Sir? There is nobody around. Are you lost?”, he said still catching his breath.
“I don’t know if I am lost, son. Do you?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”, a bit frustrated, he looked at the old man.
The old man chuckled and then sighed. “See, that’s what your problem has been. Impatience. Always putting your foot forward without looking at what you are stepping on or stepping in.”
“You don’t even know me.”, he glared at the old man.
“I knew, I knew this would be useless. Now, it doesn’t matter anyways.”, sighed the old man, and looked at him with his peaceful sunken eyes. “Someday, you will realize, but then… then it will be too late”, said the old man in a grave tone and looked away.
“Deja vu?”, he thought, “My God, this has happened before. I was here and this street, but when and why?”.
“I know what you are thinking, son. The race has been long and it still is. It doesn’t seem to end does it?”
“Race, what race?”, he said looking around and then stared at the old man. “Maybe in a dream”, he thought. “Or maybe this is some sort of dream?”
“Calm down. There is no hurry. Do not strain yourself too much.”
“Sir, what race are you talking about.”, he gathered himself up. He could hear the voices again faintly at a distance. He looked around and said, “I think I should go now.”
“Where to son? And to whom? What is that you have forgotten now? Do you even know how you will go home? For how long you have been out? Oh God, What time is it?”
The realized he had been out for long and the old man was sounding just like his wife taunting him with all the questions. “My God, my wife! How is she? She must be worried.”, he thought.
He looked at his watch. It was broken, probably by the impact of the fall or was it broken before? “Hell, why can’t I remember anything?”, he thought in his head.
“Son, why are you disturbed? Why are you confused? You’ve spent all your time doing so and you’re still doing the same with whatever is left. Have you not learnt anything from this race?”
He could now faintly surmise what the old man was talking about. But how did he know so much about his life? Is he God himself? Or some sort of soothsayer?
“Sir, I … I have a friend, who is troubled with his life”, he told the wise old man.
“Go on.”, the old man said smiling.
“He says he works very hard, but his seniors are not happy with him. He does it for his wife and children, but they are not happy either as he can’t give them enough time. He says he wanted to be someone else, but so much pressure is making him someone who he doesn’t want to be. He doesn’t like his job anymore, but he has to earn. He says that he doesn’t have time for himself, to think of what he wants to do, but he is running in this rat race and living his life, like one. These voices are stalking him all the time and…”, he stopped in desperation, almost in tears.
The old man started laughing very loudly.
“This was a bad idea. You are just a lunatic. I am going home.”, he said turning back, visibly perplexed.
“One fine day your friend will see” the old man spoke with sudden seriousness on his face, “that the whole point of this long race is worthless. He will realize, that what he runs after seeking happiness gives him only misery”, he paused, “and what he runs from, is the only thing that gives us love and bliss. Tell him to love his family, because he will only realize that he has not loved his family when it will be too late. Tell him to take care of his health, because he will lose the precious resource combating with himself and his own, in a pursuit to win this pointless race. Tell him, that he cannot win the race, but nor will he lose, because the race isn’t meant for either of these reasons. Tell him that the race will follow another one, and then another one, unless he understands the whole point of it.”
“What is the point?”
“Have you yet not realized, son?”
“I don’t know, I dont understand, these voices behind me …”, he exclaimed. “Don’t run from them!”, he shouted. It was the first time the old man raised his powerful voice. “They are your fears! Embrace them!”, he said, bringing his voice down, “And you will see, that they will go away, and peace shall come to you. But please make your friend understand all this”, emotions filled the old man’s eyes, “Before it’s too late.”
“But for how long? It seems that I have been in this race you talk about, since forever. I have tried to come out of it, but it only pushed me back several squares if I tried to move away from it. What is the way out?”
“Just slow down. The race you know of, will end only with you son, embrace it and it will embrace you too. Now my time is up. I must go now.”, said the old man and turned around. “Thank you, sir, for all the advice. I wish we had more time, and I had met you before.”, he said. The old man turned around again. He looked more pale now. “So do I, son. I wish I had more time. I wish that I had met you before”, said the old man looking straight, deep into his eyes. He recognized those eyes, and his heartbeat raced very fast and a chill ran down his spine. “Who?”, he mumbled, barely able to speak. “Who are you?”, breath escaping his mouth and his heartbeat raced faster. “And what, what is this place?” he stumbled back and fell down, looking at the surroundings revolve around him and his trembling legs now shaking.
“This is the race my son. You have come very far. This road is time. And I … , I am you.”