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The boy had come to the shore again. Despite his dad saying no, despite there being a lot of homework to finish, despite there being tons of chores to complete, despite being tired, despite being hungry. He had come to the shore, nevertheless.

From here, he loved to watch the sun go down- somewhere on the other side of the wide open river. There was a clear view of the horizon from here. The sight of the first few stars peeping out from the vastness of the unknown always mesmerized him.

He enjoyed the cool air that seemed to lurk close to the river banks. He loved watching his reflection shimmer across the surface of murky green water. He loved the smell of wet earth, or perhaps of the damp that seeped into his skin.

He seemed to love it for myriad reasons but he loved it most for the curiosity it generated in his ten year old mind. What lies across? Why does the sun go down there? Does anyone live there? What are they like? And so on …….

Neither him nor anyone else in that tiny town had ever taken a trip across, or anywhere for that matter. People here were content, they were happy, they didn’t see the ‘need’ to venture out across the wide, and unpredictably violent, river.

‘What’s on the other side, dad?’, he had asked several times.

 ‘I don’t know, son. No one does. Why do you ask?’

‘I’m curious. I want to go and see for myself’, his curious eyes sought approval.

‘No, you can’t. You don’t have to. No one goes across. We have everything we need to survive right here.’

‘But how do you know I can’t, unless ….’

‘I want no more discussion on this ….’

They had had this conversation a number of times recently. And every time it had ended with a stern statement from his dad. But he still kept asking. He wanted his dad to say yes. He wanted to unload the weight of his longing. Am I the only one who seeks answers?

A few years passed. The curiosity remained …. or grew, perhaps. The boy finished his studies and eventually decided to take matters into his own hands. One silent night, when the waters were calm, when the air was dry, and when the hopes were high, he decided to leave. In his mind, the effort he had put into convincing his dad equated to permission.

I hope you approve of me someday, dad. I’ll miss you, was the note he wrote, kept on his dad’s bedside, picked up his sack, and left.

That night the sky was unusually clear, starry, and beautiful. There was pitch darkness on his path and the shear silence was deafening. He could hear the dry leaves rustle below his footsteps, and also his own heart- beating louder than usual. Yes, of course, he was scared. He was very scared. But somehow, he could not stop. Now or never, he thought, and he kept treading on.

He had a raft ready that he rowed himself in to the glistening waters. In the backdrop of moonlight, he could see the shore, his shore, fading away from sight. When he couldn’t see it anymore at all, reality struck him. He felt all alone all of a sudden. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the direction of his home. He felt confused.

With this confusion, he reached the other side. It was almost dusk when he disembarked. He can’t recall for how long he walked but it must have been very long. Eventually, he reached the place of his curious dreams. This was like a new world for him, and so it was in many ways- new city, new people, new surroundings, new ways of living. Perhaps a change was what he was seeking. Whatever he seemed to be seeking, he felt he would get here.

Moreover, he, almost instantaneously, fell in love with the majestic mountains that lined up on one side of this new place. There was no looking back now. In some time, he found the work of his choice, a caring wife, had a lovely daughter, and lived a life of his dreams. Overcoming his fears had now paid off!

Time went on as usual and life seemed great. And then, his daughter, when she turned ten, asked him, ‘What’s on the other side of those mountains, daddy?’

‘I don’t know. No one does. Why do you ask?’

‘I’m curious. I want to go and see for myself’, she said.

He looked at her face- beaming with curiosity. The yearning in her tiny twinkling eyes seemed very familiar to him. He gazed into her deep eyes for long- and realized that he was looking at his past and his future at the same time.

His heart ached with a sudden flow of past memories. He could not imagine what it would be like to part from his only daughter … how could he approve of her venturing out into the unknown? He wanted to say, ‘No, you can’t. You don’t have to. No one goes across. We have everything we need to survive right here’, but he stopped and changed his mind.

‘Of course. You can go when you grow up. But promise that you’ll come back to tell me what you found?’

‘I will, daddy. And I’ll bring you your favorite mountain rocks’, she said and ran towards the playground outside to tell all her friends about the adventure of her dreams!

He sat still for a few moments. He had never missed his dad as much as he did right then, right there. With mixed emotions, he decided to pack his bags the next day and go back across from where he had come … to tell those whom he had left behind, what laid across the river.

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Across the River

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