Closing one of his eyes,he raised his thumb in the air against the long curvilinear highway, covering most of the continuous flow of tiny cars just with his thumb-tip. A smile of satisfaction spread across his face…As if he is going to stop all of them with the power of a single thumb! He felt a sense of pride and happiness inside. “Arre chal na!For how long will you be sitting here?”Raju asked Prashant, who was sitting at the height of almost 10 metres on a narrow hoarding-sling, after finishing his work. Raju wanted to go back home as soon as possible and Prashant was in no hurry, as he always liked working till late evenings. He loved to watch millions of sparkling spots coming alive in front of his eyes, with so many buildings, so many cars creating an illuminated world of fantasy.This was one of many such days at work when Prashant enjoyed being at such frightening heights. The breathtaking view, the gush of the wind made him feel at the ‘Top of the world’. Memories flooded his minds.
As a child Prashant grew up in a small village. He enjoyed climbing trees and gradually it became his favourite activity, a sort of obsession. Whenever he had nothing to do he would go to the tallest tree, climb in an instant and watch his village, its toy houses, green fields, miniature animals. It had become his favourite pastime or great source of joy and comfort. He started knowing a lot of things about different birds, insects, their nests, young ones and their eggs.Even though it would seem like a common thing to the villagers, Prashant knew what climbing meant to him. An unstoppable hobby. Whether it was a tree or a tall tower of electrical wires, he would set off for the climb. And whenever he reached the tree top, he felt as if he was at the top of his small world! The scenery, the insects and birds beside him, the feeling would inspire him to draw. Not much interested in his studies, he loved to draw and paint. After Dadi; his drawing teacher was his best friend, with whom he would share all his discoveries made on the tree tops! His teacher would encourage him to draw birds, insects which he encountered on each of his tree climbing adventures.
His dream like childhood came to a sudden catastrophic end when his village was almost destroyed by an earthquake, he lost his parents and his beloved grandma. His maternal uncle brought him to Mumbai, where he was working in a film studio. Prashant remained in a state of shock for many days and used to sit quietly and observe everything around him with disinterest when accompanied his uncle. His uncle was a kind man, he understood his pain and feeling of isolation in such a big city for a village boy like him. He never forced him to do anything, just took him to his place of work so that the boy’s mind would get diverted from his hurtful past and he could start all over again. He got Prashant admitted to a nearby Municipal School, but after few months he showed his disinterest for studies, though he always got good marks in drawing and painting. He started getting small jobs of painting movie posters, sets. He started liking being with his uncle, who would introduce him to everyone in studios and always praise him for his talent in front of others. One day in a studio, during a film shoot one light-man had not come, somebody asked Prashant’s uncle if his nephew can work there for few hours. It required climbing an iron scaffold to a certain hight and move a light when asked to do so. Prashant’s eyes were filled with the brightest glow for the first time ever! He climbed it so swiftly and easily, that everyone present there was amazed at his speed and his lack of fear! His uncle was worried for him but when he saw that Prashant was happy, he was relieved. After this incident, Prashant started getting a lot of offers involving climbing tall structures and painting. So in those days when some huge hoardings were to be painted, Prashant would be the first person on everyone’s mind. And that’s how he settled in this new city,falling in love with it, looking at it from a totally different perspective!
Today he missed his grandma and her stories, especially his favourite:‘ VAMANA Avatar’. VAMANA (a dwarf) was the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu. To stop king Bali from conquering heaven, Indra and other gods called for VAMANA. So VAMANA, a dwarf priest went to King Bali and asked for alms. Bali was delighted to offer him anything. VAMANA then requested for the amount of land that could be covered by taking his three steps. Bali gracefully agreed. Lord Vishnu then grew in size and covered the earth and heaven in just two strides. Due to lack of space, King Bali offered him his own head for the third step. The most interesting part for Prashant was VAMANA becoming a giant and covering all the three worlds in just three of his steps! He wished he could walk on this world just like VAMANA.
Today, sitting on this hoarding sling, remembering VAMANA, he finally did!!
– Nehal