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A Rendezvous In Jungle

By Amit Kholia

There I was, sitting and contemplating what had just happened. How did I even make it this far? How did I even survive? I was bruised from top to bottom, with pain shouting through my body. Even breathing felt like someone whipping me, and a decision was yet to be made. I glanced around; the waterfall was barely visible yet could be heard from miles away. The sun had risen and was looking directly towards me, the wind kept blowing on my face, and birds chirping loudly as if they were calling my name, the water kept touching my feet; everyone was waiting for my answer. All eyes were on me; perhaps some had even placed a bet. The pressure was immense. Ahhhhhh….. What now? I kept repeating. Is it even possible? What if I die? What then. Not only was I already in immense physical pain, but the relentless curiosity of others was also beginning to take a toll on my mental wellbeing too. I can't decide with this much pressure and pain. Right now, all I can do is curse the moment I decided to come here. I raised my hand with all my strength and put my palms over my face, covering it from the cruel, judgmental eyes of the world like an ostrich burying its head into the sand after seeing the first signs of danger. At first, the noise was overwhelming, but eventually, I grew accustomed to it and began to calm down. Slowly, the memories of yesterday’s events flooded back to me.

It was a beautiful day, and I was staying at a nearby campsite. I was alone and it was my last day at the camp too, so I decided to go for a walk to a nearby forest. Nature was at its best, and what could go wrong with a simple walk? Little did I know. As I started walking towards the forest, a gentle breeze brushed against my face kissing my hair, and they instantly fell in love with her. They even tried to part away but couldn’t since they were attached to me and can’t survive without me. I didn't want this experience to end, so I knew I had to take in as much of the beauty as possible before returning back to the so-called civilization. The dense forest was teeming with life, including birds, squirrels, and insects, surrounded by colorful flowers and tall trees. Although there was no specific path to follow, there were random rocks on the ground that seemed to guide the way. As I walked, the jungle grew denser, but there was still enough light to navigate and admire the stunning scenery. It felt like nature's own precious jewelry, with each element perfectly placed by the order of chaos that only nature can understand. It was priceless. As I trekked through the jungle, I heard the sound of rushing water which was growing louder with each step. Eventually, I reached the end of the path and saw a long, clear river flowing between two dense forests. The water was so transparent that I could see my reflection and everything around me, like a mirror. I dipped my hand in the river, and it was cold. Determined to fully immerse myself in the experience, I removed my shoes and socks and waded into the river, feeling the soft pebbles below my feet. Eventually, I arrived at a large rock situated in the middle of the river and climbed up onto it. As the water flowed through my feet, the wind blew through my hair and caressed my body, and the warm sun enveloped me, I felt a deep sense of belonging. Even the stones around me seemed content, as if they too were grateful to be a part of this serene environment. I felt connected to the land, as if I was part of the environment, just like one of the stones that had been there for generations. With closed eyes, I surrendered myself to this higher power. At that moment, I felt like a devoted worshipper. Suddenly, a calm breeze brushed my forehead, as if the Almighty was blessing me and accepting my presence.

I opened my eyes and began walking downstream, eager to experience more and test the threshold of this pleasure. The further I ventured downstream, the more challenging it became, and I had to start swimming. The water current had increased exponentially. I tried to swim towards the edge of the river, but it was too late. The water had become too strong, and it dragged me along with it. I was so engrossed in the pleasures of the present that I couldn't foresee the future, and now I am helpless, doomed to face the consequences of my choices. I raised my hands in the air, hoping to find something to hold onto or that someone from afar would see me. But as the river carried me further away, it became clear that neither of those options was possible. The river that was serene before has suddenly turned into a warrior, tossing me around as though I am nothing. I cried for mercy, but her war cry was far too loud; it drowned out mine. I didn’t know how long I was being dragged by the river. My body had started to give up and I had no idea where I was and for how long I had been in this river. I could hardly make anything of the surroundings. I kept blacking out, but the horror of not knowing what would happen to me continued to wake me up. I asked God that if there is any miracle left for me, please bless me with it today. What else could I do in this situation other than pray. I remembered the saying "when you can't fight it, fight with it, be it." So, I decided to become part of the river and float like it does. I stopped fighting the river and matched my breath to the waves and extended my arm and allowed it to drag me. This saved my efforts, which were futile anyway. I had limited strength left in me, so I needed to use it carefully. The water was constantly splashing over my face, so my vision got blurry, but it looked like something was floating a few meters ahead. I gathered all my strength and tried to swim towards it. I stretched my arms and after a few failed attempts I was able to grab it, and it felt like a log. I hugged it tightly and thank God for this. It dawned on me at that moment that humans have created the supernatural to not only make sense of the unknown but also have an illusion of power, an illusion of control over the unknown; that if we ask God, we could get anything, control destinies and whatnot. And this ultimately fills one with hope that someone is looking out for me and nothing bad will happen to me. This very same hope gave me my strength and kept me afloat.

I had already hopped on the log like a sloth before I passed out of pain and exhaustion. I was like that for God knows how long but eventually I did wake up. It took me some time to fully awaken, but eventually, my eyes adjusted to the light, and I was able to see my surroundings clearly. Although I was still coughing uncontrollably but slowly that got better too. The river was still flowing fast, but it no longer seemed an enemy. I realized that my perception of the river had changed since I was no longer fighting for survival. Although the flow of the river was still strong but me being on the log changed everything. The water was brownish from carrying all the remains of the ground. There were no signs of stones or living organisms, but various branches, grass, and plant remains floated on the surface. As I glanced around, I noticed that I was floating towards the center of the river, occasionally shifting a little to the left. The sun was shining brightly, and my clothes had started to dry. I decided to rest and enjoy the peacefulness of the river, while also keeping an eye out for a way to get out of there. Nightfall was approaching, and I needed to come up with a plan before it was too late.

Here, the jungle on both sides was denser than before, with trees and bushes creating an impenetrable wall of greenery. I had no idea how I would even navigate through this wilderness if I somehow managed to get out of the river. The trees felt darker, a little different from before, maybe because of no human intervention or perhaps the surroundings created that illusion. It seemed as though the trees had triumphed over the ground in a battle for survival, standing tall like proud conqueror over a fallen soldier. Leaves had covered the ground like blood in a battlefield. The forest ground was at least five feet above the water level of the river, and towards one end, the roots protruded from the soil like a stabbed weapon on the fallen body. From an outsider's perspective, trees may appear to be the most dominant creatures of the jungle due to their height, strength, and ability to provide shelter, food, and medicine. In reality, they are not; they rely on the soil for all of their nutrients, they both need each other, trees hold the soil and soil provides the nutrients. Nature works on balance. Suddenly, a loud noise disrupted the previously calm atmosphere, jolting me from my thoughts. The noise was different and frighteningly intense, I realized that there was a waterfall ahead. Uncertain of what to do, I clung tightly to the log, hoping to survive whatever lay ahead. Despite resting, my body still ached, and I knew I wasn't prepared for what was to come.

As the river picked up speed, the curves became more intense, and the water was hitting me relentlessly. I struggle to maintain my grip on the log and stay afloat. The waterfall looms ahead and my chances of survival seem slim. I had no idea what lay ahead. The curves ended and the river got wider and possibly deepened too. To make matters worse, the water was making it hard to breathe and the constant slap on the face made it impossible to think or see clearly. I improvised by using my hands to create makeshift binoculars, which somewhat helped me in shielding my eyes from the water and luckily, I spotted some rocks that might help stop the log, but they were slightly off course, so I adjusted my grip on the log and made an effort to swim towards them. I took a deep breath and used my upper body to slightly shift the log to the left, then closed my eyes and kicked my legs frantically, propelling myself towards them. I tried to move my body like a wave, but it seemed to have little effect. The river was in control, and I was at its mercy once again. It was hard to tell exactly how close I was or whether I was even going towards them or not. I strained to see through the blur, trying to gauge the distance to the rocks or any other landmarks that might signal my approach to the waterfall. Suddenly, I collided with something and blacked out momentarily.

Fortunately, I was able to hold onto the log; otherwise, I would have been swept away by the water current and likely fallen to my death in the waterfall. The log got stuck between two stones among the cluster of many that were spread throughout this area. I climbed onto one of the two rocks. I laid down for some time. The sun was preparing for its exit, soon it would be night. And as I was thinking that I felt a sharp pain around my chest, possibly due to the collision. It dawned on me that I hadn't eaten anything since morning, and my stomach had started to growl. Thankfully, I found a protein bar in my pocket, and I ate half of it, saving the rest for an emergency. As I pondered my next move, I realized that I needed to be strategic about how I approached this situation. I surveyed my surroundings, I knew my situation was dire, but not hopeless. The deafening roar of the mighty waterfall echoed behind me. On one side of the river, the water level seemed low, and I thought it might be a suitable place to spend the night. However, I knew that staying in this area would not be beneficial. My goal was to enter the forest, but the question was how? I realized that I would have to jump from one stone to another to make it to the other side. Maybe I could enter the forest through there. But the problem was, the stones were scattered randomly and were too far apart from each other. It was like trying to navigate an obstacle course in an adventure park. I couldn’t jump this far so I climbed down from the rock and picked up the log which was bigger than me and long enough to act as a bridge between the stones. I grabbed the log from the middle with both my hands and started lifting it upwards and cautiously placed the log between the first two stones and carefully walked over it. I repeated the process until I reached the far end of the river, next to the forest line as I wanted. As I gazed at my surroundings, I couldn't help but feel relieved to have made it across the river. The beach-like shore was filled with pebbles and stones, and the water level was also very low.

I placed the log on the water to sit and relax. Small waves flirted with the forest line, gently touching the trees as they went by. Sitting on the log, I gazed at the waterfall. It was monstrous, it was the first time that I saw the waterfall this close. I couldn’t see anything beyond it, it felt like this was the end of land, and the river was falling to infinity. There was still some time before the sun set. As the sun began to set, the sky turned into a vibrant shade of orange. Looking up, I spotted a large tree overlooking the waterfall and the sky. Half of its branches spread out of the forest line towards the river, with one hanging low. Although it wasn't as low as I hoped, the branch was still about fifteen feet above me. If I could grab onto that branch, I could climb up into the tree and get a better view of the area beyond the waterfall. This would increase my chances of finding food and maybe even people. After considering every possible scenario, including the risk of encountering wild animals, I decided that climbing the tree was my best option. I propped the log vertically against the riverbank, using rocks to keep it steady. Next to the log, I noticed a ladder of roots that I could use to climb to the top of the log and reach the branch. I dug around the roots to make it easier to grab them. Standing on a large rock, I reached up and grabbed the root above me. Pulling myself up, I placed my feet on the root next to the top of the log. With a bit of effort, I managed to climb onto the top of the log. However, as soon as I stood on it, the log began to slide backwards. My heart raced, but the rocks held it in place. I pushed the log downwards to make sure it was secure, then let go of the root and reached for the branch. Stretching my arm as far as I could, I found that I was still a few inches away from the branch. I raised myself onto my toes, and my fingers just managed to touch the branch. I began to smile, but before I could fully grip the branch, my balance shifted to the right, and the log started to fall. I fell with it, landing on a bed of pebbles. As I fell, I looked towards the sunset. It was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. The sky was awash in vibrant shades of orange, the trees and water glowing with a golden sheen. The setting sun was red, filled with pride at the beauty it had created. It was the greatest work of art nature could paint. And then I slammed into the pebbles, my hands unable to protect me from the impact. My elbow hit first, followed by the rest of my body. A shockwave of pain went through my body and within seconds I blacked out. A wave of darkness came for both the jungle and me.

Me: Where am I? Am I dead? Is this heaven? Hell? Who are you?

The other person: No, you are not dead. No this is not heaven, and I am an extension of you.

Me: What? (confused).

The other person: Yaa, I am an extension of you. You can say I am your subconscious, although I am a little more than that. I take notes of your experiences and analyze it, kind of a therapist. I am you but in third person.

Me: What are you saying? Why am I here? I am dead, right?

The other person: No, you are not dead. You are just unconscious, if you listen carefully, you can hear yourself breathe.

Me: Where am I? (panically), Why am I hearing your sound only? Why can’t I see you?

The other person: You are in your subconscious and I kind of live here. The reason you cannot see me is because I do not exist physically, I am your thoughts, your consciousness. I am you but in third person.

Me: What is this third person that you keep talking about?

The other person: third person means that I am not only limited to your personal experiences (first person). My existence is much more than that, I am a product of your experiences combined with all the possible knowledge of this world.

Me: English please ...What does this mean in simple terms?

The other person: Do you watch movies?

Me: Yes.

The other person: like how you see a character in a third person I see your entire life similarly. In simple terms, your life is my movie, and like how you comment on the movies that he or she should have done this, I do that to you. I observe you, take notes of your experiences, deduce it, and try to find the solution.

Me: Okay, so why are you here? Why I am here?

The other person: I am always here. I don’t know why you are here. Maybe because you are unconscious now.

Me: Okay. So, what do you think of today?

The other person: today was very interesting. I filled my entire notebook with notes.

Me: Like what?

The other person: I cannot tell you that. You must ask yourself whatever you want to know.

Me: So, what is the point of you being here if you cannot help me?

The other person: I am your debating partner, I am your counsellor, I am everything but an open guide for you to cheat.

Me: Okay. So, tell me why I had to suffer so much today? Why only me? I just wanted to get away for some time, why only me is on the verge of death. (angrily)

The other person: I have a better question for you. Why didn’t you ask that why only you get to spend such a beautiful time in the jungle, why only you get to see that majestic sunset, why only you were able to enjoy nature to its full glory both as a warrior and as a nurturer. How come why me is only asked about the bad things and not about the good things.

Me: Ummmmm…… you seem smart…… so can I ask you anything?

The other person: yes.

Me: What should I do next. I don’t know where I should go. Should I try to climb the tree again, or should I use the log as a boat and go towards the waterfall. Will I be safe if I dive into waterfall. Do you know how deep the waterfall is, is it only water or is there a giant mountain upon which the waterfall is falling. Tell me (impatiently). I don’t have food. Nobody knows I am here, and I don’t know how long it will take for my friends to know where I am. Will I even survive this? Will I even wake up? (crying)

The other person: I don’t know. I cannot see the future. I am not God. I am not the supreme being, I am just an extension of you. I know as much as you do. The only difference between me and you is, I am the audience and you are the hero of your movie, your life. I see your life through your eyes only, so I cannot tell you what is going to happen next. But yes, I can tell you about your past and the present.

Me: I am afraid, I am tired, I am done with everything. I hate each decision of mine that took me here. Especially the one where I could have got out of the river, but I didn’t because I was so submerged in the pleasure of the moment that I could not see the river getting deeper and faster until it swallowed me, it was too late to do anything.

The other person: Nobody can guess what is going to happen next. Furthermore, one can only realize one’s mistakes after it is done, very few realize it during and lesser realize it before. It is stupid to hate the past because you are wasting your energy on something that cannot be changed, no matter what you do. Those who live in the past waste their present. The only right way to look behind is when you learn from it. Contemplate it, scrutinize it, take notes from it, and eventually learn from it. and if you fail to do so you are doomed to repeat it.

Me: But tell me what I should do, I do not want to go from here, this seems a safe place. I can hopefully find some fish here for me to eat since the water flow is low around the corner and as much as I know fish can be found in places like these, I can even use the rocks to clear out water and make a separate tank for water to drink. I can dig the mud and make a cave. I can make stone tools and learn to survive. And I could see that mesmerizing sunset everyday of my life. Or I could just wait for the help.

The other person: before I answer that tell me one thing why do you want to live here? Is it because you like this place, or you are afraid to take the decision?

Me: I am afraid, obviously. But why wouldn’t I be afraid. You have seen my entire day; you know how difficult it was. My whole-body aches, my mind is tired, I have fallen way too many times to count. I have bruises on my hands, chest, legs, hips. I fell from right into the bed of stones and most probably the log fell over me. I don’t know what will happen to me, I have no hope whatsoever, I don’t even know if I will even wake up or not. Can you even guess how much pain I am in. both physically as well as mentally. I am tired of all the struggles. It would have been nice if I was dead. I don’t want to go through anything more.

The other person: No, I don’t know, I cannot feel your pain, I can only understand it as a third person. So, I will not claim to understand it but just because I haven’t gone through a particular thing that doesn’t mean I have no right to say anything about it. So, I will say what I feel but with full responsibility and sensibility. “Sometimes people take support in things that provide them comfort or a sense of comfort while they are hurt, the more wounded you are the more care and comfort you seek. But things go wrong when you get too comfortable then you stop moving ahead, what one’s was your checkpoint to regain your health is now your home forever. You forget everything, your goal, why you were here in the first place, you just like this comfort”. And this is your comfort place. Right now, your fear is impacting your judgement so much that you have started to look at this place as your home, but is it?

Me: How can you say so? How ignorant are you? How can you neglect my pain like this? Can’t you see my pain? How can this be my comfort zone? I have not chosen this; my situation has made me choose this.

The other person: you may feel like I am ignorant of your pain, but I am not. I can see where this is coming from. You are saying it as a first person, from your personal experience. Whereas I am saying this as a third person, as an observer, observer of not only your current pain and situation but also of your past and possibly future too. You are so overwhelmed with your present that you again cannot see beyond that, obviously no mistake of yours. To you it may look like I am ignorant of your pain and your present but, this pain will eventually go away, whether your wounds will heal with it or not, that I can’t say, but your present will change tomorrow. If you take your decision only considering your present, you may end up hurting yourself and the people around you more than this pain or present ever could. I am not saying that this pain doesn’t matter, the only thing I am saying is “there are many more things bigger than this pain, so take your decision according to that”.

And about you not choosing and your situation making you choose this, always remember one thing, a very famous quote, ‘not choosing is still choosing’.

Finally, comfort zone doesn’t mean an area (both physically and spiritually) where everything is nice and hunky-dory, where everything happens as you desire; all aimed for your happiness. No, comfort zone means any place that you have become accustomed to. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be positive, it could very well be negative too. If you are used to fear, then fear is your comfort zone. If you don’t get the required fear but love from your surroundings, you will start to freak out. You would try to go back to a place of fear because you have adapted your life according to it, and now you need it to function properly.

*There is a sound very loud sound of groaning*

Me: What is happening?

The other person: it looks like you are waking up. I must go. But before I go, I want you to know one thing. The decisions are always better taken in third person. The first person always creates a bias and that influences one’s decision-making ability very badly. The moment you learn to look beyond your emotions, your focus will automatically shift from pleasing yourself to understanding and solving the real problem.

Me: It was nice to talk to you. How can I talk to you again?

The other person: I am you. Just ask enough questions. I will be there to answer. The more you experience, the more knowledge you gain the better my answers will be. I will be as good as you.

The previous day had been incredibly dramatic, and each challenge had felt like it could have been my last. Yet somehow, I had survived to face another. Despite everything, I was still stuck with no clear way out. Instead of focusing on finding a solution, I kept revisiting the weird interaction I had with myself, or perhaps it was someone else, or even just a dream. I looked around once more to see if there was another way into the jungle that I may have missed before, but unfortunately, there wasn't. The only two ways out were through the waterfall or through the jungle, both of which were risky in their own way. Going through the jungle could either lead to being eaten by a wild animal or suffering life-threatening injuries or get lost forever. Similarly, taking a leap of faith into the waterfall could result in falling to my death. Even if I did survive the fall, there was no guarantee of finding a way out as the river below could be the same one, I was in. The best solution seemed to be to stay put and wait for something to happen. I could possibly find some fish here in the shallow water. As I analyzed every pro and con of my options, the memory of my internal conversation kept playing in my mind. I felt a strong wave of hunger and took out the protein bar from my pocket, which was a bit smashed. As I looked at it affectionately, I took the first bite, meanwhile thoughts of getting out of my comfort zone and making a decision as a third person would race through my mind. With shaking hands, I had the last bite. I had nothing now, and waiting for help was no longer an option.

I looked towards the jungle again and realized I was too injured to reach the branch. I decided to try to make my way through the waterfall with the help of the log. I cried in agony as I slowly tried to get up. I pushed the log until it started to float by itself. I sat on it and let the river drag me along with itself. As I looked back for the last time to say goodbye, I saw some fish, I could go back but I decided not to. I do not belong here. The water current increased, and I reached the edge of the river. I could not see anything, and it was that deep. And so, I fell riding a log, like every other water droplet. But I got separated from the log mid-air, as I couldn’t hold onto it. I plummeted into the water, I tried to swim upwards but couldn’t, the pressure kept pushing me down. I was suffocating, my lungs were demanding air, and my body was shutting down. I tried to swim to my left, but my body was in so much pain and exhaustion that I just couldn’t. However, I kept trying, and eventually, I was able to move and cover some distance, but that was it. My lungs were screaming for air. I was about to die in the water, and no one will ever find my body. Everything around me felt slow and blurry. I started to question my choices once again, wondering if jumping into the waterfall was the right decision. Perhaps I would have had a better chance of survival up on the river, or maybe there was some other way to safely enter the jungle, such as digging the soil around the roots into a staircase. Why had I come to this jungle? I despised everything around me and cursed myself for my decisions. I needed to breathe, so I couldn't keep my mouth closed for long. Eventually, my body gave up control, and my mouth opened for air, but there was only water for me to inhale. Water started to fill me up, and as I was slowly sucked into oblivion, my brain started to shut down, and everything went darker. I could barely hear my thoughts, and when I thought this was it, I felt a hand grab me and pull me up. Someone was saving me. I will survive this; my decision to jump was correct. Somebody was pushing down on my stomach to force the water out. I was safe. I would be safe. My decision was correct; it was made right. I remembered a line that my father used to say to me, “There are many decisions in life that one has to take and there is no way to tell whether it is right or not, it is only the result of that decision that decides whether the decision was right or not.” He used to say that one day you will understand this and today I did. As I was being stretchered away in an ambulance, I regained consciousness momentarily before passing out once again. And at that moment, I saw the log slowly floating away…..

By Amit Kholia

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