I was once walking with my parents through a narrow lane amidst a dense forest, which was surrounded by bushes and trees all around. My parents were some feet apart walking ahead of me and I was following them. I am not able to recall where exactly we were heading towards. But I remember it was in my own country.
As the lanes were curvy and there were numerous such, all bordered by tall plants and trees, I got confused with directions. I could no longer follow my parents because they went out of my sight. I got a little worried.
Not being able to find them, I tried yelling their names in despair. But the place was so dense with trees that my voice hardly traveled a metre distance. Fortunately, I met a stranger whom I asked for help. He was in a formal suit — a blazer, neck-tie and a pair of spectacles — and looked like a learned man. But, instead of listening to me, he began to speak about himself.
I felt a bit strange to see someone in formals in the middle of the woods. But the gentleman also sounded somewhat helpful and I wished so, as he was repeatedly claiming that the whole land belonged to him. On being asked again if he could help me, he continued talking irrelevant, completely ignoring my problem. I felt bizarre, hearing him talk about some communal riot that was going on nearby, and that his people were in a crisis. He went on babbling something like “Hindu khatre mein hain.”
His words didn’t bother me and I felt no point in taking his words seriously as they sounded so irrelevant; there was no human habitation midst the woods. I was more worried about not being able to find my parents. However, with the hope of finding my parents on the way, I moved from there.
The day was soon on its verge of darkness and I was all alone. I began to pretend myself as a courageous young man. I kept on walking through, but all of a sudden, a scream hit my ears from an unknown direction. It sounded like the pain and suffering of an animal (or perhaps, a human?). However, I surmised that it’s a hunter killing an animal.
But soon, the stranger’s words struck in my mind — “A communal riot?”
“But no way! How can such things happen here, in a place so serene,” I said to myself. “But wait! What if the gentleman was telling the truth?” His words slowly began to send shivers down my spine.
The night had arrived by then. I ran as fast as I could to find myself a safer place. Soon, darkness had deepened and so, my eyesight had started to fade away, while on the other hand, the scream was continuously echoing in my ears. I could barely see the moon from amid the branches of the tall trees. I wished there was more moonlight.
Then, the scariest thing happened, which I had prayed for not to happen. I sensed someone behind me following me. As I looked behind, I saw not just a person but a group of men who were holding sticks and fire in their hands.
I tried to run faster, but couldn’t. I began to pant. Not being able to breathe properly, I fell. But the mob had reached closer and engulfed me. Though I tried, I was unable to get up and run away from there. I was no longer able to move myself and all I could see was their shadows encircling me, holding their swords, cudgels and the fire. A white bearded old man from the group walked closer to me and spelt something near my ears, and all his fellow men chanted after him in unison.
“I am dead now. Wish I had taken the gentleman’s words seriously,” I felt.
I had no choice to defend myself as neither did I have any strength left in my body to resist the woes nor could I speak to ask them why I was being treated so. In no time, the old man gave his sword to a fellow man. He was just about to raise the sword and I had almost gone into oblivion. But, meanwhile, half unconscious, I spelt out ‘Jai Shree Ram’ as loud as I could. Hearing this, the mob, all of a sudden, left me and vanished!
With this, I woke up with a palpitating heart. This was just a nightmare. Perhaps, the most disturbing one that I have ever had! Well, the dream remained incomplete and left me with numerous disturbing questions.
Who exactly were those people? The question still disturbs me whenever I try to find an answer. How did my spelling of “Jai Shree Ram” make the mob vanish away? Did it act as a magical mantra or as a political slogan? The answers are unclear.
It is said that dreams sometimes reflect the thoughts we carry within us. But I can firmly say that this bad dream had no familiarity with any of my thoughts. However, the nightmare hangover was so disturbing that I began to introspect if it had any surreal connection.
(I wish I hadn’t met the gentleman in the dream. Because it was he who implanted the scary element in the story)
The morning hours went so disturbingly, as I was repeatedly getting surreal images of the nightmare in flashbacks in my head. And as I used to live alone those days, there was no one with whom I could share this. I then phoned a psychologist friend of mine to get some way of getting rid of the hangover.
She enquired me of my mental health and well-being, which were, of course, normal. She then asked me what I had been doing the previous night before going to bed. I let her know that I was deep into watching a programme on a news channel on the television.
“What programme were you watching?,” she was curious.
I casually replied, “Just a regular Republic show on the Mandir-Masjid issue.”
“So that was the cause,” she replied. “And the nightmare was nothing but its effect,” she explained.
I was then strictly suggested to avoid such television programmes, especially in the present time, when there’s so much misinformation and propaganda being sold. So it has now been months since I stopped watching news on the television. I think her advice has worked really well.
Lastly, from my experience, I wish to share that perhaps, such news programmes or debates (though not all) may not directly affect the minds of the viewers, but they can definitely plant a seed of mental disruption, insecurity and fear, which may, in the end, lead to social disharmony, distrust and conflict.
Lastly, I leave down a question for you:
Who was that ‘Gentleman’? Any surreal connections from the story?
Well, for me, the answer is quite clear!