On the Far Side of Memory: Lalithambika Antharjanam

[This is an excerpt from the translation appeared in the collection titled On the Far Side of Memory, New Delhi, OUP, 2018]

Down through the immense surge of energy it flowed, the seed of life…. From where did it arrive? What led it here? Memories….there were not much that could be called memories. He could sense himself wildly thrashing about, shuddering in distress, as if rudely roused from long slumber…Movement. And more movement.  Nothing in his consciousness but the fresh upsurge of movement. Nothing was perceivable, not the shifts of time, nor of space. And yet, the whiff of an instinct, of a great journey, sweeping in from the past. Some unique, still distinct trace. What is this that disturbs me, he thought. Like a drop that’s flung afar by the force of some tempest striking hard at the waves of infinity, I am all alone. The feeling of being absolutely alone. . Can I survive? Is it possible?

He was the One who had grown ever stronger, having swum through fire, through water, through the vastness of the five elements, drawing into himself their vital forces. A mere atom of an atom, yes. But yet he felt himself to be the strongest in the universe. A pleasurable sense of ego invades him, led as he was by this creative, lofty unimpeded instinct. A certain pride, in having grown so much, to thrive, to expand, to separate….And here it moves ahead, the festive procession of millions upon millions… I am but one among these . Does not each one of these atoms desire like myself, throb and strive like myself? And yet in the urgency to survive, to take form, to exist…in that great haste… in that great race…only one of them will win. Will I be the one?  Am I strong enough, do I deserve to win? In this great flow of pilgrims, only one will enter the temple, the one who forges ahead, the one with unbroken confidence. One and one alone…And then the gates close. The sanctum is sealed. That at warrior alone who has won the race, gains entry, all others turn away, transfixed. Surely to die.. How many times, at how many doorsteps, have I too frozen and died !

No space for reflection. No time to hesitate. I forge ahead in a blind, intoxicating passion that erases all else from my mind. Surge forward towards a sublime goal. There can be no failure this time. There will be no failure. As I grow ever stronger, savouring the exhilarating radiance of creation emanating from elemental instinct, I am convinced.- nothing is impossible.

Floating on, carried by those waves, hotter than fire, cool as snow, lighter than air, he was filled with unprecedented joy. And simultaneously with terror. As when the metal that melts in the furnace is poured into the mould… Oh what terrible, persistent, compelling force! What a tremendously arousing confluence of flows! Does this confluence of the mighty forces of the universe occur to make my path easy? Or does it seek to thwart me? He felt a need for something more, some help, from somebody, or something. A helping hand, from some force that had charmed him out from infinity, that drew him back to infinity. Will it, in the final moment,  abandon me?…Unconscious of myself, I roar, rousing the very limits of consciousness: “Accept me! I want to be Myself… Myself, the unique Me….”

 

[N. Lalitambika Antarjanam, ‘Ormayude Appurattu’, Agnipushpangal, Kottayam: Sahitya Pravartaka Cooperative Society, 1960, 71-5.]

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