Everything passes. It has to. That's the beauty and tragedy of it.
I remember the first time I saw a rainbow. I was seven years old and in the second grade. At least that was my very first memory of having seen one and it was quite extra-ordinary, making its mark on my mind. To a child, rainbows hold some kind of magical charm. Unfathomable, transfixing, its transience adding to its allure and giving it a kind of special status. Someone told me – I think it was a classmate or perhaps a senior, I forget who, but that’s not important – that rainbows had the power to grant wishes. If you stare at a rainbow till it fades and hold one strong wish long enough in your head, focusing all your energy on it, your wish would come true. Perhaps not immediately, but eventually it would materialize.
And in my childish innocence, I wholeheartedly believed in it. For a long time in fact, I made wishes about all sorts of things – to meet my parents soon (I lived in boarding school, away from home and always remained homesick as a child), for holidays to last longer, to get good grades in exams, to get a new story book to read, for my friends to fall sick when I was sick and alone in the sick dormitory. A whole range of wishes, in fact.
But rainbows were few and far between. One had to be on the lookout for them every time it rained. I think that was one of the reasons I always looked forward to the monsoons. The rains washed away the grime of the summer, made the world bright and beautiful, green leaves became greener. But there was another reason that made me love the rainbow for what it represented. There was a story in one of my lesson books as a child that goes something like this – Once, long long ago, the earth and the sky were deeply in love. But try as they might, they were not fated to be together (at least it wasn’t possible for them to be married anyway). So out of sorrow and frustration, the sky cried long and hard, its tears transforming into raindrops that fell on the earth who threw a large garland of seven-coloured flowers at the sky that transformed into the rainbow. And ever since, when the sky and the earth look upon one another and feel their love well up within them, the sky cries and wears the garland as proof of its everlasting love for the earth. And all of earth looks on in awe.
I loved this story. Sad though it was, it held a deep fascination in my mind as a child. I would look out of the classroom window and stare at the sky in search of a truant rainbow. But as I said, rainbows were rare and that made me stack up my wishes ready for the next sighting.
I was mostly impatient and couldn’t wait for a rainbow to pop up in the sky every time I wanted a wish to come true. As you can see, some wishes are time bound – like exams. If I had to get good grades, I couldn’t gamble that on a rainbow always. We had unit tests and half-yearlies and more unit-tests and finals and not to mention surprise class tests! So I cracked up a substitute wish-granter in the interim, kinda like a fill-in, a proxy till a genuine rainbow came along. That also meant that I had a lot of wishes lying in credit! Eight years old and already with a credit history..! If God were keeping tabs I must have had a bit of a bad credit rating, I guess. Perhaps (s)he said to his/her minions “No more for that naughty little girl there. She has a bad credit score…”
Did that deter me? You bet it didn’t!
Anyway, the substitute wish-granter was a unique thing in itself even though it could be pretty mundane to onlookers or fellow classmates. That was the beauty of it! Who would think a mere rubber band wound around my fingers or a smooth round bead tucked away in my pocket had such massive potential to grant children’s wishes? It would be up for grabs and you never know how such wealth would turn the heads of other children. I wasn’t taking any chances there, you know. So yeah many of my friends thought I was crazy to go about with a rubber band wrapped around my fingers. At times it irked my teachers who believed I was hankering for a blood clot on my fingers. They would confiscate the rubber band, only to find a week later, another one had replaced it. You see, it was not a specific rubber band that was important. It was the idea that if I managed to keep a rubber band around my last three fingers of my left hand at all times of the day or night, without losing it, for say a week (I took small, calculated, realistic risks and made up my own little complicated rules, you know. I had chalked out all the “what if” scenarios in my head while making a deal with the wish-granters association, if there happened to be one. That meant I had to study hard and ensure I didn’t fail or get bad grades as well so as not to run the risk of my wishes not getting fulfilled which kinda defeated the purpose of the wish but anyway, I digress…). So yeah, any rubber band would do the trick as long as I managed to hold on to it long enough.
So several rainbows later, say at around the age of eleven, I realized that rainbows were not so potent after all. You see, many of my wishes never really came true, so it was safe to assume I had been duped. The disillusionment was complete and for most part, heart-breaking.
From that time on for many years, whenever it rained, although I would sneak a surly peek at the sky to see if there was a rainbow lurking overhead, I never really made any rainbow wishes though. For a long time, I would angrily look skyward wondering why some of my wishes never met the cut all those years ago. Was it because I placed my trust in a placebo such as a mere rubber band? Or was it because I lost faith so easily and so soon?
Well whatever it was, it was a mystery. It took me a longer time to forgive the rainbow and make friends.
Now whenever I sight a rainbow, I leave all expectation behind and just enjoy the view, my faith restored over time. I marvel at the miracle that is nature, for sharing with us humans such beauty, even though we only look for what is in it for us. I feel elated when I see a rainbow and a bit sheepish at my childhood silliness. My faith in love is renewed and I feel young again.
And out of habit, I stare on, till the very end. Till it fades out of sight, like an illusion, a dream…