Rainbows are real

I was told that certain objects cannot be touched. They are there to be appreciated, to be adhered to and revered. I think of such objects. The arc of a rainbow comes to my mind. It appears out of nowhere like a random thought, emotion or memory—ready to disappear at any moment.

I think back to when I was four or five when I saw a rainbow for the first time. Of my mother telling me that the appearance of one signified the marriage, somewhere, of a peacock and its consort the peahen. My father explaining its dimensions and easy ways to remember its colours.

There was a distinct gap between the story my mother told me, and what the rainbow actually is. As a five-year-old child, I was unable to comprehend fiction from fact. In the ninth grade during physics classes, we had to make a rainbow, by bending the path of light through a prism. In later years I used a spectrophotometer for my research, which uses the principles of a rainbow.

From then till now I have seen rainbows an endless number of times, and every time I see one, a strong feeling of nostalgia grips my mind. Part of the nostalgia is because of my mother’s story, and part of the illusion that it is always perched on the horizon, far away and distant.

However, unlike the usual faraway rainbow, the rainbow I saw in my dream appeared different. Its colours were as insistent as a child’s water colour drawing faded here and there, but scattered along the edges. It appeared slowly against the backdrop of the morning sky. First to appear was the friendly violet, followed by an iridescent indigo, a shy green, deep blue, yellow, orange, red—a visual cacophony, with a scrambled mixture of wavelengths. Each colour brought along different emotions and thoughts, all coming together with some solid purpose.

Though they were just colours spread against the sky, its material looked solid and unbreakable, purposeful and pressing as if it was made to last. It’s rough gateway shone through a radiant slice of paradise. I gazed through and through the rainbow, standing, sitting, kneeling without any notion of future or past. As I gazed into the rainbows dazzling light, I saw the deeper beauty that I had not glimpsed before. Its surface seemed to dance in rhythm with the cluster of thoughts that had opened up everywhere.

Flowers and insects, the horizon and the sun, the moon and the stars, light and dark, red and blue, yellow and green—each closely bound together, almost prophetically joined. A congregation of images and feelings, the marriage of a peacock and peahen, of fantastic permanence amidst the rapid change of tempest—as if the rainbow was unreal and my mind alone projected different colours onto the sky. An ordinary rainbow projecting unordinary thoughts, a sheer spasm of joy and me sitting at the edge of this convergence, feeling an equal degree of pleasure and reverence, which an unlettered peacock may also have felt at the sight of this rainbow.

At that moment, I almost touched its beams, smudged its colours and left behind a cluster of thoughts. The rainbow as well as, my insistent dream cleared, what was left was the bright blue sky.

I realised that thoughts are just puzzles with missing pieces—ready to appear and disappear like the fading of a rainbow.

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About Vardhan Patankar

I pursue reef and marine mammal related research with a critical eye and a fine-tuned appreciation for weirdness. I am particularly fascinated by marine life that exists within coral reefs, but observes life outside the reefs with just as much wonder and amazement.
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One Response to Rainbows are real

  1. Venkat Ramanujam says:

    Lovely piece of writing, Vardhan! Enjoyed this piece very much! The part that most touched my heart was about your mother telling you about the rainbow when you were five years old…

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