The Peddler of Dreams
Hear me. Feel me. Let me peek into your heart. I’m but a peddler… a peddler of dreams. Have you a dream? Yes, you do. I can see it. It grows slowly, glows warmly, and beats with each beat of your heart. It makes you want it, need it, desire it like nothing you have ever desired. But soon, you will sell it. Sell it to me. No. Trade it. Trade it to me for a path you never thought you’d take. I know it will happen. For I’m the peddler… the peddler of dreams. And that moment comes ever closer. With each tick of the clock, each grain of the sand that falls into the bottom cup of the hourglass, it comes closer, and you come closer to me.
You’ll know not what I look like. And it matters not. For I have no form. I’m a silhouette at times, materializing when you utter those three magical words, “I give up.” Once your words, and with it your dream, comes through my silhouette, your hope wilts, like that dream, and despair blossoms at your feet, leading you to a path unlike any you ever thought you’d take. Hear me. I have tales that will make you believe this is true.
Alok had a talent, but one the world around him saw as but a hobby. He spoke of his dream, to become a songwriter. He wrote the most wonderful words. His friends admired his songs, and he was happy. Then he heard the words, “What will people say?” and coming from the mouth of they who he loved the most, he started to think. And with each minute that passed, he began to doubt his dream. He wanted to change it, go to a dream where people would say they were proud of him. And he called me. He never knew he did, but in his heart, he spoke those three magical words, and voila! He had a new dream. And he became a doctor. He earned more money than he would ever have had, and his loved ones were proud of him. But with every prescription he wrote, he regretted that he couldn’t write the songs he once loved, and do that only. The songs he wrote now were half-hearted, for somewhere within his head, a voice continued to echo, “What will people say?” but the voice wasn’t his loved ones anymore. It was a strange voice… my voice.
Ever since she saw the girls of her age cycling to school, Nisha’s had just one dream. She wanted to go to school too, on her own cycle. The girls who cycled past her jhopadpatti would wave at her, as they went off in their freshly pressed uniforms, neatly tied pigtails and colorful satchels. Every night, I heard her pray, “Dear God, make my father rich, so he’ll have money to spend and send me to school, like my brother.” When she turned thirteen, her father fixed her marriage to the zamindar he owed money to. She protested, did Nisha, told her father she wanted to go to school instead. “A girl going to school? What will people say?” he replied, and that was that. She had no say in it. She held on to her dream for a year, believing in it even as she was abused, and sent on her way to becoming a mother. Then she said those three magical words, and called me. Her dream was to have a son, so her daughter wouldn’t have the same fate as her. Alas, I’m but a peddler of dreams, not of fate. She bore a daughter to the zamindar, and when the girl came of age, she heard the words again even before she thought of asking for an education for her daughter. “What will people say?” the voice echoed in her head, and the voice was mine.
There was this girl, Shyamala. She was well educated, the apple of her parents’ eyes. Her parents loved her, understood her and let her follow her dreams. Their dream was to see her happy, doing what she wanted to do. When the time came, they found her a groom. She, who had always dreamed of the day she’d find her prince, was happy. She knew it was not only her dreams, but her parents’ dream coming true. But as the days passed, she came to know not all was well with her husband. He was hurting her, mentally. She said the three words, and her dream changed through me. She no longer dreamt of a happy married life, she dreamed to escape, escape the chains that pain gifted her, and escape the marriage that was destined to fail. And I let her. When she returned home, the words, “What will people say?” echoed in her ears. The words came out of her parents’ mouth too, and she was broken. Every day she stayed at her parents’ place, that echo became louder, and the voice, it was mine.
But hear me. I can help you too; for I am but a peddler… a peddler of dreams. No one understands dreams better than me. For this formless fiend feeds on them, lives in them, holds on to them for eternity. What you may not know, I know. A dream is but a part of you. You can give them away to me for another, but a part of the dream stays with you, just as a part of you comes to me with that dream. If you believe in it, you can revive it. And when you do, if you do, you just say the four magical words to me, “I desire it again.” And it’ll start to grow in you, like a seed watered by your belief. And this formless fiend will become your friend. And if the path has not gone beyond reach, I can help the flowers beneath your feet guide you back to it. Hear me. I have tales that will make you believe this is true.
Andy dreamed of becoming a chef. Whenever he could, he helped his mother with dinner, and every beat of his heart told him that was what he was meant to do. But his father, he was old fashioned. He came from a family where the men would not cook, and that was the woman’s duty. When he heard of Andy’s dream, he asked that question, “What would people say?” and Andy, gutted at his disregard, asked me to change his dream. He became an engineer, and began to earn the millions his father dreamed of. After marriage, when his wife became ill, he cooked for her. And she told him to pursue it. When he asked her, “What would people say?” she told him not to care. And that seed of his dream was sown again. He went on a show, for amateur cooks, and impressed. Even though he didn’t win, he caught the eye of a big chef, and that chef helped him live his dream.
Nisha’s daughter Radhika wanted to study. Her mother wouldn’t say a word, because she knew how that dream would end up. And sure enough, when Radhika asked her father, the old question came again, “What would people say?” Her father fixed her marriage at thirteen too, to the twenty-five year old engineer son of the neighboring village’s zamindar Rajesh. Her dream was lost, or so she thought. On their first night, Rajesh found out that his young bride, chosen by his father, wasn’t given an education. The city was different than his village. Here, the idea of a girl being given an education was accepted, and he took it upon himself to teach her something every night after he got back. It wasn’t the school she had wanted, but it was a start, and the way ahead had a school in it. The question “What would people say?” never bothered her after that. Her husband had helped her find that dream again, and she, in turn, helped her mother to try and find it.
So, how hail you me, dear one? Do you hail this peddler with the words, “I give up” and give up your dreams for one you never wanted? Or say “I desire it again” and let me try to lead you back to a dream you let me have? The choice is yours, and only you can tell me. For I hear not any other voice but yours, and hear not any other beat but your heart’s. And only I can hear that choice you make, so if you choose the latter, worry not about the words, “What would people say?”
(© 8th February 2015)