We, Hindus have an odd habit of igniting flames during prayers. These flames are perched on a wick sitting on various shapes of candles or just plain, wild flames flaring in an open pyre. It is our belief that these flames are a portal to the afterlife; anything we offer to rear these hungry flames could reach the palms of God or even our deceased loved ones in Heaven. Staring aimlessly into one of these searing flames during a prayers held for my late grandfather, I couldn’t help but feel that these flames were more than a channel for us to carter physical material between afterlife and the present. It had a deeper meaning for me at present – for here and for now.

The flame starts small. In fact, it is sparked by a single burning camphor tablet. But as if expounded by a lightning bolt, the flame quickly spreads like a wildfire, licking its way through the combustible pyre. For me, it drifted my thoughts towards my unachieved goals and ambitions – how tiny they were at point of ignition but how large, uncontrollable and emotionally-occupying they’ve become as I got attached to them. Just like flames let lose, my goals engulfed me when they could no longer be satisfied, sustained or contained. I had let it eat away at my heart and gnaw bits and pieces of my soul for little more than a year. But I wasn’t a fool, I kept myself pre-occupied enough to conceal its effect externally. Akin a glistening, intact eggshell while the yolk itself was slowly but surely rotting away at its core.

Just like most things in life, flames are two-pronged. As pooja materials such as firewood and shrubs were being thrown into the heart of the flame, it reacts in a multitude of manner. Some firewood would incite an instantly gratifying fragrant aroma that swallows the surrounding, collecting instinctive deep breaths by occupants of the room. Others would send a dark cloud of smoke rising to the roof and assuring reactive tears in the eyes of anyone who dared to cross its path. Again, this flame embodied the bittersweet nature of my dreams and desires. How at times they fill me with so much motivation and confidence that I feel like an insurmountable mountain. How on other occasions they chide and mock my abilities – haha, you can’t even achieve that but you honestly dare to hope that you’ll ever come close to me?

Staring into the flames, I caught an observation in particular that sent chills down my spine. That is – whenever an offering is hurled into the flame, it first dims the flame ever so slightly before bringing the flame to reach its maximum potential, almost threatening to raise the roof with its full vigour. Similarly, I’d like to hope that the setbacks I’m facing while hiking up the mountain of my dreams are temporary moments of hardship before I can enjoy an eternity of sunrises once I arrive at the peak.

Whatever the flames do or mean – I’m grateful to have one ignited in me even if it means losing a part of me as I claw towards the promise it holds. Many go on living with no flame which may spare them of the entailing internal damage but they shall also never scale the success of a scorched dreamer. I sure hope that the hurdle I’m experiencing currently, which feels like perpetual infliction of pain will not quench the flame inside me. There’s definitely no re-igniting a stifled flame just like how lightnings don’t strike the same place twice.

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