As an oasis, I have a long memory.
In the times that span the eternities of past, present, and future, I have been given the role of a savior. My compassionate existence is sought by all those battered, dehydrated bodies, and many broken souls.
I nourish, shelter and shade the caravans, the destitute survivors, and yes, some lone travelers too. I caringly reassure them, nurture them and provide them a refuge from the harsh, unforgiving desert.
And I remember them all, their faces embossed in my eternal memory. Each one of them.
But I have a dark, hidden, secret; I whisper to the wind.
The caravans are always predictable.
Their pace has a rhythm, and the chaotic commotion upon their stopover has an underlying discipline. They never waste excessive water, they never strip clean the fruit trees. Sometimes, they even plant fresh saplings.
The minders ensure that only the dried and withered branches are used as firewood and that their caravans never overstay.
Because I sustain life for them, they know they have to sustain me.
Long before they pack their beasts again for the onward journey, I silently whisper to the winds, and the dusty streets and the bazaars of the destination know of their imminent arrival. Never, since the beginning of time, has a caravan reached the periphery of a town but the residents already knew of its imminent arrival.
You see, the wind is my friend.
Sometimes I get to witness those destitute, lost survivors.
They stumble towards the well with weakened knees and diminished hopes. Physically, emotionally and mentally shattered.
They indulge with water like it was the loot they never expected, and they gorge through the raw fruits with vengeful mouths and heartless waste.
Always gripped in self-pity, and a perpetual state of panic, they either recklessly wander away again, or just lay defeated; screaming and pleading in hoarse voices, ‘Why me?’
Sometimes, I whisper about them to the winds, sometimes I just let it pass. Cruel as it may sound, some souls are best left lost.
You see, as an oasis, I have seen it all.
Then there are those lone travelers, the ones that I cherish.
For they have experienced those tales that last a lifetime.
I witness them coming from afar, beyond the horizon itself. While the sun follows its westerly course, the lone travelers’ shadow looms, narrows and then mournfully sprawls over the dunes. Their gait is never hurried, nor relaxed.
It is almost as if they treat their journey as life itself; one step at a time. Their faces may be haggard, but they carry an inner calmness.
Their bodies are often bruised, but they have ingrained poise. In their life-full of events, they go through series of experiences, some earth-shattering ones, some normal rigors of their being. And between those tormenting episodes of life, they clasp and cherish any respite that they get.
They gratefully savor those moments of ease, and fondly embrace these pleasant memories like silk wrapped souvenirs; a provision for their survival.
They talk of affection, and they revere love. It no longer matters whom they love, but that they love. But in the process, it agonizingly dawns upon them that, with love comes anguish. Helplessly addicted, afflicted, they have no choice but to accept the excruciating price they have to pay. Pain too, becomes a companion during their times of trial.
Over the eons, I have learned another secret about them.
Even when they are physically gone, they never really leave you.
They caringly leave a part of them for you, but unknown to you, they soundlessly take away a piece of you from you too. Perhaps selfishly, maybe unknowingly.
But life is never the same after you come across them. It’s almost like a cage, unseen. You think you are free, but can never get out.
Then, long after they are gone, a whiff of their memory would glide through the winds, sometimes haunting you, at times delighting you. And in that quiet fleeting moment, you revisit the time you spent with them, and then with a hollowed heart, struggle to get back to the independent life that you have to live.
Whenever they happened to stop at the oasis, I would discreetly hear their tales and whisper them to the winds.
Who, then, carried the fables to the taverns and the bazaars, the gardens, and the courtyards.
So when the lone traveler reaches the bustling towns ahead, he hears the storytellers narrating his tales with eloquent relish, shamelessly professing that these were passed on to them through generations.
And he would look at them with a saddened, almost dismayed, smile. Reflecting about the relevance of his own experiences in that eventful lifetime.
Wondering if there ever were any experiences original to mankind itself. Not understanding that he was, in fact, the original one, the rare one.
It’s just that I whisper to the winds.