It was the day it all began, when he took up another challenge to search for a cure for his beloved. His deep love for Ayushi burned ardently in his spirit. He couldn’t rest until this torment, this burning desire was quenched with the waters of fulfilment. He saw a vision of her sitting down and laughing with him, listening to his humorous adventures with Raman, Ketan, and Nanda. “Ayushi,” he said as the sorrow from missing such happiness burdened his heart.
“When—when will the Soburin lead me back home to you? It has been three long years already. I don’t know how much of this I can endure,” he said, adjusting himself to lay comfortably on a rock and tucking his hands under his head. He could see a group of bar-headed geese soaring around in tight circles upon the small gyres of wind. He knew what the gyrating wind was: the Master was present, watching over him, keeping the great promise he made that day.
Perhaps the Master is listening to me. Perhaps he may feel compassion if I just vent my feelings. Perhaps he’d let me go home.
Johannan opened his mouth and poured out his heart into the air, “Master, I feel so alone.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “I miss her, and I can’t wait for the day when I can go back to her. I remembered the day you took me away years ago. To us, you were just a spirit that was last seen in the wilderness of Gobi, hundreds of years ago, but I dared to look for you—the only one who can cure my Ayushi. Please, Master, I miss my home.”
He stretched his hand to the sky, “Let me—let me return home to my family and friends.” His hand fell to cover his face as he began to weep. The responding silence made it feel as though his words were falling on deaf ears.
Johannan played it through his mind, fresh as the day it happened, the very moment he left her. He pictured himself talking to her and getting all his supplies ready. She was sitting down on the old wooden stool by the front of the door. “Ayushi, I have found a way that can cure your blindness. I was told that a spirit with great healing power was last seen in the deserts of Gobi near mainland China. I must go and seek him out.”
Ayushi just wanted Johannan to stay and not to worry about her so much. What if some sad fate befell him when he was away on one of his journeys to find this cure? Johannan was unshakably convinced that one day she will be cured from her horrible blindness. He couldn’t leave her like that, not even at her own request. Ayushi, being so used to her blindness, didn’t share the vision as passionately as Johannan did; after all, she was born blind. She never experienced what it was like to see. She couldn’t let him go, especially if it could cost him his life. She refused to imagine what it would be like to live without him, being in the world and knowing he was gone forever. The idea was so frightening, it was like standing on the edge of a crumbling precipice whilst peering into a bottomless abyss.
Johannan was driven by the picture that glowed so beautifully in his mind. The vision of them getting married and Ayushi being able to see. The whole village celebrating and throwing flowers over them on their wedding day. The loud sounds of banging drums and great, rich smells of roti, herbs, and dal. He imagined himself with Ayushi, breaking the roti and, as tradition stipulated, dipping it together in a single bowl. It was that vision that drove Johannan away from his home, to places he had never been before, to search for a cure. As long as it was there, haunting him, terrorising him, and burning ardently and infinitely in his heart, he could never settle down.
Just this thought alone caused his body, his mind, and his soul to unite and flow in one direction with one goal. There was no stopping him. He was getting ready to set out of the village, but not before they tearfully said goodbye to one another. Ayushi tightly embraced him, refusing to loosen her grip. He could feel her slim fingers gripping the midsection of his back and right shoulder. She rested her head against his chest. His clothes had just been washed and dried by Mama Jala on the riverside. She could smell the waters of the river on his cloak and hear the fast beating of his heart pumping away, ready to go on another quest.
If I let go, it will almost be like letting a caged bird escape; he may never return to me.
She couldn’t bear for him to leave again. There was the sudden appearance of a lump in her throat, a sudden strong sensation of discomfort in her body. She tried to swallow the shiftless lump before speaking, “Please—stay. Don’t go.” Her face glistened with tears—Johannan cringed at the idea of leaving her like this, but questions needing answers caused his face to tighten under tension.
If he goes and doesn’t return to me, I will lose my soulmate, my best friend, my everything. Oh Johannan! Do not be a fool, searching for truth in the myths and the fables of the elderly. I’ll forever be in a darkened abyss, never to know happiness again because of you. How can you be so cruel?