I climbed up the stairs. Well, I have been climbing for a long time now. Still, the top was not seen. I was tired, moody and desperate. They call it the stairs to success and happiness. I read many books, articles and listened to great people talking about life and its intricacies. I was inspired, and really wanted to reach those heights they talked about. I wanted to realize my dreams, be happy and then fulfil myself. No time to rest, there was much more to go…

The sky was grey, the clouds were limping over the stairs as if they were old and impaired. I looked back at my shadow; it was long and reached many steps down. I wondered, “Is there really a topmost step? What happens when I reach there? Will I be really happy? Enlightened, shall I be?!”

No time for distractive thoughts, I lifted my legs as high as I could and consumed more of my strength and agility up the stairs. Still nothing in reach, I sat down and for once I looked around. That was the first time I looked somewhere else other than up and down.

Life unfurled around me. There were people, funny, nice, rude and all sorts; all of them around everywhere, but far from me. I did not care, for all I wanted to look was at me in the mirror on the topmost step, where I can be seen happy and successful.

As I rushed ahead, I became tired and frustrated. I was forced to sit down once more. I was so angry at all those who inspired me to become great and known. I wanted to despise all those who tried to motivate people. What do they give all those glowing quotes for? I sat in desperation; hopeless and sad. The night fell, and I did not know when my eyes closed.

The morning light knocked my eyes open; I could still see all those around me. I was not amused or astonished to see that they were not climbing. Well, everyone is not ambitious! For a second, their shadows caught my eyes; much shorter than mine! They looked joyous and in high spirits!

The next moment, I took a decision. Risky, but at least it should turn out adventurous!

For the first time, I took a step aside the stair. The moist clouds helped me down. The environment changed, so different from the concrete stairs! The ground felt less solid and rigid. My feet were on soil, green and fertile. I started walking towards the house afar, feeling affluent and comfortable with every step I took.

The house looked familiar. The door was old and plain but had a soothing impression on me. I smiled and knocked on the door.

My parents were surprised but happy to see me. They have become old. Their loving eyes appraised me and I was in a warm embrace, one after another. My wife’s graceful eyes prayed silently how much she missed me. My kids’ cheers were genuine music to me.

My life so far had been very busy, and after a long time I got time for free. My breathing was slow and calm. The air I breathed in was soothing and replenishing. The food, homely and the moments were splendid.

My parents were very happy to see me, and half-heartedly let me go for a stroll. Not often I realized how patient and lovely my woman could be, she reminded me with a soft kiss. My children grew up fast I thought; they too understood me well and left me for a walk alone!

I walked, round and around the land. There were no specific lanes or roads. Far ahead, the vastness of the plain led me to a small hill. The hill was a favourite spot for me in childhood; my friends and I used to raid the area for different amusements then.

I was not ready for another climb up, but this time there was nothing impending. I felt light and the hill-top was awaiting me. The blue sky spread vast, as esteemed as always, and misted the horizon. Clouds, fair and white giggled tenderly at my coming.

The hilltop gave a wonderful panoramic view of the hemisphere. The breeze atop was refreshing and brushed past me gently. I closed my eyes for a while and all those lovely moments of life rushed in; my life in vista. The memories were sweet and I missed all my friends, teachers, neighbours, relatives and… myself. The bitter turned sweet, what I used to perceive hard became soft and comfortable, the anxious and worried times made me smile and the heaviness was lifted away. I accepted all that was left behind, the happy moments, those embarrassing incidents, irritating comments, fleeting love, hurtful breakups, sad and upsetting thoughts, the shame and pain. I no longer resisted. I accepted who I was. I forgave all those who hurt me. I cherished those memories where I felt nice, happy, confident and proud. I felt my body becoming relaxed, my heart was beating smooth and I breathed easily.

It was noon when I opened my eyes. I looked down. The rock where I stood bore no shadow on it! Once I was amazed, then I understood! The sun was just above me and I was enlightened. Realizing what I had missed, I felt happy and content in claiming what was mine – my own self.

Far in the horizon the concrete stairs were visible and I could see someone climbing up. More than the person, I could see a long shadow. The stairs were leading farther from the sun!

Striding down the hill, my legs carried me faster and further. The flowers smiled, the grass swayed at my go as if they were dancing and my feet were well welcomed by the mud. The stretch ahead was to home, I ran faster, gaining more and more upon myself and it was real. I was once again myself and the leap I took kept me happy and content.