There I lay one night, cold and shivering believing that this is where life would abandon me. With questions in my mind and blankness in the heart I sat there in the darkness beside my open French windows. The occasional passing of the cars flashed a light and all I saw were silhouettes around.

I wished for love again under my breath, with little hope of my wish lingering in the air, when she appeared. She was life. Gentle, clam, nonchalant towards all the allegations I had towards her misgivings, ignoring my blood shot eyes, she handed me a plate filled with sand. Baffled I looked at her when she smiled and said she wanted to play a game with me.

What?” I screamed – “Don’t you know I am tired of your games. All I need is a stable life now.” Still smiling she explained the rules, as if my consent wasn’t a concern at all. Like each time, I gave in not because there was much I could do, but mainly because I also wanted to know where this was leading. I lent my ears to her patiently, thinking what did I have to lose anyway?

All I was to do was to safe keep the sand on the plate. Simple as it sounded at first, the catch lay in the fact that the plate came with a small hole at the base from where the sand was to flow out continuously. I was to achieve the maximum retention of sand without blocking the outlet. There was a stopwatch which showed the amount of time I had before the sand was to run out completely. To achieve my goal I had to beat it.

I was filled with sarcastic grunts when she calmly handed me the plate and sought to leave. Just before doing that she told me that she was to visit me each month to analyse my progress and if there was sand on the plate, I could ask her for anything the heart desired and would be granted the same.

For the first time my eyes lit up, but not for long, for as she stood there on the ledge she told me that the sand stood for ‘the most precious thing’ in my life which I was to lose anyway. But just before that happened she wanted me to experience having it once again.

Faces, instances, episodes, material things they all flashed before my eyes, but somewhere the heart knew what was really being referred to as ‘the most precious thing’. Thinking myself to be smart I decided to ask Life for that very thing on the last month just before all the sand ran out.

The first month went on fine, there was so much sand that a mere trickle going waste hardly bothered me. At the end of the month I asked Life for ‘laughter filled days’. She handed me an album filled with moments that had always made me feel blessed. I learnt how to smile and make it reach my eyes. I now knew what to think of when the twinkle in my eyes and voice were missing.

Then when she appeared I asked for ‘strength’. She handed a disc recording the worst moments of my life. I played it day and night till I realised the message it had imbedded that if I could see through those times and still be myself, I could do that again. Then I knew what to do when I felt that I was feeling that I was caught in the worst quicksand.

The plate was half full when she arrived again. I was then contemplating on the reasons ‘why’ things happened the way they did and sought ‘contentment’. She gifted me a pair of shades which made me see the world without my ‘most precious thing’. I then knew that I should be thankful for the brief tenure I had the thing which made life so much worth living. It taught me appreciation and acceptance and thankful and there I was content with whatever life had offered me, even if it did not come with the ‘forever’ tag.

The next month the fear of losing ‘the thing’ seeped in and sought ‘friendship’ to see me through the ordeal. She handed me a mirror then. I realised that the friend I was searching sat there on the other side. It was strange because the girl in the mirror thought and loved me the way my most precious thing did, but was not her. I then understood that the girl in the mirror knew what I was to lose and had already prepared to be modelled in the way I was so used to being loved. I now know whom to turn to when there’s no one to think for me.

A flustered I pestered her next month for ‘perspective’, when she gave me a question to answer – whether I believed in unrequited love to make myself look glorious. Angry I shot at her that I never thought that way – that I was happy even with the silhouette of love around, that it helped me see through life in the most wonderful way and gave me a reason to plunge into things which I would have never attempted myself alone. I loved myself now and the girl within. She smiled and I knew that I had got all that I needed and strangely what I sought lay with me.

I asked then for ‘faith’, which I believed I had lost and questioned the power of prayers. She gave me a small spoon to shovel out all the sand then and there. As I stood there frozen, I realised that all this while it was faith that kept me clinging on the nonexistent relationship. And also that it was faith that was keeping me going still, despite knowing that the expiry date was near. I now know that prayers don’t mean long queues at the temple, instead the hope that there’ll be one more night tomorrow just like today and faith means the belief that even if the night doesn’t arrive, there are enough memories to see through the empty nights.

This month was the second last and I asked for ‘love’. She handed me a pair of socks. Sleeping with them on I realised how ingrained the ‘hug sleep’ has been in the heart, how the morning arrived with a smile and how even rains made the migraine inflicted me smile. It taught me beyond chocolates, flowers and diamonds and that sometimes just silence on the other side when only breaths speak, makes life worthwhile. I now know the power of warmth even on lonely nights.

The sand is to run out soon. I think I have a last wish left. But the dilemma is what to ask? The heart wants to ask for some extra time. I thought to sift the sand away from the hole to extend this association, but surprised myself by making no similar attempts. I now want it to run out when it is due, not making any attempts to hold it back. The funniest part is I am not scared, sad or even regretful of losing ‘the thing’ now. It’s still my most favourite thing and it’ll always be, but losing it miraculously doesn’t hurt.

Life is filled with content, smiles, a true friend, a confident and rational me, precious and pure moments of love, and warm hugs – everything that I wished for when I wished for my precious thing, even now when the latter is now almost lost.

I have nothing to ask today at this last stage. I see the last grains trickle out with a smile, thanking each morsel for the time it took to touch and change my life. Feeling loved and tightly held, secure – just the way I was yesterday.

Life happened to me when I was seeking love…Thank you ‘my most precious thing’!