The table lamps stood at an awkward angle to each other and together with the paraphernalia — the books that he had read, the book he was currently reading, the book he had decided never to flip any more page of, the kindle, the empty pen stand, a Rubik’s cube that had jammed for not having been used for long, and four perfectly synced wrist-watches — gave the table a disheveled appearance. He unstrapped the watch he was wearing and added it to the collection. He, then, turned the power on, and the entire room illuminated. A few cockroaches, a spider, and a few other insects which he didn’t know by their names scampered off. Where has been living? Were these insects still there when he had last locked the house, a few weeks back when had left for his hometown and thereafter to a vacation with his friends. It had, only when he saw the insects scuttle, first come to him that light too can be the cause of discontentment among beings, creating havoc in lives by upsetting their usual routines.
He switched the main light off thinking that doing so would alleviate the insects’ predicament. Would help them get back to normalcy. The fan above, however, continued to creak erotically, like an uninterested lover, moaning sporadically, trying to maintain the ethos of the act.
Few moments passed. Enough with the compassion, he thought, and then turned the table lamps on, the beams of light from them converged and resulted in an extra illuminated area at their intersection, rendering the table in two shades, and the boundary between them so conspicuous, and how easy his lives would have been, he thought, if only he could detach himself from the happenings and observe them from a distance. Wouldn’t then things, when better classified, like the things on his table — like the important things made themselves into the light, and the ones he didn’t need just yet were outside of it — make much more sense than what they ever do.
He placed his palms in the brighter region, joined them, and began scanning them. Someone from the family had told him, some time back, that when you join your palms and if you see a half-moon in front of you, you are bound to get a beautiful wife. No, ‘a very beautiful’ wife, emphasizing on the adjective. Time and over again, he had scanned his hands like this, sometimes in the sun, sometimes under the artificial light inside his room, and even, at one point in time, he had decided against rubbing his hands together lest the moon might be erased. He smiled at how naive his childhood was, how gullible he had been all his life, been tricked into things like these. For some reason, he felt an urge to call the person who had sermonized this whole half-moon thing to him. But aren’t the best sermons the ones after which the listener remembers only what was being told.
He played the game of light for some time, toggling between the lamps, switching the left one on, keeping it that way for some time, and then, as if on a whim, turned it off and turned the right one, keeping one of them alight and then turning both of them on together. It felt so comforting, to be finally in control of something. “But you cannot be so dominating everywhere Naman” someone had told him once. He immediately turned both the lights off, as if that was what the voice wanted him to do. These days, he had trouble mapping the things that people used to say to him to who actually told what. These remarks — both appreciative and slanderous, mostly the latter — traveled back to him all the way from the past as if someone had left the tap open, and the bucket — his bucket — will soon run out, and then there will be just wetness, of water, of his tears. He cried a lot lately, for most trivial of the reasons, for things that people had told to him in the past, which he, of course then, hadn’t heeded to, but now, when alone, their words hit him like arrows. And what about the things and the people he had wronged. That must have to be considered as well, getting a job over three other candidates sitting in the lobby whom he had talked to, laughed with, and then went inside to the interview panel and proved himself to be more worthy of than them. But isn’t that the process? He was being foolish, this was madness, thinking of his selection in an interview as an act in which he wronged others. ‘But isn’t most of the wrong that has come to the world had come out of the processes?’ So you see, he had entered the most difficult phase of his life, wherein everything had begun to manifest itself as only suffering — wrong and painful.
‘Naman bhaiya’, shouted Balwant from outside the flat. He had rung the bell about three times, had tried calling Naman on his mobile phone simultaneously, and then quite illogically — as people often tend to do when emotional — had started banging at the door and shouted his name. ‘Naman Bhaiya, are you alright?’
Naman turned the lights on and made his way towards the door.
‘Even if you were in the toilet, you could have shouted back, or called me on my mobile. I even tried calling you. But…’ the concerned cook paused, gasping for breath, ‘I was so scared, what has happened to you’, he added and waited for a reply. But Naman only asked him to cook 2 Aaloo Paranthas.
‘Bhaiya, how is everyone at home?’ Balwant asked Naman, turning the knob of the gas stove to sim.
‘Yeah, all good. Mother has sent some sweets for your family, take them before you leave.’
The cook displayed his yellow teeth, the missing middle teeth had left a hole wide enough to provide visuals of what was inside the mouth.
‘I am telling you Bhaiya, what we have on our roads is not traffic. It is commotion’, said Balwant, ‘as if everyone is just happy to be alive and wish to die on the road’. ‘I escaped death today, but only God knows how many pseudo-lives do I have left.’ But this was not the first time Balwant had escaped death. narrowly. And so Naman smiled. He was fond of Balwant’s ways, of how his cook, grappled with death daily, emerged victoriously and was then saddened by one more pseudo-life that he had lost in this process. What an outlook towards life, towards so many pseudo-deaths after each of which Balwant saw himself as being reincarnated, and so realistic too for Balwant was still apprehensive about the actual death, after which, he didn’t know what would follow. He didn’t want to die on the road, he had told Naman once. And then there was the traffic, Balwant’s and his common problem. Yes, the situation out there was deplorable, people were travelling from all the directions, defying the basics of directions. But some problems, as one ages he realizes, don’t have solutions; they serve better as subjects for the stand-up-comedians, and for the tea-breaks.
It was late. And, as on most of the days, Naman was in his office. He tidied up his seat, typed a few words on a word document on his system and issued a print command. He, then, reached out to the printer and returned with the page. It read ‘so what if this Pseudo life is not going well, the way you expect it to be, just wait for the next one and make it count.’ But then he tore the page down into pieces and put it into the trash. People, where he worked, were always waiting for events like these, which would give them a chance to label someone, and if they read what he had just written they would take him for everything but what he meant. Besides, this was not his own idea, its progenitor had been someone he had least expected to ever influence him. But then he had not expected so many other things either, which would, eventually, if time permitted would become many more such stories. And so, he dimmed the light in his cubicle and felt the contentment that can only be experienced in the absence of light.
The picture linked with this blog post has been downloaded from here…