It was a Diwali evening when he rolled down his window and peeked outside. He found himself among the buses, scooters, auto rickshaws, cars, street hawkers, people, smoke, children. He saw them waiting, passing, cursing, coughing, honking, crying, floating. In a maze. Orbiting. Whining. Disbelieving. Without a rest. The busy bees were jumping signal. It was their everyday adventure. Addicted that they were.
Beside the street crowded stood the lamp stalls. Hung shoddily, slyly the fire crackers. Hung there those that were famously called: Atom Bombs. Nobler in life, docile than their namesake, expensive, noisy attention seekers. Would terribly make the babies wake up during the night. In time, those babies would grow up igniting the Atom Bombs, startling everyone in the colony and loving every moment of it.
The beggar girls were jumping like calves, knocking on every window. Knock, knock, knock. Open up. Open up. Coming. Singing. Mostly to themselves.
The peeking man took out a ‘chikki’ box that he had been saving for home to give it to a girl. Another girl appeared. Without thinking he picked up the second box and gave it to her. The third one came rushing. Now he had none. As he was feeling inadequate and angry, a hasty escape plan was hatched inside his mind. Hurriedly he rolled up the window glass and hid behind the tint of it.
My city is a place where kindness is stretched and stretched till it closes the window of my heart and makes me hide in coldness again.
The girl with ‘chikki’ was waving her prize in front of the empty handed girl, in glee. It was not her fault that there was scarcity in the world. The gleeful girl’s other hand was still waving at the window, where there was a repentant man cowering. Her right foot was striking the tar road in a thak-thak Kathak dance. She was shouting, “Hap-hap, hop-hop-hop, happ-py Diwal-eee.”
Silly boy, as we meet, as I speak, as you stare at me, this old self, without comprehension, with disbelief and doubt, let me introduce myself as your ‘swaja’, I was born of you.
I was born of you, as you were born one score years ago, of your mother’s womb and grew, so I grew, swifter than you, to be old and bitter, brittle boned and crinkled skinned, having more means and a few extra titles attached to my name, dissatisfied and doubtful yet. Call me your wiser self, just a nomenclature, probably untrue. Otherwise, how do I impress upon a boy, a silly boy, who goes on with his life without an iota of comprehension and the burden of failures invariably intertwined with it? That you look and talk and dream silly, boy! In this world, cruel or otherwise, in this state of people, selfish or otherwise, you are really nothing. As you build nothing, create nothing, sell and buy nothing, without purpose, without gravity, being entirely dependent on the affection, money and positions of your parents, kind neighbors and relatives. Useless. That’s what you are. How do I tell you that I will prove myself useful for you?
I have travelled across multitudes of physical and extra-physical realms, piercing the space-time continuum, unproving the laws of Physics to warn you. And, if I may, steer you gently. Towards the right path. Before your concentration wavers, this fleeting dream breaks and you hearken me no more.
Stay away from death, boy. A ‘nobody’, after death, goes beyond the rhetoric and truly becomes nobody. Resist that. Learn swimming. Climbing. Clubbing, sawing, sowing, reaping, and starving. Learn free arm combat. Learn light arm combat. Learn heavy arm combat. Eat flesh daily and grow muscular. Eat minuscule poison daily and vary the poison. Hence, you know, the path to immortality is, but not without risk.
Embrace a tree, boy, today, now. Embrace that is green and blue and yellow around you. The flowers and the birds and the bees that go about with their ancient purposes yet seemed to exist solely for your own amusement. Bees sting. Still. They will be much gone when you are all grown up. People with fat belly and fatter purse will ask you to dream about concrete roads, dish TV and constant noise that comes from having high definition music stacks, mobile rings and honking SUVs. You are, my child, someday going to buy distraction as entertainment.
Stay away from distraction, boy. The chatter of foolish meanness will sound like the ramblings of ambition in the time of drip dozed love. No amount of Candy Crush Saga will bring you fulfillment that usually came after holding a pretty girl’s hand who drooped her eyes in shyness, kissing her, telling her not be afraid, since you were already there for her.
Embrace old theories, boy. Like Darwin’s and Pavlov’s and John von Neumann’s. If you don’t quite grasp, ask your father to explain them to you. In simple language, without the mathematics, but with the implications, what they really mean and how you can wield them to get unusual advantages in a society of self-serving men.
Stay away from the experts, boy, as much as you can, and the expert systems. Like the system that discovers merit and intelligence of a ten-year-old boy by asking two hundred multiple-choice questions. 10th Board, 12th Board, CAT, GRE, GMAT, and those sorts of nonsense. And the people who set them. This universe won’t ask you multiple-choice questions. Ever. Neither the HIV epidemic, nor the sudden earthquake nor the immortal cancerous cells. Your journey is and will be in an uncertain meaninglessness, in a wondrous vacuum, without the guidance of a map, without the knowledge of a destination harbor.
Embrace the uncertainty, boy. The not-knowingness. The people who love you will stop loving you soon, for reasons known only to them. And new people will come, to love you, in hordes, entirely for their own reasons, unknown to you. No love being worse than the other. And the fear and the anxiety of it will remain, any way, so will the hope and courage, in you, and the desperation to survive, to thrive and to go on no matter what.
And love. Oh, sweet love. That slow oozing pain at the left of your breast, the heavy heart thumping, the earth and the moon and the entire families of planets and stars revolving, around that strange sweet girl who was in a new dress and fantastic perfume, floating around your grand father’s old house, the grand father long dead; the cordial neighbor’s jolly grand daughter. That’s love. Not puppy love, not infatuation, not a teenybopper’s sporadic heart melt. That’s a clarion call to make love, to start a family, to be a father. It may not be legal now, but true. As the circle continues. As the circle will continue. With or without you. Till exists this silly human life.
Your eyes are fluttering, boy! Could you contemplate what I just have said? Would you commit them, pray, to the memory, to a plan, as a discipline, these jewel wisecracks, even if they are not so. Unlike the long verses of the great bearded poet, of your grandfather’s time and instead. Or, would you, fancy, stare into the naught believing this is naught but a dream, in a childish fervor or in a quasi-adult fantasy. Being plain silly. Hark, boy, this is true, now and for the all the time to come, from here to eternity, this life, will remain a wonderful futility. Thus, boy, it steals or so, eternally, the shame from your silliness.