Friday, May 20, 2011

Where am I going?

Kids are tested with ‘Fill in the blanks’ in kindergarten exams. When they grow up, the computerized entrance tests take over, it's all about multiple-choice questions from there on. And then, sometimes, for some nuts, life turns a full circle.

Pratima H

THE bar was his first idea, but almost everyone knew him there.

To the mountain, would have required him to trek. The thought itself was exhausting.

To the pizza house may be, but the insurance agent would pounce on him again.

To the clinic would have really been peaceful, but what if there was no queue in the waiting room today! No way taking that chance at a dentist’s who loves her profession way too seriously.

Not even a theatre after surviving last week’s suicide attempt.

Then where?

Shopping malls are too creepy, sea beaches too crowded and temples too noisy.

He just wanted to run away somewhere.

Somewhere he could be at peace, calm with himself and his insomniac mind?

Just anywhere? Away from here.

Here.

A place that had driven him mad for the past few days. He found himself asphyxiated on his 25 storey building’s terrace and nothing helped. Nothing helped him and everyone he saw worsened his state. Even seeing a milkman ignited the fits and even watching a stripper was of no help, but ironically otherwise.

Right now, this guy who had chickened out of a ‘how many beers can you drink?’ challenge last Friday, would have skydived out of a plane in the blink of an eye. Just to be alone and to think. Or may be - just the opposite.

Tem minutes later, he found himself sitting on a bench. He wiped some beads of sweat and cupped his face with a sigh. The darkness that his handkerchief and two palms could spin now was way more relaxing than his wrestle-match with all his room’s curtains, light bulbs and at times even the celestial bodies

He has even started considering a nap in this posture when a shriek startled him.

A five year old boy gleamed with a loud cry when the see-saw sent him on top of the world.

His down-to-earth adversary, a chubby six-year old girl with pigtails was waiting impatiently for the heavenly experience.

Besides them, a merry-go-round was already grooming kids into the imperatives of standing-in-queues-and-waiting that their adult life would be all about. But yes, the happy screams of those whirling in joy, made the wait worthwhile.

Swings, toboggan rides, rabbit-chasing, knee-bruising, paper-scissor-rocks, healthy mud-slinging and aimless running around.

Oh, so he was in a children’s park!

Should he breathe out a cuss word at his folly? All this noise, all this disoriented laughter, all this chaos, cachinnation and all these greenhorns running amok! Is this where he ran away from the sea side?

Actually yes.

Ironically, he felt a little respite in this mayhem.

He wanted to be lost. What better than a crowd that is least bothered about you when they have a squirrel to catch!

Lost he became. Shutting out all the volume that had been screeching in his brain for the last few days. The voices in his head gave in. The remote control was back in his hands now. And he happily pressed - mute.

Fifteen minutes into gazing blankly at this parallel world he had parked his soul in, he was disturbed by a husky voice.

“Ain’t gonna go, I am telling you. The park will close soon. The mind will buzz as an obstinate bee again.”

He turned sideways and turned mute himself.

Wow! A face, as charming, as impish and as forever young as Gerard Butler! And the same lethal smile he had envied like since ever.

“Umm..eh..who..who are you?”

The face released a full-of-rains-and-winds laugh before he slapped the answer back – “What if I say I am from God’s Customer Care department? Would you believe me?”

“God’s what?”

“Forget it. You can call me Jeeves. But don’t expect me to hold a tray for you ok. So, now shoot. What’s the problem, dude?”

Silence replied with a stare.

Jeeves smirked, “Girl problem?”

“Oh come on! Why everything in this world has to be about women?”

“Because they are the ones who make the world worthwhile right?”

“Yeah, kind of. But they make it foggier also. Why do they have a million and a half moods? And why is it so complicated to really interpret what they are saying?”

“Or why just women! Everything in this world is so incomplete. Everything has been left in a black hole. The last pages mercilessly torn from a detective thriller.”

Jeeves gave a wise nod.

The outburst continued.

“Do people really mean what they say? If not, why do they say such things? Is it smart to be selfish or is it selfish to be smart? Do na├»ve people die happier than vile ones? Is there really a pot at the end of the rainbow of race, career and wealth? Is that the pot I am actually looking for? What if it has honey, but I don’t really have a sweet tooth? What if I want noodles inside it?”

“I agree. I would like it be full of peanut butter.” Jeeves piped in.

“Yes, that reminds me, Why are all things full of pleasure not good for health? I love staying up for parties or for work at night, but no, that’s not good for health! Beer, not good. French fries, not good. Driving at 100 kmph, not good. Why?

And why do we have to act all smart and sassy to get respect? Or have a snazzy car to get attention? Why can’t we be like these kids, stupid and genuine? And yet, we ourselves would mock or ignore people who might be silly but have a golden heart? Why can’t we have a golden heart? In fact, why can’t we afford to carry a heart everywhere we go? Why do we have to leave it at the janitor’s locker room when we step inside our offices or colleges or societies? What is so wrong about wearing your heart on your sleeve? What’s so heinous about letting your heart talk? Why can’t we trust our instincts instead of shepherds of this world who know nothing of the really green pastures? Why do we have to do things because some cowards have been doing that for ages? What’s wrong in stumbling? Why is there always someone else you would rather prove yourself to, instead of your own voice? Voice, now why can’t everyone sing? Why can’t everyone dance? We all are born the same right? Then why do some eyes are so beautiful and wise and some so shallow and sly?”

Eyes, the word, distracted him a bit, and he mustered his will not to gaze at Jeeves’ pupils; then he shifted awkwardly but then confessed.

“Why are there some eyes you can’t look into? What’s so scary about it? Why some eyes absorb you like a vacuum cleaner? Why do I feel that a baby’s eyes look right into you, even though a baby looks so harmless? What is so wise about them? Don’t you feel that all the babies have a secret code of their own and somewhere they are all laughing at us? Smart Alecks!”

“And yes, why don’t they let us sleep? Why doesn’t anyone let us sleep for that matter? Why do people make noise while a wedding is happening? Why do they go dumb when someone should really speak up? Why do we all fail to make the most of what we have? Why don’t we do something that will make our life worthwhile? When will we stop existing and start living?”

“When will I start living?” he gasped, “When will I do something that will make me celebrate ‘you live only once’? Anything? Saving a child from the fire or creating a recipe or writing a book or discovering America? Well, not America, that Columbus already did? But what went through his mind while he was at it? Or for that matter the minds of Einstein or Newton or Zuckerberg? They didn’t really know what were they after, and they still were after something?”

“Like what am I after? Love? Spiritual enlightenment? Food? Liquor? Cars? Deadlines? The guy who cut me in the traffic? The guy who broke my trust? The guy who is so disgusting, who wears Prada but smacks of arrogance? Oh yes, by the way, what is the right word for a situation or a remark which is so God-help-me nerve-wrecking that you won’t even react to it? When you really want to pity someone because they are beyond hatred or help? Why are there no words in dictionary for many people and situations? Like - What is the accurate word for ‘mmmmmmm’ when you taste that pav bhaji that Raju in Khau Galli makes? No, don’t say ‘delicious’ or ‘yummy’, it should be more accurate and more, more…like more wholesome….You get what I am saying?”

Jeeves smiled.

“I know you get what I am saying. Why is it that you know that some people would really get what you are saying even if it’s all gobbledygook or baby-blabber? And why is it that some people just won’t get what you are saying, no matter how many brochures you hand out or how many manuals you shove down their throat? Why do the best conversations happen in monosyllables? Why do Dads scold when you hate it and stop scolding when you want it?”

“What else,” Jeeves prodded.

“It just never ends. These questions. And it’s not that there are no answers that make me insane. It’s that why am I asking all these questions? Why can’t my mind rest? Curiosity kills the cat, but why do cats keep peeking all the time? Why does it give a kick when you gossip? And why do dogs bark or howl all the time? Why do they say ‘all men are dogs’? Is it insulting a man or a dog? Why do you call something a hotdog? Is it a compliment if a girl calls me that? Is it a compliment if someone calls you ‘interesting’? Does that not mean in a polite way that one is abnormal? Why can’t air hostesses be less polite? You know they hate you and they still greet you smugly! Ah, greetings! Why do we have to say ‘It is nice meeting you’ to stranger we just got introduced to? We hardly know that person to be called nice? Isn’t there a better salutation?”

“That and more. I am not a doctor for God’s sake. Why do we always ask a mechanical ‘How are you’ on every phone call when we both want to rush to the point? Would we really be concerned if she says ‘Oh not well today, my stomach is a bit upset since the pasta I had last evening’?”

“Why do we waste our time on things and people we know are a waste? Why do we take the more important people and stuff for granted? Why does the whole world look unpopulated when only one person is not around? Why does everything seem so alright when the same person is around, even on the ripped hulks of a sinking ship? Why does it take a ‘Titanic’ to say ‘You jump. I jump.’ Why can’t two people say the very words on a bungee jumping trip or a career-argument or a fight over a burnt omelette?

What’s wrong in admitting mistakes? Why do people use it against you when you admit one? Why can’t we make mistakes? Why can’t we have a tattoo at 54? Why can’t we try a DJ’s life when our friends are fighting for the cheese in B-schools? Why do we call big shots ‘big cheese’? Isn’t that derogatory, like rats after you and all? Why don’t rats live in jungles and make their own cheese? Why are they around us? If they are rats, why do we call some of them guinea pigs? Why are some people like rats and some like guinea pigs? Who are the real kahunas?

Am I a rat too? Why can’t I find a place to get lost to find myself? Why do we have to fill in silence? Why does technology make things more complicated sometimes than making them simpler? Why is there so little space that we need in this big world? What’s so selfish in asking for one’s space? Is it asking for the moon? Why do we need a sun to orbit all the time? Why do I need a car to do that? I can do that on a cycle? So why this fuss over petrol prices? We can be happy with so less and would still prefer to run after the so more and be unhappier. A shabby doll used to make us happy, now a full wardrobe fails to do that.

Why can’t my wardrobe have clothes made of bubble-wrap? It would be so less boring.

Why can’t coconut water be wrapped and stored in bottles or tetra-packs? Why can’t you use flowers in our lunch-boxes and beans in the vase?

Why can’t we make a chilli halwa? Or eat pills in salt-and pepper-shakes?

Why can’t we sing carols in office and nice songs for God? He wouldn’t mind a more creative, entertaining, remixed prayer, would he?

Does God exist? With the world so full of bad stuff and things and people? Are you for real? Who am I talking to?”

At this point, Jeeves put his hand over his and gave a warm, assuring smile, “You need to stop now, and let me say something.”

He breathed a thankful sigh and started to listen eagerly.

Jeeves pulled him along into a story.

Once upon a time there was a weird boy. He always observed things others never looked at. Always peeped out into the boundary of the beyond. Collected sea shells, pollen seeds, honeycombs and thrown-away cans. His friends laughed at him when he stopped mid way during a hide-and-seek game and started gleaning nuts, nails and screws from a new trail. “You are a nut case.” They ridiculed him.

One day, he left his village and joined some nomads.

Something he always wanted to do. To go for a treasure hunt. Even the nomads laughed at him this time. But he never cared.

Some years, miles and bivouacs later, they came to a quaint place, fossils of a forgotten kingdom as they discovered. But they soon grew bored of it when none of the bolted doors or rusted, iron chests opened. The locks were heavy, engineered in a very complicated way, such that their smartest tools, fires and axes failed to cajole them. Everyone left. Everyone but the boy.

He enjoyed the mystery and felt camaraderie with the aged trunks and boxes. They looked incomplete. They way he always used to feel with his curious eyes. Something crossed his mind and in a casual, enjoying maneuver he pulled out all the screws and nuts his own treasure was full of. And lo!

The screws fitted. The nuts jolted in. The nails embraced the holes in a tight grip. In the blink of an eye, everything snapped open.

The boxes now unbolted, welcomed the boy to a world shining with jewels, joy and extraordinary tales of a king’s life. All for the boy to marvel and indulge in.

I hope you got what I am pressing at?” Jeeves said. “The so-called nut, only, had the right nut.” He said slowly pausing on the word ‘nut’.

“So, I am a nut, and that’s not bad?” He asked back, all confused.

“No,” Jeeves interjected. “What I am saying is that the boy would have been the same as everyone, if he didn’t have the nuts, or the screws. Everyone found the treasure, but only the boy had the screws. And only he could open the boxes. Life will give you answers, will bring you to wrecked kingdoms and fairytale places, but before all that, you need to have the screws. The questions….do you get it…to have the questions, is more important! Because you would never be able to savour the answer when it comes, unless you have the questions with you. Forget all the comme il faut, forget what others are after, forget if they call you a nutcase, you collect your nuts.”

His face suddenly relaxed and all the frowns ironed out in the nod he gave back to Jeeves.

Jeeves winked and chuckled now, “Any more questions?”

“Yes, if we ever make the Indian version of F.r.i.e.n.ds, who will play the role of Phoebe?”

“You have figured out who will play Joey already? Don’t tell me!”

“Yes, but won’t tell you now. Let’s save something for the next time.”

Jeeves made a pout and stood up in reply, “Ok, that’s cue for me to go then?”

He knew he wanted Jeeves to stay, but he also knew there were other nuts for him to attend to. He smiled with a grateful handshake and said. “It was really nice meeting you.”

Jeeves gave a naughty grin, “Oh, that one. I am not falling for that. But till you find a better, more honest line, I will take that.”

Before he stood up and sauntered away like a Hollywood hunk, he added, “And by the way, you might want to try the chilli-halwa on your own.”

He smiled in affirmative and sat there watching him vanish into the crowd.

And then he muttered back to himself, “Why don’t Angels leave with visiting cards?”

“Why do grown-ups have to carry visiting cards?” someone standing at his back asked.

He turned to see a bespectacled Harry-Potterish kid looking at him for an answer.

“Well,” he replied, “Why don’t you allow grown-ups on your swings here?”

The kid stepped forth and joined him on the bench, “Umm…I don’t know. May be you have separate parks. Do you have separate schools too?”

“Yes, in a way. And different homework assignments too.”

The kid squirmed his nose and questioned again, “What homework? Are you made to stand outside the class if you don’t show it up? Are you allowed to use a ballpoint pen? Do you have a bigger zoo for your picnics?”

The questions kept coming. They filled him with a merry sigh, he chortled and the only answer he offered was – “I am so so jealous of you kid!”


P.S: Ships are safest in harbours, but is it where they are supposed to be?