The sun climbed down its tired arc as he made his quiet way homeward. Cloudy, the day had been and the skies just looked like a tired shopkeeper pulling the shutters half-down before closing time. He wondered if it would be a little more poetic if the skies right now were awash with the burnished shades of gold and red fire, passively violent streaks of brown marking the edges of the stray crowd, a dry gnarled tree pointing up simultaneously accusatory and mocking branches at the transient and completely pointless glory of this sunset, a lone unnamed, unidentified bird of prey gliding in smooth circles as he walked into the sunset. But poetry was something he’d never had much faith in and he dismissed the thought as he walked on, a little more hurriedly, avoiding the showers that always came down around this time of the day, not soaking anything but making one wet enough to feel perfectly stupid. And cold.
It shouldn’t have meant much, this day, a day like any other, marked by small victories and equally insignificant defeats. But then today was probably different. A death of chance. Like fate had called his bluff. He’d always had this perfectly irritating habit – he thought a part of him could stand aside, detached, and watch and analyze and file away for further reference all the events of the day. The card player’s analogy was just one of those things and another reason why he found it so excruciatingly infuriating to have to live with himself day in and day out. But this was a little like walking into a spider’s web – you’d never be able to shake off the last of the imaginary spiders. And so he let himself ramble on; it did stop him from thinking of more painful matters at hand. He reasoned with himself, it wasn’t failure that hurt so much, as watching the prophesy of doom fulfilled. It felt a little like everyone was told something, but him.
Today, yet again, he’d walked away from something that he could never quite be sure of – what it was, where it was headed, what it was that he was supposed to learn from this. He was sure the others were wrong – it wasn’t like he didn’t feel emotions. Sure, he laughed at everything, all the time; if you’d step closer you’d probably smell cynicism on his breath. But the smile before the laugh never started that way. But nobody ever seemed to notice.
He knew the part by now, he’d rehearsed the lines before, on other stages, in different costumes, with different actors, different roles each time, but the same damn part each time. The same script. He’d walk back to his lodgings and sweep up the pieces of his rationality where he’d left them just as his heart had eclipsed his head and try to put them together again. There would be discontinuities where the smaller shards had filtered through the gaps in the boards. There would be a seam at every joint but he’d call them Experiences and move on. The rest of the world would go on as it always did, for the greater part of his life had been lived in his own thoughts; a one-man show.
There would be a numbness where he’d previously felt a quiet happiness, not quite a void though. – he never let things get close enough. Things would be the same for the most part except for the nagging feeling of having missed or misread something, but he’d never be sure.
Life would go on, he thought, as he looked down in another poetry-inflamed gesture of self-pity. Yes, life would be go on. There would be things to worry about. Like the dust kicked up by his shoes settling on his trouser leg as they traced a furrow through the grime. Yes, life would go on. He’d have to remember to shake out the dust outside his rooms or they’d make a mess of the carpets…
You get strange ideas in the weirdest of places.
Typical dinner at family-friends’. Slouched in my chair at one end of the hall, 15 degrees to the vertical, putting on my best I’m-just-a-simple-sideboard-Don’t-mind-me-Keep-talking-like-I’m-not-here act, drifting in and out of lucidity I caught an old uncle talking about the attacks in Australia.
Moot point he raised, “My son asked me, Appa can a single lady walk home from the bus-stop to her house at 1130 in the night in Bangalore without fear? Forget that. We attack people from other states when they come to our city to write selection exams. When we have racism in our own country and can’t admit it, what right do we have to criticize the Australian Government for not accepting that the attacks are racist attacks?”
But I think they’ve missed the point. The point is The Dream. The Great Indian Dream. The Great American Dream. The Great Indian-American Dream. The Great Indian-American Dream Superimposed on the Rest of the World Dream. The Great Indian Australia-is-as-good-as-America-if-not-better Dream. The Paradise Dream.
‘Going to foreign’ was the panacea, not the illness. It wasn’t supposed to end this way…
I hate these questions but I know they’re always around some corner…
So, when do you finish?
I dunno, mebbe next year, if things go well.
So, what do you plan to do next?
What do you want to do?
What did you want to do when you were a kid?
Fly a plane? Drive a tractor?
They say a Ph.D. is all about learning. Life skills. A Doctorate in Philosophy and not Science or Engineering.
So here’s my takeaway –
It isn’t a very good idea to do something just because you can, or because you’re good at it, or because there’s nothing else you’re good at. Ability and aptitude are very different things.
The master has spoken, goodnight.
Resistance is futile…