Monday, February 16, 2009

Tornado in a tea cup (a short story)

“Are you serious?” she asked with disbelief & concern in her eyes. “Let me repeat what I just said, ‘Are you actually thinking of going through it’?” She still wasn’t sure if she had understood him right. “Okay, I know how absurd this sounds to you, but this what I need to do. This is my true calling.” He said this without even sparing a glance for her & just packing away some old dusted books in a plastic bag. His sack was ready, compact & durable, just as he always liked it. His dream of just packing bare essentials & some ideas together & walking off leaving the whole world behind, was finally coming true.

Nothing made sense to him. At least at this hour, his passion was his own undoing of a primal desire that life should be simple. It should be free of all shackles, no mental leash, not refraining to think about anything at all. This past year, he had grown more & more restless. She could tell by the way he started to stare at long distances a second more than he already used to. She could see him grow distant day by day, trying to slowly rationalize his fate like a prisoner in a Chinese torture camp, wishing anything but that seat. He had once mentioned on a quite evening on his terrace about the brutality that people had allowed themselves to be subjected to. He couldn’t have told this to anyone but her, she was probably the only one he thought, who knew where it all came from. She listened intently & couldn’t help but smile at his child like desire to touch & feel every emotion in his brain & link it to something tangible all the time. His idea of brutality was simple, not entirely unlike the barbaric interpretation of the word. He said that subjecting our mind to anything less than an idea which leads to deep articulation in the brain, anything which makes us feel that we have reached the end of it or anything that encourages the ghastly motive of not to think; is brutality in the purest form. He used to joke that he would now like to carry a cyanide pill as a locket & fondle it with his finger with intent to swallow it at any moment, whenever the person in front of him would insult the human faculty of thinking. He was mostly referring to his lectures. She knew, she had witnessed it too in one form or the other, but being a woman gave her the advantage of being slightly more impervious to bull shit.

He was about to graduate. He was part of one of those lesser known B-schools which sprout now & then like weed. Many of the best B-Schools, he said, were weed at some point in time, which no one cared to remove & now when they have become a forest, no on can dare to remove. It’s funny how quickly we assert our own standards to be the right thing to do & make it into a trend which ultimately leads to a collapse, when some contradicting faction emerges. Sadly for most of the business education institutes, there hasn’t been a truly viable criticism, yet. He felt that most of the really good B-Schools have become good because they can live in a self sustained state of hype. The world refutes his logic at face value, but he is known to have been cynical anyway, & also apathetic.

That evening when they were walking fingers in fingers near the lake side, he told her that he got the job that he always wanted. She asked him all about it & allowed him to indulge into his quasi fantasy job description. She understood & that was enough for him. He told her everything, everything. He always used to care for her, even for the silliest things. The one time she went for a short trip up north during winter, he helped her pack. He was a packing freak, with a hope that ‘we can pack everything that we want to carry & not feel even the slightest burden of the weight, if it is packed the right way’. Fortunately, he hadn’t read any book on packing techniques to convince her with his analytical reasons to pack underwear before the socks & gloves. Sometimes he was so concerned about her that he would leave an email early morning, before the world woke up, just to check if she had a cold, because her voice sounded a little weird on the phone last night. He was protective, but not obsessive. He was indulgent, but not perverse. He was afraid of her most of the time, because he thought that she was the only one who can tame his hunter-gatherer urge to explore. But the fact prevailed; he was all in it for himself. Somehow his curiosity & she had ended up into a symbiotic association, which even a hundred thousand years of evolution wouldn’t dare to mutate.

“Are you sure?” she kept on insisting. “Please think again, please let’s run through this one last time, for my sake”. “I don’t want to rationalize my emotions” He said. “Aha, so you know it’s an emotional outburst, you can’t be thinking rationally at this point, can you?” She thought she had him. “I wish you could have just slapped me instead” he uttered with a frown. His eyes were steamy through out the entire time, when she had entered his room & found him packing. “But why now, why out of the blue” she implored for his logic. “You have known of this all this time, you faced it all along, why now? When you have been given a new beginning, the coveted job, the kind of life you always wanted. Why give it all away in the hope for your intellectual orgasm?” There was anger in her voice now mixed with concern like a dirty margarita. The lemon & tequila hit his soft spot. “Because, I have now come to realize the purposelessness of it all” He said as if shrugging the world away. “The job, the idea of this life, is ever so enticing only to a point where I will realize that it was just a ploy to allure me into believing that the world cannot be changed & I have to live forever in the chains of thought cleverly constructed for me by the this culture of intellectual arrogance”. Her eyes widened with disbelief, “What are you talking about baby? Where is all this hate coming from? What happened to you since last night?” He replied with utmost formality, “This isn’t one of those moments when a simple hug or a peck to the cheek will resolve the situation.” She glared angrily at him. Her fury could have melted the sun. “Have you been drinking?” “How many glasses of vodka have you had?”

He spotted the tone of disagreement & anger lined with concern. He calmed down, breathing heavily for a minute & broke into tears.”I can’t stand it anymore, I just can’t”. She sat by his side sliding her hand across his shoulder & kissed his ear. “Sshhh, Sshhh, Sshhh”, she tried to console him, “don’t be weak in one of the toughest moments of your life. Your tears will not wash the logic away. You know better than that.” He stared at her incredulously with tears rolling down his cheeks, astonished by the sheer maturity of the thought & precision with which she spoke. He couldn’t help but smile. “What’s the grand scheme? What is the Nobel Prize Winner of Anarchy going to say that will make the world stop turning just for a moment?” She said it with deliberate sarcasm, which he always enjoyed when she criticized him with it.

He started, “Well, to begin with…”,”Fuck you, fuck you for doing this to me & to yourself”, she interrupted, startling him. “Can you be more prosaic about this? Is this your way to begin with one of the most intimate experiences of your life?” “Wyell, tuh beghin with, blah blah” she imitated him with a horrible accent, which made him wonder did he actually sound like that? He didn’t apologize, “Well to being with..” deliberately stressing every word, “I plan to let go of everything material, letting go of every attachment which will inhibit my mind from doing anything less important than thinking about everything.” Her face had gone back to normal, a strand of hair was tracing the contours of her face which made her look less real. He explained his logic, step by step, methodically unfolding the evolution of the thought & the idea which led him to packing. She listened to his voice dispassionately like she had once listened to a heavily decorated woman in one of the soaps her mom used to watch every evening. But she knew better, that he was right. She went back to that place inside her head, ‘The Idea Engine’ she would call it, where everything that he said was making sense in an uncanny way. It was like he was the pied piper alluring her to this mystical reality of an existence, which will lead to a life time of self introspection & learning. The coup de grace was when he said by actually meaning it, “You know, sometimes the simplest things in life are the hardest to find”. She almost melted in the impracticality of his decision. “All I want to do is to sit, read, think, write. Period.”

“But what about me, what about us?” She was surprised what made her say that. He chuckled when he saw that look on her face knowing exactly what had just happened in her head. “I would be the luckiest, the happiest man on this planet if I get an intellectual companion in your form & thought”. She knew it was a trick, a mind game which he had resorted to, to convince her that he was right. She knew that he knew that she cannot live without him. His cold articulation, his wit, his cute hatred & his way of spearheading into a problem, had always made her respect him; not as a minion respects her master but as a human respects another human. He knew better than her that living one day without her would be like a permafrost for his mind. He had almost had himself believe that she was his ‘Idea Engine’. She inspired him to aspire.

“What will you do now?” She inquired in despair, angry at her own helplessness because she couldn’t help him in this moment’s worth of madness. “I will carry these books, this back pack & hitch hike my way to the country side. I will live there & work there, appreciating the pleasure & integrity of manual daily labor. I will work on a farm under some unknown farmer. I will live the simple way of life & read in my spare time. I will save money to buy more books, I will write, write till my fingers will move. I will….” “I, I & more I. Its always about you & your ideals & your puh-spectives” She mocked him with her new weapon, the feminine angst. She knew this will certainly throw him off balance since it had been one of his greatest weaknesses seeing her trapped in a corner. He hated himself for doing this to her & it showed. He frowned, almost apologetically but the flame of the thought could be seen clearly in his eyes, just simmering in a small gust of wind to regain its full glowing glory once the wind faded.

“What about your Job, your pending term? What will you tell your parents?” “I haven’t thought that through yet” He admitted apologetically. It was then she realized that something wasn’t right. This was totally unlike him, he always thinks every little detail through & runs simulations in his head for gods sake. This is not him. She started walking away from him towards the bed, to sit down, because this was too big a moment to stand & endure. He sat besides her, holding her hand in both palms as if protecting it from the harsh reality of life. He enclosed it like he did with the luminous flame of an idea of a life draped with a simple living, encouraging the freedom of thought that every man always desires. This is the same freedom that a man seeks when he looks up at the sky at those birds flapping away into oblivion, desiring one life time with wings which will lift them of their ordinary existence. But no one ever wonders about the gift that nature has offered as a sacrifice to watch a specie thrive while making others around it fade away out of existence. He always believed that the human mind must be used for what it is made for, articulation of the facts of life in order to live better off. Everything can’t be known, everything can’t be imagined by one man, it takes a generation, an era, and an epoch to recognize the truest achievement of any species. It’s one of the nature’s most cruel laws, endure & you shall be rewarded. It’s the time value of life, he thought. Discount this value with the inability of the general human population to ignore its natural impulses to stretch in the wrong directions & to get tangled up in the rat race of urban chaos. His eyes gleamed with a rhetorical stare, looking at nowhere in particular wondering about why he had to make this choice. Did she deserve this?

She mustered up the courage to finally stand up, facing him. He was still sitting by the edge of the bed staring at the floor with his eyes all red, with the friction of ideas, beliefs & emotions. She walked closer to him, holding his head in an affectionate embrace & thrust it gently against her belly. Her bosom was radiating a feeling of care which only a woman can offer. Her maternal instincts allow her to deconstruct the problem in manageable emotional chunks so that she wouldn’t feel the pain all at once. She kills herself a little bit with every emotional note passing through her like the angry precision of Beethoven’s fingers on his piano. Yet the comforting embrace is all that is necessary since the beginning of time, to endure that turmoil. She offered it to him, embraced him tightly so as to hold him there with her & not allow him to go. He gave in, & hugged her hips & sobbed. She caressed his hair, ran her long slender fingers through them & made him believe in the affection. I don’t think any animal in the entire classification of fauna is capable of this ‘touch of belief’. He let go of her, staring right at her with wet crimson eyes. “Can we do this together? Can we live through this life with a hopeless dream of simplicity & thought in a world where no one will appreciate it?”

She started to weep by the time he finished his sentence, “I don’t know, I really don’t know, but isn’t it exciting, this feeling of not knowing. This unbridled uncertainty of life. Why run away from it with a false excuse, why choose certainty for the sake of choosing it. Let’s not kid ourselves into believing that the grass will be greener on the other side. Every way of life has its own set of realities & its own set of oddities which will again inspire us to get disgusted & realize that it wasn’t simple all along. Instead, the surest test of natural selection would be live through & survive through the path & the habitat that has been offered to us.”

He saw the fallacy in his logic, the escapist zeal which had had him blinded. He stood up held her by her shoulders & hugged her gently & held her in an embrace till so-called eternity in anti-gravity.


SKR said...

Today I read ur blog and believe me I was so moved that I could not move from the page for some time ,I was just analysing that why i am working for someone elae and what ll be the ultimate outcome of this effort.

Thanks for giving a new life to the human side of my personality.


Sushant Kumar

El Mariachi said...

You have managed to put down into words a turmoil which i think i myself am going thru.

"Being obsessed about not being obsessed," as u rightly said.

But because of certain recent events i believe I am coming out of it. Reading this story is one of them.