Castaway of Covidia
Castaway of Covidia14 mins 80 14 mins 80
It was a sunny day. The Garden City had woken up for one more day of roller coaster ride. The Grand Hall in the International Convention Centre of Bangalore was abuzz with the curious audience. The 3000 seating capacity Hall was already packed. Still, a bee-line of more people longing to get in thronged the lounges and the portico of the Convention Centre. Entrepreneurs, scholars, professionals, students and educationists were among that crowd. The Centre was hosting “Bold Talks”, a signature event that is popular among the millennials. The theme of the Talk was as intriguing as surfing on the tsunami waves. The speaker was no less captivating.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to today’s talk”, the presenter commenced the session finally after the crowd settled with great difficulty.
“Introspection is the key to move forward for any entity. The subject of today’s talk ‘Self Discovery or Self Destruction – Do we have a choice?’ is one such exercise” the presenter continued while the audience were eagerly waiting for the speaker to appear on the stage.
“To deliberate on the subject, we have here an acclaimed orator, software professional turned social entrepreneur and one and only Mr.Ram Manohar. It gives me immense pleasure sir to welcome you to the stage and request you to take charge of this fascinating session”, the presenter retreated to the front row and joined the audience.
“My dear Comrades of the Mission Absolute Hegemony, I welcome you all to today’s brainstorming session on our excellence in destruction and immorality”, the audience roared with the opening reference.
“The theme of the talk is a tight slap on the face of the human race”, the crowd had taken aback at the audacity of the Speaker.
“We emerged victorious in the game of survival of the fittest. We set the rules of the game and the rules are non-negotiable. No other species on the planet earth have any bargaining space. We have mastered the art of immorality in an attempt to attain immortality.
We have changed the course of the mighty rivers, flattened the hills, scooped out the plains, drained out the underground aquifers, turned the forests into toilet paper, decimated most of our sister species and endangered rest of them and transformed the hydrosphere into an open cesspool of colossus.
Our quest for supremacy knew no bounds. Our acts of cruelty with impunity are unpardonable. The game is one sided and the victory is absolute '', the audience were in stunned silence while Mr.Ram Manohar vociferously presented the progress card of humanity.
“But whether the Homo sapiens (meaning wise men) are homogenous in all spheres of life? Whether the spoils of common conquest are distributed to all equitably? If all are wise, why are some of them fooling the others? These fundamental questions have either been unanswered or overlooked conveniently. It has been an endless saga of dominance, destruction and deprivation. In the process, we have discovered many things hitherto unknown.
We have trotted the globe, pierced through the space, analysed the matter to its tiniest level, re-created the divine creation and what not? The untimely floods, rising temperatures, frequent pandemics, melting glaciers are the symptoms of vengeance of nature and indications of our imminent termination.”, he continued with more vigour and passion.
“We have almost reached the end of the road. It is either self-destruction or self-discovery now. Do we really have a choice? We have incorrigible convictions about the means of progress. But we need to change and that change has to come from within. Any coercive change is only cosmetic.
I would like to narrate the story of my accidental self-discovery”, he mellowed down and started unfolding the transformational incident that occurred in his life raising the curiosity of the audience.
- - - - -
“It was late March. The Sun was preparing for his long summer innings with the Indian populace. The rural folk have hardly any work and the urban ones were slogging their asses to meet the year end burden. Like best of the donkeys, I slogged my butt off for years and suddenly decided to take a break. I tried to test my luck with Railways and set out on a trip from Bangalore by train.
After a tedious haul of 36 hrs, the engine stopped short of kissing the terminal buffers, bringing the train to final halt. Babbling on the platforms brought me to the senses. Wearing my heavy rucksack on to my shoulders, I tried to navigate through motley crowds running berserk to catch the trains. I visited Howrah station quite often and I always feel like Kumbh Mela within the walls of Ricardo's Romanesque building.
But this time I felt it like Maha Kumbh Mela. Crowds were pouring in. Platforms were creaking. No space left unoccupied on the open lounges. Widest entrance of the station appeared awfully narrow for the streaming crowds. The station subway looked like a gigantic conveyor belt with moving crowds. The Eastern chatterboxes were testing their decibel levels escalating the pandemonium.
The sight of endless crowds has drawn my thoughts to what was happening in the world over and froze at the idea that "what happens if India catches Corona?" Phone call from the Uber driver unfreezed me. I headed towards the exit and barged into the taxi.
Taxi plied through the hustle and bustle of Kolkata. It meandered along the marshy gulfs and cleaved through the greenish paddy fields flanked by fish ponds. It finally reached the coastal town of Anandpur. Seeing the Hotel, I felt relieved after a tedious long trip and checked into the Room for a refreshing bath and had a sumptuous breakfast. Feeling of soothe and ecstasy engulfed my body and mind. This is not without reason.
Being a Software Engineer by profession, I was addicted to challenge both the digital and the biological clocks day in and day out in return for a fat pay cheque. As the cheque becomes fatter, my luxurious living lost its bounds and I have acquired everything except peace in life. In the mad race for money and crazier things, I forgot to live and remained deadwood for years. The urban jungle made me wilder. Suddenly, I felt like reclaiming my inner peace and decided to embark on a trip to the dream Island of Covidia.
The Island of Covidia is a beautiful landmass off the coast of Bengal. It is 75 kms from the nearest town of Anandpur and accessible by two swanky Ferries - Chlorine and Quinine. These ferries shuttle two trips a day. With new found energy and exhilaration, I have reached the Ferry lines. Jetties at these lines were sparsely populated. Chlorine had already left and I boarded the Quinine. Finally, my dream trip had begun.
Quinine sailed through the gushing waters of Bay of Bengal. The last man on the jetty waved his hand to his friends as the Chlorine and the Quinine cruised forward and slowly dissolved into a vast hydrosphere. Cool sea breeze, tender rays of the morning sun and the flight of seagulls stirred the lens-man in me and took out my Canon DSLR from my rucksack. Soon I was lost in the mood of the ocean. Quinine covered 40 knots and my dream spot was well within the zoom range of my black beauty. Finally, we have landed on the island.
People started exploring to make most of the trip. A bronze notice board erected on a marvellous concrete Welcome Arch had some instructions to the visitors. One point in particular caught my attention. “Island remains closed from 6 pm to 6 am”, it says. "Interesting", I shrugged and proceeded in the North Eastern direction. I hardly found any permanent structures along.
The leading wide road started shrinking. My heart amused with fresh aura of the pristine nature put my feet on an aimless expedition deep into the mangroves. These brackish swamp forests were full of life with macaques jumping off the trees, Spotted Deers hopping the open grasslands, Kingfishers aiming for the feast, Starks, Jungle Babblers and Grey Herons were at their melodious best.
With burgeoning curiosity, I started capturing nature's bounty through the lens. I lost sense of hunger and exhaustion and strolled along the meandering pathways through the groves, lakes and grasslands.
A Purple Heron standing single legged on a brownish hump in a brackish lake inspired my lens to zoom. While my lens caught the bird, a golden ball on the brownish hump started winking to my surprise. Soon sprang up a saltwater crocodile with the jaws wide open roaring like a tsunami wave and I had a ride of my life on to the open grassland. Panting for breath with hands on my knees, I saw the sun turning red waiting to drown below the horizon.
"Island will remain closed from 6 pm" the golden letters of the notice board flashed in my mind. But, how to go back to the Welcome Arch? Neither had I paid any attention to the Island route map erected beside the notice board on the concrete Welcome Arch in excitement at the beginning, nor could I trace the route now.
With anxiety mounting, I opened the rucksack. Found my mobile missing which I forgot in the Hotel room. I have lost thoughts for a while and then embarked on a frightening retreat till the light failed. My walking steps were brisk but disoriented.
"Can I grapple in darkness anymore?" Answered no to myself and settled on a grassland hump cursing my fate.
It was all dark around and the forest was abound with nature's music. Thoughts of fear were slowly engulfing me. Every abnormal sound was raising alarm and my heart was pounding. I was physically exhausted and didn’t know when I fell asleep.
I woke up to the chirping of birds. Morning on the island was very fresh, so was my fear of uncertainty. I began tracing my path towards the Welcome Arch. Every path was looking like a known one. I was perspiring profusely due to constant walk albeit cool breeze. Sun has already covered half his day’s journey though I didn’t know about my whereabouts. I ate all the stuff I brought with me.
My feet were swift but the guiding brain was clueless about the direction. As the luck would have it, I had a glimpse of the concrete Welcome Arch. I ran like a sprinter and reached the entrance in no time. It was all deserted and none could be seen. No trace of the otherwise beautiful Ferry. It was only 4 pm. My brain was working with mercurial speed as to what could be the reason. Night had fallen and I was getting hungry. But my thoughts were about the indefinite uncertainty and the reasons there for.
‘Any tsunami alert and the consequent evacuation?’
‘Any war by chance declared by China?’
‘Any cyclone forecast for the fisher folks and the tourists?’
Is it Covid-19 lockdown like China, US & Europe?
While a constant stream of doubts were flowing through my mind and as the hunger drained all my energy, I dropped into deep slumber. I woke up to see a calm sea but I was still in a state of quandary.
Having no other option, I had decided to explore the island. I was no longer in a hurry. More than the beauty of the trees, the fruits hanging even to the farthest branch were appealing to my eyes. I thought it was time for some gathering if not hunting yet. Every fruit I plucked was tasty till my tummy became full. Spotted deers started staring at me as a lonely alien on the island. My second day on the island began as I headed in the South West direction this time.
I ventured every part of the island as the days passed. Every tree cared for me with nuts and fruits. The lakes and streams offered me the purest water. The grasslands gave me the best ever sleep. Nights have passed with the mellifluous symphony of the chirping birds and romantic jingles of cool breeze. The sun and the moon dispelled my solitude assuring me that I was not alone. While roaming through the mangroves, counting the tides, swimming across the lakes, echoing the babblers, giggling at the macaques, hopping with the rabbits, running after the deers and caressing the squirrels, I lost sense of time.
Visits to the concrete Welcome Arch have come down gradually as the hope for returning home was dwindling. I stopped counting days. It must have been more than two months. I found a new home and new lease of life. My inner self had been dormant for many years. Thanks to accidental lockdown and the serene nature of the island, it has awakened. I was completely at peace with my inner self.
“Do you like the life you are leading?”, my inner voice murmured.
“Of course, I do. The island is very peaceful, the nature is pristine.....”, I have started replying innocently.
“No, no, no..I am talking about your life just before you came over here”,
“I am earning a hefty pay. I have got many luxurious things in my possession. My team members are at my beck and call. I roam around the globe on projects”
“Well, do you have time for the things which I expect from you? Do you know that you are a mercenary?”
“Time, of course not. But, mercenary? I am not”, replied with guilt and doubt.
“You are working for a company in return for a pay and that company is working for another. These corporations are collaborative either among themselves or with the governments. These corporations and the governments are led by either wealthy individuals or the individuals supported and abetted by wealthy people.”
“So, what? They are all in the process of wealth creation”, I tried to counter.
“Well, creation of wealth is an enigma propounded and practised by the powerful people who seek dominance. Created at whose cost and at what cost? We all inherit the natural resources and the elements of nature as common entities for universal use. These individuals in the name of setting up of factories, offices, workshops, projects, economic zones, ports etc. take possession of these resources with the active support of the governments and utilise them as private property. They create wealth by producing goods and services”
“But the governments have an elaborate system of rules?”, an innocent counter sprang up from me.
“True. But who cares? The progeny of Adam Smith follow them more in breach and with impunity. You must have seen pollution all around, clogged drains, choked roads, shrinking farm lands, stinking slums, extended summers and frequent epidemics. This is a “Tragedy of Commons”. Can you escape polluted water and air or rising temperatures though you have not caused them? This is a wonderful gift to you by the wealthy few. People like you are contributing to your own tragedy with missionary zeal in return for peanuts. Tell me, are you not mercenary? ”
“Do you mean the wealth created is not distributed to all equitably? Do you think the creation of wealth itself is wrong?”, I tried to put up a feeble argument.
“Yes. Wealth created is distributed to all and governments make policies and outstanding efforts to ensure it. But is it equitable? You see the ratio of the BPL and the Billionaires. Even we don’t know with all certainty who are all Below the Poverty Line. These lines are drawn and erased from time to time. By the way, wealth creation is not wrong but the assumption that we alone live on this planet is wrong. We forget that we are part of a vast eco-system in which other species also live and the co-existence is interdependent. We also ignore the fact that the elements of nature and the natural resources harmonise the functioning of this interdependency”
“Should we blame the governments or the wealthy individuals or those who created them? Who should be blamed? What change is required?”
- - -
Ram Manohar paused for a while. The audience in the Grand Hall were agitated. “We want an answer!, we want an answer!”, a resounding voice echoed in the Hall.
- - -
He continued sharing the dialogue between him and his inner self.
“SELF DISCOVERY. Yes, you heard it right. Self discovery is the answer. We have now reached the end of the road. Now nature will take vengeance against our evil acts. The indications are very much before us already. We should revisit the present means of progress and ways of modern living. Our definition of happiness is so narrow that the well being of other species or entities has no space in it.
The game of survival of the fittest is a zero sum game where everybody is bound to play an equal role for collective success. Success of a single entity at the cost of others leads to disharmony and the vicious cycle continues leading towards total destruction”, inner voice continued in prescriptive mode.
“Is that so simple? Whether individuals introspect and act as their inner voice says?”, I countered apprehensively.
“Why not? You have no choice. If you don’t, nature will compel you to do so. Have you not seen the people locking themselves in their lovely concrete cages for months together world over due to Covid-19 Pandemic? Who knows you are also locked up in this island for the same reason. Change has already begun but the agents of such change are a microscopic minority. NGOs, Trusts, Eminent people, philanthropic organisations and social entrepreneurs are working on this change. It is a welcome sign. Change shall begin with one’s self. The enlightened individuals drive this transformation among the society. Governments and corporations will have no choice but to transform for the common good of the planet”, Inner self warned.
“Ok. I agree with you. Self discovery is the answer. Sooner the better!”, I concurred with my inner self.
- - -
The presenter reaching the stage with great curiosity asked, “Sir, when did you leave the island?”
“Well, my solitary confinement in the island continued for a few more days. I found it an opportunity to discover myself. One day, the beautiful ferries brought visitors to the island again. I preferred to stay back for a few more months and worked out on how to take forward this new found wisdom. Finally returned home only to become a social entrepreneur and work with a hope that this planet becomes a true home to all. Thank you all for a patient hearing.”
The Hall resounded with thunderous applause.