It is dark and late. The zero hour of tryst of day and night. Swapnil is lying in his bed, tossing and turning trying to sleep, but cannot get his mind to rest. He is undergoing an explosion of thoughts that he believes to be the ‘torture of mind’. He envisions his mind as a horse running wildly in disparate directions defying the charioteer who cannot put a bridle to it. The more he tries to halt or stop his mind, the more it seems to get on.
He begins to witness the random thoughts that are bursting in his mind to gauge its depth and extension. He trails his mind through his inner eye to test and fathom the sphere of imagination by delving abruptly into the labyrinth of thoughts. He tries to summon his favourite erotic thoughts in his mind. He thinks his thoughts are his free will, devoid of any shackles that abounds society because it can feast him with the pleasures that otherwise, society taboos. He can quench his sensuality and tantalizing desires through his dreams where he can have anything and anyone that society makes inaccessible to him.
But, the pleasures are transient and he feels strangled in them. Twirling and feeling irritated, as not being able to sleep or even satisfy himself of some lively imagination, he wills to get up and light the bulb of the room he lives in. But his indolence has coiled him like a snake that prevents him from moving an inch away from the bed. So, he opens his eyes and stares in the dark.
Dark can be very illuminating, he thinks. Staring into nothingness can truly enlighten someone. He falls into the darkness to stumble onto the light that has enlightened various spiritual gurus.
He loves the small room he lives in. The room could accommodate only a single person. It was packed with him and his belongings. And though he had left his home thin and slender, he had grown into an adult man. He had accomplished his childhood yearning (which he developed from watching advertisements) of shaving with foam and Gillette razor. This, according to him, was the metamorphosis of a child into a man. He had also grown chest hair which he flaunts proudly.
The room has served him very well in all these years of loneliness when he is away from his home. It had never given him the burden of cleaning and yet maintained its aura of being cozy and comfortable. He had always sought refuge in its ambience, in its walls that he loves. He shares all his intimate and private feelings to these walls that listen to him. It is with the walls of the room that he ruminates all his thoughts without having apprehensions of being judged.
A room cramped yet capacious. Confined yet accommodating. He thinks he would miss it more than his college or the course books that he is indifferent to. His heart and mind is burdened with the weightlessness of the curriculum. He doesn’t know how he has plunged into this detachment with life, he once enjoyed intensely.
His intellect reverberates a feeling of being trapped. Trapped between expectations and emotions, between reality and dream, between past and present, between present and future.
He had fabricated his own reality to continue onto the path as shown and trodden by society. The path to oblivion, the path of alienation.
He cannot remember the time he took this path. It was as if his birth has been the very marker of this journey he was upon. He had chosen this path by his own. He had dreamt a goal; an ambition of becoming a bureaucrat.
He, however, remembers asking his father when he had started becoming visible, as to what he should aspire for? He remembers his teacher asking ‘what is your goal’ to some of his fellow friends. He was a good student and so the thought of not being able to reply to the inquiry made upon him by his teachers made him get, not search his answer because he was taught of not searching for things society already knows of.
He got the answer that anything that was worth becoming in this society where power, money and above all, honour is craved would be to become a civil bureaucrat. This was the highest in order of echelon of power, especially in developing nations, where the bureaucrat tends to steer and drive the wheel of the country.
Power automatically bestows money and money are the source or repository of much-worshiped honour in the country.
Though not forced, he chose to passionately follow the dream of becoming an administrative officer since he was also fascinated and mesmerized by the red beacons that purportedly, being the symbol of power, was fixed atop the immaculate white ambassador that carried the administrative civil servants, as they were called. This goal at least provided him the path he can walk upon or else he would be left drifting.
He realized that only speaking of the goal of becoming an administrative officer commands or wields honour in society. He already rose to the echelon of being the torch bearer to the whole of his generation in the family. He was lifted to the pedestal from where it would be hard to step down. He kept his dream safe in his chart papers where he would calligraphically write IAS (Indian administrative system) to constantly motivate him in his noble pursuit. He carried with him the blessings of everyone in the family who really wanted him to be an administrative officer. Indeed, it was he, who wanted the weight of blessings in his account of labour and hard work that were purportedly said to be the only key to success.
Blessings, which would metamorphose into a burden, as he stepped out of his well and entered the world where he was given a safe margin to ride freely.
Though he still wants to hold on to the dream, he feels bounded, as his fore-determination of becoming a bureaucrat is restricting him to explore an unknown territory; to pursue something else.
The security of his career path no longer seems to be desirable. Instead, he wants insecurity. He craved for indecency. He aspired to be a vagabond. He does not want to know the end or goal. He just wants to travel, to savour his journey. To live in present. The kind where he lives in the present only when it lets go off the apparent thread of the future and cherishes the uncertainty that comes as the virtue of being in present. It allows us to gravitate towards our passion. Insouciant you realize the salient.
He knew he had not been like this from his childhood. He was flexible, innocent of the maquillage of society. He had forgotten to enjoy every little thing. The majestic sunset, which was awe-inspiring to him, was now a common everyday phenomenon. Though he had watched it today with the same sense of devotion after all these years, he had to literally squeeze out time to look at it from the heavy pages of his course books. He could feel every breeze that embraced him.
Watching a bird flying in that moment was a riveting experience for him as he also wanted to fly and float with his arms open and eyes closed, unaware of any goal and destination. There was no attempt by the sky to conceal anything neither did it try to construct any uniformity, he thought. The beauty lied in its abject portrayal of chaos and disjunction that made up for the unity in vastness. The sky signified the duality of existence, finite and limited yet boundless and magnificent.
The moment seized him and every part of him wanted to strive for breaking free, to reveal the hidden hypocrisy of the society that always tried to dress and cover its ugliness with uniformity and order.
He wanted to discard the clothes of expectations, norms, mores, and ambitions crafted by the society and come open in naked and scream his voice all through it. He had noticed the utter nonsense taught by society to become accepted in its chores. The lies that masquerades the truth of existence.
He had noticed how people teach their children in the art of believing and not knowing. Of not experimenting and taking things for granted. Of course, it had backfired at them at times. He chuckled at one such memory. He had seen parents teaching their child of all etiquettes and falling prey in their own constructed world when the child notices their conduct.
A teacher who knows nothing other than promoting a lust among students for marks and grades teaches the course on morality. He does nothing other than dissuading a student to search and question belief systems perpetrated by the society. He encourages everyone to fall in line.
The deception of in-group and out-group, we and they, fogs the minds of every class of people.
The fidelity of society.
This is the way people continue their game of living lies, to justifiably hatch conspiracies to not only sustain themselves but glutton resources by denying others their basic fulfilments.
This stark inequity is visible in every nook and corner of the country. But, people choose to veil their eyes to this fact by calling it the natural order arrived on the basis of merit.
Merit, which people hold to exist in the vacuum. Merit, proselytized into a new ‘God’. The God that evolves through a just process of competition. The God that bestows hundreds of thousands of blessings to its worshippers and punishes those who attempts to disturb this natural order.
This is the design of God evoked through the sacrifice of society to keep the light to themselves.
To justify superiority from other race. To justify inequality among its own race-between men and women, between lower and upper, between them and we.
Swapnil had passed hours contemplating this design of society. He wants to sculpt his own drawing. He looked for his mobile, no longer needing the assistance of light, to call his parents.
He knew his parents would never force him to do anything once he communicates his will to them. But he is wary that it would make them uneasy that their child wants to traverse an unknown path, not recommended by society. Also, it is really late. They will be sleeping now, he thought. But he couldn’t. So, he decides to call. He cuts an ongoing call allowing it a brief life.
He is now expecting their call had they come out of their slumber on a charge of a late night call from their son.
He is at the pains to decide what to do. He had never called his parents this late. Had they only noticed that it is their son calling, they would definitely retort back in no time. Swapnil does not want to call again.
But he does not want to live anymore in disguise. He wants to begin his own journey. He has not been able to sleep. So, he calls again allowing the call rings to derive breath from his nervousness. This time someone had picked the call. He is at loss to speak. He hangs up.
But he knows that this time, he had been successful in breaking the unconsciousness of his parents who would call back to decipher this late call by their son. He will also talk to them. This will be the end of pretensions, he thinks. He cannot cheat himself and his parents.
The phone ringed and he picked up. He is speaking something to his father who cajoles him to speak. His voice shrieks. He is moving, trying to hold his voice. The talk goes longer than usual and it was Swapnil who was speaking today. Usually, his parents spoke to him and he would just reply laconically. But this morning it was the other way round.
He could dream afterward.