On the beginning and end of stories, of you, I and us
I’ve noticed, of late, that while some stories are scripted to end,
others end with a scripting. In other words, there is life after death.
I’ve asked myself again and again whether the belief that a story ends
when the chapter is closed is the greatest illusion or the most innocent
I look around at the things that lie before me and wonder where they
came from and where they will end up going. Things like lives, words and
poetry, silences and melodies, people, relationships, political
ideologies, organizations, technologies, nations and philosophies.
There are times I am convinced that all things are made of water. Or
at least, they are like the ways of water. The ‘water ways’ of things
refer to constant movement, transformation of shape and core when
shuffled in a card pack made of temperatures, containers, light-shade
play, sleight of hand and optical illusion.
Let’s take water. There must be a tap or a container of water
somewhere close to where you are. There must be a puddle of water. A
little pool at the end of the hose pipe used to water the plants. Dew
drops, perhaps. Beads of sweat on the tip of your nose. Perhaps there’s
a cup of tea. Or you’ll encounter it in wash basin or toilet bowl.
Imagine mud, the heady mix of water and earth, so wonderfully
welcoming of tired feet. Imagine something less pliant to poetic fix;
something like the poisons running down sewers. Where did it come from?
Where will it go?
Your body is made mostly of water. Where was that water two days ago?
Two hours ago? Where will it be two years from now? In which body or
bodies? Will the water that you are sipping in the form of a lime-juice
drink right now be discharged later on by a cow into a drain that will
carry it into some bio-gas producing contraption?
Think the reverse? The ‘mineral water’ that sparkles from plastic
containers tinted with blue to give the illusion of purity, before it
was ‘contained’ could very well have spent some time in the Beira Lake
or being part of the Nile or Volga, a glacial compact, the ice cube that
was tossed to a ruggerite to keep on a gashed kneecap. Was it laced with
a poisonous concoction to kill an inconvenient investigator, a rival
business tycoon or political opponent?
Forget water. Think of words. Where were they born, where and where
have they resided, strayed, got wounded, inflicted wound, tossed
carelessly, locked away when needed most, and what is their final
Who else has caressed them and did the caresser leave signature of
touch before it came to you and when you played with it did the warmth
of that touch help identify the warmth-giver? Have you wondered if you
are robbed when someone uses the word you once used? What do you lose,
what do you gain?
Forget water. Forget word. Think of people. Aren’t we made of the
people who walked through our lives? Yes, we are. We are also made of
the grace and invective of the people whose lives we walk through. Each
encounter re-makes us. Adds. Subtracts. Overturns. And, sometimes, even
burns or buries.
In each encounter, we too add, subtract; even burn and bury. Resident
in self are all those who came before and all those yet to arrive.
Nations are made, for example, of history and futures, imagined,
blue-printed and of course beyond conceiving.
Forget water. Forget word. Forget people. Think of ideas. Where did
they come from? Are all the ideas we take to be ours, home-made? We
drink from wells that others painstakingly dug and draw from the roots
of trees planted by people whose names we are ignorant of.
We still qualify statement and question with lines like ‘in my
opinion’, ‘my idea is,’ ‘I think’, etc. Not wrong, no. We do synthesize,
our signature gets inscribed willingly or not. Still, nothing belongs to
us. Not even ourselves.
We are like water. We are shaped by the containers we find ourselves
in. Yes, who we are is determined by a container made of several kinds
of material. Place. The books we encountered and those we picked. The
people we met. The things we saw. The music we heard. The touch that
mesmerized and the turning away that broke us. All, all, each and
everything described by one thing. Movement. Transience, if you prefer.
We say emphatically ‘Chapter Closed!’ Finality is thrown at us. And
there are times, moment of utmost clarity, when we murmur, ‘if only...’
But life is not forgiving.
It does not forbid nor sanction, true, but in the end, the universe
of our ignorance being infinite, we are nothing more nothing less than
half-blind half-wits blundering along. If we have some humility and
compassion, we can reasonably hope not to step on too many toes, but
even this is not assured.
Still, I think if someone tells you that on certain nights mountain
and ocean exchange places and that in the monumental moving, a human
being encounters him/herself, it is prudent not to laugh, for encounter
can generate smile as well as tear and we really don’t know if two days
ago, our water was the life-blood of the person who insulted us or if
two days from now it will get discharged into a urinal by someone we
If we stop and wonder if we really are who we think we are, we might
find that we are part of those we intensely dislike. I think we’ll find
that stories really don’t ever end or begin, regardless of chapters
being opened or closed.
We will also realize that whoever said that time heals everything was
lying because time is but a pain-killer and the only true physician is
death (or, if you subscribe to Buddhist cosmology, ‘the state of