Doing Nothing, Growing GrassWhy does life always go round and round, leading us nowhere?
I celebrated the silver jubilee of my nativity last month, not with revelry as one might expect, but with heavy doses of sluggishness. Having lived (or rather wasted?) my late teens and early twenties in Oli’s ‘dust-free’ Kathmandu, I am naturally prone to be lazy. Till this day, if you ask me about some of my biggest achievements, I’d gladly say that I have killed a lot of time during weekends and vacations staring into the horizon, watching sparrows chasing one another, sitting on a wicker chair with a vacant mind, doing nothing.
My old school, where I had squandered 13 years of my life, is not proud of me, but that is a different story altogether. Educational brokers garland doctors and engineers and CAs, not sluggards like me. They want to produce more brokers, not disillusioned romantics. Speaking of being proud, my mom—the opposite of a typical snob—is rather worried about my condition and my career.
“You spend a lot of time doing nothing,” she says.
I mutter an approval.
“Are you thinking of something?”
“No, nothing important.”
“Then, what on earth are you doing?” she cries out, grabbing my arm.
“You’ll be no good,” she says, looking into my eyes. “You’ll waste your whole life sitting on the veranda, doing nothing!”
And how right she has been. I really have done nothing much, nor do I plan to. These days, however, I do not sit on the wicker chair. I have bought a comfortable armchair. On most days I sink into it—with an unopened book of verse perched comfortably on my chest, its heaviness lodged in my spirit—and stare out of the window at the trees by the dusty, graveled road. Occasionally, I see mountains. The trees have been there as long as I remember, standing upright like soldiers at frontiers. The mountains look like ibex horns, piercing through the sky. Sometimes, when I am tired of staring at these dualities, I look straight into nothingness and try to find an invisible energy connecting the nearby trees and the distant mountains. Like libido, but not necessarily a sexual force.
On weekdays, however, I am up by the lark. In the quiet of that time of the day, I meditate upon all things in heaven and hell, discarding yesterday’s heaviness with resounding farts. After all, humans are nothing but pooping and pissing machines. Think of Hanif Khureshi’s The Story of Turd or Peter J Karthak’s incipit of the double helical novel, Kathmandruids. Like Odysseus preparing for his long voyage, I take time in preparing myself for the long day that lies ahead.
When satisfied with the business of crapping, I walk into the kitchen, brew sugarless tea, and lazily dunk a coconut biscuit into it. I do a light jog to the bus station, inhaling the neo-Marxist, suburban dust, and board an overly crowded bus. Inhaling the smell wafting from unwashed armpits and uncleaned mouths, I reach to the centre of this great metropolis. I drag my legs and my lethargic body into a cowshed of a government college. First, I venture into its infernal toilet, pee on the wall, eye the vulgar messages, check the numbers carved in red that promise endless blowjobs and heavenly satisfaction, spit yellow phlegm onto them, drop F-bombs into the air five times—like a transcendental mantra that clears my throat, my mind—and saunter across another dilapidated building to attend the classes. People call it getting knowledge; I call it wrecking the otherwise ‘okay’ mind.
Dust on the desk, dust on the bench. Moping the caked dust with bare hands, I put my bum on the uncomfortable wooden bench, plant my elbows on the rickety desk, and look ahead into nothingness. Was it Socrates who said that nothing worthwhile can be taught, or was it Aristotle? Who cares? I look ahead for what seems like an eternity; boredom pulps my brain. I hear voices: a long screech of literary theory, muffled gossip about Shakespeare, modernism and its caterwauling. I keep staring until images lose their charms, and what remains is nothing more than the undecipherable whispering in peevish undertones.
In recess, I stuff my hollow mouth with greasy samosas and slurp cardamom-scented, watery tea to shove the morsel down my throat. When my appetite is satiated, I walk into the toilet again, cough and spit, pee and curse, and head back to the lectures. Hunched over a thick, pirated book, I keep counting the words in each sentence, back and forth, until I lose the rudimentary knowledge of mathematics and stare at the black letters with asinine eyes. The people who share the same bench with me, without any reason or rhyme, keep correcting the old professors’ pronunciation and make fun of their illegible handwriting.
In this semi-literate, ultra-hedonistic society, what matters most are fake accents and beautiful penmanship. People go gaga over exquisite pronunciation; they even get multiple orgasms when someone pronounces words like ‘epitome’ or ‘quartz’ correctly. A land of culturally colonised people, we always become the miniature citizens of Lilliput when we meet the Gulliver of a white-skinned person. We naturally want to bow down, suck on his toes, and hide our identities in the soles of his feet. To borrow VS Naipaul’s words, we are the mimic men; or are we the hollow men as prophesied by TS Eliot back in the days of high modernism?
Whatever we are or we will turn out to be, I’m utterly bored and whole-heartedly dejected by the whole fiasco of this accent and handwriting things. Why should rice-and-dal munching, swarthy people like us speak in bogus tongues and forget our roots? Or should we all take GREs and fly to the newfoundland of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I am ignobly bored all over again. I barely want to move a muscle.
Just to make a few thousand rupees, I travel in an over crammed mini-bus and reach the cubicle of a workstation. I check emails: a plethora of condescending remarks disguised in euphemisms. I reply to some of them—I say thank you for the job to all my bosses who keep ogling one another’s wives. I lick their toes. I feign happiness and content.
Walking in a classroom jam-packed with teenagers, their seminal ducts overflowing, their ovaries starving, I’m reminded of the fact that I belong to another age: I’m, in fact, a man from the past. I find myself alien amid these ultra-modern kids with iPads, iPhones, iPods, and iPills. Why do I always keep forgetting that I’m in the middle of 21st century where sex is free and so are contraceptives? This is the age of the fourth wave feminism, where people define themselves based on their sexual organs: even sexuality these days is a fluid concept, forever changing and transforming into something unique.
A sluggard, I lazily and categorically commit my duty. I get off from work, reach home, making a full circle. Is it the same circle Buddha had made when he had left the riches of his palace, seeking refuge in the harshness of tantric practices of Samanas, deserting them when not being able to achieve the coveted enlightenment, and again becoming a merchant under the apprenticeship of Kamaswami? Why does life always go round and round, leading us nowhere?
To call it a day nonetheless I watch some porn, masturbate, listen to Pink Floyd, scroll the news feed for the umpteenth time, and slowly lose myself in the vicissitudes of this wretched thing called ‘life.’ I close my eyes and picture a better world: one that is less painful, less frustrating. Soon, I’m walking across the Atlantic, just like the speaker from one of the Billy Collins’s poems, and reach the lonely island with unfazed energy.
I see semi-naked angels, hands outstretched as if in welcome, their skin cool against the heat of the midday sun. I press my face against their fleshy curves and forget my name. And suddenly blades of grass sprout out of my balding head.
Adhikari is a student of English Language and Literature in Tribhuvan University. He tweets as @bibek_writes.