Shuntoo: Ketchup

“I do not want to be a part of this complex cycle of needless absurdities.”

This was Shuntoo’s response to my advice that he should seriously think about getting a steady job or, if he could not persuade himself to work for someone, to start a small business of his own.

“Complex cycle of needless absurdities?” I repeated. “Sounds good, but doesn’t make much sense” I said with a smile.

“That’s what this whole business world is, bacchay! Let me explain. Do we need tomato ketchup?”

“Well!….” I began but the son of bitch waved a hand to shut me up yet again.

“I am not asking you bacchay! It was just a statement. No matter how good it makes the food taste, we do not need it. But someone suddenly decides that it would be a good idea to make tomato ketchup. So he gets a loan from a bank, hires architects and laborers to build a factory, hires all kinds of staff like engineers, accountants, food experts, drivers, security guards and what not, starts purchasing tomatoes from farmers and is on his way. He then hires marketing people to sell the ketchup, advertising agents to let the world know he’s made ketchup and still other agents to supply it to the markets. He hires more accountants and lawyers to take care of his tax matters. He even hires agencies to give speeches to his employees to motivate them. The list is endless.”

“So?” I was confused and annoyed. I was annoyed because he was confusing me and my confusion probably stemmed partly from the fact that I was getting annoyed for no apparent reason. “What’s wrong with all this?”

“Bacchay!” he was smiling his patronizingly irritating and irritatingly patronizing smile again. “I never said there was anything wrong with it. I said I found it absurd. What purpose does all this serve. Except that it makes sure that all these people make money. Why? To buy things, things like …….” here he paused for a moment before saying “tomato ketchup.”

He lit a Marlboro and continued. “If one fine day the world realizes that it does not want tomato ketchup, the whole edifice falls, doesn’t it? And as I said, I don’t want to be part of this.”

I wanted to explain to him that he was wrong, but I just couldn’t figure out how.

I just wondered.

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Shuntoo: the power to ignore

“One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the power to ignore,” said Shuntoo, talking to no one in particular.

“What?” I was a little surprised at this sudden irrelevant comment while I was in the middle of a serious conversation with a friend.

“It is such a great power that if mankind begins to understand its potential, the possibilities are limitless.”

“Shuntoo, you……” I tried but he ignored me.

“Imagine! If only we could master this power. Nothing would matter anymore. If we could ignore pain, and I am not saying not feel pain, just feel and then ignore it.”

“Shuntoo, we….” The bastard continued to ignore me.

“Pain would cease to have any effect on our performance other than merely informing us that something is wrong somewhere in our bodies, a problem that we would be free to tackle whenever we want.”

“That is easier said than…..” he continued as if I did not exist.

“Imagine if we could ignore other people, their idiotic actions and even sillier words, weather conditions, political turmoil, all the hunger, hatred, sadness, agony, stupidity, and whatever we felt like ignoring. We could perform to the best of our abilities under all circumstances then. Oh! What a gift it is! The power to ignore!”

“Are you saying that…..”

“And I don’t mean that we don’t see these things or become insensitive. Just that if we master this art, we could ignore whoever or whatever we wanted whenever we wanted and make our lives free of so much bullshit.”

“So, if we…..” he just got up, lit a Marlboro and walked out the door. And I suddenly realized. Shuntoo had already mastered the art.

“And by proving that we have been dealt a bad hand, we want our audience to tell us that under the conditions that we live in, our mere existence is enough. That whatever shit we are doing in the world is an act of supreme courage. That we are heroes, we do not need to do anything else. Donkeys! If you can’t get off your asses, if you can’t face the world for whatever little stupid reason, at least admit that you are not great and live happily. If we are too meek to attempt greatness, why can’t we find solace in our meekness? Why insist that for us the rules change, and meekness become greatness?”~ Shuntoo

“We are not unhappy because we are doing the right things and the others are not, neither are we discontent because we are not on the right track. We are dissatisfied because we do not have the first clue about what right and wrong are. We have either no standards to judge this or multiple standards which keep contradicting each other.”~Shuntoo

“We want the consolation that we are doing enough with our lives. And since we know damn well that we are not doing even close to anything that can be mistaken by a blind man to be enough, we want others to reassure us. We want to exaggerate every hardship, anything that remotely resembles a difficulty when viewed from the most pessimistic angle possible. We want to go on and on about how the world is unfair to us. What a crappy thing to say, as if the world or nature or God owes us anything at all. As if we deserved a single thing we actually got.”~Shuntoo

Shuntoo: Why does it always happen to only me

I thought that a species like him did not have any aim in life since he did not take anything seriously. Or if he had an aim it must be too ridiculous for a mere mortal like me to understand. However, in the past week, I saw two instances that hinted at the possibility that maybe Shuntoo did have an aim after all, to try his best to reveal the absurdities (or what Shuntoo believes to be absurdities) in our everyday thinking. I should not take too much credit for figuring this out though, since it was Shuntoo himself who told me this in his inimitable style. When I ventured to ask why he could not reply to normal everyday remarks in the usual, non-rude fashion, he smiled and said,

“I pride myself in being able to ignore and tolerate anything that life throws at me, including your normal everyday remarks. But, bacchay! Sometimes when a complete absurdity is addressed to me, I consider it my obligation to reveal to whoever is addressing me the complete ridiculousness of his utterance.”

Less than a week ago, a mutual friend of ours was complaining about how immensely problematic his life had become and how his wife, his job, his kids, his parents, his income and what not were all way below the required standards. Shuntoo, in his customary manner, was simply nodding his head and smiling a little from time to show him that he was interested whereas if I know Shuntoo at all, he wasn’t even listening since he is least interested in such stories. However, our friend, probably not being satisfied with this response, finally said

“Please tell me Shuntoo! Why does this always happen to only me?”

That is where Shuntoo looked him in the eyes, gave one of his most cynical smiles and asked.

“Hmm! Who else would you want this to happen to?”

“I didn’t mean that. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. But…..” Before he could continue Shuntoo said

“So you should remove the ‘only’ from your question. Now, how many times has this happened to you? How many wives have you had? How many sets of parents? How many jobs?”

“Well, just one of each, but ….” our friend was a little perplexed at these questions and more than a little annoyed when Shuntoo cut him off once again.

“So better take the ‘does’ and the ‘always’ out of this statement as well. Now, what do you exactly think is happening to you? If you are absolutely clear about it, tell me in one sentence.”

“Well!” now our friend was completely confused. “What’s happening to me is not that specific, but ….”

Cutting him off once again, Shuntoo continued, “There goes the ‘this’ too. Now, all that is left in your statement is ‘Why happen to me?’ So what you actually want to ask is why something is happening to you. Well, pyaarey, that’s because you exist. And when you exist things will happen.”

“But Shuntoo!” to my surprise, our friend was still ready to continue the conversation. “You don’t understand my problems. The situation is …….”

As our friend continued explaining his woes, Shuntoo reverted to the nod-smile-nod response.