“What are you up to?” Shuntoo asked as he entered my house.
“Nothing much. Just flipping channels.” I replied and he just turned around and left. I was left confused and didn’t know what to make of this weird behavior, not that anything less than weird could be expected of Shuntoo.
The next time he visited I insisted that he tell me why he left. After about five minutes of my insistence, which began to look more like pleading in the end, he said calmly.
“I left because you were flipping channels. And I saw that it was not because you were looking for something specific on TV. In your own words, you were just flipping channels. That means you had absolutely nothing to do. You had no serious work, no important job to distract you; there was nothing in your life at that time to waste your time. And you had all the time in the world to think, reflect, analyze, improve, and make at least a portion of your life worthwhile. Instead, you chose to flip channels in the vain hope of finding something that could distract you, waste your time, and take the pressure of using your brain off your head. And I did not feel like spending time with such an idiot.”
“Oh come on Shuntoo!” I was annoyed naturally. “Most people flip channels.”
“Ha!” he said. “I don’t like spending time with most people either.”
“I am writing a Valentine card for the love of my life. But I can’t decide what to write. Any ideas, Shuntoo?” he asked innocently.
“No.” Shuntoo replied.
“Please yaar! Help me out here.”
“I don’t know.”
And Shuntoo closed the magazine in his lap, lit a cigarette and said “Ok, how about this.
“My love! On this senseless occasion, on which we celebrate something that nobody is really sure of, celebrated in memory one of about four or five people named Valentine, nobody really knows which one, on this day which is probably the modern version of an ancient pagan festival, a day which has absolutely nothing to do with our history, culture, traditions, religion, or common sense, I just want to send you this card to show that the efforts of the media in the 90s to forcibly make this day a part of our lives in Pakistan have not been in vain. This card comes with a message of love, social conformity, and respect for the all the commercial interests who have been using this day in Pakistan to sell flowers, candies, and cards like this at exorbitant prices. This is a gesture of solidarity with all the others people who, with equally minimum knowledge of the rationale or logic behind this celebration, still have the courage to stand up for what they don’t know, to act on what they don’t understand, and to be part of something none of them can make much sense of. Please accept this token and be my Valentine. Say yes, and do not spare a thought for the fact that you have no clue what being someone’s Valentine means. I assure you neither do I. Nobody does, so let’s be a part of this occasion with all the other people. To ignorance, silliness, and blind following of the mob. Till next year. Yours……”
Oh! How we hate when our minds start working, when they start asking questions, when we begin to question the most fundamental concepts. But we rarely do that, you are thinking? Of course you are right. We hate it so much that we cannot even contemplate the possibility of such an adventure. That is why we are so keen to keep ourselves busy. That is why when we have nothing to take our minds away from the important stuff, we feel restless. That is why we have such feelings as boredom, anxiety, depression.
I might be wrong. But I am going to try and check. I am going to spend the next free time I have not thinking how to make myself busy again. I am going to give my mind the space it so badly needs. I am going to let it loose. And yes, I am a little anxious. What if, as a result, I go crazy? Well, in case I don’t, I’ll have an idea of what this is all about, and if I do go nuts, well…..then you’ll have an idea.
Is there a specific moment when one realizes that s/he is going to die? I guess there is; in fact there are many such moments, because once the inevitability of death has been recognized, a whole system denial springs into action in one’s brain trying to undo the realization, trying to forget once again what it has unintentionally remembered.
Sometimes the brain succeeds; only to stumble upon the reality again at some future time. I have seen people survive cancer, terrible car wrecks, even falls from multiple stories; what I have never seen people survive is life. Life is the most fatal of all diseases. Once you are born, you are doomed to die sooner or later. So I have stopped my brain from trying to forger death. I have decided to always remember that I am going to die. And this decision has freed up my brain; liberated it. And with this newfound freedom, I try to make sure that I don’t spend a single moment without realizing that I am alive.
Do all of us sooner or later realize that we are going to die? Yes. Do all of us eventually realize that we are alive? No. It is tragic but true. So many die without ever knowing that they were alive.
Try not to use the indicator too much, but if you want to use it, make sure that you keep it on even when you have no intention of turning anywhere, or better yet, indicate that you want to turn left but turn right instead. After all, you have some privacy, why should every Tom, Dick and Harry on the road know what your plans are!
Here’s a simple test. Just answer all questions honestly and whenever the answer is yes, ask yourself ‘Kyun?’ Why do you do it?
1. Do you feel irritated when someone points out your mistake, and feel satisfied when you point out others’ mistakes?
2. Do you regularly give money to beggars but refuse to buy stuff from those selling at traffic signals citing the reason that you don’t need it?
3. Do you get frustrated by slow traffic and try to get through any way you can even when you are not in a hurry to get anywhere?
4. Do you feel really proud when you make a wild guess and it turns out to be correct and also really glad when someone else’s wild guess proves to be wrong?
5. Do you almost never succeed in getting up at 5 a.m. for prayers and almost always succeed in getting up at 4 a.m. when you have to catch a flight or even watch something on TV?
6. Would you rather be wrong with everyone else than be right alone and face criticism?
7. Do you give more importance to praise from your boss than a smile from your mother?
8. Do you enjoy reading about human faults and weaknesses more when you feel that you don’t suffer from those weaknesses yourself but others do?
9. Do you hate your boss and think he is a chawal when he treats you badly but feel justified when you treat your subordinates / servants badly because they are chawals.
10. Do you feel that you know much more than your elders because you are the modern youth and also feel that you know much more than those younger than you, because you are older?
“What kind of idiocy is that? You only live once? That’s hilarious. I mean we are just not prepared to use our minds, now are we? Bacchay, bacchay! There’s nothing wrong in learning from wise things other people said, but at least be vigilant enough to tell the difference between wise and downright preposterous. You don’t only live once. You live every day, every hour, every moment until you die. Every day is a new opportunity, every moment the first of your new life. Anyone who fails to realize that gets caught up in memories, regrets and other similar crap. Even an attempt to count the number of times you live is futile, it’s infinite. You live as many times as you want…..until you die. And after you die, you live again…and again….and again…..forever. You live countless times and there’s no limit. Death is simply a transformation, a point beyond which you cannot see until you get there. But, you only die once.”~Shuntoo