What’s the Point? (The Last Part)

Pointless

It took me a while to get to the stage, find the CD player and run the CD. Meanwhile, my act grabbed attention of some of the people around. They kept asking what I was doing. I was too overwhelmed to say anything adding to the fact that I was as clueless as they were.

All the chit chats stopped as Bishwas’s recorded voice greeted us. “Good evening, my guests!  First of all, let’s applaud the one who found this recording.”

There was a brief period of silence. “Did you clap?” The voice continued. “I hope you did. If you didn’t, my request has been pointless. You should’ve clapped. You don’t know how fortunate you are to hear my voice. Had nobody cares to look at that target board, you would have left, angry and confused. You’d never have known why you’re here. The time I spent in recording would have been pointless. So, please appreciate the person who made this interaction possible. Let’s give a big round of applause.”

A few people applauded, maybe because they thought they should follow the voice. Most of us were still confused.

“Thank you,” Bishwas’s voice said. “Now, it’s time to let you know why you’re here. You are here to bid me farewell from this world. Yes, you heard that right. A proverb says: “Even if your birth was ordinary, make your death extraordinary.” Extraordinary death! That’s what I am trying to accomplish.

“I’m so sorry for what I am making you witness this evening. I always remained mysterious. Never told everything about my life and feelings. And then I brought you here and literally kept you in dark. Please forgive me.

“I lived a meaningless life, trying to keep everyone happy. But no one ever was. I worked hard in school all through my childhood to keep my parents happy. But they wanted more. I worked harder, just to see them smile. But they didn’t ever truly smile. Their smiles were fake. An act so that I would make more effort in order to kill my childhood.

“I made some friends during my Plus Two days. They celebrated my successes and moaned my failures, without anything else in return. They also introduced me to the entertaining side of life: drinks, smoke, night clubs and dohoris. I met my first love in one of these settings.”

I took a glance at the lady in red dress, paying attention to the words coming from the record. “She was beautiful. I met her a few weeks ago. She has become more beautiful. Her melodies have helped me fill the emptiness my heart suffers from. She kept me happy. Her presence was a blessing. I wanted to be with her forever but it was not to be. My parents once again came on the way of my happiness.

“”We won’t let you marry her,” they said. “She sings at a restaurant at night. Her character is questionable. Besides, she belongs to a lower caste. She can’t be our daughter-in-law.”

“Only I know how hard I tried to convince them. I begged, I cried but their heart did not melt. They threatened to stop paying for my studies. I had a dream to study medicine. Without their financial support, I would not be able to pursue my goal. To keep them happy and to keep my dreams alive, I decided to sacrifice my happiness. I acted like an ass in front of the girl I loved the most and pushed her away from my life.

“I have lived in regret ever since. I could not be with the girl I loved, I could not pursue my dreams and never did my parents become happy. After I failed two rounds of entrance exams, I joined a college. There I made a few friends. One of them thought I was perfect, that I could never make mistakes. I have made mistakes, my friend. I’m so sorry to let you down.”

The Lady looked at me and raised her eyebrows, as if saying, “What did I say?”

It hurt. More than Bishwas’s words. I almost teared up.

Bishwas’s voice was still echoing in the warehouse, “I went up the Himalayas when everything became too much for me to bear. I pulled off all the money from my bank accounts, crushed my phone and SIM and went off radar. I heard of a monastery beyond the Himalayas. I finally found peace.

“But the Lama kept saying that I had not found peace. He said that without facing everyone who suffered because of me, I could not find true peace. Even Buddha had to face his family after returning to Kapilvastu. Although I am nowhere close to Buddha, the Lama advised me to talk to everyone whom I had caused pain.

“I came home and apologized. They said they would not forgive me because of the pain I had given them. If my parents are not forgiving me, I thought, nobody would. What’s the point in living if your parents do not love you, are never happy no matter you do? What’s the point in loving someone, only to remain at a distance from her? What’s the point in getting appreciation from the world when you don’t have a family to celebrate your success?”

Feeling uncomfortable, I looked around. A woman fell on the floor. Some people, including the lady in the red dress went to help her. Others started looking worried. The recording continued, “I’m leaving you all, forever. I’m tired of leaving this pointless life. At exactly eight o’clock today, I will take a leap from the cliff behind this warehouse…”

I looked at my watch. It read 7:58. I ran towards the exit, Bishwas’s voice trailing behind me.

“… There is no point in blaming others for my decisions. Baba, Aama, I’m so sorry I turned you into villains. But I had to say everything so that nobody in the future suffers the way I did …”

The exit door was too far. Can I still save him?

“… My love, I have been terrible. I deserve your hate but please try to forgive me. …”

I barged out into the open and ran towards the cliff.

“… My friends, I’m sorry. I’m leaving you again.”

I went behind the warehouse and looked towards the cliff.

I saw the silhouette of a man above the cliff. How lean he had become! Bishwas was ready to jump. I called him out but he did not listen. I sprinted to reach him. He stretched his arms. “Bishwas,” I screamed at the top of my voice. He looked towards me, shook his head and jumped.

I stood still, shocked and confused. I could not save him. If only had I found that CD earlier! I went closer to the cliff. “No, no, no. I should have saved him but could not save him,” I said to myself.

I returned to the warehouse. What I saw baffled me. Little children were running here and there and dancing to the tunes played by a DJ. Jokes, cackles and laughter filled atmosphere. In contrast, those who had heard the recording were mourning, scolding the children and getting out of the warehouse.

The lady in the red dress came towards me. Behind her was the woman who had collapsed earlier, supported by her husband and a handsome gentleman. We both asked each other the same question, “What happened?”

After some awkwardness, the lady answered, “At exactly eight o’clock, these children and caterers rushed in from another chamber. That was where the feast was. A DJ removed the CD while it was still playing and started playing party songs.”

She gestured towards the woman and her husband. “Bishwas’s Baba and Aama have had hard time. They just won’t believe Bishwas killed himself. You saw what happened, didn’t you.”

“Yeah, he jumped down the cliff.”

Her feet staggered. Bishwas’s parents gasped.

“But he did not die,” I added.

“What?” They all said at the same time.

“Yeah, he dived into the lake and swam to the shore. He changed into a monk’s robe and then looked at me. I could not see him clearly but he must have smiled. Others may say he died but he did not. He is an excellent diver and swimmer. How can he die?”

“But he said he was leaving the world forever,” Bishwas’s mother said.

“Yes, he left us and entered into the world of monkhood. Just like the Buddha. He can now go closer to the truth. Besides, what’s the point in grieving about the man who has finally found peace?”

What’s the Point? (Part Four)

Lights on!

A flash blinded me. It’s strange how sudden darkness and brightness both have affect our vision. As my eyes adapted to the brightness, I saw the lady in front of me. She was elegant in her scarlet dress. The make-up was loud but complemented the dress well. Her looks demanded attention from the attendees. I could see why Bishwas felt insecure.

“Nice to see you,” she said.

“Yeah, me too.”

I turned around to see the party venue. It had been so well-decorated that it did not seem like a warehouse. Balloons, stars origamis and lights hung from the ribs of the tinned roof.

Before I could take a view of everything, I got distracted by the crowd. Bishwas’s guests ranged from young to old, rich to poor (as I could make out from their clothes). Some were in the middle of conversation and some were alone, probably contemplating why there were here.

“Quite a mass he has gathered,” the lady said.

“Seems like he invited everyone personally,” said an old man behind us.

We turned around to face him. He had thick round glasses over his eyes and held a black cane. He looked wealthy. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I overheard your conversation. I didn’t intend to, I swear. I heard other stories, too. All of them said Bishwas met them and gave the invitation.”

“Who are you?” I asked, “How do you know him?”

“I sponsored this.”

We looked at the old man doubtfully. Without paying heed, though, he continued, “A month ago, we had adverstised a vacancy. Bishwas applied and came for the interview. Before we could ask anything, he said, “I’m organising a charity programme in a couple of months. I don’t have a job. I don’t have anyone who can help me out.”

“I was shocked. “If you want to do a charity, do it with your money. Also, this is not the way you ask for sponsorship. You can not do that in an interview.”

“But Bishwas has this special quality of convincing people. He convinced us in no time. And I personally decided put ninety percent of the money for this programme. Only Bishwas hasn’t shown up and I’m a little worried.”

I could swear the old man was hiding something. I’d rather love to hear his secret than him boasting about his wealth. I looked around to see if I could find something more interesting. And I found it.

On the farthermost wall was a target board. I could not exactly make it out but the board did not look normal. As I went forward, I discovered why it was different. It had the centre point (the golden-coloured portion) removed. It was pointless! What an idea, Bishwas! I smiled. But why was it there?

Upon closer inspection, I saw words written along the circumference of one of the circles. The tiny printed letters said, “Take this board off and look on the backside. You will find a CD attached by a tape. On the stage is a CD player. Run it. Bishwas has a message for all his guests.”

What’s the Point? (Part Three)

Bishwas and the Lady

“What nonsense!” the lady snapped at me. She had sounded cheerful before but now she was furious. Why this sudden change of mood?

“You misinterpreted my fury as excitement,” she said. I was finding it difficult to believe her as she continued, “I wanted to see if there is somebody else who finds his catchphrase pretentious. I came here to punch him on his face for what he did. But you’re just praising him. You’re so naive. No wonder he tricked you into believing he is good. You don’t know him at all. He is a man with zero commitment. He never keeps his promises. Does not even try. It’s so ironic that you saw bravery in that coward. “

“Calm down, please. What happened? Why are you so bitter against him?”

“If you’d been in my place, you’d have been bitter too.”

“Oh, is that so? Tell me your story then.”

“It’s not the story I want to share with a stranger but I will tell you.”

The lady narrated her side of the tale–

After I completed my SLC, I convinced my parents and came to this City of Dreams to continue my studies. The money my parents sent was never enough. So, I started to work at a restro as a singer. It was not easy to work there. Drunk men with lustful intentions scared me everyday. But as it was helping me in paying rent and fees and I had trouble finding another job, I could not leave it.

Life was continuing in this mundane way until Bishwas came to me after the end of my singing session that Christmas evening, and said, “I have seen you before, haven’t I?”

Because that’s one of the most cliched ways to talk to a stranger, I didn’t give much attention but as soon as he took the name of my college and said, “I have seen you there”, my eyes widened.

“I go there myself,” he said adding more to my shock. I had never seen him before. Neither here, nor in the college. Could he have been stalking me? I was shaking from inside.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

I tried to speak but no word escaped my throat. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I had no intention of doing that. I came here with my friends for the first time and we all thought you were familiar. That’s why I came to talk.”

*

“He does not sound bad to me,” I could not stop myself from commenting.

“What’s wrong with people these days?” The lady grimaced. “Always jumping into conclusion without knowing everything!”

Having got the taste of my own medicine, I smiled sheepishly. I felt exposed. Thank God she could not see me in the dark! Without waiting to think anything, however, she continued–

You were right, though. He did not sound menacing at first. He had an extraordinary charm. . . .Ugh! Why am I praising him?. . .. Anyway, he used to come regularly, sit on the table close to the stage, and praise me after I sang. One evening, Bishwas came with a stranger and said, “What’s the point in singing here? Nobody seems to recognize your talent. My friend, Sarun here makes music and sells them pretty good. You should now be a professional.”

We made three songs within two months. Everyone who listened to those songs, praised them. We could not earn more, however, because we lacked money. Sarun’s studio was small and I put a lot of money in the recording. Bishwas provided help from his pocket money but it was not enough for aggressive marketing.

Meanwhile, Bishwas and I fell in love with each other. (Yeah, fell in love because it only gave pain afterwards). Neither of us confessed at first. Whenever we were together, Sarun used to tease, saying, “You two are in in love and I can see that in your body language. Why do you keep denying?”

We would just smile and brush it off. On the New Year eve, after I finished singing my song (I had become a local celebrity) a year after we met, Bishwas climbed on to the stage with me and confessed his love for me in public. A lot of emotions came rushing on my mind and I broke into tears. I confessed my feelings, too. Sarun could not stop smiling. His gut feeling had been proved.

***

A couple of months later, just as I was about to climb on the stage, Bishwas said, “You don’t need to sing. What’s the point? Nobody wants to hear you sing. All they want is you.”

“But you’re the one who has me,” I winked.

“I don’t know. What if someone takes you away from me?”

“No one will take me away.” I went closer to him and looking into his eyes, asked, “Don’t you trust me?”

He did not answer. I felt cold inside. Bishwas had always said he trusted me. I had always believed his words. That day, however, I saw a different Bishwas. It’s not that I had not been noticing that he had changed. I had chosen to ignore because it didn’t seem like big deal. After all, change is inevitable. But his lack of response was something else.

When I ended my performance, Bishwas was still at the back stage. He came to me, grabbed my hand and said, “What’s the point in singing like this, dear? I can meet all our needs even if you stop singing.”

“But you supported my journey and it has just begun. Why do you want me to stop?”

He looked at his feet and said nothing.

“I want answers, Bishwas.”

He did not utter a word.

I lost my patience. Furious at him, I said, “How do I know what’s happening in your head if you don’t say anything? Why do you want me to follow you without a question?”

“Because I love you and I want you to be with me. If you continue singing, I can’t be with you.”

I felt like he pushed me off a huge cliff. I lost words. I could not believe what I heard. Bishwas had said many times before that his parents would not let us stay together because of my caste. But he had always said that he would convince them. Even if he could not convince them, Bishwas had assured that he would never leave me. His name means trust but I should never have trusted him.

He left me. Never even looked back. I cried for days. Sarun helped me during that hard time. I completed my studies, learned English, Korean and Spanish, got a scholarship at a reputed university and returned a month ago. I had almost forgotten about Bishwas but he would not let me forget him. Last week, he knocked at my door. (Oh my God! How did he found where I was living? I don’t know. I should have asked!)

“I’m here to invite you to a party,” he said. “I have hurt you and I understand. But would you come just for the good times we had?”

I stood dumbfounded. “Should I go or not?” I asked myself a number of times. When I finally realized that I could actually punch him in public, I decided to come. But where is he?

What’s the Point? (Part Two)

Bishwas and I

I was in a long queue for college admission. It had been two hours and nobody moved an inch. The small window from which “service was being delivered” was nowhere in sight. The student leaders were coming now and then and saying they were sorting the issue. But we were still at the same spot, irritated by the sun up on our heads and the state of administration. Then somebody behind me thought they had to take action and went ahead making sure their spot won’t be taken.

They returned and started arguing with a student leader. A huge boy was growling, “What’s the point in lining us up when the actual work is being done from the backdoor?”

*

“That’s Bishwas, isn’t he?” the lady exclaimed.

“Yeah, but don’t interrupt me. What’s up with people these days? No patience at all!”

“Sorry, my bad. Please continue.”

*

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Bishwas and others argued with the student leaders for a while. Every one surrounded the student leaders. “Admit us from the backdoor,” we demanded. To save themselves from the wrath of the young guns, the student leaders finally helped in getting the work done in the right way. Before leaving, I talked with Bishwas, took his number and thanked him for what he did. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he said. “I was helping myself. You were lucky to be in the queue.”

We were sitting under a tree in the college premises one day when Bishwas said, “These leaders… These are the ones who create problems out of the blue and now everyone thinks they will solve existing ones.”

Within a month since we got admission in the college, Bishwas and I turned into best friends. We used to in sit the same desk in the classroom, we used to have lunch together, and we used to talk on various things that interested us both. Elections for Students’ Union was coming up, and Bishwas was infuriated that the leaders who had not helped us were now presenting themselves as the saviours.

“Why don’t you run for the election?” I said.

“What’s the point?”

“Remove them from their position of power.”

“Who knows me? Nobody!”

“You should’ve taken the credit that day, you know. Every new student would have loved you.”

“Maybe, but you flatter me. Don’t do it.”

“You should have let everyone know what you did.”

“Should I have held a mic and shouted from the top of the roof?”

“Yep. That’s exactly what you had to do.”

“Nonsense,” Bishwas laughs out loud.

“But a loud nonsense is the common sense.”

“Does not mean those with common sense give in to the nonsense.”

“Yes,” I jumped. “This is exactly why you should run in the election.”

“I won’t. Politics, elections… I’m not made for such things.”

I failed to convince him. And, despite having common sense, and despite the big talks, we gave in to the nonsense and never thought about it again.

***

After the first year exams, Bishwas stopped coming to the college. He stopped answering my calls. I had no idea where he lived. I still don’t know where he lives. What an awful “friend” I was! If I had been even a good friend, I would have known about his family, I would have gone to his house, I would have shared my secrets with him, like he did. But I did nothing that should call me a good friend. Yet, when he came to my house to hand over the invitation to this party, he said, “You’re my best friend from college. I don’t want you to miss it.”

Surprised, I asked, “But I never tried to contact you after you left college. I don’t know why you left. And I didn’t bother to find it out.”

“You only knew my number and you called me. But I didn’t want to connect with anyone. I had distanced myself from everyone, even my family and old friends. What’s the point in being sad for things you were not responsible? Cheer up, buddy!”

“But why did you go away from everyone? What problems did you have?”

“Let it be a secret, buddy. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“So, something bitter happened. Tell me what happened.”

“What’s the point?”

“Perhaps, to unload the burden off your heart.”

“There is no load to unload, but because you insist, I will tell you what happened.”

He then told that he had joined the college only because of the pressure from his parents. He was a bright kid and his parents had huge expectations. But he could not find joy in the college activities. “Everything felt forced,” he said. He was doing things without any passion. That’s why he devised a plan to run away to the Himalayas. That’s where the rishis and santas have gone to find knowledge and peace. He stole a few thousand rupees, and threw his phone in the Kali Gandaki a few days later. Then he heard about a monk in the wilds beyond the Himalayas and went to meet him. There he found some peace but he could not forget his parents and friends so he came back to invite me to this party.

What’s the Point? (Part One)

A Party in the Dark

The party was unlike I had ever been at. It had been held in an abandoned warehouse outside the town. There was no food or drink. Nobody knew each other. And it was dark. The invitation had clearly instructed the guests not to bring phones. The guards, too, were strict about it. They checked each guest and even seized some phones. I was expecting Bishwas, the host, to make a grand filmy entry—that he would show up somewhere in the middle, spotlights focusing on him. But he was nowhere. Nobody knew where he was.

Somebody bumped into me. “Sorry,” said a lady in a melodious voice. “Do you know what’s going on? Why isn’t Bishwas showing up?”

“No idea,” I said. “I’m in the dark just as you’re.”

She chuckled. “Clever use of words, huh? What do you do?”

“I…um…do nothing. Yeah, that’s what I do. Nothing.”

She giggled.

“Believe it or not, I am jobless.”

“Why?”

“Bad luck, perhaps. Or, Ego. I don’t really know.”

“May you be blessed with a job as soon as possible!”

It was my time to laugh.

“What?” she sounded surprised. “I wished you luck and you’re laughing at me?”

“I found it funny,” I said. “I mean, how can you think that a job is a blessing? It’s a curse! You become a slave to money and to your boss. You do something because you’re paid for it. If your boss stops paying you, you leave. Job takes away your freedom. How can it be good?”

A moment of silence later, she said, “I think I figured out why you’re jobless. You do have a big ego.”

“Thank you.” I bowed with a smile although she could only have made out my silhouette.

“So, what brought you here?”

“Bishwas’s invitation.”

“Oh, that’s a breaking news! Everyone here is because of his invitation.”

“Does anybody in this world accept a precise answer any more?”

“Nope. Everybody wants to know the backstory. That’s where the fun is.”

“What’s the point of it?”

“That’s his catch phrase, isn’t it?”

“Yep. It’s his favourite question. Mine too. Those were the first words I heard when we met for the first time.”

[To be continued…]

Two South Korean Movies I watched this Week

I watched two South Korean movies this week: Train to Busan (2016) and Silenced (2011). Both of them coincidentally starred Gong Yoo and Yu-mi Jung as the leads. I had heard of Train to Busan as one of the best horror movies showing zombie apocalypse, but it felt like a drama for the most part. Silenced, on the other hand is categorized as drama but it shows the horror of being under-privileged in the society. In this blog, I am presenting short reviews of both the movies.

1. Train to Busan (2016)

In this movie, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) is taking his daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) to her mother from Seoul to Busan during a zombie apocalypse. The zombie virus originates through a leak in a biochemical factory. The virus is spreading on the scales of a pandemic. People are getting crazy and cannibalistic. But the apocalypse is only a set-up to show the horrors of society.

Seok-Woo is a workaholic, who thinks only about himself. Soo-an, the daughter, is polite and selfless. She is the heart and soul of the movie. Her interactions with the other passengers show to her father that one should never be selfish, even in worse of times. However, the world has mean people, too. The acts of one selfish person can jeopardize the lives of other people. The movie also shows that good people can follow bad people out of fear and can make irrational decisions. Thus, this movie is an excellent commentary on the society.

The zombies in this did not scare me but thought that I might act selfishly in times of apocalypse or pandemic scared me. We saw how some selfish people created the global pandemic of COVID-19. Those memories made Train to Busan even more scarier. Is a selfish society more dangerous than a pandemic or apocalypse? Yes, I think it is.

2. Silenced (2011)

Silenced is based on real events that happened at a school for the hearing-impaired in 2005. I had watched a review (before watching the movie) on the YouTube channel Accented Cinema and had not been able to stop my tears. It took me a couple of weeks to gain courage to watch this movie.

Kang In-ho is a new art teacher at a school for disabled in Mujin. He loves art but cannot pursue his passion his wife died, his daughter is sick. To end his financial problems, he steps into the school thinking it might help his career. But the teachers, including the principal, are repeatedly sexually assaulting students. Despite all odds against him, In-ho decides to fight for justice with the help of an activist Seo Yoo-jin.

The school administration, however, has been bribing the police, education office, and “doing charities”. In-ho and Yoo-jin are helpless against the priviledged criminals. I was expecting them to succeed but the movie shows their failure. For the under-priviledged, the lack of justice is not only a tragedy, it is also a horror.

Nations were built in the past so that everyone could get security and justice. But over time, the fight for justice has been huge struggle for common people, even in prosperous nations. Silenced exposed the flaws in judiciary system of South Korea. The movie became such a strong voice that the existing laws were amended and the culprits were given harsher punishment.

This movie shows how powerful a cinema can be. A movie was able to change the laws of the nation. This is what movies or any art form should strive to do–change the society for good.

Was Gregor Samsa a Monster?: An Analysis of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’

In the third act of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the three paying guests living with the Samsas, ask Grete (the sister) to play the violin in their room. While the three boarders are disinterested shortly, and the parents and the sister struggle to impress them, Gregor is “seduced” by the music, and with a desire to protect his sister, moves towards her. At this moment, Kafka throws a question:

“Was he a beast if music could move him so?” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, Act III)

In my first reading, I told myself, “No, Gregor Samsa is not a monster. He has been a victim of a misfortune, and he has suffered more than he can bear.”

But then, those who love music (and art in general) can also become monsters. Several artists have committed heinous crimes and so have the fans. So, when I went back to Kafka’s question, I found something in the succeeding sentences I had overlooked on my first reading, which completely altered my view. There were hints that showed me why Gregor was a monster–literally as well as figuratively.

I. Gregor and Grete

In the same paragraph where Gregor asks if he is a beast, he is “determined to reach the sister and tug on her skirt to suggest that she take her violin and come into his room, for no one here was as worthy of her playing as he would be. He would never let her leave his room, at least as long as he lived; for the first time, his horrifying appearance would work to his advantage: He would stand guard at all the doors simultaneously, hissing at the attackers; the sister, however, would not be forcibly detained but would stay with him of her own free will.” Had he not transformed, he would have declared on the Christmas that Grete was going to the Conservatory so that she could learn music. “After this declaration the sister would burst into emotional tears and Gregor would raise himself to her shoulder and kiss her neck, which she kept bare since she started working, wearing no ribbon or collar.”

I have no hesitation saying that Gregor has an incestuous desire towards his sister. I also found this article that supports my idea. It says that the desire for his sister (as well as his mother) was “forbidden as a man but not as a beast“.

But, Gregor had wanted Grete even before the transformation. In the second act, we know that “it was his secret plan that she, who unlike Gregor greatly loved music and played the violin movingly, should be sent to the Conservatory next year despite the considerable expense it was sure to incur, which would just have to be met in some other way.

This “secret plan” sounds sinister. Although he had not declared it, everyone in the Samsa family already know that Gregor wants to send his sister to the Conservatory. So, what is the secret plan? Did he want to take her away from the family so that he could take advantage of her? Did his parents sense his sinister thoughts? I firmly believe that the parents refused the idea of sending Grete to the Conservatory because they thought Gregor was already a vermin in his mind.

And, what was the “some other way” to cover the expenses? Was he going to get a better job? That did not seem to be happening soon. Their father’s pension would never be enough. So then, did he want her sister to get a job? Or did he want to push her into prostitution? Because Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment explicitly mentions people forcing young women of their own family into prostitution and living off it, I don’t think this is a wild supposition!

However, what happens in Act I makes me think that Gregor was not limited to desire and secret plan but he had actually raped her.

Gregor has already turned into a monstrous insect and is unable to get up from his bed. The head clerk knocks on Gregor’s door, and his parents call him out but Grete is crying in another room. Why didn’t she come to his door? “And why was she crying?” She didn’t know that Gregor had turned into a monster. Or did she? Did she cry not because Gregor was going to lose his job because but because she had seen him losing humanity and turning into a monster?

Her feelings towards Gregor is more pronounced in Act III after he scares the three boarders away. Grete says, “I refuse to pronounce my brother’s name in front of this monstrosity, and so I say: We have to try to get rid of it. We’ve done everything humanly possible to care for it and tolerate it; I don’t believe anyone could reproach us.”

On my first reading, she sounded cold-hearted to me, but now, I can hear her anger and pain. She must have been tired of feeding the monster. And if she had seen him turn into the beast, the pain must have been unbearable. But then, a question arises: Why did she feed him?

I think it was because of her parents. As Grete painfully says, her parents were attached to Gregor although he had metamorphosed into a monster. Sending her into Gregor’s room could be a sign for Grete to forgive her brother. I am reminded of several cases where girls are dismissed or told to forget what had happened and forgive the perpetrator. when they say they have been raped by their family member. The parents, to protect their son and to see if she gains at least some sympathy for him him, made their daughter give him food to Gregor. She gave him the food, but there was no love. She always feels uneasy around him. Gregor “concluded that the sight of him was still repulsive to her and was bound to remain repulsive, and that she must have exercised great self-control not to take flight at the sight of even the smallest portion of his body protruding from under the couch.” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, Act II)

Grete was also sure that Gregor would never feel any remorse for what he had done and would never turn into human.

II. The Father’s fury after seeing Gregor as the monster for the first time

In Act I, after Gregor opens the door, his truth is revealed to the Head Clerk, the mother, and the father. The Head Clerk and the mother are shocked and scared, but the father is neither shocked, nor scared. “The father, furiously shaking his fists as if willing Gregor to go back in his room, looked uncertainly around the living room, covered his eyes in his hands, and sobbed with great heaves of his powerful chest.” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, Act I)

While the sister is crying in another room, the father is angry and sad seeing the monster instead of his son. Because he is not shocked, I am inclined to believe that the father knew what Gregor had done and wanted to punish him. His anger and grief were also directed towards himself as he had not been able to stop Gregor from turning into a monster.

In Act III, after Grete tells they must “get rid of it”, the father is grieved. “If only he could understand us,” he says, meaning Gregor would never understand their love because he was a monster in his mind and body. (However, while reading for the first time, I felt that Gregor’s family was not even trying to understand him. The Metamorphosis has several layers with several valid interpretations which makes it a great story!)

III. The Apple

At the end of Act II, Gregor’s father sees Gregor out of his room. In fury, he begins an attack. He hurls apples at Gregor, one of which is stuck on Gregor’s body for the rest of his life. This, is a clear reference to the biblical story of the apple stuck on Adam’s throat and a symbol of Gregor’s sin.

Conclusion

In this analysis, I conclude Gregor was a monster. However, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis has many layers. Just as in my first reading, Gregor can be read as a victim of unpleasant situation and his family’s abuse of him. He can also be conceived as a depressed character who has struggled to keep up with the pace of the world and feels so helpless that he believes he is a worthless vermin. In that perspective, Gregor’s family appears as cold-hearted monsters, who never try to understand Gregor. It’s astonishing that the characters of The Metamorphosis can sometimes be white, sometimes black, and sometimes grey!

[Note: The quotes included in the article are from The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, (Trans. Donna Fried), Barnes and Noble Classic, 2003. Bold parts of quotes are for emphasis.]

I got stuck (Is it a good sign?)

I was thinking about it every time I had some leisure. I had discovered a “mind-blowing” way to convert my short story “Leave Me Alone” into a novel. I had worked about eight chapters within a month. These chapters would end the first part and I was ready to move into the crucial second part. Then I suddenly felt I needed a prologue. A chapter apart from the rest of the story that would create suspense. (It already had some suspense. I was trying to mix some spices.) That prologue introduced me to the major problem in my plot: how was my heroine doing what she was doing?

I had worked out the “why” and I had thought I knew “how” but things got complicated. I was teleporting her to places where I wanted her to be, and she was doing things the way I wanted in an unnatural way. My story is not a fantasy. It’s a contemporary psychological thriller. No way was I going to introduce myself opening doors for her (I feel this would make a good sci-fi!), and neither was I going to let anything happen just like that. So, why the plot hole?

I don’t know. Maybe, I planned in the wrong manner. Perhaps the changes I had brought about in the prologue rang the bells. Whatever it was, I believe, was for the best! How would I make others believe in an unbelievable story? I’ve stalled it until I find a solution.

***

I felt an itch. Actually, I’d been thinking about it for a few days now. I had linked “Quest” with “Leave Me Alone”, and the latter with “The Peacemaker” (I have built its concept but not written a word yet. Or, can I say it’s first chapter is already in “Leave Me Alone”, just in another POV?). So, because there was a link, I was thinking of completing “Quest”.

The biggest problem in this rewriting was that my old computer is dead and until it’s repaired I had no access to the “latest” version I created about last year. Or, so I thought. Then I searched my phone. I found the original version (Thank God!). I checked Google Docs. There were eight chapters each of last two versions. Now the problem is: I first need to sort out which “doc” belongs to which version. Then I need to compile and (probably) rewrite.

This rewrite is going to be fun. I have a guide. I have versions in third person and in first person. I need to decide what to use now. I have events in different orders. I might have to reorder, delete and add. I have written four or five versions of “Quest” already. I must make it my final. The solution for the plot problem I had discovered last year, is going to make it interesting. But the biggest challenge is to stand out as the self-proclaimed genius! (After sorting out the problems, I had called myself a “genius”. Damn, that’s a crown I cannot handle!)

Personal Achievements in 2074

Some months ago I had decided that at the end of the year 2074 B.S., I would make a list of some of the achievements I can boast upon. I discovered 8 points.

1. Edited and Published a College Journal

Publication of the Journal

On Falgun 2073, just before the end of the academic session, Prof. Dr Tara Nidhi Bhattarai had announced that the final year had to publish a scientific journal. I had been nominated the Editor-in-chief of the journal unanimously by my friends. I had added four friends and had completed the Editorial Board.

The real job began in 2074. After a week since the end of our final exams, I called for the articles via our Facebook group. By the end of the month, we had very few articles. I had to ask for them again with a stricter deadline.

The Editorial Board initially received 15-16 articles. We worked with what we had and then making sure that very few percentages of students had submitted, we asked again.

The other board members got extremely busy. I took the help of Grammarly to edit the grammar and spelling. It took more than a month to compile all the 29 articles. Then we had to prepare cover pages, and print the file out. We published Geology, Vol. 8 just before the Dashain. I was the happiest man that day because I had spent almost 5 months of my year for the

2. Photoshop Basics and Inkscape

The tools of Adobe Photoshop always scared me. Because of that, I could never go through its basics even though it was installed on my computer for years.

This year, a fortnight before the publication of the Geoworld Journal, I decided to learn GIS on my own. I downloaded QGIS and completed a tutorial I obtained at a website. After that, when I looked at Photoshop, it did not become as challenging as it used to be.

I learnt to select, crop, change image size, resolution, use brush, paint and so on. I never completed other tutorials on QGIS (must learn it completely by the end of 2075), but I learnt how to manipulate images and now I am able to use another application Inkscape to produce vector images. My current Gravatar is one of my earliest works on Inkscape.

3. Got the Bachelor’s Degree

A day before the publication of Geoworld, the results of the final year was published. And obviously, I got the Bachelor’s Degree. I took the certificates much later. I was happy but not as much as I wanted to be because I am not earning anything.

4. Gardening

In the month of Bhadau, I was writing a chapter for a novel. The garden in the setting was beautiful. Small trees lined it and beautiful flowers bloomed. As soon as I wrote that scene, I went up to our terrace and saw plants basking. The soil had dried and the plants did not look good. That day onwards, I made a routine of watering them every evening. It soon turned into a habit and now, whenever I don’t have to water them, I feel like I have missed something.

My parents, too, are happy that I have been at least watering plants every day. That their terrace garden is not dried up.

5. Learnt to ride two-wheelers

I had a fear of riding bikes. I still do. But I had to overcome my fear after Tihar (in November) to learn to ride motorbikes. It was extremely difficult and tiring in the first week. I was just catching up in the second week when the course ended. Nevertheless, I could ride a scooter. Riding a two-wheeler requires your mind working in several directions at a time. To bring balance to a vehicle that is clearly imbalanced was a difficult achievement.

6. Learnt a lot about life from a little kitten

Just at the end of the first week of my motorbike training, I found two kittens crying inside a drum under the stairs. The mother left the kittens and we adopted them. One month later, the male was taken by the mother. We see them running sometimes on the terraces of our neighbours.

The female, however, refused to go with the mother cat and stayed with us. She was growing well and just as we thought everything was fine, she went downstairs and got caught by dogs.

Her life and the grief she gave me at death made me understand that nature and life were cruel. I also learnt a great deal about cats and other animals, their behaviours and the problems they face because of us.

7. Tribhuvan University (TU)

The day I went the Office of the Controller of the Examinations (OCE) was the day I stepped into the TU premises for the first time. It was quite depressing because of the unmanaged system and earthquake-affected buildings.

However, when I entered the Tribhuvan University Campus area, I felt a magical calmness in the surrounding. It was so influential that I forgot the chaos of the world outside.

Last week, I got admitted for the M.Sc. The classes will begin from the second week of the New Year.

8. Quora

Quora happened to me all through the year 2074. In Baishakh, after the final exams, I got back to the website because of some of my friend’s posts on Facebook. I realized that I had answered a few questions in the past and they were still generating some views. So, I got excited and began answering questions on Geology and Nepal.

On the second week of March, I was provided a “Top Writer 2018” badge. I have about 300 followers and my answers don’t have much views compared to so many popular users but obtaining the badge felt great. I reserved the celebration for New Year, though!

When I died

I had been sick for some time. My parents, wife and children were sitting around me with grim faces. I had already lived more than twenty five years of my years and I felt like I was going to die. However, I did not want to die young. So I remembered my parents, my wife, my children and everyone who had been dear to me. All of a sudden, I lost consciousness. I stopped remembering anything.

When I regained consciousness, a man dressed in black was standing before me. He had a pale face with a big mustache and huge beard. His eyes were hollow. He looked at me as if he was disgusted with me. He produced a whip from the thin air and lashed hard at me. Before I could cry, the whip had tightened around my throat. I struggled but in vain. He was too strong.

He rose above in the air and I was dragged behind him. I tried to free myself again but I feared that I would fall down. He dragged me up to the clouds. He stopped and looked at me with disdain. He said, “Do you want to see your world before I take you to mine?” His voice was deep and sounded like he was speaking through a hollow bamboo. That moment I knew that he was death. I nodded slowly in affirmation to his question. He then told me to look down and that I did.

The world looked tiny from that height but Death mystically zoomed it for me. He said, “Look at your family for the last time.” And my children were in front of my eyes.

They were crying. My body lay amongst them. I called them out. But they could not listen to me. I tried to touch them but could not. I could do nothing to console them. Sometimes later, they carried my body to the crematorium and it was cremated. The existence of my body had come to an end.

Death did something and the time ran pretty quickly. My family was not sad. My children were playing. My wife looked a little weak but she was smiling. “They have learnt to live without you now,” Death said. He then showed me images from all around the world. Poor and rich, happy and sad, stupids and geniuses, religious and non-religious, rulers and the ruled, he showed me all sorts of people. “Why do you think I showed you all these?”

I noticed that the whip had gone away from my throat but still I could not speak. He said, “Everyone I have showed you and every life in this world, everything in this universe will die one day. They can’t escape death.”

“You know you must die. Yet you are scared of Death. You never lived life to their fullest because of the fear. You were also more concerned about afterlife than the life you lived. You donated to the poor to make your afterlife better, so that you can rest in heaven and avoid hell after death. That was very selfish of you. You followed religions in the hope that the door to the heaven will be opened. You looked after your parents because the scriptures said you will be in heaven after your death.

“You have not done anything that will make other people’s lives better. Give to the poor to see their smiles. Take care of your parents with all your heart. Start thinking that good things you do will make someone happy, that those acts will create heaven in your life. Stop thinking that your good deeds will land you to heaven only after your death. Stop fearing hell. Understand that your bad deeds will create hell around you. You don’t need to die to see the hell. Stop fearing death. Death will come to you for sure.”

I opened my eyes. The sun had risen up high. I was neither sick, nor dead. I recalled everything the man in black robes said in the dream. I smiled, got off from my bed and went to meet my life. It was grinning ear to ear.