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…]

Finishing the Fifth Draft of a Story

I want to write every day but I don’t. Most of the times, I am so lazy that I don’t want to lift my pen. Sometimes, the things I’m writing is too personal and sometimes, the stuff I write makes me uncomfortable.

Right now, I am writing a story. I’m still not writing daily but I am more regular than before. I finished the fifth draft (fourth complete draft) today. Every draft has changed the way I am looking into the characters and the plot. The overall theme and plot has remained the same but the way to get to them have been varied.

I also found a way to calm my inner editor. Every time I see a problem, I promise myself to look into it in the next draft. Following expert advice, I used to wait for some time to revise. This time, however, I am not waiting. As soon as I finish one version, I begin another. It’s helping me a lot in remembering the things I wanted to change and it has also helped me regain confidence in writing.

I hope to complete the story in the next couple of drafts. Then I will move on to the next thing I have on my mind. Wish me luck!

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.]

​Listen, will you?

“Are you listening?” I asked myself as my sister was talking the other day.

“No,” I confessed. 

“Why weren’t you listening?”

Honestly, I didn’t have the answer. I did not feel like talking at that time. When I came back contemplating over the matter, I understood I did not want to speak because I was not listening well.

I am not good at making conversations. I wanted to know the secrets of better conversations. I sought the help of YouTube. I don’t remember most of the advices I got through speakers at TED Conferences, and some psychology related channels but the one I remember is “Listen!” And this was the only advice I could listen when I thought why I was not conversing with my sister the other day.

Why is listening important? All the videos I watched agree that by listening properly one can decide what to speak with ease. If I had been listening to my sister, I might have easily understood her talk and would have carried it on further. Because I got selfish and stopped listening, I had to make her repeat the same thing twice, which in turn bored both of us. Hence, no conversation!

One speaker on one of the videos said, “These days we listen things so that we can argue and react upon some particular words.” She said something like: “Listen so that you understand. Listen to learn and listen to talk well.”  If we listen just to react upon things, we are not good listeners. We must react, of course, but by listening properly, we can decide whether we need to react or not. People say, “We have two ears but one mouth so that we can listen well and talk less. ” It is also said that those who talk less, speak precisely when they must.

I remembered a Folk tale as I was writing this. I am going to keep it as short as possible.

Once upon a time, a king brought three human skulls to the court and asked his ministers, “Can you tell me the price of these skulls?”

‘What could be the price of human skulls?’ The ministers thought. None of them came up with a solution. The king gave them three days to come up with a solution. Three days passed. The king said, “Have you come up with the answer?”

The ministers hung their heads in shame. One minister, however stood up and said, “Your Highness, I got curious when you asked the question. I took a trip to my teacher’s house far away from the city. He gave me the knowledge in discovering the price of a human skull.”

The minister asked permission to demonstrate. He took up a skull in his hand and poked a stick into its right ear hole. The stick went in a and was out through the other ear hole. He inserted another stick into the right ear hole of the second skull. This time it bended towards the throat. He repeated the procedure with the third. This time, the stick went in through the ear hole, and snapped. A larger part went to the cranium and a small part to the throat.

The minister explained, “The first skull is worth four annas. It is the cheapest one because it does not listen to anything. Whatever it listens from one ear goes out through the other.

“The second skull is worth eight annas. It listens but reacts without speaking. The third one is worth sixteen annas or a rupee. It listens, keeps most of it in its mind and speaks only what is necessary. Such skulls are rare.”

The king was happy. The minister was granted his prize for being able to explain the price of the skull.

Here’s what the story wants you to know just like the people said in videos I watched: ‘Listen and understand before you speak, will you?’

इण्डियन लाहुरे

(समर्पण : गोर्खा रेजिमेन्टमा भर्ति भएर युद्ध लडेका, लडिरहेका र वीरगति पाएका सबै नेपालीप्रति )

अफिस पुगेर गार्डको युनिफर्म भिरें अनि बाहिर गेटमा निस्केर बुढियालाई फोन गरें, “केही खबर आयो ?”

“छैन ।”

“टिभीमा पनि केही आ’को छैन ?”

“छैन । आ’को भए त तपाईंलाई फोन गरिहाल्थें नि ।”

हो त उसैले फोन गरिहाल्थी नि । उसलाई पनि त कम गाह्रो भएको थिएन । मैले भनेँ, “उफ्, केही सोच्नै सकेको छैन मैले त । खबर आउनेवित्तिकै मलाई भनिहाल है त ।”

उसले केही भनेझैं लाग्यो तर फोन काट्ने सुरमा मैले सुनिनँ । फेरि फोन नआएकोले खासै जरुरी कुरा होला भन्ने लागेन । मन फेरि एक तमासको भयो । काममा पनि ध्यान गएनछ । ” सन्चो छैन दावा दाइ ?” सँगै काम गर्ने कार्की भाइले भन्यो ।

“त्यस्तो केही हैन, कार्की भाइ ।”

“केही त भएकै छ, दाइ । अघि फोनमा कुनै खबरको कुरा गर्दै हुनुहुन्थ्यो । अनुहार पनि मलिन देख्छु । शरीर पनि थाकेजस्तो देखिन्छ । के भयो ?”

“खै भाइ, के भन्ने ? काश्मिर सीमामा भारत र पाकिस्तानका सेना लडिरा’का छन् रे । छोरो त्यतै छ । मन साह्रै आत्तिइरहेको छ ।”

“सेनाको जागिर । जता भन्यो त्यतै जानुपर्छ ।”

“आफ्नै देशको सीमामा भए नि देशको लागि लड्दैछ भनेर चित्त बुझाउने बाटोसम्म हुन्थ्यो । अर्काको देशको सीमामा छ । मामालाई देखेर त्यतै जान रहर गर्यो । त्यो छोरोलाई नजा भनेर कति सम्झाएँ । मान्दै मानेन । भन्यो, “नेपालको सरकारले नै जान हुन्छ भन्छ भने किन नजाने । यहाँ बसेर बेरोजगार हुनुभन्दा त त्यही ठीक ।””

मेरा आँखामा आँसु भरिए । कार्की  भाइ  पनि एकछिन  टोलायो अनि भन्यो,  “उसले भनेको पनि ठीकै हो । हाम्रो देशचाहिँ आफ्नो सीमाको रक्षा आफैँ गर्न सक्दैन । फेरि नेपालीलाई चैं अर्काको देशको सैनिक बनेर उनीहरूको लडाइँ लड् पनि भन्छ । किन हो कुन्नि त्यस्तो ?”

मेरो मन चसक्क दुख्यो । ऊ भन्दै थियो, “मेरा छोराछोरी अस्ति भन्दै थिए, पाकिस्तानले भारतलाई खत्तम गर्दे हुन्थ्यो भनेर । उनीहरूलाई थाहा नै छैन कति नेपालीहरू भारतीय सेनाको गोर्खा रेजिमेन्टमा छन् ।”

“नेपाली, इण्डियन, पाकिस्तानी जे भने पनि मान्छे नै त मर्ने हुन् नि होइन र भाइ ?”

“युद्धले कसलाई पो फाइदा गर्छ र, दाइ ।” दिनभर मसँग कुरा गरेर ढाडस दिइरह्यो उसले । घरमा फोन गरिरहें तर केही खबर आएन । छटपटी बढिरह्यो । दिन साह्रै लामो लाग्यो । बल्लतल्ल दिन बित्यो ।

ड्युटी सकिनेवित्तिकै घरतिर लागें । खासै टाढा थिएन तर हिंड्दाहिंड्दै थकाइ लाग्यो । बैंकको ढोकाअघि बस्दा पनि थकाइ लागेको थियो । पहिले यस्तो कहिले भएको थिएन । मनको पीडाले शरीर पनि बिरामी हुँदोरहेछ । निकै बेर लगाएर घर पुगें । सिधै टिभी राखेको कोठामा पुगें । हिन्दी न्युज च्यानलको ब्रेकिंग न्युज आइरहेको थियो: भारत-पाकिस्तान सीमामा अठार भारतीय सैनिकको मृत्यु । मन झन् भारी भयो । छोरी र बुढियासँग पनि केही बोल्न सकिन । त्यो कोठाबाट उठेर अर्को कोठामा गएँ अनि पल्टिएँ ।

“बाबा खाना खान आउनुस् ।” छोरीको स्वर सुनेर झस्किएँ ।

“खानै मन छैन ।”

“मन त मलाइ पनि छैन तर पिर लिएर मात्रै पनि त भएन ।”

बिस्तारै उठेर भान्छामा पुगें । बिहान उब्रेको खाना तताइछ बुढियाले । भाग बसें तर दुई गाँसभन्दा खानै सकिनँ । छोरी र बुढिया पनि भक्कानिए । त्यस दिनको खाना फ्याँकियो । टिभी कोठामा एकछिन पछि आइपुगें । त्यही समाचार छ हिन्दी च्यानलमा । नेपाली मिडियालाई त मतलब छैन । नेपाली पनि परे भने खबर ल्याउने मात्रै हुन् । नराम्रो खबर नाओस् भनेर भगवानसँग प्रार्थना गरें ।

मोबाइलको घन्टी बज्यो । बुढिया र छोरी दौदिंदै आइपुगे । नम्बर हेरें । इण्डियन हो तर छोराले गर्ने भन्दा फरक । मुटुले ढ्यांग्रो ठोक्यो । सास फेर्न गाह्रो भयो । जसोतसो लाउडस्पिकर अन गरें । उताबाट नेपालीमै कसैले भन्यो, “यो दावा तामांगको नम्बर हो ?”

“ज्यू ।”

“एउटा दु:खको खबर छ ।” एकछिन रोकियो, सुस्केरा हाल्यो अनि भन्यो, “तपाईंको छोरा सोनामले वीरगती पायो । दुस्मनको गोलीले उसको छाती छेड्यो । ढलेपछि पनि निकै साहस देखायो तर उपचार पुरा नुहुँदै उसको निधन भयो ।”

मेरा आँखाबाट बरर्र आँशु खसे । टीभी राखेको टेबुलमा उसको तस्बिर थियो । गोलो, गोरो मुहार, अग्लो गंठिलो शरीर, इण्डियन सेनाको पोशाक लागएर उसले त्यो फोटो खिचाएको थियो । त्यही फोटो मात्रै आँखाअघि नाचिरह्यो । उताबाट भन्दै थियो, “भारतीय सरकारले उसलाई शहीद घोषणा गर्नेछ । त्यसैले उसको अन्तिम संस्कार यतै हुनेछ ।”

मुटु चुँडियो । न सास, न लाश । टिभी टेबुलको तस्बिर नै त्यो लाहुरेको अन्तिम निशानी भयो ।

(कार्तिक १७, २०७३मा नागरिक मा प्रकाशित समाचारबाट प्रेरित)

Leave Me Alone-5

Previously on Leave Me Alone:

Ajay and Sasha go Sasha’s house to celebrate her birthday. Ajay sees a portrait of a woman on red saree. A woman similar to that on the portrait attacks him and he runs to the police station. There he meets Dr. Shrestha, who tells him something about Sasha’s past. Ajay does not believe him. So he calls Parmila, Sasha’s maid to confirm his story. Ajay still has some questions about Sasha. 

What answers will he get? In this chapter…

“I still don’t understand,” Ajay said, “why I was attacked?”

“There are some probabilities,” Dr. Shrestha replied grimly. “It is a fact known to me and my colleagues that Sasha believed within her subconscious that her mother was alive. Sasha used to have hallucinations in which her mother would talk to her. Whenever that happened, Sasha’s personality would alter. She used to be more aggressive, and used to gain immense strength. Ten men would find it difficult to calm her down.”

“So you believe Sasha’s alternate personality influenced by her dead mother in her subconscious attacked me?” Ajay intervened. “But would she?”

As if he had not heard anything Ajay said, the old doctor continued, “Using medication, we had been able to suppress the hallucinations and to some extent, the alteration of her personality. Some years ago, when she joined nursing, I recommended the medication be stopped. That was the biggest mistake I made.

“Because the medicines were not being administered, the hallucinations may have begun controlling over her for some time. Her mother might have talked to her, and convinced Sasha that you are either the one or related to someone who led into her mother’s death,” the doctor told to Ajay.

“But I am not related to any bank manager who went missing.”

“There was a lawyer who proved falsely that Sasha’s mother was mentally ill.”

Ajay was stunned. Dr. Shrestha seemed to look through him. He stammered the question that came into his mind: How do you know my father is a lawyer?

Dr. Shrestha smiled at Ajay without being surprised. “I knew your father’s name from your license last night,” the doctor replied. “I had doubted that he is the famous lawyer. You’ve confirmed my suspicions.”

“My dad can’t have done anything wrong,” Ajay said, terrified by what the doctor was trying to say to him. He stood up and looking straight at Dr. Shrestha, announced, “He might not have been involved in the case.”

“He is a professional advocate. It’s within his right to do anything to save his client. Why don’t you ask him yourself about his involvement in that case?” Dr. Shrestha replied, unclenched.

‘Was my dad involved?’ Ajay thought, his fear escalating. His mind was divided. Prior to the talk with the doctor, he could confidently bet that his father advocated the truth. However, after the doctor’s indication that his father had falsely accused Sasha’s mother of being a psycho. Trembling, he inserted his hand into his pocket, produced his cell phone and dialled his father’s number. “Ajay, where had you been all night? I’ve searched everywhere for you,” a hoarse voice asked.

“I’m at a doctor’s, dad.”

“Is everything all right?” Ajay’s father asked him.

Ajay wanted to lie by saying ‘yes’; instead, he said, “No dad, something is wrong. My girlfriend attacked me last night and her guardian says that you are related somewhere in the case. That I’ve been assaulted because she believed I was you in her state of altered personality.”

“Who attacked you? Sasha, is it? Are you all right, Ajay?” his father asked and before Ajay could reply, he continued furiously, “Anyway, don’t believe in any nonsense. How can I be involved in your girlfriend’s madness?”

“Do you remember a case twenty years ago?” Ajay said. When he received only silence in reply, he continued, “That case in which a reputed bank manager had been accused of abusing his employee. Though that woman had written the truth in her diary, the manager’s lawyer had proved in the court that she was mad and her letter could not be solid evidence against the manager. Do you remember that case, dad?”

Ajay had expected a reply but he actually received a hanging up tone in answer. He redialled the number four times but his father did not receive the call. He looked at both Dr. Shrestha and Parmila sadly. He felt weak. His legs could not keep him standing. He sat down on an empty chair and covered his face with his palms. He wanted to cry but he could not. Ajay could not believe that his father had done something that had affected him twenty years later.

Dr. Shrestha broke the silence, “You need to go to your father and talk to him. You have to ask him everything. You deserve the truth.”

“I don’t think I can bear the truth, doctor,” Ajay said bitterly.

“You have to face it, Ajay,” the doctor said, “not just for yourself but for Sasha as well.”

“Oh, I can’t,” Ajay y and stood up from his chair again. He picked his phone and dashed out. Before he reached the edge of the garden, Dr. Shrestha shouted out these words, which Ajay would clearly recall the following week: “Talk to your father, Ajay. If you don’t he might harm himself.”

Ajay did not return home for a week. He stayed most of his time at the hospital looking at his unconscious lover outside the ICU. She did not show up much improvement. Ajay was sad but was hopeful. He ate at the canteen. He made friends with the doctors, nurses and other medical staffs. When he felt extremely tired, he called his friends and slept at their houses. That was because he never felt like going back to Sasha’s place. His father called him several times during that week. Ajay picked up just twice. He had no will to talk to his father. Ajay’s father too had not been able to say anything. Silence had ruled over both the calls Ajay received.

The call, which overruled the silence, was too chaotic for Ajay. The man on the other side said, “Mr. Ajay, I am Inspector Pradhan.” After a few seconds of silence, Inspector Pradhan added with a loud sigh, “I have a bad news for you. Your father has killed himself.”

Ajay felt as if the world had collapsed. The doctor’s words rushed into his mind. ‘That doctor had the tongue of a wizard,’ he thought. For some minutes, he could not stand still. He sat on a chair covering his face. He gathered up courage and rushed down the stairs. ‘He must have left something.’ Ajay’s instincts told him that his father had not gone without letting him know the truth. He reached the street and got on to a bus that went the nearest chowk from his house. All through the journey in the bus, he thought, ‘I made a mistake in choosing to avoid myself from the truth. I should have followed Dr. Shrestha’s words. He is an experienced psychiatrist after all.’

Ajay sensed a chaotic silence when he reached his home. His mother lay unconscious because she had cried a lot. His older brother sat beside his mother in silence. Some officers were roaming around, still investigating the house. Ajay noted Inspector Pradhan giving orders to his juniors. He went up to the officer and said, “Inspector Pradhan, where is he?”

“In his own room,” the inspector said, “I’m extremely sorry at your loss.”

“Did you find anything, Inspector?” Ajay queried. “Any note he had written before his suicide?”

“Yes, we did find a note,” Inspector Pradhan said. “It was inside an envelope on his table. Your father had written on the envelope that the letter should be given to you only. I’ve ensured no one reads that before you do.”

Inspector Pradhan then produced the letter and gave it to Ajay, who tore the envelope and read instantly:

Ajay,

I had made several mistakes during the early days of my career as a lawyer. Those immoral acts, I never intended to do myself. I had been forced to.

Those days I worked as the legal advisor at a bank. The manager was, at first, friendly. He used to ask me the laws related to everything he was going to do. He paid me well. But one day, he showed his true colours. He talked to me about a lady who worked in his office. He said she was beautiful and that he lusted for her. He asked me to suggest ways so as to incite her. I was shocked by the way his true self had come out. So I resolved not to help him.

He was a reader of minds, however. He told me that if I didn’t help him, he would not pay my fees and he would get all of us into trouble by messing up with the loans I had obtained from the bank. I remembered you, Ajay. I could not let you suffer. I had to oblige to that evil man.

I had just said this, “Be her Messiah.” The manager talked to the lady about a profitable business and she told that to her husband. They took loans from the bank but the information the manager had fed into them was fake. Their business collapsed. Their house was bought in the bidding by the manager’s relatives and he took the house himself later on. And when the lady was in deep sorrow, he increased her salary, promoted her and gave back her house as a “gift”. By doing that he gained her trust.

One day, the manager expressed his feelings towards her. Because she was married and had a child, she did not accept his proposal. The manager turned mad and brutally forced her into physical intimacy. I told him that he could get into trouble but he did not listen to me. He continued his brutality and the lady suffered a lot in her mind. Some months later, she ended up her miseries herself.

The note she left before she died could get the manager into trouble. He told me to help him by calling her mad and that she could not be believed. I refused to do so. He threatened me that he would torture me and my family so much that I too would get crazy like that lady and commit suicide. I had to give in to his threats and I saved him from punishment by doing whatever he told me to do.

After he retained his post, I quit the bank and practiced in the court. I never saw the manager again but then I heard that the wicked man disappeared. He deserved such a punishment and I thank God for punishing him.

I don’t expect you to forgive me Ajay. I have committed sins by letting that manager play with the mind of the lady. Because of my deed, you have suffered. You’ll never have to face any trouble I create from now onwards.

Your dad

P.S.: A doctor took custody of Reshma’s daughter. He is the girl’s biological father.

Ajay trembled. The letter fell off his hand. He had made a mistake by not talking too his father before the latter’s death. He cried bitterly until Inspector Pradhan said, “I’m sorry, Ajay. But I am curious about something.”

‘What is it?’ Ajay asked through his gestures. The inspector pointed at a small photo on the top of the table and continued, “Is that you?”

“No,” Ajay said in a low voice, “It’s Dad”. The officer then remarked, “You two look strikingly similar.”

Read Chapter 4

Read Chapter 6