Friday, December 2, 2011
THE WASTELANDS OF MY MIND
He lived in a small shack in the big city. His name was Hasmat, which could be translated to literally mean “don’t laugh”. But people always laughed at him on his face as well as behind his back; and also at his side!! He was an aspiring poet, who had had “writer’s block” since the day he started out to try and be a poet. His imagination knew no bounds, but words eluded him. He was unemployed by profession. He always dressed shabbily with a bag hanging by his side, shaved once a month, had a haircut once in six months; all these as much as to get the feel of being a poet as to save some of the little money he had. Actually the money he got from his affluent parents. One fine day Hasmat decided he had had enough. He decided to take matters into his own hands. He got some leaflets printed with something very enigmatic written on them: “There is no way out!” Then he started to meander in those interesting places frequented by those uninteresting places, handing out those enigmatic leaflets, seeking out some answers. The railway station, the daily bazaar, the bus depot, the weekly bazaar, the taxi stand, the monthly bazaar, the airport, the yearly bazaar. All these places became his haunts. He did not have much success though. Most people took the leaflets just to crumple them, maybe thinking of them as those two-bit advertisements about “sex doctors”, and litter the ground. (Why the fuck take them in the first place, eh?). hen, one day’ Lady Luck smiled at Hasmat in the unlikeliest of places- on the streets. It was another fine day, and he was still handing out those pamphlets. This man was kind enough to read the printed words and ask Hasmat, “Out of what?” “Huh?!!” “There is no way out of what?” Hasmat gave a deep, deep sigh and wisdom from the ages gone by shone bright in his otherwise dull eyes. “Let’s say,” he started, “good Sir, that you somehow got yourself stranded in a vast, dry dessert. You kept wandering about, surrounded by the hot sand; desperately seeking the oasis you knew was around somewhere. One day, two days. Your thirst was almost killing you and you didn’t have much strength left. Then all of a sudden. you see hope: you see some palm trees at a distance. You run towards them at first, then crawl on all fours. The last few feet you drag yourself with your body prone on the sand. The sun burns overhead, and you see that there’s not a drop of water in the oasis. What happens the?” The man gulped, loosened his tie, grabbed a Coke from the nearby stall and finished it in one go. “There’s no way out dude,” he said and ran away. Hasmat could only smile. Next he saw a newlywed lady walking towards him, her chest jutted out, and her back arched at an angle. At an angle of about eighteen degrees, he guessed. Taking the red vermillion on her forehead to be a green traffic light, he handed her one of his leaflets. Now, this lady was not too intelligent; that paradigm about beauty and brains not going together. But putting on a pretense of intelligence, she asked: “What do you need a way out of?” “Is the sentence grammatically correct?” she asked herself. Hasmat gave a deep, deep sigh and wisdom from the ages gone by shone bright in his otherwise dull eyes. “Well, I am married. I love my wife very much. Nothing can keep me happy other than her happiness. I work hard to keep her smiling. Work hard six days a week from nine in the morning to nine at night. The one Saturday I wanted to surprise her. It was her birthday. I took half the day off and hurried back home. There is a loose tile in the roof of our house. I climbed up on the roof and removed the tile. I looked down into our house only to see my wife fucking another man. Woman on top. I had originally intended to shout ‘I love you’ down at her. But the words that escaped my lips were ‘Did I come home too late, or too soon?’. Then I climbed down”. He turned his back to her. “So what do I do?” The lady took a step towards him, pressed her ample bosom into his sturdy back, and whispered into his ear, ‘There’s no way out.” The next person he met changed Hasmat’s life. He had stepped out of an expensive car, which bore a doctor’s symbol on the windshield. Reading the leaflet, he asked compassionately, “tell me your problems. I am a psychiatrist.” The scene changed for Hasmat. He was lifted off the dirty streets into the shrink’s gloomy chamber. He surprised himself by baring all to this stranger. After hearing him out, the doctor said: “Shit, man, that ain’t no problem. If you can’t write poems, write some stupid short stories. Nowadays everyone does!” And he got into his car and drove away. Hasmat put some thought into what the shrink had said and started writing stories. After about an year the book “The Wastelands of My Mind”, containing Hasmat’s stories, hit the stands. The critic could not understand what he had wrote, and book had rave reviews. The readers could not understand a thing, and the book soared to number one in the bestsellers list. Hasmat ended up winning the most coveted Cooker Prize, which had been instituted by Lord “Cooker” Cainbridge to help starving writers. Nevertheless, as one would have read in a fifth standard textbook: “Thus, the morale of this story is that there is always a way out. Unless you back yourself into a corner, that is”. Bullshit. This ain’t no fifth standard textbook, and this story has no fucking morale. Fuck yourself. P. S: This is a liberal translation of Lutf-ur Rehman Pradhani’s Assamese poem “Upai Nai”. Thanks a bunch Rufus Ahlty for letting me fuck up your beautiful poem.