It was a fine Saturday evening.
I walked into the park and made myself comfortable on the bench. The Gurgaon winters ensured that there was darkness before its time, in the evening. Since I was one for the weather others may call gloomy and depressing, I certainly did not mind.A week in Gurgaon can be sometimes too much for the senses. And the organs. And the mind. And the... I digress.For one, take the traffic. The Traffic. An all pervasive constraint, controlling the time and space of your existence, and eventually limiting what you achieve, in your short despicable life.
“Oh, is it now, Human? Short and despicable?”
When I look back now, I am not sure what surprised me the most. Was it the fact that the retort was addressing a random thought in my head? Or was it the fact that the owner of the voice jumped across me, in to my field of vision, with his black fur bristling and tail twitching?
He stared into my eyes with his shocking green pupils.
I do know that in the spectrum of mental health and alertness, I may not be a perfect 10, but I knew I was sane, at least till yesterday at work. Come to think of it, I used to think work drove me insane, but never considered the possibility that in fact it may prove to be one day a barometer of my sanity.
“You are sane alright, human. At least as sane as humans can be. “Said the Cat.
At this point I must make it clear that I’m not a religious zealot, nor am I a jingoistic patriot. A little bit of a football fanatic, but not the kind that skips sleep to watch a late night game. My point is, I’ve never been a vocal advocate for the human race. Yet, I felt offended that this feline dared to question the abject sanity of our entire race.I replied, indignantly, “Oh why, thank you kind sir. You seem to be an exception for your kind, with your nuanced taste in sarcasm. Shouldn’t you be out hunting rats or sparrows or whatever it is that your kind hunts?”
Can a cat smile? Yes, of course, if it’s in the company of witty people.
“Sorry, if you took offence, human. I was just musing on the contradictions of your kind. You complain about the traffic, and the other hallmarks of your civilization, yet your life comes to a crumbling halt without any of those.”
He had a point there. How would I get to work without a car? And traffic was essentially all the cars taking people to and from work.
He continued, “I’m not blaming you, friend. My worldview is of a different nature. Tell me human, why do you go to work? “
I responded, “To make money. You see, in our world, the quality of our life depends on the amount of money you have. “
He narrowed his pupils at me. “So, you work your miserable life away for this so called quality of life. The primal paradox, I like to call it. Why don’t you take a step back and think if it’s all worth it?”
I looked at the cat and blinked. But, but…! I enjoy the apartment I’m staying in! I like the fact that I can go to any bar of my choosing! And yet… The price I pay is with my time, essentially my life.
As I lay back on the park bench pondering these existential questions, the next character of this strange play entered.
On another day, I might have heard it as “Woof woof”. But my perception of reality had been significantly altered enough that I recognized the words from the bark. He was a street mongrel, but somewhere in his parentage there had been some respectable aristocratic canine, a fact betrayed by his size and sheer presence. This new entrant strolled next to the cat, and stretched as any normal dog would, and shot off a discourse as no normal dog would.
“Oh Azrael, you have been spreading your miserable philosophies again? That too on a human? Why can’t you simply confine your negativities within that cat brain of yours?”
At the mentioning of his name, Azrael bristled again.
“Sure, why wouldn’t I listen to you, my unreasonably excitable friend? Except for the fact that you don’t really have much of thoughts or world views and you live life choosing between either chasing cars or begging for morsels from his kind. “Azrael spoke in his icy cat voice, shooting a glance towards me.
The dog wasn’t to be silenced that easily. “You think deeply about the meaning of life, or the lack of it. I live in the moment, breathe in every gasp of air with pleasure, not knowing which may be my last. And yet who is the content one, Azrael? Your miserable brooding face always brings my grandfather’s words to mind- ‘For us dogs my boy, ignorance is bliss. Remember curiosity killed the cat and not the dog, because we didn’t want any of that nonsense!’ Ha ha ha!!”
Azrael spoke coldly and without emotion. “Your happiness is an illusion, dog. You have chosen to take the blue pill of hedonism and revel in your ignorance. I simply don’t have the freedom. Because I know that there is no meaning to this life or universe, existence is a suffering. Life itself is a futile exercise in finding the meaning of existence. The real question is, to give up everything and die, or to continue the suffering?”
Since I was the sole representative of the human kind in this discussion, I felt I had to make my voice heard for the sake of our race.
“Of this I’ve always wondered, and often in the recent times. Our reality, or rather my reality is my perception. What if I’m not really hearing you two, a cat and a dog debating on existence and life, and instead I’m actually lying in a hospital bed being administered a powerful sedative right now? How could we know anything for certain? “
Azrael licked his paws, while the dog wagged his tail in agreement, while the dog wagged his tail in agreement. As we were pondering each other’s thoughts, in came running the next philosopher.
For some strange reason, Gurgaon has an abundant population of pigs, which are in a perennial state of motion. Sometimes, they are running for their next meal, while other times they are running away from being a canine’s next meal. Sometimes they run to begin their next passionate romp, while other times they run from being forced into someone else’s romp. Yet for a species that runs more than Haile Selassie on a daily basis, they stay in remarkable shape. A remarkable circular shape that is.
He froze for a minute, eyeing Azrael the cat, the nameless dog and me alternately. The dog being the most congenial of the bunch put him at ease immediately.
The dog yapped happily, “Relax, sir. Shall I call you Hamlet? I’ve always wanted to meet a pig called Hamlet, if you catch my drift. Anyway, you are amongst friends, so you may cease your timeless canter for some moments.”
The freshly christened Hamlet dropped himself down into the grass, partly from relief and partly from exhaustion. Azrael invited him into our discourse, summarizing succinctly our somewhat conflicting and divergent views succinctly, and probing the pig for his own opinion.
He continued, “So you see Hamlet, the dog feels that life is to be enjoyed in a hedonistic way every moment, while I’m in a state of indecision in regards to die or not to die owing to the lack of meaning in life. Our human friend does not have any real intelligent opinion, which is not very surprising. So, what do you think?”
Hamlet took in a deep breath and mused, “ I’m inclined to partially agree with your view, Azrael the cat. While most of my kind are hedonistic pigs (!), I’m burdened with the thoughts about the meaning of existence, and in my short life I haven’t found any. Yet, I’m convinced that to die is not the right choice. In this is infinite void of meaninglessness, I create my own meaning around myself. Maybe in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really matter. But who cares about the grand scheme of things? My life is around a single individualistic focus, which is my own existence. So I strive to achieve a meaning for my own existence by existing and surviving.”
A truly remarkable and nuanced view, I thought. My own thoughts about this topic was quite unformed and uninformed compared to that of my companions. I looked up at the skies to see a few stars glittering, with the light from a million years ago. For a moment, I felt tiny and insignificant, and I let it sunk in.
I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, to see the guard. “ Sir, I must close the park, it is late.” I looked around, and saw no trace of Hamlet, Azrael or the congenial dog. Again, the guard tapped on me, and spoke in an irritated tone, “ Sir, I need to go home to my wife and children. “ I smiled at him and thought, yes, the meaning around our own little lives. I took a deep breath and walked out of the park, into the night. I could hear a cat gently purring in the distance.