Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Changed Man

He was sitting like an idiot before the idiot box. He was overwhelmed by ennui. He thought "am I spending my time in the best possible manner." The answer that his inner self gave him was an unequivocal NO. He felt ashamed of himself. Life was passing him by and he remained a silent spectator. Something was to be done and it was to be done immediately. Then a thought occurred to him. On his face a look of determination and resolve was visible. Anyone could see that he was a changed man. He was no longer the spineless comatose bystander he was five minutes ago. He was a man who knew what he wanted from life and how to get it. He was in charge of his life. With a victorious smile he reached for the remote control and switched to another channel.

To Add/Delete A course

When I came to know that the semester for the freshers would begin late I was convinced that it would affect me adversely knowing IIT as well as I do. My summer nights were filled with nightmares of how exactly the IIT system will contrive to accomplish the task. IIT did not fail to live down to my expectations and on the day of my registration I learned that one of the courses for which I had registered would start when the freshers came.

This was not so bad, all I had to do was to add /delete a course; it was as easy as falling off a log (not that I have tried falling off a log but it seems easy). The knowledgeable reader might smile at my foolish optimism. To break the problem into simple steps was the first thing that I was taught in computer science. The first step was to search for a suitable course .My good friend Ranjit Jhala told me about an easy course and swore me to secrecy, he did not want any studs registering for the course and coming in the way of his A. Why he told me was only too clear, he knew my academic abilities only too well.

I promptly went and got the signature of the course co-coordinator. Only two more signatures to go, it is really very easy I found myself musing. Again I imagine the knowledgeable reader smiling at my folly. Now the course which I had to delete was of Ap-Mech department, I did not know the prof's room so I went to the concerned department and noted the room no. of the Prof as MS207 and went to the room at once. I knew that things were going too smoothly and something was bound to go wrong, so I was not totally unprepared for the shock but the magnitude of the shock left me totally flabbergasted. I was standing in front of MS-207 and reading the legend MS-207 LADIES TOILET. I am a very gullible sort of guy and apt to believe anything that you tell me. But there is limit to the gullibility of every gullible man and this was mine ,if you told me that the Prof lived inside the ladies toilet, even I would smile and say ," you are putting me on."

When I went back to the AM department I saw that I, had missed the fine print, it was actually MS207-C8. I returned to MS and continued my search with increased consternation. I searched the entire 200 level thereby increasing my knowledge of the geography of the institute but MS-207 C8 was nowhere to be found. Then my good friend Mehrotra arrived, who on being told about my problem gave me a knowing smile. "Ah!” he said, “how could you have found it. It is beyond your abilities". I didn't take that too kindly but followed him. He reached the first floor and then took the stairs for the 300 level.” Listen", I said,"the room is MS207-c8 which means it will be on the first floor. He gave me a smile which seemed to say "how naive you are "and continued his upward movement.
He led me to the room in a strategic position in 300 level. I was duly impressed. The Prof was not there but now I knew where to find him, or so I thought. My many unsuccessful visits to the prof's room were fast gaining the status of the joke of the week. My friend Puneet found it especially funny but was good enough to offer me some kind advice. He told me that the Prof was slightly built and bearded , maybe he's roaming around near his room ;I should now be able to recognize him and approach him. So it was a wiser Misam Abbas who went with his friend Gaurav Suri in search of the Prof. I described the Prof to Suri as he spotted a slightly built bearded Prof. " There can't be two of them ",said Suri and inspired me to approach him. The Prof inspected the form with much interest and queried me for some time. Then he dropped the bombshell. “You’ll have to go to the course coordinator for this”, he said dismissively. It had been a tragic case of mistaken identity.

The night of August 30 arrived .The next day was the last day. By a stroke of fortune my friend Kant knew the prof's house (having visited the Prof , unsuccessfully , to save an F. I went to the prof's house and knocked, a splashing sound answered the door. Apparently he was in the shower, I decided to come back after some time. At this stage my friend Chandilya was going to the temple, now I was willing to try anything. I went with him; prayed vehemently and promised to become a believer if I should meet the prof next time I visited him.

When I went to his house again it was locked from inside and all the lights were off. I got no response as I knocked. I must confess that my first thought was, God forbid, if something were to happen to the Prof Then how will I delete my course. It was a totally dejected Misam Abbas who met his friend Jaiswal, a friend who likes to refer too himself as the man with the golden touch, and not without reason, as the reader will soon see. So the man with the golden touch said “my ring never fails me”. We went to the prof's house. This time the lights were on. In response to my knocking the door opened. It was a slightly built, bearded, and freshly bathed and towel clad Prof who opened the door. Heaven knows that if the door had been opened by Aishwarya Rai in a similar state (except for the bearded part) I would not have been happier. The Prof signed.

Now only the course advisor was left. As I entered the institute building the next day a miracle awaited me. Lo and behold there stood before me the very course advisor that I was looking for in flesh. "Good morning sir”,I said , " I need your signature on this form”. He said “it is not filled up” and walked away .I caught up and ejaculated desperately “but sir it is ". “Where’s the date?” he commented sadistically leaving me behind once again. I looked at my form and discovered that the accuracy of his statement was exactly 100%. There was indeed no date .I had fantasized once in a very wild daydream how it will be like to write something while running. Benevolent fate conspiring with my magnanimous course advisor had provided me with that very opportunity. So I wrote while I ran or if you prefer ran while I wrote. The course advisor signed. I submitted the form in UG section in time. As I walked back from the institute some words of immortal wisdom occurred to me which I would like to share with the reader. “The world is a much nicer place if you have successfully submitted your add/delete form."

The Fish

At the age of 24 Rajesh had secured a government job and so his life was set. It was a state government job, and some said it was not as good as a central government job but he was satisfied. With the kind of education he had had he felt this was quite an achievement. The next step he needed to take was to get himself a wife. He had it all worked out, he would marry only a science graduate; not that he wanted her to work but an arts graduate hardly had any brains, and he didn’t want his children to be brought up by a fool. He had seen a lot of foolish women and really wanted to marry someone who would embrace the kind of modernism he advocated.
It wasn’t difficult to arrange a match for him; it wasn’t everyone who had a government job these days. Within a year of starting his job he was happily married. Smriti came from a rich family, at least a family that was rich by Rajesh’s standards. Smriti wasn’t an expert in cooking but she was a science graduate and as far as cooking was concerned he was convinced there was nothing he couldn’t teach her.
So they began their life of domesticity and small dreams. She would give him breakfast, he would leave for office; he would come back, have tea and set about little household chores. They had their tasks cut out. It was a smooth life.
He liked fish, but none of these hotel-wallahs could really make it properly and he could never be sure whether it was cleaned properly. Throughout his bachelor days he had toyed with the idea of cooking fish at home but somehow never got around to doing it. And now, he was told, in the Wednesday market they sold good fish and at very reasonable prices. While returning from office he went to the fish market.
“How much for that one?”
“20 rupees babuji.”
“That’s a lot, tell me the fair price”
“Oh I have the best fish in the market, and just for you I’ll make it 15, final price”
“Ok, if you are saying, clean it up for me”
“Don’t worry Babuji, it would be the best fish you’ve had even if I say so myself”
“It seems sort of smelly”
“Oh, Babuji, fish has that smell, just be sure to add enough haldi”

So the deal was settled. There was a bounce in Rajesh’s gait as he walked in to his house.
“Smriti, look what I got for you! Fish! You would be bored of cooking the same stuff everyday, and I got a good deal on this one too”
“I’ve never really cooked fish before”
“Don’t you worry, it’s pretty simple, and I’ll tell you”
“Aaah! A fat lot you know, don’t worry I’ll figure it out, I’ve seen it made”
“Okay, but if you need any help, don’t hesitate to ask”
“Sure,” Smriti said with a smile.

So the fish was thoroughly cleaned and then inspected by Rajesh. The smell was bothering Smriti but she didn’t want to say something and then have to listen to “there’s so much you have to learn” speech by Rajesh. The oil was poured, just a little bit extra, this meal was a special one and they could afford to be just a little extravagant.

“Make sure you put in enough haldi,” Rajesh called out.
“Oh yes, I know, but doesn’t smell too good”
“Ha ha ha, fish will smell, what did you expect?”
“Just come here and take a look”
Rajesh walked in to the kitchen, he wasn’t as sure as he wanted to be.
He smelled the fish from close, it didn’t quite seem right. But then with the spices it should be okay.
“Just put in the spices, and lets see, I feel that should take away the smell, after all that’s what spices are for”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I think that should do the trick, don’t spare the spices”

So the cooking continued. Smriti added some extra spices, this would work. As she put the fish in the karahi with all the spices, the smell did seem to subside.
“Make sure you fry it properly”
“Of course”

The smell which reached Rajesh outside the kitchen was good, though it had a hint of that rotten smell he was so desperately trying to ignore. Anyway, it will all work out, he tried to convince himself.

He walked into the kitchen again.
“So how’s it coming along?”
“What about the smell?”
“I think after the spices it’s not bad”
“See I told you”
He walked away more convinced that it would be a memorable dinner.

They can have it more often, he was thinking. Maybe he can strike a better deal with the fish wallah, he sounded a genuine sort. At least twice a month they should have fish, it’s good for health also.

“Rajesh, can you please come here”
Maybe she needs some of my expert advice, he thought as he walked in.
“Rajesh, I think the smell is still there”
“It must be in your brain!”
“Anyway, I’ll fry it a little more, add some garnishing, and then let’s see”
“Don’t worry, it will be excellent”

Finally the fish was ready; it was served with hot chapattis and some salad as well. They had their plates set out, both a bit reluctant to take the first bite. Rajesh put a bite in testily.
“It is good!” he blurted out.
Smriti took a bite as well. Not only was the smell there, it didn’t taste right. The fish was rotten.
“Rajesh, don’t eat it”
“You know, the fish is spoiled, it wasn’t fresh to start with”
“But …”
“Yes, I have made a lot of effort over it, you were also excited about this, but we can’t eat rotten fish”
“You are over-reacting; there is just a little smell”
“You know as well as I do there in not a little smell”
“Okay, okay so what do we do now?”
“First let’s throw this away, and then I’ll cook up something quickly”
“But you must be tired”
“Don’t worry I can handle it”

All the oil, all the spices, all the effort was wasted. It wasn’t just a wastage that bothered Rajesh; it was the fact that they could ill afford such wastage. But Smriti was a gem; she always knew what the right thing to do was.

The quickly cooked meal was served. It was good.
“Smriti, you always know what to do!”
“Don’t you feel sad; as long as you are happy I don’t worry about anything”
“But you spent so much time and effort on the fish”
“As long as you appreciate it, my effort has served it purpose”

That was true enough. What was the big deal about the fish?

Rajesh lay awake till late that night. He was thinking about the fish. Why couldn’t he just get another fish the next day? Of course, there would be a quarrel with the fish-wallah and he might not listen to reason. These guys are pretty insolent. Anyway that was not the issue. He wanted to have the money to not be bothered about rotten fish, not to be bothered about the oil, the spices. The moment a fish smelled bad, they would throw it away, Smriti won’t have to toil to cook a rotten fish just because they both knew it wasn’t an easy decision to just throw it away.
That night he decided he would make more money, just a government job would not suffice. There are plenty of opportunities- he just had to exert himself a bit – there were other people in the office that did a little something on the side, he would too…

Smriti, lying next to him, was sleeping blissfully knowing that her husband cared, and that was all she wanted, even if she had to cook rotten fish everyday.

The Myth of Sisyphus

He was rolling a stone up a hill. He was Sisyphus, a character in Greek mythology. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to continuously roll a stone up a hill from whence the stone would fall -- futile and hopeless labour. Yes, he was Sisyphus -- rolling a stone, faster and faster, perspiring, tired. . . rolling a stone.
The alarm went off. He woke with beads of perspiration on his forehead. He got up immediately. He was determined to attend the classes. Then suddenly, a flash of his dream. He lay on his bed again and lit a cigarette. Fuck the classes.
For the past eighteen years: classes and classes; rolling and rolling. His thoughts went back to pre-primary classes -- he didn't remember much about them. His classmates -- Arun, Alka and Shalini. . . Shalini, She appeared very beautiful to him then -- where was she now? Her existence had touched his and then a blank. Why? What was the purpose of it all? What was the purpose of life? What was life?
He had changed schools in class one and then never seen any of his friends again except -- Manu, Manu Dixit. Manu had come to his school in class eight -- Manu, a friend from kindergarten had become an acquaintance of class eight.
Class eight: what did he remember of it? The subjects, Geography for instance -- what did he remember of it? Did he remember the factors affecting the produce of jute in south-western Bihar, which he had probably mugged for his trimester? What was the purpose?
He lit another cigarette.
"I'm bunking all classes today, how will it affect my life ten years from now?"
Ten. . .ten. . . class ten.
In class ten I went to a coaching -- for Geography -- Ha-Ha, how ludicrous it seems now, he thought. But the summer of '92.
"Those were the best days of my life."
Yeah, maybe -- not that it made a difference. He spent a lot of time with his friend Shiva, the best friend that he ever had, that summer. From the coaching they would go to the British Library. Then on the steps in front of the library , armed with Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future in their hands they had tried to write a science fiction story. What was it called? They hadn't given it a name. What's in a name? "A rose by any other name, Would smell as sweet"
He laughed aloud. You couldn't take only Geography at the coaching -- so, he had taken English also. He was taught "Julius Caesar" by Mr. Larkins. Mr. Larkins often wrote some quotation from the text on the board and the class was supposed to point out the context. Kaushiki always got it wrong. Kaushiki, why did he suddenly think of her? Does she even know of his existence now. Certainly during and after the classes they had talked a lot. Her existence had touched his and then. . . Shiva did not approve.
"Pitega, bahut pitega," Shiva had said.
"Why?" he had retaliated, "I am only talking to her. Not raping her."
Where is Kaushiki now? Meaningless, it was all meaningless.
"For want of anything better, it is the cigarette that I kiss! A little alcohol too, what else is bliss?" Suddenly he composed this silly rhyme. I am really a poet, he mused.
With Shiva he planned his future -- they would appear for SAT, go to the US, to MIT. and become theoretical physicists. They had read A Brief History Of Time a few days before. Their discussions sometimes turned philosophical. What would happen after death? They had struck a deal, whoever among them will die first will come to meet the other. They had even decided on the venue -- the dead man would be sitting on a chair reading The Times.
Shiva did not keep his promise. He died in October, '92, and never came back. He was born, he was a brilliant student, dreamt about winning the Nobel prize and died. Why? No reason at all. Pure randomness.
Another brilliant classmate died in class eleven, committed suicide, some had said. The leading theory was that Chandra killed himself because he didn't do as well as he wanted in class ten boards -- he was placed seventh in class.
I was placed in top six, he recalled, and that he had observed to Shiva that he felt guilty. No something was wrong. Shiva had died before Chandra, yet, he distinctly remembered. Both Chandra and Shiva were very good arm wrestlers -- probably they are arm wrestling in heaven now. That then is the purpose of life -- to arm wrestle in heaven!
He studied hard for class twelve boards, he missed topping the college by a mark. His father was more sad at his misfortune. He had studied hard because he knew no other way.
"But now I do," he mused as the butt of his cigarette caught fire.
He was admitted to a good college and once again the classes began. As a fresher he was the most enthusiastic of all. He tried everything: sports, cricket, badminton, and then drama, debating, mimicry, singing and so on. His acads were badly screwed.
In his second year he gave up everything to take up cigarettes and alcohol. His acads were screwed even worse and he didn't give a damn. In a drunken state he often stood on the balcony, gazing into nothingness. To anyone who questioned him he said, "What is life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare."
This is a very nice poem, he thought, especially these two lines.
"No time to wait till her mouth can enrich the smile which her eyes began."
But, in his life there was no romance. There couldn't be. He had blocked everything because everything was meaningless.
He started going to prostitutes, first he was afraid but now it came as second nature to him. After his first sexual intercourse with a pro, love lost all meaning to him.
He recalled that he had written something after he lost his virginity. He took out that piece of paper and read aloud.
"Fuck fuck fuck; Love love love. Love fucking; Fuck loving. What else is life? What is life?"
"Life is a game, play it," came the answer from outside his room. He started but then he realised that it wasn't meant for him. Someone was reading:
"Life is a party, enjoy it. Life is a cake, eat it. Life is a [blah, blah it]. . . . . . . . . ."
The steps of the reader of the above lines receded and the voice grew fainter and fainter 'till all that he could make out was:
"Life is. . . Life is. . . Life is. . . ."
He got up suddenly, that was it. Life is. How come he never thought of it? Nothing need to be added to it.
"Ah! sweet nothingness of life," he said with satisfaction.
He put his last cigarette to his lips and lit it, it flared up. He had lit the wrong end.
"Oh! Fuck!" he said to himself and threw the cigarette away, the tobacco all unconsumed.

Circles of Infinity

There is an infinity inside my head
which dances whenever I lie on my bed
The burden of existence
The burden of pretense
of normalcy
the pull of normalcy
preventing the one step
that would lead to the fall
the fall to nothingness
the elimination of the being
the battered soul of the romantic
the shattered spirit of the careerist
the unfulfilled desires of the writer
the desire for death
the lure of the last breath
the circles of infinity
the vastness of eternity
the immensity of existence
the mundane duties of life
the infiniteness of possibilities
the nothingness of the end
the loneliness of solitude
the triviality of togetherness
the deaths and rebirths
of the souls within
the effort of the means
the search for the end
the denial of the existence
of any end.

The Monster

I had never wanted it to end this way but the story died with him. Had it ever lived? After all, we were probing what life is.
I think he found the answer but he didn't tell me or maybe he couldn't.
It's not that I have not looked for him. Everywhere I go -- wherever there are people, many people, I search for his face. One or two came close. There is a limit to God's ingenuity; but none came close enough.
As I sit on the periphery of this dancing monster, full of people: I still look for him. The monster -- a huge monster gobbles up, with its tentative tentacles, anybody who dares to come close enough. I still wonder at the effect a few decibels of sound can have on people -- I still search for a meaning. It was this search for a meaning which gave birth to a story -- our story: "All's Nothing That Ends".
The myth of Sisyphus, an ancient legend, had captured our imaginations. Sisyphus a Greek hero was condemned by the Gods to constantly rolling a stone uphill, from whence it will fall. He will do it again and again. This seems so much like life: all actions to no end, all sweat, all toil, all happiness, all victory, all loss, to what end? None, it seemed.
So, a notebook was bought, the story began, and Sisyphus was reborn. I would write a page or two and pass on the notebook to him, and he would do the same. Sometimes, we sat together in places like this and experimented with Sisyphus. Often we wrote 'till daylight fatally wounded the beautiful night with its sharp glimmering swords. Our Sisyphus grew stronger day by day, night by night (for the sake of accuracy), like the ever expanding feeling of nothingness of life. We had endowed him with great riches, and he had no other mission in life, but to look for the mission of life.
Sisyphus never knew who his father was: his mother had been in coma for the twenty years he had been alive. He had no relations, no attachments, but for the eternal quest, which is probably why what happened, happened. He tried to love, he tried to hate, kill (himself and others), he tried to escape reality but he could not find an answer.
We often debated on how the story should end. I argued that the answer and the end of Sisyphus lay in getting attached to this giant unstoppable monster which threatens to gobble me any moment. My friend did not differ; yet he did. He said that the answer lay in Sisyphus, but, would not say what it was; still it seemed that he knew the answer.
I grew sick of Sisyphus because he refused to change. He refused to be attached. Whatever my friend wrote he made sure of this. So once when I had the notebook; when Sisyphus was in my control; I decided to end Sisyphus and the story with him. I wrote the following passage:
"Now look Sisyphus, said the writer, "The answer lies without and not within. And since you do not have a without, you have to well die." Sisyphus laughed at the writers face and disappeared back into the circle of life. This is the end.
The next day I met my friend I told him, "I have ended the story, you can have a look at it."
"Sure," he said without expression and took the notebook with him.
I read a cheap paperback late into that night and woke up late next morning to find the notebook slipped back in my room. Why had he returned it so early, I wondered. The following lines had been scribbled on the last page after what had supposedly been the end
Or is it? Sisyphus is not mortal; he cannot die. What do you think he was up to when this notebook lay idle, or even before it was bought, maybe? He was there, watching us wonder about him, his name, his quest for meaning. We only thought we created him, we only thought we controlled him. You only thought you killed him. Sisyphus will not die; you will, I will.
This was the last that I heard from my friend.
Before I find myself shaking a leg or two, succumbing finally to the ever increasing power of this monster, I would like to tell you once again -- I had never wanted it to end this way, but, he died with the story.

The Impolite Death

Atticus woke up at nine in the morning, more or less the time he was wont to. He gave his head a slight jerk and detected no signs of a hangover. He reached for his cigarette and contemplatively began fiddling with his hair, plucked a strand out and looked at it, it was white.
"So none can say Atticus died young," he mused and then dismissed the strand and the thought with a snap of his fingers.
The night before, when he slept he had been too drunk too think about what had transpired during the day. He had had a long conversation with Trocia. He thought of her last monologue before he had walked out.
"Of course I love you Atty. Are you not satisfied with that? Why do you want me to say I love you as I have never loved anyone before and never will? It was you who told me that love need not be rare for it to be great. I am the sum total of my experiences. I will not deny them or say I do just to please you. I am sure you understand. Some people will mean a lot to me, maybe more than you, but I am willing to give myself to you, to marry you, to love you."
Atticus got up and walked away then. Trocia was too surprised to react. Then he had drunk all evening and slept. He hadn't thought of her when he was drinking. He was watching television and the make believe lives of the characters on the screen had somehow seemed more real to him than his own.
Atticus' flow of thoughts suddenly shifted from yesterday onto today as he caught sight of the date on the clock in front of him. The date seemed familiar. There was really nothing special about today save the fact that the earth was in the same position relative to the sun as it had been twenty five years ago when he was born. His cigarette on the ground and safely crushed under his shoes he got up. By ten o'clock he hit the road in whatever clothes he laid his eyes on first.
"Good morning Atticus!" said John, his neighbour for five years.
Atticus nodded and thought "Good first step, this man seldom forgets dates." He went to his office and worked as usual. The lunch hour passed without his ear being subjected to the dreadful words "Happy birthday, Atticus."
As the day progressed he became more and more sure that today was the day he would prove his theory to the world. His theory was quite simple, so simple that no one would ever believe in it. He had talked about it to everyone he could. The idea was that to live is a decision that we affirm every new moment we continue living so all that was needed to die was not reaffirming it once. All you needed to say was "I quit" and then and there you will cease living. It was such a beautiful, simple and elegant theory that it seemed such a waste to see it in action only once -- but only once it had to be.
Yet he wanted to save it for some occasion, some event not necessarily extraordinary, but something he could use as a sign. In his childhood he had often saved his last piece of chocolate and eaten it only when two pigeons simultaneously took off from a building he liked looking at from the window of his room. It was the sign. For ceasing living he had decided the sign would be when everybody forgot his birthday. It had failed last year and failed miserably, he had stopped counting after being wished for the tenth time.
It was five now and time to go home. Walking out of his office responding to the usual Ok-see-you-tomorrows, Atticus was praying to a god he didn't believe in that no one would think of his birthday as an afterthought. He safely reached home without hearing the words that would damn him to another year of life.
Trocia walked toward Atticus' house. She had cried for hours after Atticus walked out, knowing not whether she hated him more or loved him more. Atticus was the first man who was willing to give up everything for her -- his home, his friends, his job, his social position whatever. And she knew now that he could give up his life for her, something she hadn't ever been sure of her previous lovers, no matter how passionately they had loved her. She loved Atticus dearly, sensitively, with emotions with feelings an even with reason. The only thing she could not give him was passion, she had spent it all.
She had always thought that if Ronald came to her anytime, she would forget Atticus and run to his arms, all her passion set afire. But today she wasn't really sure. Atticus was there for her with his arms open and yet she was waiting for Ronald. At that moment she knew that she loved Atticus with all her heart and would deny her past for him, if not for anything then because he loved her so much. Today as she walked to Atticus' house she was going to run into his arms and give herself to him truly, completely, wholly just as he had given himself to her. As she reached the door she heard the resonant, animated voice of Atticus proclaiming, "So there you are my dear friends, all I have to do is not reaffirm the decision to live and I will cease living, as simple as that."
Trocia walked in, there was quite a crowd there jovial and laughing. Trocia smiled fondly at Atticus. Oh how I love this man, she told herself, with all his quirks and philosophical flights. The whole setting seemed very joyous to her; a brilliant prelude to what she was going to say to Atticus when everybody left. She wasn't really impatient. She had also saved her last chocolate piece when she was a child. But unlike Atticus she hadn't waited for a sign to eat it, she had just resisted till the craving would become too much. Often her brother would snatch the last piece from her and she would be really sad. But today she saw no competition in the crowd that was there. Trocia was very happy, she had a straight face but her soul was laughing away merrily.
"Ha ha, Trocia just listen to Atticus today, he says he will just say 'I quit' and die, no, no, cease living right in front of our eyes," said John.
"Ha ha, yes," said another friend, "and the best part is the scoundrel says it so earnestly he almost makes us believe that he really believes in this stuff."
Everyone was laughing and Trocia also joined in.
Atticus smiled and said, "It is not polite to laugh when somebody is dying".
He then closed his eyes and lay still. Trocia went to his bed and took his hand in hers. His pulse had stopped.
"He's dead," she told everyone.
The laughter suddenly stopped. Then somebody said,"So I guess we will have one person less for the party."
"That gives everybody more to drink," another voice piped in and the laughter restarted with double vigour. Trocia wasn't laughing, She knew that there is something she will regret for the rest of her life.
She just thought of a brilliant retort to Atticus' last words. "It is not polite to die when somebody's laughing," she should have told him. But as usual she has thought of it too late. Atticus had seen the two pigeons take off and eaten his last piece of chocolate and Trocia had waited too long once again and her brother had snatched that last piece from her.