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.

The Writer

So that was it, his book was on the shelves. His publisher told him that it was doing very well, and that he should expect a lot of calls from friends, acquaintances, publishers and fans. The last three did not bother him, in fact, he was looking forward to them. It was not that he wanted fame, but, he wasn't shy of it either. What bothered him now was the calls he would receive from his friends and from those who were a part of his past and whom he had filed away in his mind. He had based almost the whole of his novel on his life and on the lives of those around him. He thought that he had covered his tracks rather well.
The first call that he received was from his very good friend Amit Singh.
"Hello, Haroon."
"Hi, Amit, I guess you have called me about the book"
"You guessed it right, Arse-hole, I misunderstood you all my life. You lied when you said that my friendship means more to you than a goddamn novel. You went ahead and wrote about my personal life in your novel."
"No Amit, I distinctly remember your strong feelings on the matter, believe me no character is modeled after you."
"Oh yeah! Then who the fuck is Sumit Singh, the similarity in name and besides that the love affairs and the temper --- Haroon, fuck you. If it had been anyone else I would have killed him. Never try to contact me again."
"Wait a minute---", Haroon said as Amit put down the phone with a bang.
All the fame, all the money, all the creative satisfaction wasn't worth losing your friendship, Amit, thought Haroon.
And the irony was the character of Sumit Singh wasn't modeled after Amit. True, Amit had a very hot temper, but his temper did not surface in the ways that Sumit's would, there was qualitative difference -- Amit was not selfish. They had been the best of friends, in their college days they were inseparable. Amit never understood him and probably he never understood Amit. Once he had borrowed Amit's bike and banged it behind a truck, he had escaped unhurt but the bike was damaged. Haroon had expected Amit to get angry, he didn't. Then Haroon offered to pay for the damages, then, then Amit had really lost his temper. No Amit you can never be Sumit. Haroon hated his novel now. All his efforts to cover his tracks amounted to naught, the trouble had come from an entirely different source. Haroon was dreading the thought of receiving the next call.
The phone rang. He had to pick it up, he couldn't escape it for long.
"Hello, Haroon."
"Hi, Vijay, how's life?"
"Fine, I was right about you all the time, you are a big pseudo-intellectual bastard," said Vijay in a light hearted manner.
"Because all your talk about drawing insight about life was hypocrisy, you went ahead and wrote all about your friends. The one person you didn't write about was me. Am I not important enough?"
Haroon didn't have it in his heart to tell Vijay that the protagonist of the novel was his interpretation of the character of Vijay.
"You are greatly mistaken, Vijay, no character in the novel has been modeled after anyone."
"You don't convince me, Okay,I gotta go, see you soon."
I never could convince you Vijay, thought Haroon, I could not convince you that I loved your sister.
Oh how Haroon had loved Shalini. Vijay had been his friends since the school days. He had spent many evenings at his house, there he had met Shalini and fallen in love with her. He was in class ten and she was in class eleven. He had been weak in Mathematics and she had taught him. She probably thought of him as her younger brother, but he never thought of her as a sister. For two years he had visited Vijay's house just to get a glimpse of her. Then he finally told Vijay that he loved his sister. Vijay was obviously taken aback but quickly recovered.
"You know what your problem is Haroon, you haven't been in contact with many girls, so the first beautiful girl you talk to, you think is the girl of your dreams. it is nothing but a crush."
"Vijay, try to get my point, there is nothing else that I have thought about for the past two years."
"Why? Just because she taught you geometry for ten days. And now just shut up, you are testing my patience. If you ever mention my sister again or try to talk to her one of your best friends will become your sworn enemy."
Haroon had given up, but his whole concept of love changed. Earlier he had thought that the proper end of love is marriage but now he concluded that love is an end in itself. This was a conviction that Haroon still had and he had tried to make that come out through the numerous love affairs of the protagonist and his ultimately marrying a girl whom he did not love. Even Haroon had done the same. After the affair of Shalini he had been heartbroken for a long time but he had still had many relationships with girls. They were all there in his novels. Would any one of them read his novel? If so would anyone understand it. What had he done with the novel? Was it right to make the private lives of so many people public? It was no use debating over now. All he could was to stop the losses.
His doorbell rang. He asked his servant Hamid to answer it. Even Hamid was part of his novel, but as an educated man. In reality Hamid couldn't even sign his name. But Hamid would never know, he will not complain. Hamid had been with him all his life. He had been the servant of his parents and after their deaths he had come to Haroon. Hamid was the only person on whom he could count upon for unconditional support.
"Bhaiya koi ladies aayee hain, apna naam nahin bata rahin hain," Hamid came back with this information.
"Theek hain, unhe Drawing room mein baithao,main aata hoon."
Who would it be, Haroon wondered. He hoped that it was Shalini. He was forty now and she was forty one. She was happily married and sadly he was married also, but even now if she gave him a hint he would leave the world for her.
He went to the drawing room. At first he did not recognize the girl, she was a beautiful girl, must be around thirty, he thought. Suddenly he recognized her, she was Shireen -- she had been his student during his brief stint as a lecturer of English Literature.
"Hi! Shireen!"
"Hello, Sir, I read your book and I just had to meet you. I have a confession to make --- I don't know how to put it --- I am ashamed of telling you---"
Haroon had an inkling as to what was coming. In his novel a teacher falls in love with his student. Nevertheless, he told her that there was nothing to be ashamed of and asked her to tell him everything.
"Haroon, Sir, when I read about the student teacher episode in your novel I thought --- it just occurred to me that you were writing about us."
"About you and me, I mean. The whole school knew that I had a crush on you, only you didn't, or I thought you didn't. When I read your novel I thought that I had missed an opportunity. I hope it is not too late now. Haroon, I have come to tell you that I love you and that I would go to any lengths to be with you."
"But Shireen I am married and I am much older than you, the thought is outrageous."
"Sir, since when did you start believing in the institution of marriage," said Shalini softly. There was both pleading and challenge in her voice.
"Shireen you don't seem to understand ;I never had any such feelings for you." As Haroon said this he didn't convince himself, however he went on. "And Shireen, for god's sake realize that fiction is fiction and life is life, never try to connect the two."
"You said that all good literature is true to life in some way or the other. I am not asking you to marry me. Even I am married as you know. I just want the two of us to go away somewhere, like the teacher and student in your novel. We'll go to France, to Paris, there we will have the time of our lives. You can easily cook up some excuse, I am a reporter I can get myself posted there for a month. I am not asking for any commitment, I am not asking for any permanent relationship, all I am asking for is an experience, a memory I will treasure all my life."
"Shireen, you are young and beautiful. Coming from you this offer is great compliment. You talked of the relationship between fiction and life, it is a very complex issue, it cannot be taught, it can only be learnt. Go away now and think no more of this, someday you will realize why I have said no."
With this word of advice Haroon let her go.
When she left Haroon thought why he had rejected her offer, there were no moral considerations preventing him from accepting. He thought over the reasons he had given Shireen. Vijay was right, he was a pseudo-intellectual bastard. Then he thought of the girl he had met on a flight from India to U.S. five years ago. They had a relationship similar to the one Shireen was suggesting. They had lived together in a hotel for a week with absolutely no talk about the future. He hadn't heard from her since.
Now why had he rejected Shireen's offer? Was he growing old, did he no longer have the enthusiasm of youth? The thought was depressing. He found it difficult to believe but the thing that was bothering him most was that if he ceased having experiences, what would he write about? He had realized long ago that he did not have a very imaginative mind. What he did have was an eye for detail and an excellent command over the style. As regards the contents he was absolutely dependant on those around him.
Even Amit was right, he did value his novel more than his friends -- to him his friends were just characters in the novel. Writing was his passion and it was the only thing that he cared about. His novel had been successful, certainly he had lost Amit, but he had gained another experience -- Shireen. He picked up his phone diary and looked under 'S'...Shalini. . .Shireen, certainly something must be done about Shalini also but she will have to wait. Presently he called up Shireen and fixed up their vacation together. He gave obscure philosophical reasons as to why he changed his mind which he himself didn't understand and Shireen didn't seem to mind.
So Haroon lived and experienced life for another five years and kept on collecting material for his next novel. In the meantime he divorced his wife, both his children left him. Shireen also divorced her husband but Haroon refused to marry her, again giving some very obscure reasons. Still Shireen doted on him and visited him regularly. A year ago he proposed to Shalini, asked her to leave her husband. She refused but she wasn't very satisfied with her marriage, so Haroon succeeded in tempting her to a one night stand.
Yesterday his second novel had been released, it was doing brisk business and again his publisher had told him to expect a lot of calls. Haroon thought that he was caught in an endless cycle, but being caught in this cycle was very pleasurable to him. This time he was not apprehensive at all about calls from friends. He knew that he will lose some friends and some he will gain. And then again the 'experiencing' would begin for the next novel -- with new characters.
The phone rang. Hamid answered it."Vijay Bhaiya hain, bahut gusse mein lag rahe hain," he told Haroon.
"Hello,Vijay I was expecting your call."
"You bastard, what did I tell you years ago I would do if you bothered my sister again"
"You told me that you would become my enemy."
"Exactly, bastard and you just remember that."
Haroon put the phone down before Vijay could say anything else. He was thrilled. The story of best friends becoming sworn enemies was very hackneyed, lets see if I can look at it from a unique angle, he mused to himself.
And then he had also been receiving letters from a certain beautiful lady, twenty-five years of age.




“So,” said Frank, “how has it been going?”
Tipsy, for some reason, wasn’t in a good mood and decided to not play along with the trite. “Frank, you know very well that the last time I was summoned into existence, by the writer that be, I was with you. We have both been wallowing in nothingness for some time and now suddenly we are called into existence. To ask how it has been going is absolutely and completely irrelevant.”
“Wow, looks like you haven’t been drinking for some time, it’s just that I couldn’t find anything else to say and not saying anything seemed more impolite than mouthing triteness”
“When did you start to care about being polite?”
“I am sorry, it’s been so long that I have forgotten what I am supposed to be like”
“That’s the problem with us, we never remember what we are supposed to be like, and I don’t like it. When I emerge from nothingness, I find that I still don’t have anything- I am still nothing, and this saddens me. It makes the nothingness unbearable.”
“So, you would rather not exist than exist in nothingness.”
“Unfortunately, to not exist, is not an option given to us- remember Nausea – remember the meaninglessness of the mortal remains”
“Tipsy, what do you have against nothingness, I love you, I can still look into your eyes and say that nothing else matters!”
“Oh, Frank! In this reincarnation you have been consumed totally by the trite, or else you are pretending, for you have loved me, but that never relieved the burden of the mundane.”
“Very well then, we’ll just sit are curse life again. I just wanted to talk a few pleasantries before we started being puppets but it seems the writer has a more powerful hold on you this time.”

“Frank, I love you, you know that I love you as if none else existed, as if not loving you was an option as inadmissible as not existing. You know that, but you are not satisfied with that. You want my love for you to prevent me from wanting anything else. But I want it, I want it desperately. I want to feel, I want to belong to this world, I want to feel something besides just loving you. I want an anchor in my life. If I say your love is all I have and all else in nothing, it seems that I am belittling our love. If I have only mashed potatoes in my house and I eat it, it wouldn’t mean I am very fond of mashed potatoes.”
“But I know you are fond of mashed potatoes!”
“Frank, my dear Frank, how can you be so irritating and so lovable at the same time,” said Tipsy with a merry laughter.

With Tipsy finally recalling that her role was also to spurt merry laughter into the world at periodic intervals and not merely to paraphrase Sartre, the stage was set for Frank and Tipsy to walk into the bar. So arm in arm they walked in, trying to look like and feel like any other ‘normal’ couple. The looking wasn’t too difficult and the feeling wasn’t too easy.
“Madam, Sir, what may I bring you today?”
“A bottle of whisky, two glasses and some mashed potatoes please,” said Frank.
“Sir, mashed potatoes are good but most people would ask for French Fries and Masala peanuts in this place with their whisky”
“When you say most, dear waiter, do you realize that ‘most’ is not ‘all’, in fact the makers of the English Language went to the extent of making two entirely different words for it. Look at these two words there is not a single letter common in the two. So please do honor the makers of the English Language and get me those mashed potatoes”
“Very good Sir, perhaps in some time and place I would like to discuss your obsession with the mashed potatoes. I have seen many kinds, I tell you, but I have seen none that were so touchy about mashed potatoes, perhaps your esteemed mother met with an accident making mashed potatoes (though I find it difficult to imagine what sort of an accident one can meet with while making mashed potatoes). And another thing which just came to my mind, if, and pardon my insolence, your esteemed mother did meet with an accident while making mashed potatoes why would you like mashed potatoes? Most people would actually start disliking mashed potatoes were such an occurrence to infringe itself on their existence. Though that can get you started on your ‘most is not all’ speech once again but I am willing to take the risk … ”
“My good waiter, no mother of mine met with any accident while making mashed potatoes, but I do know of a waiter who is going to meet with a very unfortunate accident while taking an order of mashed potatoes if he does not proceed immediately to get the mashed potatoes”
“The point that you are trying to make, although in very oblique terms, is well taken. I will do as you say; your wait time will be approximately 17 minutes. Thank you Sir.”
“Frank, I was wondering that myself, why are you so touchy about mashed potatoes today?”
“ Aha – I am glad you asked it – for I was going to explain it myself. You say that the fact that if you have mashed potatoes as the only option and you eat mashed potatoes does not imply that you are fond of mashed potatoes. My point is that it also does not imply that you are not fond of mashed potatoes. I was just trying to elucidate it by ordering mashed potatoes even when we had the option of French fries and Masala peanuts.”
“What about those that have eaten only mashed potatoes all their lives?”
“Tipsy, my dearest, it has been my contention that there are no intrinsic values in different types of foods, and it is wrong to say that French fries are better than mashed potatoes. In fact I would go to the extent of saying it is wrong, even to say that they are different. For they serve the same purpose- to fill up your stomach.” Frank was talking animatedly now, he seemed to have recalled what he was supposed to represent. “I am toward life what my friend, so and so, is toward food, place horse meat or a Masala Dosa or chowmein in front of him and he will proceed to eat the item with the same indifference that he would show the other items, but eat, he will, for that fills up his stomach.”

“So Frank, you make the choice of being indifferent toward the varieties presented before you, to the extent that you deny that varieties exist. But still you would grant that people may recognize the existence of varieties and may choose to choose one over the others.”

Thus, Frank and Tipsy rambled for a few more sentences and understood each others’ position in literal terms, and yet, were further away from understanding how a different line of thought from their own was possible. The mashed potatoes, perhaps having a volition of their own, chose this moment to make their presence felt, and appeared on the table alongside the whisky.
“No matter whether there are choices or not, no matter whether you chose mashed potatoes or not; mashed potatoes are what you are going to get,” said Frank triumphantly.
“As long as they come with whisky, I don’t really mind,” concluded Tipsy.


“So there, my son, you must do what I failed to do, you must find the meaning of life,” said Cecelia, beginning another of her philosophical lectures that Sisyphus had come to love and to hate.
Sisyphus knew that her mother said this in all earnestness. Though he wanted to play along with his mother’s fantasies for she was old, sick and about to die, but the very earnestness in her voice and the force of his own convictions made him feel it was his duty to disabuse her.
“Mother, you know that I am a proponent of the meaninglessness of life and the fruitlessness of all effort. And it is not merely my life that has lead me to this belief but yours too, from what I have seen and what you have told me. I think that you also share my belief that life does not have a meaning. Why then, do you insist on giving me the assignment of finding the purpose of life? My rock is parked outside the house, and tomorrow morning, again, I will take that rock up the hill and watch it fall so that day after tomorrow I can take it up again. And it does give me great pleasure in watching it fall, for if it did not what would I do the next day? I am too old to find another rock.”
“ My dear Sisyphus, listening to my young son saying that he is too old gives me great sadness. Such cynicism in one so young is not a good thing. Leave the cynicism to me, and believe me I have enough of that for both of us. You must do as I tell you to, you must find the purpose of life. Mine may not have had a purpose, mine may have been meaningless but yours must be a life which knows what it wants to fill up its days with.”

Sisyphus could not prove to his mother that life’s purpose did not exist. If you look for something and you find it, you prove that it was there. But what happens when you look for something and don’t find it, what do you do when the space that you are searching is infinite. You do not have a way of proving that it will not be found. The purely logical thing to do would be to continue looking- but it appeared irrational to him. Interesting thing, this looking for the meaning life, thought Sisyphus, logical and yet irrational.

“You are so quiet my son, you cannot find an argument to get yourself absolved from the duty that I am assigning you. I am your mother Sisyphus, and if there were an easy way for you to deny my request I wouldn’t have bothered to make the request.”
“Mother, perhaps there is no argument that I can think of to prove that such a thing as meaning of life does not exist, but I am convinced of it. Why do you want me to add this thankless task to my duties? I do not enjoy the rolling of the rock, but I have accepted it. I have made myself inert. The task that I do day after day does not bother me; I perform the actions, as an actor would act his part. I am a good actor, dear mother, and few realize that I am merely playing a part and I like it. Why do you want to disturb this fine balance, why do you want me to expect that something can change? The only thing I expect to change is the shade of the brown the rock is, and it does change with the seasons and I rejoice at the newness that the changing shades bring me. I will live my life like this mother, please allow me to.”
Cecelia’s could empathize with Sisyphus, it would not be wrong to say that she felt the same and would not want to be assigned the task that Sisyphus was. But she had nonetheless, taken that task upon herself, and having been unsuccessful at it, it was her duty to delegate it.
“Mother, you are so pensive, you are so sad. I love you, mother and would do anything for you. Tomorrow I would roll two rocks instead of one if that would make you happier but please don’t assign me a task that is doomed to failure. I do not believe that such a thing exists and to search for it would be dual agony for me the fruitless labor – and the disappointment of the irrevocable failure.”
Cecilia waited patiently for Sisyphus to end and then said with finality, “Son, your task is not to find the meaning of life but to search for the meaning of life, and if you fail to do so, do as I have done, and ask your offspring what I have asked you to do.”
Having thus delegated her task to Sisyphus, Cecelia died peacefully with a look on her face that came deceptively close to a smile of contentment.


I can converse with those around me. When I talk to a person I have an idea about what the person is like and talk about the things that may interest the person I am talking to. I can think of topics that the person I am talking to is likely to have opinions on. When I say something and stop I would like the other person to respond, to confirm or deny what I have said after relating it to experiences that he or she may have had.
When I create an illusion of a conversation between two fictional characters I can juxtapose two varying opinions that I have on the same subject – or anticipate the responses to my opinions that may contradict it.
But if I do not have the opportunity of conversing with somebody who is likely to have opinions that relate to mine and I do not have the leisure or inclination of creating characters – what do I do then.
What if I am faced with the enterprise of conversing with myself? I cannot relate stories of trivial occurrences in my day and expect myself to come up with a matching trivial story to fill the emptiness.
Even if I were to think of an occurrence during the day and then categorize similar such occurrences there would be no anticipation of the unknown. A conversation I would have with myself could begin – I talked to a couple today who were planning to have a child and then I would say, “ Ah yes, I heard such and such couple and so and so couple were also talking about the same thing”. And there the conversation would end. There would be no need to recount the details of what each couple had said for the self and the self would both know it. Such a conversation if carried out with someone else, may still be worthless but it would serve one function- it would fill the emptiness. This brings us to the question of what is better, is empty space better or is space that is full of worthless objects better? What is better if a third option does not exist?
What can the individual fill up his days with if it were not for the external world? Is the individual empty without the external world? And if the individual is empty how is it that the external world fills up the emptiness. The individual is empty then more than one individual together should also be empty. So the filling up of the emptiness that one experiences when in the company of others is essentially an illusion. What if this illusion is as good as it gets? The loner then has the realization of the truth and boredom, and those that live in the company of others then have an illusion of fullness when, essentially, there lot is no better than that of the loner.
Saying this, the loner justifies his state of life and since there is none to contradict his opinion the conversation ends there.

What Kind of Eggs Would you Like?

So the five of us died the same day and confronted God.
“What an unreasonable Universe you have created? Of course, by the looks of it you have tried, but, I am sorry to say the resultant creation is far from pure reason- there are far too many uncertainties. And, the people you have put in it- Oh! My God! - are just a bunch of unreasonable jackasses,” thundered the Mathematician. Apparently he had been waiting for this all his life.
“The motivations you have given people are far too numerous and this simply makes them confused and consequently not very productive. If all the people had a single motive- as I did- profit, the world would have been a much better place,” said the Entrepreneur, almost believing that God would sit up and say – “I will be done by COB today.”
“Here we are, talking to You, and we have proof that you exist. I spent all my life trying to convince people you existed but couldn’t convert very many – or at best gave them a shaky faith. Why couldn’t you simply have put in more faith and then all would behave properly and we would get a perfect world,” pleaded the Theist.
“All this is useless- all we need is compassion- reason doesn’t stop you from killing. Profit motive causes wars, and people do kill others who don’t share their faith or have a different interpretation. So give everyone compassion – just one motive- to do good for others,”
God listened patiently; I guess he has all the time in the world, literally. Then He turned to me and smiled benevolently- “And what is it, that you want?”
I said- “let these guys talk, I will say something when I have something important to contribute.”
God gave me an indulgent smile.
The three whom the Humanitarian had lambasted, were now fairly charged up.
The Mathematician rose in his defense.
“You say that reason does not prevent you from killing. Well, why should it? Sometimes killing someone might be the most reasonable thing to do,” he said. By the look in his eyes I could almost imagine him thinking it reasonable to kill the opponents of some of his reasonable conjectures.
“But, you can kill for the wrong reasons,” the Humanitarian protested.
“There is no such thing as wrong reason, what is not reason is a fallacy and I am asking for perfectly reasonable beings.”
Now the entrepreneur demanded the floor, apparently she wasn’t very used to not being the primary focus of attention.
“Profit motive leads to wars only because the war mongers are short sighted. To my mind, destroying anything or anyone does not make good business sense- All the world’s a market and all men and women merely consumers,” she said.
The humanitarian didn’t buy this argument- “But, don’t you increase your profit by killing your competition, literally or figuratively?”
“Ah! I don’t kill, I convert- I have converted many a competitors to customers”
The theist was waiting to get a word in and realizing that, unlike God, he may not have eternity at his disposal, butted in- “When there is one faith and God addresses everyone daily- there would be no difference of opinion regarding faith and no man would kill those who didn’t agree simply because there would be disagreement.”
“God addressing everyone daily! What a ludicrous idea!” laughed the mathematician. Then suddenly realizing he was in audience with God, added- “Nothing personal, God the Great.”
God heaved a sigh, “Oh! If I started taking things personally! You know, of course that I am the most abused entity in the Universe, if you count the direct and indirect insults hurled at Me and My Creation.”
“And the most praised one too, my God,” said the Theist reverentially.
“Yeah sure! And I am not sure which one I which I find more irritating,” said God.
The Theist was taken aback for a moment but soon recovered and looked at God with increased reverence.
“But you guys haven’t said what’s wrong with compassion. I believe that is all we need for a perfect world. Really!” The compassionate one challenged the others.
The entrepreneur seemed to find this most unpalatable, for some reason and shot back- Everyone would be trying to feed everyone else and consequently everyone would die of hunger, what a waste of resources!”
“That’s why we need reason; the reasonable being would quickly work out the logical conclusion of this course of action and would take appropriate remedial action”
“Of course, if God tells them to feed themselves before they feed others, that will do- Feed unto you ere you feed others.”
“After you feed yourself, you sell the rest to the others, continuously endeavoring to increase your production and lowering you cost per unit. Everyone would be well fed,” elaborated the entrepreneur.
“What if others don’t have enough to pay? Do you horde or simply throw everything away,” asked the humanitarian indignantly.
“If profit is your motive, it might be reasonable to decrease your price or give out stuff on loan,” reasoned the mathematician.
“Hey Prof, that’s good, how much did they pay you at the University,” the entrepreneur seemed ready to give an on the spot job offer.
“Without Faith, all this may or may not lead to the right course of action”
“Compassion is the panacea”
“Only reason is reasonable”
“Profit is the bottom-line”

“Cool down guys, I will give each of you what you want, let me create four universes and hand out one to each of you.”
“Oh, Hell! Four more big bangs and then primordial chaos, evolution and all that, what a colossal waste of effort, why don’t you let me help with your Operational strategy, God?” volunteered the entrepreneur.
The Theist stated thinking aloud, “If God can create one Universe in a week, then He should be able to create four in a month”
“Rigor, Rigor,” scolded the Mathematician, “you are completely lacking rigor.”
God stopped the quarrelling twosome with a regal wave. “You people want the Universes in a stage of development similar to the world today, so I will give you just that!”
All but the mathematician appeared slightly puzzled.
The mathematician explained, “Of Course! He is God, He can start at any point he chooses, just build in evidence of prior evolution and give everyone a complete set of memories and there you have it. All perfectly logical. Sort of like starting a computer game at level 3.”
The Humanitarian looked at the mathematician with a look that suggested, maybe I underestimated reason.
And, so the four Universes were set up.

Husband: What kind of an egg would you like today?

Wife: What are my options?

Husband: 1. Boiled
2. Omelet
3. Sunny Side up
These are the major categories. Once you decide on one we can drill down the hierarchical tree till we arrive at point where no more choices are presented.

Wife: I need a reason to choose one of those.

Husband: Why don’t you flip a coin?

Wife: A coin has two sides, I have three choices.

Husband: You can choose the third if the coin doesn’t fall flat but remains standing.

Wife: That’s a low probability event, so the game would not be fair.

Husband: What about a round robin?

Wife: But that’s still chaos.

Husband: Why don’t you choose the first option today and the second tomorrow and so on?
Wife: Why not in reverse order?

Husband: Let me think of a reason.

Wife: And in the scheme you suggested I should ensure that the number of days remaining in my life (including today) is a multiple of three, for otherwise, I would not get a fair distribution.”


All but the mathematician were laughing loudly, and then the Theist asked the Mathematician-“So what kind of an egg did you have for breakfast this morning?”
“Sunny side up,” replied the mathematician gruffly.
“Why???” said the other three in chorus and started laughing again.
“Because I felt like it,” the mathematician said.
“But in your Universe, there is no feeling, there is only reason.” The Humanitarian said triumphantly.

Wife: What kind of an egg would you like today?

Husband: It is not important what I want, what is important is what you want.

Wife: How can you be so selfish? You know feeding you what you want will give me pleasure.

Husband: True, true. I will let you have pleasure – I will decide to have …

Wife: What supreme sacrifice! Why should you be the one to sacrifice, I will choose what egg we eat and make the sacrifice.

[Enter Kids]
Kids: Mom, Dad we made some eggs for you.

Husband, Wife: That settles it, then.

Kids: But we then decided it’s more compassionate to give it to the neighbors.

Husband: So they ate the eggs then?

Kids: No they decided to give it to their dog.

Wife: So that dog ate the eggs.

Kids: No, when we left their house, the dog was trying to feed the eggs to the cat


The entrepreneur was pretty happy with this. “Ahh… this is nothing new for me,” she gloated- “all my predictions regarding human behavior do come true. In fact to be a successful businessman you need to have a keen understanding of the human mind”

The Humanitarian was in deep thought and refused to grace the entrepreneur’s comments with any remark.

“You know, they couldn’t ever have reached a conclusion on the argument they were having, it’s just a vicious circle”

Husband: So what kind of an egg would you like this morning?

Wife: What does the demand supply graph say?

Husband: Two kids want an Omelet and the third insists on a Sunny side up. We have materials to make either in sufficient quantity.

Wife: Why does one differ? We can mass produce the Omelet and save on fuel.

[Enter Kid Three]

Wife: Why do you want a Sunny Side up?

Kid Three: I want to use fewer raw materials; this one doesn’t require any filling.

[Enter Kids One, Two]

Wife: Why do you both want omelets?

Kids One, Two: Omelets are easier to mass produce, remember we can produce one large component whereas the Sunny Side up will required dealing with individual components. Also, we believe the presence of fillings gives a better ROI.

Husband: Why don’t we mass produce the Omelet and sell some to our neighbors?

Wife: Maybe they are having similar thoughts.

Husband: Why don’t we start a breakfast pool? The mass production will cut costs and effort tremendously. Maybe I should get this idea patented ….


All but the entrepreneur looked fairly amused but the entrepreneur seemed to look on approvingly. But then said for everyone’s benefit- “I didn’t have any breakfast this morning. I was late for a meeting”
“To be making so much money and not eating breakfast isn’t very reasonable,” the mathematician admonished the entrepreneur.
The humanitarian was moved- “Oh! Poor you, didn’t your husband cook something for you and insist you have breakfast.”

The Theist now seemed confident that his would be the winning Universe and egged everyone to take a look at his Universe.

Wife: So what kind of an egg would you like for breakfast?

Husband: What would you say is God’s Will? Did He make eggs for us to eat or should they only be houses for prenatal chickens?

Wife: What about unfertilized eggs?

Husband: Still I am not sure, and then would He want us to eat Sunny Side up or an Omelet or maybe, today being Sunday, He wishes us to eat our eggs boiled.

Wife: Maybe he just doesn’t care.

Husband: Don’t you dare say that. God Always Cares.

Wife: I didn’t mean it that way; maybe he gave us freedom to choose.

Husband: Still we cannot be sure.

Wife: What should we do, the next sermon isn’t till tomorrow morning…


“I ate vegetables for breakfast, not being sure what God’s will is,” the Theist offered by way of explanation.

“But then”, said the entrepreneur, “You are going against God’s will if He meant you to eat eggs and you don’t”

“Perfectly reasonable point,” said the mathematician.

God turned to the group and asked- “So which Universe do we want to keep”

Mathematician: Maybe I was wrong about a couple of axioms; I will work on a more comprehensive plan and get back to you.

Entrepreneur: The breakfast pool wasn’t entirely a bad idea but maybe we do need a couple other motivations, I need to do some market research and analyze the results, feed them into my predictive models (which, by the way, are made my highly paid mathematicians) and then I will devise a better Universe.

Humanitarian: Maybe we need a bit more [her face is now distorted with disgust, yet she manages to say the word] … selfishness. Anyway I am not committing anything yet.

Theist: I will let You guide me, I am but an ignorant man, and you are God the omnipresent and the all knowing. Forgive me, if I didn’t understand your Will. I am your humble servant, let thy servants increase.

Now God turned to me and said, “So now do you want something from me?”

“No, thanks, Dear God, I am a writer and I got what a wanted- a good story – and this will do”

God looked at me and winked- somehow I got the feeling that what I wanted wasn’t very different from what God did.

Then God addressed the group and said magnanimously,
“You guys probably need another breakfast, let’s go and cook up an Interesting Egg”