Saturday, July 14, 2012

Soul Fried Fish

It's a Sunday afternoon. I am lying in the center of a large dining hall in a five star restaurant. I suddenly realize that I am warm, in spite of the air conditioning. Too warm. My insides are burning. Seems like my soul just got fried.

Let me try and be polite, like you five star people. I am John. I know it's a common name. Could be yours, or yours, or yours perhaps? No? Well that's odd, I never thought there won't be a John in such a big gathering. But I guess, people are not named John out here in your country. I see you agree.

I get that you are interested in my story, since I am not from around here. You think I have a unique story to tell, from where I am? That my life would have been really different from yours seems interesting to you, doesn't it? I really don't think it is that different. We all take the same route in our lives, broadly speaking. It's how we observe it, how we analyze it and how we internalize that defines us. That is what makes us different from each other, doesn't it?

No, I hear you say. You still want to hear it? Well, I'll tell you then. But let me warn you, you have heard it a thousand times before. You'll all get up from your chairs at the end of it thinking "Oh, same old, John!" and I will remind again you at the end that I told ya.

I was born, like everyone has to be - to become everyone. Alright, alright I'll swear, if that is what you all want. No more attempts at that sorta' humor. As I was saying, I was really close to my parents back in the days and I remember how much they loved me. Among my earliest memories is with my parents at our home when my dad and mom would come home after a day of just loafing around with his friends. Yes, that's true they didn't work, like you guys now. There was no concept of working for 'em. They just wandered around, enjoying the fruits of mother nature. Hippies, I hear you say. It wasn't quite like that, I hope you'll realize that as I tell you more. Try not to judge.

Which brings me to an interesting theory I have had for some time now. You people are very uncomfortable with not being able to understand or comprehend something. In your mind, as any information gets processed, your head starts throwing labels. You start attaching these labels as you collect more information. Think about your friends, your brother or sister, what comes to your mind. Adjectives, that define them? To you, everyone you've met is a collection of labels. For things that you understand, you try and break it down into components on which you can attach the labels. That is the only way you wrap your head around anything new. I am not saying, it is good or bad. I am just wondering if it is the only way? It does seem rather limiting, doesn't it?

Coming back to my story. Growing up, I learned the same way of life. What to eat, how to survive. But I was always hungry. Always wanted more. My parents couldn't understand my hunger. They tried to understand me. When they couldn't they tried to counsel me. They were scared for me. Afraid that this unique trait in my personality, would land me in trouble. However, My need to do more than just hang around, eating the same food every day. Doing the same things over and over again. At one point I was convinced that there is more to life than just that. My parents' inability to understand me made me Angry.

One day, while wondering about these thing, I wandered quite far away from home. That had become very usual for me. But this day was different. I saw around me and I saw the vegetation change. I found a new fruit - that's what my parents called what we ate. I ate a stomach full. Imagine the sweetest, juiciest fruit you have ever had ever had. It was better than that. It was the first thing that I had tasted, that was different from the other things we ate. I carried as many as I could back home. My parents had never seen that fruit either, neither had my friends. They called it a Miracle. 

I knew there was more. I knew it was not just a miracle. I had believed in it. I had believed that there was more, and it had materialized in our lives, enriching all of us. I became a dreamer that day. Always looking out for more. Where my friends and family were convinced that it was a rare miracle, to me it was just another brick in the wall. Just another Brick.

I started going further and further away from home each day in search of new fruits. I was exploring a lot, but I returned home empty handed each day. I was overwhelmed with a passion to discover more riches, and it became an obsession with me. As I returned home all worn out each day, I could see my neighbors looking at me and shacking their heads. They called me an Idiot.

And one day, just like that, my perseverance paid off. I found yet another new fruit. I was overjoyed, but this  time I kept it to myself. I did not share my discovery with anyone, because I believed they were not worthy of it. They had not shown the one thing that mattered the most to me then. The one thing I needed because I felt like I was doing something different. Trust.

I stumbled upon a lot of different varieties of fruits in the days that followed, not one of which I shared with them. I did not feel the need to prove to anyone that I was, in fact, much more Intelligent.

I just needed to go on and on and On.

"I am better than those Neanderthals."

AMBITION. That is what got me here. Let me tell you the final part of the story so that you can see how it all fits together.

After having made several discoveries, as one would expect I was tired. And satisfied, mistake me not, with the progress I had managed. I was, I truly was. There was nothing more I really wanted. So one day I put up a grand exhibition of all my discoveries and invited everyone. They were all awed into shock. They tasted all the fruits, and loved all of them. It added color to their bland lives, some of them told me. They thanked me for having struggled so hard for the greater good. They said, I have taken the race forward.

I was filled with joy, as is predictable. But there was a nagging feeling in my head. If all the fruits were so great, I needed to find the most delicious of them all. Wasn't that I started out in the first place? This is where my need became a greed. I left home that day, determined to find the best fruit there ever was. 

After travelling for several days, I finally saw a single fruit hanging. There was nothing around it, no other fruits or vegetation. My eyes widened. I was convinced that this was the one. I hurried and reached the fruit. Circled around it and ascertained it was nothing like what I had seen before. It was only after I had been admiring it for quite some time, I saw there was something attached to it. A string.

I had to make a choice then. But my choice was made, even before I knew whether I would have to make it.   To hell with caution, said I as I went for the fruit. The string suddenly became taut and that was that. It pierced my cheek and I was pulled out of the water.

And that is how I am here today. And it is only today that I realized that I am no different from any of you. I am just another Soul Fried Fish.

Umm... Told ya?

Ambition is a dangerous recipe and it is overrated. It is important, but it is not what defines me. It is not what I make of myself, materialistically, that matters when I think about the end. It is a sum of the moments of joy that I have spent in this lifetime. The memories of all the places I have been and the people I have loved, each day more than I thought was possible. The strong emotions I have felt and recorded in my mind forever. These are the things I will miss leaving behind. To me, it is these little things that matter. And for that, ambition needs to be moderated with satisfaction. Today, I know, I am satisfied. And this post shall be a reminder of that.

3 comments:

Grey Inks said...

Great writing with so many insights. Actually the insights will be different for different people, depending on the fruit they are looking for. And that is the most remarkable part of the story.

It is New Yorker material (if they still publish fiction). Deserves to go out in the world.

I also like the voice of the narration. It is unique and is the Kartik I know and much more. Sum of all experiences.

More than critical acclaim, I would be overjoyed if all of us are able to live this simple belief you have expressed.

We desire that but everytime, we also put a but....

Time to kick the but... and live life as it unfolds. It is a miracle fruit for those who are ready to receive it....

Neeru Sharma said...

One who has achieved 'satisfaction' has found the tastiest fruit, tastier than any fruit of ambition. His journey is joyous, free of stress and anxiety.

'ambition needs to be moderated with satisfaction' - very very few people in current scenario of the world are actually able to grasp the value of this thought. The ones who do understand are very fortunate!

Rigveda Kadam said...

Brilliant post! I love the way how the soul fried fish holds a mirror up to everyone in the end. How it's abstract enough for one to fill in one's own experiences at each step, yet guides the reader smoothly through the story. Really liked it!