He stood by the window, with the hot cup of water in his hand, occupied by his thoughts. His eyes were looking at a distance, where a green hill kept the blue of sky at bay. As his eyes moved down, he could see the apartment opposite to his, with a swimming pool, running the length of the apartment, the blue color of its water giving it a calm and serene feel but for the ripples caused by its one inhabitant. The man had a unique way of swimming the freestyle, both mesmerizing and amusing at the same time, as every occasion that he moved his arms for a stroke, his legs stopped beating.
“Why would anyone want to swim midday in such hot conditions?” He questioned, taking a sip of the hot water and feeling the heat down his throat. “See, that is the problem. Who gave you the freedom to judge another person so easily? So what if he takes a dip in the middle of the day? It is his choice!”. That was his inner voice.
He took another sip and his eyes moved further down to the ground outside. It was almost a square, running about a hundred meters each side. The middle of the ground had a pathway that connected the roads on either side of the park. Though the pathway was wide enough for 5 people to walk next to each other, the overhead cover was built in a corner and could only accommodate 2 at a time. There was one man walking underneath, grateful for the shade that the cover provided.
He was deep in thoughts as a result of the movie he had just watched. There was some truth in what was told. The movie had ended with a story of a robot, that did not know what its purpose was, except to run. Though the robot ran, he had no clue what his race was for. He also did not aspire to be first, or anywhere near the top. All the robot wanted to do was keep running the race and be somewhere in the middle. To be socially accepted as normal. A few years later, the robot broke down and died.
The analogy was so similar to a story he had written about eight years back. It spoke about the futility of this generation and of life itself. A man was dropped from space, in the middle of nowhere and the only command in his head was to race. Where or why, he wasn’t supposed to ask or know. On the way he meets fellow runners, some of who are in sync with him for a while, becoming his friends whereas others running slower or faster were either looked down upon or looked up to. As time flew, he realized he could not run as fast as he before and instead of slowing down, he tries harder to impress, eventually losing his life!
Maybe his life at present wasn’t so far from his story. He was here, while his heart yearned to be with his wife and child, a thousand miles away.
He got distracted by the push message he received on his mobile. It was from Urban Ladder. He had installed the app this morning, getting tempted to look at bunk beds for kids and parents to be in the same room, a fantasy that he wanted to make real in a few years. “Who gave Urban Ladder the permission to send him the marketing message just few hours since installation? What kind of maniac marketing has the world moved on to, where one is forced, tempted and sometimes bullied to buy more?” He uninstalled the app, though he liked the beds. Let some crazy analyst figure map out this user’s intent!
Looking at the man that took a swim and the other that was walking alone in the park, he was tempted to venture out. But where? There was no one in the country that he wanted to meet. It was hot outside and he already had a sour throat which he did not want to mess with further by taking a swim. With these excuses in mind, he decided to take a shower instead.
“Here’s how things panned out. About two generations back, my grandfather decided to shift bases from his village to a city. Responsible man that he is, he started his company to make sure that he was providing for his family. Since he did not have one, his life’s purpose was to build a house so his kids did not have to undergo the fear of uncertainties that he had to endure during his life. He succeeded.
However, during the next generation, society moved on and the city grew bigger. Independent houses were rare to find and in their place, multitudes of apartments sprung up. Joint families were no longer the norm and my grandfather’s house had to be split among his many sons. So my father now could not have a whole house but a part of it. And hence earning to secure a house made sense for him. What made further sense was to earn a lot more to ensure that the future generations do not have to find life as difficult as it was for him or his father.
So my father did not just stop at buying one house. He went on to make further investments. He bought a lot of jewelry and stacked up a lot of money. He ran the race and accumulated a lot of wealth. Now, when he is at the end of his working career, he would like to pass on the wisdom to me. The wisdom of doing a job that pays well, to build more houses, buy more jewels, finances and insurances to secure the future.
The infatuation with owning your own house has now sent real estate prices so high that one needs to work 20 years to own his house. But by 10 years, the house is old and so one has to buy a newer and in most cases, bigger house.
The trouble with our mentality is that we all love to add wealth. More houses, more money, more things. But we never take a step back to say enough. We also never look to reduce. Even when we were kids, we were taught addition before subtraction. We struggled with the concept of subtraction so much that we would reverse engineer the question to be an addition problem – if I had 100 rupees and someone charged me 28 rupees for a tennis ball and gave me 62 rupees, did I get the right change? Eight out of ten of us would add 28 and 62 rather than subtract 28 from 100.
But does it not make sense to just rent a place rather than tie yourself in a long term loan? Am I better off trying to do the job that I love rather than the one that pays? What if owning the house does not seem like a worthy enough goal for me? What if the goals that were right for my father and grandfather did not make sense for me? Maybe Buddha would understand me, he had a lot which he ultimately gave up. My ten minutes of shower time is over. I need to go out”
My inner voice countered. “Why should I go out? The shower is stimulating my thoughts, I am in the middle of questioning my beliefs and values and trying to figure out what is important in my life. Why am I feeling this urge to leave the shower just because it has been ten minutes? Is it the social responsibility of conserving water? Is it the social conditioning of just having ten minutes to take bath? Is it the mind playing games and ordering me to think of anything but such deep thoughts about what matters in life?”
He gave himself two more minutes in the shower just to stroke the feelings of the rebel in himself. He felt the deep urge to voice his thoughts out to the world to get their opinion on what matters in life. And so he sat himself in the couch and started to type.
“He stood by the window, with the hot cup of water in his hand, occupied by his thoughts. His eyes were looking at a distance, where a green hill kept the blue of sky at bay. As his eyes moved down, he could see the apartment opposite to his, with a swimming pool, running the length of the apartment, the blue color of its water giving it a calm and serene feel but for the ripples caused by its one inhabitant. The man had a unique way of swimming the freestyle, both mesmerizing and amusing at the same time, as every occasion that he moved his arms for a stroke, his legs stopped beating.”……………………..