I wake up to confusion. I cannot remember if I’m being jolted out of a dream, but I don’t know where I am, how old I am, or where I’m supposed to go. I vaguely recollect the striped white curtain and hear motley familiar sounds- the clank of utensils, the dull roar of the elevator, the cooing of pigeons. Soon enough, though, visions and voices unentangle- I’m in my room, where I ought to be, in this home of four-and-a-half months. I’m supposed to go to work, not to college. I don’t have licence to turn over amidst the blankets for one more nap. I hoist myself off the bed. I don’t know if this addled beginning to the day should make a difference, but my sensibilities feel sharper and keener than usual, seemingly hammered back into shape after weeks of nonchalance.
There is nothing unusual or remarkable about work today. The hours slip by with clockwork-like precision as I settle down for the grind in my cubicle, wishing for less noisy colleagues- or perhaps a room of my own- and walk to meet friends for breakfast, lunch and coffee. I drop a word of encouragement here and a compliment there, all entirely on general matters. Out on the roads, I espy a group of corpulent men in dark suits being driven around in electric cars, their pink faces puffy under the Indian sun. Almost all of them are rotund, the mark of a comfortable middle-age stamped on their brows. They are men who enjoy hospitality, write reports, and convey ideas to those who make caustic comments back home that’ll please their people and put them on the path to majority in the next election.
On the bus home, I read Paula– a memoir by Isabel Allende- written to and for her daughter lying in a coma induced by porphyria, a congenital disorder, and an apparent overdose of sedatives. It is shattering to see the amount of pain a person can be put through, and the faith and courage demanded of the family caring for her. Is life indeed as challenging as this? In a way, I will be glad to get home and reach out for Nietzsche. I mean to read a chapter a day, because I find in the words of Zarathustra answers to a few of the questions I’ve been grappling with.
Home. As I change out of office finery into clothes that will bear crumpling as I curl up on the couch, I hear a furious rattle of tricycle wheels on concrete- the last laps of the day are in progress and the race is being closely fought; the culmination of a hard day’s play in pitched battles for supremacy, when mothers and grandmothers begin calling, eyes looking askance at the deepening twilight. The sky shows off its spectacular colours. Unknown hues of mauve and blue tinge the softly piled mountains of clouds, a chignon on the naked pink nape of sunset-kissed smoothness. The pigeons, having let off the last of their eerie, blood-curdling shrieks, have gone to roost on the window ledges like rows of inanimate effigies, a slight flutter of the wing or an inadvertent adjustment to find a more comfortable perch being the only sign of life.
I dump a large heap of clothes into the washing machine and turn it on.
Dusk will be here soon in its entirety, swallowing up the blasé screams of over-indulged children and tired parents’ futile efforts at resistance. My roommates and I will sit down to dinner in a while, I’ll hang my clothes out to dry, do some ironing for tomorrow and then go to bed to read more about the horrors of porphyria and a loving family’s patient struggle with it.
Life isn’t an interminable wait for weekends and the final rest. Dissected, minute by minute, there is a great deal to it- something that it takes a searing, momentary loss of all cognisance of reality, to realise.