The End Of Life
The morning breaks out, and as the fifteenth rays of the sun flood the room with light that blinds everyone else, I have a vague feeling it's daytime. Time to check mail and wake up.
No, that is the right sequence. Nothing happens unless I check my mail. Unless there's a little closed envelope that arouses similar passions to what the arrow of Kamadeva kindled in Shiva, there is no point in getting on with life. There are four unread mails from Lindsay Lohan in my dream, better get back to that.
There is no mail. Because there is no electricity today. In the background, I can hear my mother, wife and daughter whispering faintly about it being very unbecoming for me to have so slow a start to the day as I do. I know they are actually hollering at the top of their voice, but then since there's no mail, technically I haven't woken up yet, and so am deaf to their clamour.
It doesn't work that way. Finally one has to make oneself content with an sms, because the mother has clearly pushed me off bed and the wife is propelling me towards the bathroom.
Ergo, change direction towards laptop which wife has very considerately switched on. Wife's stated opinion is that she did it because it would save time in the greater scheme of things, but only I know that that is her subtle way of expressing her all-consuming passion for me.
There is no mail. Of course there won't be, no electricity, no broadband remember? But wait, there is one in Outlook left over from yesterday. So what if it is just spam offering cheap vi@gr@ (sic)? A mail is a mail. Open, read and delete.
Day has well and truly begun; for the next twenty minutes I can brush and shave and bathe in peace and cold water. Oh as long as there are unread mails, who cares for such earthly indulgences such as hot water?
But it's getting on to breakfast time, and there's no electricity yet. Wife says there's a day-long power cut for transformer repair, says it was announced in the papers yesterday. Depressing.
The bread today is well-toasted, the buttering seems generous and the jam is quite thick. But it's all material desire, it's all an illusion, moha-maya as the vedas say.
To make things worse, it's a Sunday. Means I can't go to office and check mail. Not that I cannot, but wife and daughter will raise Cain, Abel and all their kin if I try. Sunday is for family, and that rule cannot be broken. it's like a law of physics - no repeal possible.
The heat gets on with the rising Sun, there is no fan. Wife has spread dry cloths round me to mop up the dripping sweat, as the photograph clearly indicates. And there am I, sitting glumly facing my laptop reading old mail after old mail. Old mail is stale mail.
And then the laptop dies, leaving me to wait alone for the electric wires to overflow with electrons and my mailbox with emails. Alas! I killed the golden goose, I deleted the one spam that was a new mail.
Lunch was an apparently delicious combination of fragrant white rice, coconut-and-onion sambar and crisp fried kanda-bhendi, as my mother confessed the next day. What slaves to material attachment, who shall not receive nirvana in this birth but be born again as a being with fewer senses!
Evening was reserved for a trip to the mall buy clothes for daughter. Apparently it was planned last week. Well, it wasn't my fault I did not know. No one bothered to mail me.
And no, I wasn't going. What if the electricity came suddenly? If I didn't check all my mails, and respond to them in time, what terrible disasters might happen? The boss might want some critical research done before he walks into the board meeting tomorrow, research I alone could do. There might be SOS emails from peers in need of rescue by their super-efficient colleague. Some junior's leave application might need approval, or his life and love might be at stake. What if he did something dreadful to himself, because I didn't give him leave to make up with his girlfriend, because I was out shopping so selfishly.
I thought I heard a murmur threatening that it is to me that something dreadful might happen. I'm always hearing things when I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Courage, man, courage. The electricity outage won't last forever, the emails will be back.
So I am ejected from the shopping expedition unanimously, and locked in at home. Locked in! What danger, as if I am going to slip out slyly when the electricity might come back with my mails any time. Trust wives to be suspicious. Why does it seem absurd to her that an affair will only distract me from solving Bhopal, the climate crisis and Zimbabwe? I mean, there are appeals from Indra Sinha, Al Gore and Nelson Mandela sitting in my inbox, waiting for me to sign them.
Family is back, electricity isn't. There is a slight idea that five bulging shopping bags might be indicators of some significant increase in the money I owe my credit card company. But these are immaterial in the face of the great problems of the world I am just about to solve.
Dinner happens in candle-light, in presence of mother, daughter and wife in increasing order of sullenness. they have tried to punish me by serving me afternoon's leftovers - rice that has hardened, sambar distinctly cold and kanda-bhendi oily and uncrisp. What vain endeavours, like Hiranyakashipu casting Prahlada into the flames!
And then, joy of joy! There is light! the photons dance wildly around the room, and those in the optic-fibre cables rush madly, bring me my precious mails. Food uneaten, dining chair overturned, I rush to my laptop. My mails are coming, my mails are coming.
The rest of the story, must for dramatic effect, end in an anti-climax. As you know, O reader who is all-knowing, there was but one mail. One single, solitary mail, alone in its splendid isolation, that unique power that governs my life. An offer to enlarge an unprintable part of my body at reasonable cost. Wife remarks, most unkindly, that an offer to enlarge the brain might be more useful.