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Glaring Shadow - A stream of consciousness novel
“Not to speak ill of the dead,” he began as I readied myself to take notes, and continued after a pause, “what to make out of this social nicety when man is so much prone to speak nothing but ill of his fellow-men. Does it imply that since one should not speak ill of the dead, he should go the whole hog about it when the other is still alive and kicking! Maybe, that’s what man thinks; why he wouldn’t let go an opportunity, so to say creates one, to pour out his venom on his fellow beings. If I were to subscribe to the perverse proposition, you would never come to write my memoir for I should keep mum as most of those who came into my life are dead and gone. Whatever, didn’t Shakespeare put the final word in Antony’s mouth – ‘The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones’. Well, gloating about her ‘woman behind the successful man image’, it was Ruma, who goaded me all the way to my doom. Now that I’m failing our common cause, won’t her soul feel let down over there? What of my mother who kept herself away from my running shadow all along? Won’t she welcome the return of her prodigal son to her pragmatic bosom? But even if she does, how am I to bear her kindness having got used to her indifference for so long. Oh, if only my father were alive! What a character he was really; when did I last think of him anyway? Wonder how, shorn of a few bucks, I’m inclined to think about them! When I’m finished with the lot, what if it’s a deluge of human compassion? How nice the prospect of its happening feels!”
“I can feel your pain in the pangs of regret.”
“I’m glad that your feel of my remorse might help you to capture the pathos of my life,” he said stoically. “How my life mirrors the stupidity of man in spite of a wise upbringing. What idiocy it was that I toiled to destroy the toil of my parents in tending my life in a meaningful way. Why not make it easy for myself by making a bonfire if it. (He started throwing those wads of money into the fireplace) What if I choke myself to death and suffocate you as well? It’s not the relief by death but the reality of life that I seek to picture for you to hold it as a mirror for man.”
“I find your passion infectious and feel your story could be illuminating,” I said as his eyes lit up watching his wealth beginning to go up in flames.
“Of what avail is a passionless writing, and the feeling-less reading,” he said turning enthusiastic. “Hope your empathy provides the cutting edge to my memoir. Well to give the devil its due, what warmth money used to provide me! But in the hindsight don’t I see the falsity of it all; why it was the warmth in the company of the inanimate. Wonder how I had endured it all myself being passionate about love! More so, what a paradox it was as it was love that motivated me to covet money? Is love a false notion then? Isn’t love a mental affliction to which sex affords physical gratification without which it becomes a by-gone emotion? But does sex fare any better in fruition? No denying possession tends to dampen passion but won’t sex beget love in cohabitation and so while love owes to sex in the beginning, it is the love that serves sex in the long run, and that’s the grammar of the sexual relations.”
“In the biological tense,” I said. “What with one’s waning ability to attract a new mate what else can one do than to stick to the spouse for sex? Why make a virtue of a necessity?”
“There you are, but nothing in life is black and white as money too imparts its own hues,” he said. “If the rein of passion is on the groin, the lure of money sways the head, and the craze to possess it matches the urge to retain it.”
“Why not dole out your moolah instead of destroying it?”
“Not that I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “It makes news for a day but leaves no lasting message.”
“What better message than philanthropy?”
“Man might be rich without wealth and could be poor in spite of it,” he said continuing to throw the piles of notes into the fireplace. “It’s not the needs of the poor that I want to address but it is man’s craze for riches that I wish to dispel. The story behind my insane destruction of my mindless acquisition might picture the character of money in all its ugliness. Don’t you see what a sight it makes, the burning money! How its flames seem to clear my view of life from the smokescreen of wealth! Why did I allow my life to be ruined by money and its minions? What else are pride, greed and such but money’s minions? If I let the money go, won’t it take its minions along with it? By shedding the blinkers of the moolah, won’t I be able to pull my life out of the glaring shadow of wealth? It’s so long ago but what a life I lived!”
“I’m all eager for its recap.”
“I deem it a favor for I need to pour out now,” he said. “But should you find it boring, say so by yawning.”
“How can the lessons of life ever sound dull that too of one who lived it and suffered through it?” I said having been affected by what I had seen and heard by then.
“If youth is the cream of life childhood is the cake of it,” he began rewinding the reel of his life. “But where were the birthday bashes with cakes and all in those days. Still, childhood was no poorer in our times either. What did my son Satish gain out of all that gaiety I afforded him as a child? Won’t the kids either sleep or weep as parents grandstand at their birthday bashes? With more money in more hands and fewer children in the parental laps, even the toddlers’ cradle ceremonies are being hosted in the five-star settings. What it is but to announce the couples’ arrival on the grand social stage. How money aids vanity, which in turn sustains variety. But then sans variety, won’t be life ever boring? What a pity, it is man’s lot to take his pick, the vanity of imbalance or the boredom of balance. But as life spares the child its choices, the parents seem to impose their ways on the kids. Well what a childhood I have had!’
“But of late the parents are tending to deprive the children of their childhood by mindless discipline or by over indigence?”
“Sadly so for freedom to act and express is the essence of childhood,” he said throwing more of his money into the fireplace. “Nowadays, while some mold their kids in the crucibles of manners to showcase them as ‘gentlemen prodigies’, most of the rest just give in to every whim and fancy of their kids so as to exhibit them as brilliant models of ‘unbridled originality’. What with the world is in the materialistic fetters, love has come to acquire monitory color, and the parents too have come to believe that by pampering children with what money can buy, they are showering the kids with parental love. Haven’t you heard them say that they didn’t have all those goodies when they were kids, jolly well forgetting that they had childhood for company as they grew up?”
“Sadly for the stupidity of man the kids pay the price of their childhood.”
“If the childhood curiosity is the foundation of life, its faÇ;ade is designed by the youthful exuberance, but sadly as man, he lets his vanity to transform the edifice into an abode of woes,” he continued. “I think it’s in the village soil that the childhood can be soundly grounded as villages are nearer to nature while the child is a stranger to vanity. But as I left the village at ten into a small town, it was as if I part-distanced myself from nature, and entering adulthood in a big town, I lost the innocence of childhood. Worse still was being wealthy in the middle of my life; why, the later-day success induces man to uproot himself from his past reality and to implant himself in the make-believe terrain of the surreal. How small doth the sense of outgrowing make man really? Yet, the world is crazy to make it big, larger than life itself. It seems that man tends to downsize the things past to make his current holdings seem bigger. What a fallacy! The beauty of life lies in its fulsomeness, well to illustrate it in a weird way, aren’t the skinny things on the ramp an apology to womanliness. And pitiable still are the filthy rich on the corrupt stage of life. What a pity that life robs the rich of its beauty, and what’s worse, entices them with its ugliness.”
“As one’s sense of being can’t be stagnant, maybe, man thinks in terms of outgrowing others.”
“That is by chanting the ‘dream big’ mantra, never mind one’s lack of abilities for the fulfillment of those dreams, baneful any way,” he said, as much of what he had was burnt by then. “But stepping out of my illusion now, as I enter into the realms of reality, don’t I see the need for money to see me through the rest of my life. What a paradox that my money turned into ashes should provide a new monetary vision to me! How much money would you take along on a holiday or an errand? Would any carry a suitcase of currency that he wouldn’t ever open during the trip and how many make it back with the wallet still bulging. Why not apply the same analogy to life given that it’s no more than a sojourn? How nice it feels that I’m left with just enough to start life afresh. Or is it a little too much even for the proverbial rainy day? How my obsession for wealth blinded my vision of happiness, or was it insecurity. Wonder even the moneyed feel insecure on the monetary front! Won’t that prove financial insecurity is not an index of the bank balance but is the proclivity of one’s mind? Can’t I see that it’s the small things that make the big picture of life? Whatever, having shed the overburden of wealth, how light do I feel!”
“You should be wary in your situation for the lightness of being could as well suck you into the vortex of regret,” I said in spite of myself.
“Thanks for cautioning me,” he said sounding formal in his state of ecstasy. “Don’t I see the memories of yore surfacing as if out of the wraps? I don’t know really where to begin and how to end as my mind is being swarmed with so many episodes.”
“Well, you’ve to begin somewhere and it has got to end sometime,” I said prompting him, “Why not pick up the threads from the roots of your life.”
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