…………………. Mrit feels a pain, he can’t tell what from, in his left temple, a strange feeling of desperation as if he is getting late for something and an equally vague agony as he hears his mom from other room telling him that it is time for his bed. He really wants to see the cartoon serial, his favorite to the end and it will be only a few minutes longer and he decides to let her keep calling until he has seen the end of the episode and to later excuse himself by saying that he didn’t hear her.
… but wait, he, the kid (of seven odd years ) that decides to let her mother shout is Mrit and not Mrit at the same time – for his body seems to be moving at its own will; he is the kid – it is Mrit’s tv, Mrit’s favorite cartoon, Mrit’s mother’s voice that is heard but he is someone else too, someone else living there inside the kid looking through kid’s eyes and hearing through kid’s ears. Plus, it is as if some other entity is controlling the kid. Like Mrit, this other entity feels the childish excitement and curiosity to see the end of episode like him, but, unlike him, (all this he somehow realized very quickly after first few moments of shock) doesn’t feel the pain in temple (it occurs to Mrit, it can’t be called pain in temple since he doesn’t have a body of his own), agony or desperation and doesn’t know what is to follow – that is the mother will come in and take him by force just when the episode is at climax. Oh no, he must wait in quiet desperation to confirm his ideas.
And yes that is what happens, the mother comes in and asks him to go to bed. While inside the body of that kid who now lies in his bed musing in innocent anger at the injustice of grown ups, the future somehow continues to reveal itself to Mrit who now foresees how for the next few nights, the kid will go back again and again to that episode and wonder about how his favorite superhero, Spiderman will defeat so powerful an enemy – imagine different ways in which it can be done and wonder what method did makers of series used. And yes, these things did happen and both he and the entity did go through the days of that childish insatiable curiosity together. ………………….
…………………. By now, Mrit has come to think of the boy, the entity and the body as same – only himself a separate ghost but not completely separate – for he still thinks he and the kid should not have been separated and he shouldn’t be forced to live in his own body, like a ghost living silently in someone’s else body. In some ways though, the separation is a good thing, for the pain and agony he is is feeling would be unbearable if he had a body – at least the other entity’s childhood is safe from this pain.
The kid, who has now gained a foot in height and wears specs his eyesight affected because of seeing too many cartoons, must now go to his new school (father’s promotion meant change of city), he is afraid to – his new classmates don’t like him; but the fear won’t stop him from trying to befriend them. And soon, the kid will enter the classroom but Mrit still there inside the kid wants to scream and tell him to stop and not enter the room because Mrit knows that boys in the classroom will play a prank on him; but Mrit can’t scream, can’t stop him, his efforts in that direction only bring him the discovery that he has no mouth of his own and there is no use of this foreknowledge – he can’t stop the kid from entering the room and let those boys bully him.
And yes, he watches in desperation; while feeling the helplessness of an omniscient, kind and yet impotent God; as the boy weeps in humiliation – and Mrit, there inside the boy, feels the same level of self-pity as the boy does. But for Mrit, there is a comfort to be had in foreknowledge that all it will soon end as the teacher, Ms. V__, who will remain his favorite teacher all his life, is about to enter the room – she will punish the boys and take him away for a talk. He smiles in anticipation of the warmth both he and the boy will feel in the words of Ms. V___ . ………………….
…………………. The boy has now gained another couple of feet in height. There is no other entity, Mrit is sure by now – that no alien force has taken control of his body but somehow or other, he is forced to live his own life in third person, to be a mute spectator of it while being equipped with a useless foreknowledge of nearby future and at the same time feeling that inexplicable and that forever worsening pain. But what can he do after all? There is nothing for him but to live his life like an unattached part of his own soul.
And so, the kid is now well established in his school – a leader of the very group of troublesome boys that once bullied him. Wearing contact lens instead of specs, he flies away to school with his friends while his mom begs him to be careful with his bike and not drive too fast but his impatient hormones are unwilling to give the road its due time. It is good that mothers can be trusted never to lose their love for you but what about his teacher and his favorite teacher on top of that? And today, he is going to disappoint her. Mrit wants to stop him, but by now has got used to his inability to do anything. There is nothing but to wait while boy’s attention-seeking disturbances in the class earn him at first, a warning from (who is now) Mrs. V__ and he wants to stop but his reputation among boys is at stake and there is pretty A___ sitting in front seat of class with her beautiful cat eyes and sometimes because of his pranks, she looks back and smiles! And so, he continued on with his prank, the teacher got angry and threw him out – Mrit looks forward to how both he and the boy will feel a quiet restlessness whenever he sees the teacher from now on, a feeling which he shall associate with guilt for the rest of his life. ………………….
…………………. The pain now seems to be somewhat lesser but that doesn’t comfort him, instead he feels a sense of loss – it is as if he was holding something precious and heavy, it was stressing the muscles but the weight was worth carrying. The fact that his muscles are now relaxed only means that he has lost the precious object.
But whatever the object was, the vague feeling of its loss was nothing compared to ecstasy that he, being in boy’s body is having for the boy is in love – love, not one of those crushes that he keeps on getting day after cupid-struck day but the one, actual, true, never again, happily ever after kind of love – that they are made for each other, just perfect – oh goodness! just perfect; – or so at least so he thinks, but Mrit in his foreknowledge knows better and want to stop him since he knows the girl, K___ is so sensitive and shall come to sorrow when things go bad as they will because the boy will start acting like a jerk. But there is no stopping this hormone-fueled boy and there is nothing for Mrit but to wait for tears that will spoil K__’s face when the couple would break up and, for days, the boy will feel the same quiet restlessness that he once felt in presence Mrs. V__ ………………….
…………………. It is strange, Mrit thinks, that having foreknowledge of what is about to happen doesn’t help him from feeling less strongly than the boy when the things do happen, the foreknowledge doesn’t reduce the shock. By now he has developed a sort of one-sided relationship with the boy. He doesn’t judge the boy for he would have made the same mistakes if he didn’t have foreknowledge. But he has acquired a wish to talk to the boy, maybe that is what he is getting late for. Because the feeling that he is getting late for something has only grown stronger over all this time. But he doesn’t even know what he would have told the boy if such a communication was possible.
The boy, in his college now, has a teacher whom he respects and is determined not to disappoint. And so he becomes the class monk – he won’t care for the girls; not even the bubbly T__ who has an obvious crush on him and he, himself, has that feeling once again – that this is the one, actual, true, never again, happily ever after kind of love – that they are made for each other, just perfect – oh goodness! just perfect; but he has been wrong before and so no matter what his gut-feeling says and what Mrit tries to tell him, he will continue to ignore her until she will get tired of trying. And yes like other things, no amount of wishful thinking on part of Mrit could stop it from happening. if Mrit had a face and a palm, he would have facepalmed throughout this whole episode and yes, another few days of quiet restlessness ………………….
…………………. For some time now, Mrit is getting the feeling that it might be some sort of remembrance he is having – that should explain the foreknowledge but there are major issues with that line of reasoning. When one remembers, one sees things as if from a distance, and not as clearly as he is doing now – moreover, the person remembering knows that he is remembering and also knows about his/her ‘present time’ as different from the past time remembered or seen on the memory screen. That is not so in his case. If this is a memory then he doesn’t know about the world outside it and the memory itself feels so real. Even his foreknowledge of future is limited – maybe if he tries, tries real hard he could look much further into future than just immediate consequences of events he is living. But efforts in that direction have only given him some sort of heavy headaches (‘some sort of’ because though they feel like headaches, he doesn’t really have a head and the body of his residence shows no sign of such pain).
And so there is nothing for him but to continue living (if it can be called living) inside the man, who has just got a job see his father leave for work – Mrit has foreseen that he is seeing the father last time, the later is to die of a heart attack while in his office. Despite knowing how futile such efforts are, Mrit tries hard to make the son see it, make him say some good word to his father. Nothing gained. He can’t change the course of events ………………….
…………………. This must be what a life without free will feels like – you would know better, but that won’t change a thing. Maybe he is dreaming? it could explain foreknowledge and perhaps helplessness too. And he is definately passing through time with a sort of dreamspeed, it seems like only minutes ago when his host was a little boy fanboying the spiderman. And so he tries to wake, tries, tries and tries. To no avail. He believes one can easily wake if one knows that one is dreaming, but if he is dreaming, that is not the case with him.
And for the moment he is not so eager. For today, is the day of his marriage. He doesn’t love her the way he has loved the women in his past but he knows that she loves him and she had provided the emotional support when his father died, and he will do everything to make her happy. And so the marriage. Mrit is happy for the one good decision this man has taken all his life. ………………….
…………………. Ah! Now, he sees it. That is exactly what it is. That explains everything – the desperation, the agony, the pain. But the truth has only left Mrit more desperate and anxious, oh! far more anxious than ever, but he tries to forget it, and even if it is what it seems to be, it is worth all the pain and anguish to relive this movement because the man who was his resident is now sitting with his mother and his father-in-law, who helped establish his career, outside the operation room where his wife is to deliver.
Mrit smiles seeing him so anxious, but he himself is also too excited to live the happiest moment of his life again. Yes, he knows what is in store. The nurse comes out and hands over the baby. Looking at its little face, the touch of its fragile skin, the man wants to scream to the world that he has now known the meaning of the world. And despite knowing what lies in the storehouses of future, Mrit can’t help rejoicing in most pleasurable moment of his life ………………….
………………….It is now the time. All the two years Mrit had, after realizing what was to happen to him, didn’t make him any more prepared for this – he sees that man, himself, for now he has no doubt that not only there was no other entity, but there wasn’t a separation, oh no! all that is too clear to him. He was reliving his life – and he knows it now, because it will all end today. There he is, his wife begging him not to drive fast when he goes to his office. And he smiles
And for the moment he is not so eager. For today, is the day of his marriage. He doesn’t love her to her, Mrit wants to make himself tell her how she is the best thing that has happened to her and to make him put a hand on her cheek to say the part for which the words are inadequete – if only he could do that, she might have understood him, and to make him kiss the little child on whom the man takes only a passing look, not wanting to wake it up, not able to listen Mrit’s protests that it was worth waking the child up. Also, Mrit wants to ask the man to call his mother and thank her for all she did. Same for his father-in-law and favorite college professor. And yes, he must apologise to Mrs V_, K__ and T__ but no, nothing can be done, there won’t be any apologies or expressions of gratitude any longer, as he drives his bike at at eighty kmph on a busy road and hits a truck on his left while trying not to hit a car in front which slowed down unexpectedly. He had tried to scream but no voice left his mouth. He had felt unable to move, the blood all over his face due to injury in his left temple.
But doesn’t death mean end of life? (what he really meant wwas shouldn’t death be end of consciousness?) he had always thought so, until while reliving his life, he remembered about an episode he saw on tv about how one’s brain stays alive for several minutes after death and how people who have had near-death-experiences often report seeing their had seen their life being played out. Is that what it is? He doesn’t feel the control over his body, no senses to give him a clue where he or his body is – maybe the control over his body was, in fact, the precious thing lost. All that is left to him is his brain with its memories and only a few last moments, the tools he must now use to come to terms with his fate and hope his family will find happiness without him. A part of him reproaches him for a last time for not having heard is mother’s and wife’s pleas about driving too fast; but the reproach is allowed to stay there unheeded and unanswered while it continues to create the familiar quiet restlessness before it too fades away and there is nothing but to wait quietly for that greater darkness to engulf him and make peace with all the things that he is leaving behind unsaid.
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan