2017: Sort of sorted

 

It was the first hour of the first morning of 2017.

I was staring at my pathetic reflection in the bathroom mirror. My special shirt, trousers and jacket were soaked in vomit. In spite of my best efforts to shoo it away, the first thought of the year came into my head: “Why am I here?”

It was the same question that my friend had asked me just a few minutes ago. I was carrying him back home midway from our NYE party, struggling up the stairs to his bedroom, when he tapped me on my shoulders and asked the same profound question: “Why am I here?”

His speech was slurred, but the inference was absolutely clear.

Doesn’t matter if you are sober or drunk, you remain clueless about some questions in life. In fact, if you are drunk, you can vomit and sleep away a problem. But if you are sober, it will fester inside and nauseate you.

So there he was, cozily curled up in his bed, blissfully snoring. And here I was, in my bathroom, drenched in his vomit, pondering about the purpose of life.

“Why am I here?”

They say this was the first question that the thinking man thought to himself the moment he acquired the ability to think. That makes this question as old as man himself. It has a long and tiresome history from the Stone Age to today’s Stoned Age. Through all these years, man has discovered Nature, created civilisations and invented tools, but hasn’t managed to answer this. (Nor has he learnt how to drink alcohol responsibly.)

The story of the question that has defied all evolution has got to be told. And who better to tell it than its latest victim.

So, here’s one version of what must have happened as man evolved from Adam and Eve to my friend Zaheer and me:

Adam must have been wandering aimlessly in Eden thinking “Why am I here?” when he was probably attacked by a beast, or had fallen into the sea.

“To survive is the purpose of life!” he must have then thought.

But once he learnt to survive and once he met Eve, priorities changed.

“Love,” he announced was his new-found purpose. And she blushed.

But Love ends where hunger starts.

“Food!” And soon, “Good Food” became the new purpose in life. His and hers.

Not long, though.

When Eve grew a tummy, they at first blamed it on all the apples and berries they ate. It was only nine months later that they realised the culprit was his fig leaf that she hadn’t spared.

Adam and Eve had unwittingly introduced pregnancy and children to this world.

“To create, to protect, to populate and to care for each other!” they felt was what life should be all about.

Cute babies soon grew up to become bawling children and difficult teenagers. The loving wife became a nagging mother. And the romantic husband became an angry father. The world’s first family was complete.

What one can’t escape, one learns to accept.

“Peace. Detachment. And Nirvana. That should be the ultimate goal in life!” they thought, while meditating.

But the world around them was getting increasingly crowded and chaotic.

Soon, there were more Adams, more Eves and more communities. With more people, came competition. And with competition came the one word that has been singularly responsible for much of the modern world’s ruin- Success.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try again!” said someone and elevated success to life’s most enduring be-all and end-all purpose.

Through might, if not, through money, success became all about attaining victory, fame and power. Once attained, it became all about retaining those at all costs.

Life became messy. The world, a horrible place.

One day, amidst all this mad rush, without any warning Adam and Eve died.

Suddenly life’s gains and the world’s progress seemed hollow and meaningless.

People were confused.

“Why are we here?” they asked. This time in chorus.

Collective questions get collective answers.

“There must be a Giver up there!” they said.

“The one who gave us this life must also be The Giver Of Death!”

There was a collective sigh.

“G.O.D!”

“The One who knows everything and does everything from up there!”

People looked up but saw nothing.

What one can’t see, one must hear about.

Someone got up and narrated a story.

Stories became myths. Myths became scriptures. Scriptures became hymns. Hymns became prayers. Prayers became rituals. Rituals became religion.

And the storytellers became its new messengers, priests gurus and godmen.

They introduced more Gods, superior religions, bigger promises.

Faith makes you blind. Absolute faith makes you deaf, too.

But you can never be too deaf to that voice in the head.

And that voice in people’s heads never stopped asking:

“Why am I here?”

In a bathroom, these voices resonate even more.

I stood there face-to-face with my reflection, that question still damning.

I took a deep breath.

A deep breath is to the mind what flush is to a toilet, or what alcohol is to one’s morals.

I took another deep breath and was about to flush that niggling question away in a moment.

Had I done that, mankind would have been doomed to remain as clueless as it has always been about “Why am I here?”

But I didn’t. I was distracted by a moving line of ants on the wall. They looked so purposeful. And that ticked me off.

I committed 2017’s first cruel deed. I ran my finger across that line breaking their community into two. There was pandemonium. The ants ran helter-skelter. Their purpose was gone. Their orderliness vanished. I was viciously pleased to have reduced them to my state.

But that was short lived. To my utmost surprise, I saw the ants regroup, exchange notes and disperse around, with a new-found purpose. Within minutes they were back on the trail. The moving line was restored. No great reunion or celebration. Simply back to the old purpose of going wherever they were going.

That’s when the word struck me.

“Sorted!” That’s what they were in their heads.

Ants have got to be the most sorted creatures on this earth.

In fact, most creatures other than humans are.

I suddenly remembered what I had read somewhere long ago.

“Life has many purposes. But a moment has only one.”

To understand the purpose of this moment, to pick and do what’s best that can be done in it, wholeheartedly, is what getting sorted is all about.

Ants do it so well. I had just seen a demonstration of that.

No worrying, no brooding, they are always doing what needs to be done from whatever that can be done.

“Think like an ant!” I screamed at myself.

Do I want to go back to that party?

No.

Do I ever want to use these clothes again?

No.

Then the only thing left for me to do was strip, discard the soiled clothes, have a thoroughly soaped, scrubbed bath and get into some fresh clothes for the night.

Simple. I did that.

As I tucked myself into the bed cozily, I heard a feeble voice inside my head ask: “Why am I here?”

I smiled faintly.

“To sleep, snore…”

I was asleep even before I could complete.

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