"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan




A pedestal is as much a prison as any small space
- Gloria Steinem, activist, editor (b. 1934)
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It was ages since that he had been behind bars, but today was different. The images moved faster. Yes, it wasn't the bars of the cell anymore, it was the van - the one they used to transport convicts from the prison to the execution chamber. It was the day of his execution and how ironical it was that he had to finally get a breath of fresh air on the very day when, very soon, his lungs would be choking for air.

A noose would hang that day - freshly prepared specially for his neck - and do him the favour of latching on to his bag of flesh and bones while his soul struggled to escape from it.

And by the way, all those months in the prison had thrust upon him strange questions about being imprisoned. "Is that four-walled cell really the ultimate prison?" he had asked himself, "What if body itself is a prison for the soul? Maybe God punishes criminal souls, imprisons them in bodies and banishes them into this world? And the really bad ones get handicapped bodies may be?" Like how convicts stand behind the bars and watch the outside world, he wondered if our souls are actually locked up in flesh and bone and helplessly watching the world through the two almond shaped holes in the so-called head?
 
Whenever he had idle time in the cell, he would sit and watch faces after faces streaming in and out of the police station. All of them came in stressed - and mostly over-reacting - and most of them managed to go out smiling. There would almost always be some undignified intervention before the stress turned into a smile - typically some money exchanging hands. "Are they really buying happiness with money?" he would wonder, "Nobody told me happiness came so cheap. Looks like that policeman just sold it over the counter." And then he would question, "But where does the police get such big stock of happiness that they keep so generously distributing from?" and then the cheeky realization, "Oh I get it, it's the stock that they take from us prisoners.."

His time in prison had allayed his fears; shown him imprisonment, in the general sense, was not so harsh after all, except for the occasional sexual abuse that is. They gave free food; the other prisoners seemed to have a very understanding heart, and most of all, there was a lot of free time to enjoy the "Dolce far niente" - the sweet joy of doing nothing. There was no mad rush, no apprehensions, as everyone knew when their sentence was ending. And, then, compared to the outside world, there was no violence here - not as much fire and ire and... noise. There were only rules and outside of that, peace.

His van stopped in a noisy street - a noise which the prison life had sheltered him from all these days. Apparently, the policemen had to visit some shops to collect their "payment". He noticed how the shopkeepers shook when they saw the policemen approaching. He wondered if their condition was any better than the prisoners. They were also condemned to subjugate themselves to the rules of the policemen isn't it? "Yes, it may be true that they are not in a cell per se, but they sit in these dirty shops all day. They have no choice to leave it and go, and every time a policeman crossed their street, they have to pay up. Now, aren't those shops like prisons?" Something that was building up inside of him all through his jail term was now unravelling itself, "And why only the shop keepers, everyone out there is a prisoner. Look at all those family people rushing to their offices. They look so tired and plain but do they have a choice? All prisoners of the clock. Look at that young girl fiddling with her phone. Fretting over her friend's comments on her new photo album. Prisoner of the image that she wants to build in her friends' eyes. Look at the boys playing football - prisoners of the rules of the game, and more importantly, of the assumption that winning is important in every game. That mother carrying her baby is a prisoner of the needs of her baby. That hawker selling wares is a prisoner of the wages he needs to earn so he does not sleep hungry at night. That eve-teasing bastard standing in the corner and staring at ladies is also a prisoner of his sexual desires. Bloody mongrel, so badly imprisoned by his inner fire that he is not even able to see women as human beings. What about that rich man who just passed in the car? Isn't he is a prisoner of his status in society. For everything that he does, he thinks of his status first. See those celebrities posing on those posters. Can they ever roam freely in the streets? Aren't they prisoners of their own fame? Aren't  all successful people prisoners of their own success? And what about those who failed? Aren't they prisoners of the need to not fail the next time? Ah! look at that beggar. He seems so carefree and peaceful. Yet he is a prisoner, of his conviction that the society does not care for him and he will be a beggar all his life. He is a prisoner of despair. And the happy people - Aren't they prisoners of their happiness? Don't they try hard to not let go of their happiness and try everything in their ability, and more even, to continue to stay happy? Now, those children carrying heavy bags to school - Oh! theirs is the saddest case of them all. The are our society's newest prisoners and our blessed education system is preparing a life sentence for each of them..."

And then, all of a sudden, watching the world go by, from inside the prison van, he felt strangely confused. He was now not sure which side of the bars the prison actually was! He recalled that morning - during his first week in prison - when he had so expectantly ran into the garden to watch the seeds he had planted the previous night. And then seeing tiny sprouts emerged out of the Earth, he remembered how a volcano of joy had erupted from him. All his life he had seen plants grow, yet here was the same ordinary thing giving him such immense joy. And today, sitting in the van, seeing all that he saw, learning all that he had learnt, the true wisdom of that germinating seed dawned upon him. The tender leaves which had broken their shell, pushed through dirty soil and emerged into the light, had shown him the truth. The wisdom, which took months of culturing, fermenting, and seasoning, had finally settled upon him on his last journey.

His soul, was now, ready for its baptism.
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