"Life is the price we pay for running away from death "

On a bright summer afternoon, amidst the vivid crowd of a bustling metropolis, Arjun walked up the stairs to the terrace of a posh hotel he had been staying for the past week. When he reached the top, he paused to catch a glimpse of the city - to absorb the fabricated reality of the urban landscape all around him and to pick on its verdant randomness that had been so much taken for granted. His stomach felt uneasy.

Arjun took a moment to recall a jibe he had shared with an uncle of his. The joke never failed to ease him up. "Uncle, what would happen if an earthquake were to hit our city right now?" he had asked of his uncle. And uncle had replied, "Oh! not much difference my son. Other than a few perfect corners broken out of shape, our city cannot get any worse than what it already is..." and the both of them had laughed all afternoon. They had even shared a beer while at it. The joke made Arjun laugh again, and also made him wonder how reality had embraced (read: enraptured) us in its arms of happenstance and inevitability.

He had missed his uncle so much. And that is why he was here, on the terrace of the same hotel where his uncle was seen alive for the last time.

Arjun stood still and tried to feel his uncle's presence, but all he sensed was traffic honks and gusts of smoky wind. It was a bright sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. The sun burnt down upon Arjun and, in the distraction of the city, he missed feeling his uncle's warmth in the sun's rays.

After ten minutes of silent contemplation, Arjun walked up to the parapet wall, climbed on it, clicked a selfie and posted it on his Facebook account, took a deep breath and jumped to his death.

2 hours later:

News of the suicide spread all over the Internet and reactions poured in. "Such a bright boy, what was the need for him to do it?" wondered one friend. "He had no pains or complaints. His parents gave him such a comfortable upbringing. Why would be do something so foolish?" posed another. "Some kids are pampered so much that they don't have any idea of the real suffering.. " commented some, "they take some trivial issue and kill themselves over it." "Yeah," agreed another, "like that girl who killed herself because people did not like her profile picture."

And then the tweeple, the beliebers, the face-bookers and all the keyboard warriors jumped in.. "These kids of today have no idea how to appreciate what they have.." "his parents gave him such a comfortable life and see what he gives them in return.." "there are so many people out there like the blind, the deaf, the handicapped, who continue to live with so much courage... what was wrong with this boy?.. So healthy, fit and fine he was.."  "he insulted all the blessings that life had endowed upon him.. "

several months ago:

Arjun's uncle had gone missing after being last seen at the hotel on the sea-front. There was no trace of him. Uncle was a social worker, fighting for the suffering and marginalized, and he had made some enemies in that pursuit. Some people talked that the mafia had kidnapped and murdered his uncle. It had left Arjun distraught - his uncle was the one good friend he had had.

Then, unable to give up, Arjun had ventured into the forbidden parts of the city in search of his uncle. He had felt an invisible push that had shoved him out of his house. It was a push, not a pull, so quite certainly it wasn't his uncle working invisibly upon him. So Arjun ambled around, walking into dark spaces, empty alleys and neglected nooks of the city. On some days he went into the slums, some days he walked the markets and bazaars, he even visited many hospitals and several police stations. Other times he would sit at the beach and blankly watch the waves, or walk upon the train tracks from one railway station to another.

Rarely sometimes he even visited the malls, but not the front and showy side, rather he went around to the back where the garbage would be dumped, where the noisy air-conditioners hummed and spluttered and spewed hot air, where the distraught walls with peeling paint and the dripping toilet pipes spoke the story of abject human carelessness, where the pariah children of men and dogs played hide and seek. Maybe Arjun had hoped to find his uncle there (because uncle had cared about such forgotten spaces). He never knew what pushed him to be there though...

On evening walks on the city streets, Arjun saw the crowd rushing to get back home. Tired bodies and confused minds seeking their place of rest, jostling and hustling in its pursuit. It was an explosion of colour and life undergirded by tragedy and apathy. Handicapped beggars crying for help, encroached stalls fighting for space, mongrels and calves sleeping in their own shit, open drains and dilapidated pavements gaping at the sky, buildings bearing dusty and cracked facades, and ugly overambitious posters vying for attention. Arjun saw that the rushing sea of people noticed neither the vibrancy of the streets nor the murk they were walking in. They were just walking past like zombies. Were they blind to all this? Yes, maybe they chose to be! Such was the world we lived in that it befitted only the blind. The ones with eyes - the ones who see - have no place in it.

People spitting and littering all over. They surely must be blind, not to see the mess they were causing.

He saw the traffic moving at snail's pace; the cacophony of honks blaring with no purpose other than to vent out the owners' angst. What else are they honking for? They know the traffic won't move any faster. Potholed roads; Inappropriate, insufficient or missing traffic signs; bovine speed-breakers; haphazard pedestrians; opportunist traffic cops looking to snare some quick bucks all ensured the traffic was never in smooth flow. The streets of Arjun's city were not for the able-bodied. He saw pedestrians limping across uneven pavements, skipping over open drains; he saw motorists dragging their feet along with their vehicles. Were they all physically challenged? Yes, maybe that is what they have ended up being. Such a world that does not allow space and avenue for the human body to fully express itself; The able human body has no place in it.

He saw people driving awkwardly - left shoulder lifted high and heads bent sideways trying to balance their cell-phones and talking while they drive. They surely must be handicapped, for they do not seem to be so inclined to avoid such funny postures.

Arjun observed the absolute cacophony on the streets. The blaring vehicle horns, the spattering and cranking of engines, the loudspeakers at various shops, cries of beggars, whistles of the policemen and loud calls of auto and cab drivers. He wondered how everyone ever so casually walked around in this discordant medley. Nobody seemed to be getting disturbed or irritated by the constant stream of dissonant voices. Were they all deaf? Yes, maybe they are! Such a world that does not seem to realize the vocal aberration it is creating must surely be deaf. In such a world someone with proper auditory skills has no place.

He saw a few men playing random songs on their cell-phone loudspeaker. They surely must be deaf, for they do not realize how stupid it is to play a song that others don't want to listen.

Back to the present:

All the months of confused questioning had finally brought Arjun to the seafront hotel. He had come looking for his uncle, for he wanted answers which only his uncle could give. It was a push, not a pull that had brought him to the hotel. His quest for answers was the push. As he walked up the stairs, on to the terrace, and as the sunlight beamed upon him, a vague peace settled into Arjun's mind. It was like the questions troubled him no more, for the answer lay right in front of him. He climbed up the parapet wall, looked down at the ground far below, felt the whiff of breeze caressing all over his body and waited for the final push. Meanwhile, he took a deep breath and clicked some selfies for his Facebook wall.

Then the push came.. the final and redemptive one. The one that lifted him and helped him escape from a world he did not belong. This world was not for Arjun whose senses were all working fine. It was a world meant for the blind, the deaf, and the physically handicapped. By continuing to live, Arjun was, in fact, using the resources that were meant for the blind, the deaf, and the physically challenged. It was not right of him to use up resources not meant for him. Hence, the push that threw him off the building.

It was a push for justice. The push that delivered justice both to the world and to Arjun. Firstly, justice to the blind, the deaf, and the physically handicapped who got their resources back from Arjun; and secondly, justice to the able-body that Arjun had been gifted with but which had been mistakenly sent to the wrong world.

Arjun did not die by carelessly disregarding his able-bodied self; he died exactly because he ever so consciously regarded his able-bodied self.


In memory of Arjun Bharadwaj, with whom I might have shared a momentary thanatological connection.