A Dark Room and a Sore Voice

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I am bored.

I am suffocating. I am chocking. I am aching.

But I am uncomplaining. And I am bored.

I have lost count of the days that I have been here. I don’t even remember when I first came here. I think it was a week ago.

Or it could be a month.

Or a year.

Whatever. All I can recall is that this place was pretty much the same even on my arrival. It was dark and cramped. It still is. Occasionally, a dab of sunlight comes billowing in. But it vanishes faster than it comes. On some other occasions its just a dim ray. Sort of like dead hope. Or the one that’s dying fast. To tell you the truth, I liked my previous residence more.

Since my arrival here, some of my friends (contemporaries, rather) have left, and I think—oops! I completely forgot to introduce myself.

I am, dear All, a brand new Thousand Rupees Note. And the place I am currently living (read imprisoned) in is somebody’s wallet!

So as I was saying, some of my contemporaries have left since my arrival. But it doesn’t make me sad, or worried, or jealous, or anything. But then, it cannot happen that you don’t feel anything at all, right? So if I were to give a name or put a label to my feelings, I would say I feel sorry for those poor souls who have left this place. Agreed, that this place is a boring, uninteresting place to lead a life, but you have no idea how those Notes that go out are treated. Especially those tiny 10 and 20 rupees Notes. Believe me when I say that life in that form is really miserable.

But then why would you believe me? You will be wondering by now, “What can a bright, crisp 1000 rupees Note like him, possibly know about the hardships of leading a less worthy life? Surely he is one of those “academic scholars” who take pleasure in intellectualising every bit of reality and boil it down to a few equations, a handful of graphs and a bunch of words that do you no good? In other words, the champions of a social class that is the epitome of reason and logic but the abyss of practical utility?”

But then, you have just come to know me. Coming to think of it, what do you in fact know about me other my name and current residence? Nothing. So before you get all judgemental towards me, let me enlighten you. Let me tell you my story. But I have a request to make. Please, don’t see it from a human perspective. For, the human perspective is way too broad to notice the smaller, more detailed delicacies of any form of existence. After all, you are the superior race. (Screw that Darwin!!)

So, befittingly honoring the very famous cliché, let me begin at the beginning. I was not born as a Thousand rupees Note. There are a few, a very selected few, who are born with that good luck, but not me. I was born as a measly Two rupees Note. It was the year 1986. In those days one and two rupees Notes actually existed. I don’t know how many of you have even looked at a Two rupees Note! (I have still got some of my childhood photographs, so you could have a look at them if you want to). But that’s beside the point. The point is, although I was born very early, early was not early enough. Hoo! Now don’t go making that face. It’s not some encrypted message! It only means that even after considering my early date of birth, I was still born in a period when the smaller Notes were fast disappearing. Their place – our place – was being ruthlessly taken over by those cursed Coins. All in all, there I was, as J F Kennedy aptly put it, “born at the time of crisis.”

What was the crisis, you ask me? God! My life was itself a crisis. I was never put into a pocket; I was always stuffed. I was never kept over the billing-table; I was always banged. I was never folded neatly; I was crushed, killed, every single time, in every single transaction. The thing was, although a lot of things could be bought with two rupees, the fact still remained that a lot of things could not be bought with two rupees. A lot more things, actually. So all said and done, my life as that puny Note was filled with only one thing: neglect.

Needless to say, I soon reached a stage where getting recognized became as rare as honesty among politicians. There were occasions, when shopkeepers who received me would lift me up, give me a hard look and shake their heads sadly. Of course they meant refusal! And then the person, the supposed owner of mine, would bless me with a look of such pure loathing and disgust that it would make you feel as though I was the cause of all the bad that was happening to him. Well I would have put up with all this drama, but the problem was that such occasions, (as the one mentioned above), kept occurring too frequently to be ignored. Or to put up with.

But like all good things, all bad things too come to an end. Therefore, not to anyone’s surprise, a few days after one such incident, the kid who then owned me, handed me to his father, who handed me to a clerk in a bank, who handed me to his manager, who handed me to an RBI official, who handed me to a person who carried me to a workshop, whose owner threw me in a machine, which crushed, deformed, mutilated, manipulated and mashed me into a pulp way beyond recognition. Calvin’s father would have told him, ‘Its character building.’ But sorry, I am not buying any of that nonsense. Let us face the truth. It was an ordeal. And a really disastrous one at that. But as Thomas A Edison said, ‘There is a great value in disaster, for you can start all over again.’

And so it was. My new beginning. Not the beginning as in “start”, rather as in “restart”. I travelled, as pulp, down a sewer like pipe. Don’t ask me for how long. I don’t know. It seemed like eternity. Finally I landed in a huge basin. My condition was really pathetic. I couldn’t distinguish my arms from my legs (of course, you cannot differentiate between them even now!). Once in that basin, I went round and round and round and round…Oh! I cannot write enough “round”s to explain my situation. Anyway, I don’t know what, but they did something to me in that basin. And some more things after that. I don’t exactly remember what happened to me. All of it is a blur in my head. Well, what else do you think happens to anybody who goes through so many of those wretched “rounds”?

Whatever. All I remember after that is, when my eyes opened, I was in the hospital. Whoa! Now wait for a second! Did you really expect  me to say such a thing? Tell me. I mean, really? Hell! This is not a Bollywood movie! Sorry to disappoint you, but I swear on the blessed Name of our Lord, I would never say such a thing. What I actually wanted to say is: I vaguely remember going through a lot of machines. I was barely conscious, and so could not register things happening around me. Why, I couldn’t even register things happening to me! And it went on like that for a few days.

Or maybe a few months.

Or a few years.

And then it was all over. Suddenly, we were being handled very delicately. People wearing gloves were carefully examining us. I am saying “we” and “us” because there were many more like me. It was only when I looked at them carefully that I realized what I had become. I had become – you guessed it right – a Thousand Rupees Note!

Suddenly, I felt big, important and desirable. Obviously I don’t feel any of those things now, but I accept, I did then. I had the feeling that I had really grown-up: physically, mentally and emotionally. Maybe it was that some of the other pulps got added into me. Maybe I had reached puberty. Or maybe it was simply the experience, but I just felt vast. And that made me very happy. Happier than I could remember being in days…I closed my eyes, and promptly went into a deep slumber…

There was a lot of incense-stick smoke in the air. I don’t know how I came to be where I was. There was a One Rupee Coin on top of me. I was surrounded by lots of flowers and fruits. It was only after the smoke had settled down I could see that the man near whose feet I was placed was a sage. Or a saint. What’s the difference anyway? So let us call him Master.

Fine. So I was there at the feet of a Master, and there were people all around, and they were approaching him one-by-one, and he was answering their questions, and giving them solutions, and I was able to hear every single word the Master was uttering. Then a man came up to him and said, ‘I don’t know what to do, Master.’

‘I do.’ The Master replied. The man looked up at Him. There was pain in his eyes. And tears too. ‘You crave too much,’ the Master continued serenely, ‘for things that are not permanent. You think things will stay with you. You think things will stay forever. Neither of them happens.’

The words jolted me. Weren’t they the essence of whatever I have been through till then?

‘The people you love will pass,’ the Master was saying. ‘The things you like will pass. The power you possess will pass. The comforts you enjoy will pass. And so the pains you suffer will pass, too. Nothing in this world is permanent. God alone can stand the test of time. Hold on to Him, for He shall never pass…’

I closed my eyes. Flashes of my life passed in front of my eyes. I remembered how I suffered. I remembered how I changed. I remembered the joy. I remembered the pain. Then I realized. I understood that nothing that happens, happens forever. Everything has to one day go, be it good or bad; be it sweet or bitter; be it power or money…

And then the Master lifted me and gave me to that man, saying, ‘This should be enough for the time being. As for your life in the long run, I hope you know what you will need.’

The man reverentially received me with open palms. He wiped his tears and kept me in his wallet. I am still there in the same wallet. That was a long time ago. He never spent me. Maybe he never will. Maybe I will have to stay like this for ever, cramped and suffocating.

But then, nothing that happens, happens forever. Isn’t it? That is why I am not scared. Or worried. Or bothered. Or anything. For now I know that the world is a plethora of perishables. Things will come and go. I, Money, the so called driving force of today’s excessively consumptionist society, will come and go.

I am not staying. I am not permanent. But I am cramped. I am suffocating.

And I am bored.

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Image Courtesy: http://www.instablogsimages.com/images/2008/02/20/zero-rs_1333.jpg

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