This is one of my older posts. I am republishing it because I am currently passing through the same myriad of thoughts.
Once upon a time there was a fisherman. He was a poor man. He used to live in a hut near the sea. He always wore the same lungi and the same vest. People used to look at him with a queer mixture of disgust and sorrow. They did not hate him but they did not love him either. And he was also oblivious to them. His average day was very simple. He would get up with the first light of the sun and go to the sea with his boat. He would then catch fish till noon and after a simple lunch comprising fish and rice, he would take a tight nap. The evening would be passed in some more of fishing and he would be off to bed before the last ray of sun left the earth. He had no particular desire. He was satisfied with whatever he had. He had never read the Franklin’s rule, which says that “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed”, either. In fact he had never read anything in his life. He was ignorant. He lived for himself, with himself and never cared to progress in life: materialistically as well as spiritually. He never tried to see beyond what his eyes could descry. In fact he lived an animal’s life. He never had any tensions and used to drag on with his life with the same monotone… carefree but sans any use for others. He was never sad because he was a contented soul. But he was not happy either; he did not know what happiness meant. As he had never dared to explore the other face of it….
In the sea near his humble hut was a magnificent ship. It was owned by a wealthy man. He had two other ships in two other ports of the state. He was famous. He had a lot of ‘friends’ because he had a lot of money and he had a lot of money which he had earned with a lot of hard work. When he was very young he had dreamt that he would be a rich man one day. And today, he was a well respectable businessman of the town, with five bungalows and numerous cars. He had finally achieved what he had always desired. He knew it very well…the Butler’s Law of Progress, which says that “All progress is based on a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.” And so he was never satisfied. Even if he wanted to… He would start making blueprints of his next hotel even before the current one got completed. This way he gave thousands of jobless people some means of earning. This way he contributed a lot to the society, the nation and the world in general….
But there was something that worried him incessantly. He had people around him who called him their friends but he also possessed the necessary experience and intuition to know and understand that they were with him only because of his money and power. He had already had a divorce because he never cared to give enough time to his wife. His son was a spoiled brat who never heeded a slight emotion towards his father’s problems. He was unable to enjoy sugar because he was diabetic. He was unable to enjoy salt because he was hypertensive. All that he earned would go to the medicines he was forced to take every other hour. Even then he was consistently forced to smile in front of others. To show them that he was strong. He was well adept at it. It was an art well practiced in his growing years. In fact a kind of mask of a charming smile had got stuck on his face… Which used to suffocate him incessantly …In the interviews he would say that one should always be honest; one should always speak the truth and should work for the greater good. He was a role model for many aspiring youngsters. His meteoric rise from slums to riches was then a part of the folklore. But he himself knew what he had lost in that tremendous gain of name and fame. His inner self would perpetually torment him for the numerous lies he had spoken, for the acts of debauchery he had committed during his so called ascent. Even for a better cause of the greater good, he always felt, deep inside, that he was never worth a penny of what he was being showered with. Success comes at a price and that price, perhaps, was his happiness…
In the town near the sea was his office. In the office were hundreds of small cabins. In one of those hundreds of small cabins, sat one middle aged man. He was neither rich nor poor. He would come to office everyday early in the morning, work throughout the day, with frequent breaks of discussions on love, politics, religion and marriage and then be off to his home by 6 pm. He would then watch TV, talk with his wife for some time, read a book or a magazine or would do some other stuff he always did whenever he felt like doing something different. This middle-class man was neither as rich as his boss nor as peaceful as the fisherman. He had wife and sons and daughters and lived ‘happily’… Or as he thought…Or rather…as he forced himself to think.
Man is a clever animal. He can make himself think in a certain way and create a virtual world around him. But even then he knows that he is fooling himself and this knowledge of faking one’s own self badgers him continuously.
There was a time when he was young and new. He also wanted to do great things. But there were too many responsibilities on him. Sisters to marry, an ailing mother, a father who never approved of his ideas. And then a wife, a house, electricity bill, telephone bill, rations card, children’s higher education, their birthday parties, their marriages. Throughout his life he had been too much preoccupied to ever have given a thought on happiness or on its absence. Actually, he had always been taught that way by his parents. He was taught to believe that marrying a woman, having kids, earning for them, striving for their happiness would make him happy. He did what the world told him to do and eventually ended up doing nothing. He would look at the fisherman and think about living a more independent life. He would look at his boss and think about living a more prosperous life. His own life had been a series of mundane events; events which depended on the events proceeding them. First career, then marriage, children, their education, their career, their marriage and then retirement. Yes retirement… he had planned it years ago. He would write a novel when he retired, he would open up a restaurant, he would play with his grandchildren etc. It is not that he never wanted to be happy. It is just that his happiness depended on future which when arrived would turn into present…
The man had two sons and a daughter. The daughter was eldest of them and had been married years ago. The youngest son was still a minor. His other son was in his late teens. Now as it occurs, he was confused. A full ocean of life was in front of him. It was clear that his aim in life was to be ‘happy’. But he did not know what happiness meant. Was it living an ignorant life and caring about nothing in the world? Was it aiming for stars and then doing anything to reach them? Or was it living a bull’s life and fulfilling his responsibilities one by one? Or was it an ideal sum of three?
A rough analysis:
It is very easy to make out that most of the people in this world want to aim for all the three options but it is a matter of experience that they have to choose only one of them at some point of life or the other. In other words it can be termed as compromise. Only a handful of people manage to grasp all the three pleasures of life. Most of them, by the look of it, succeed in one but fail in the other. The author’s question is simple: which way to choose….. or to put it simply, what to do?