Our party office is like an island of light. Those who walk past in darkness, when they just cross this spot, turn their necks and look at this block of light. A few in fact walk by. Most of them are inside the vehicles; cars or buses. They too crane their necks to see this patch of light. Two momentary visions come into a speedy collision, make a spark and depart, leaving some sort of mark in memory. Some boys race into darkness by their speeding two wheelers with utter disregard for safety. Most of them think that they are the characters from a video game; programmed to win or die. On these roads, death is a deferred possibility and life a wish. Survival makes a tight rope walk in between. I could see it balancing on the invisible thread of hope, moving a step at a time and shaking more than it could proceed. We, from inside the office of light get to see them. We too are hopeful and we want them to walk on without falling into the deep darkness of despair.
What do these people see in us, when they look at us? What do we see in them, when we look at them? They see madness, poetry and love in us. We see rage, contempt and sympathy in them. One of them calls out to us and says, ‘I thought some of you were sensible. Now I am sure all of you are crazy.’ We smile at him. We see young women and old women passing by, with their heads bent. We see men wearing yellow clothes going back to their homes reluctantly. They were teachers once. Students hesitated to enter their classroom. Today they themselves find it difficult to get back to their homes. Trapped in a village, trapped in habits, trapped in moralities and beliefs and trapped in one’s own self, they move like ghosts that have lost their graves. One of us tells them: ‘We are mad. But don’t you see our madness is poetic. Poets have changed the world.’
So have mad people. One of them comes up from the darkness wearing a crown of light and clears his throat. He tells us a story about a mad man who had just lost his life a couple of days back. Madmen live longer. Madness is a sort of ultimate disease. Mad people generally do not get any other illness. They drive even the diseases away with their unconventional lives. Illness colonizes a structured body, a structured life and a routine thinking. Madness defies all these. So madmen live long. Madwomen speak to nothingness so they make epic poems of nonsense which we do not understand. Their grammar is different and form unpalatable. In their metaphors acid rains and merges with the ocean of dark dreams. So we say we do not understand; and they do not understand our grammar, our form, our structure and our done to death metaphors.
This madman lived a royal life. He had two horses. He never rode them. He bought them and let them free. He but rode on winds and clouds. He ate breakfast in one city and lunch in another and dined with beggars and slept in railway platforms. Back in the village his horses appeared in dark alleys scaring people away from their own skins. Some said that they had seen those horses flying at night. Their owner never slept on his fluffy bed kept ready for him by his beloved wife. He was fighting world wars in railway platforms and sharing coffee and pizza with Italian mafia dons. He felt the iron bucket that he always carried had pearls and diamonds in them. So much was his anger if someone dared to touch it or even tried to come near to it.
A couple of days back, he died. He was found dead in a railway platform. His horses came flying. He thought so, at least. We do not think much about the people who are really dead. But we in a lit up party office could even discuss a dead man’s thoughts. The narrator continued: the corpse had to be taken for postmortem. They found nothing but maps of non-existent worlds, weapons of mass rescue, languages that have been never spoken and a rhyme he had learnt in his primary school in his body. Doctors wondered how he survived on without the usual innards of a human being. They even suspected whether he was a real human being or an alien. But his wife confirmed that he was real as she had made love to him and made babies. Finally his body was handed over to his wife and our narrator. They took him to the cemetery in the town. They gave her a receipt of the body.
Madmen’s wives and friends are not really mad, though madmen strive very hard to lift them to his own realms. But the unfortunate ones remain the regular world of struggles. The dead man’s wife was not mad. But somehow she lost the receipt of his body at the cemetery. On the next day she went to collect his ashes. She wanted to immerse it in a sea. He and his horses had tried once to cross the sea on a plank of strong intuition. Horses flew away and the madman sunk. He was saved by some fishermen and they knew him for they had shared some country liquor with him in one of his revelries before he had gone completely mad. She went to the manager of the cemetery and the man refused to hand over her husband’s ashes as she failed to produce the receipt. She had lost it in the commotion. You could say that the horses came, stole it and flew away. Whatever be the case, as we do not have proof to disprove the existence of these flying horses, she did not get the ashes. She cried and pleaded and the manager finally gave her a pot full of ashes upon seeing her plight. Before she left, he called out and said: It is not necessary that you get your husband’s ashes.
She did not stop to hear it. She wanted the ashes and she had it. The narrator stopped there. He was about to leave the office, out bit of light. He stepped out and we too got up to leave. Before we could say anything, a pair of flying horses appeared from the sky and took our narrator away. We stood there in silence as if we were participating in a communion of ghosts. Then we too decided to step out into the darkness. We smelled a dead man’s ashes somewhere in the air.