Death by Laughter

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A feverish and delirious man walked into Ram Mandir. He was a stout looking shabby young fellow with a pointed nose, unkempt hair and wore a black overcoat which was rather shredded here and darned there. He wore a scarf around his neck; one could see it was a woolen scarf with all the hues of a rainbow. It was unusual for anyone to dress like that since it was summer but given that summer can be sometimes be deceptive with the rain and the its ensuing cold in Kathmandu, this man apparently looked like he held on to his attire regardless. He assumed a grim countenance, his brown eyes shallow and dark circles contrasted to his pallid and freckled skin. He held in his hands, Thus Spake Zarathustra.

He walked clumsily, treading towards the priest who had merely finished his morning ritual and worship. The priest who wore a yellow dhoti and a holy thread diagonally across his skinny body lifted his hands and thrust forth water in the direction of the main temple and he did it three times. It was like the priest himself was rinsing the very soul of Rama with the water from an oblong water pot.

Approaching the priest, the man began, “Hey priest, did you worship my god?”.

Taken aback and quite surprised the responded reluctantly, “Why yes, I have paid my homage to all gods here”, he cleared his throat and put up with a smile while he pushed up his round spectacles which had sunk by the tip of his Tinker bell-like nose.

“But, my god? Have you?” insisted the man. Raising his slender black eyebrows and biting his upper lips, the priest inquisitively asked, “Well, that depends upon whom you have faith in?”

The strange man snarled “Me of course” and imperatively said, “I want you to build a sculpture of me and place it somewhere inside this temple’ now thoughtfully and stuttering, ‘I……I don’t know, maybe…..maybe there”, pointing out to a block of stone were a beggar was tranquilly still asleep. ‘Yes, Yes there’ he added with some resolve now.

Totally perplexed and startled, the priest, after some moments of silence said, “But, why…..would you deserve to be depicted through a statue?” And the strange man before the inquiry could finish very joyously and rapidly answered back, “Why, I declare myself god, but you may ask why I would be so audacious to assert myself of such divinity? Come on ask me why, ask me now”, he was already in hysterics.

The priest, to avoid any confrontation or disagreement with the strange man, for he had already decided that the poor invalid could only have been mad, asked, very calmly, “why would you declare yourself to be a god?” The man husky and stridently replied, “the gods are dead…..they laughed themselves to death”.

The priest who had never read Nietzsche or had ever come across such ridiculous statement was completely startled. He gaped and ironically stood there like a statue which had seen the very eyes of Medusa, completely bizarre and horrid and in the least enchanted.

And to add fuel to fire the strange man added restlessly, fanatically and swiftly, “Well, I guess one of the gods must have declared himself to be the superior one and all of them laughed and laughed and died, I don’t suppose that wold be a pleasant death huh, death by laughter”. He began to laugh euphorically and mockingly at the priest.

The priest, who by now was panting and sweltering at the nonsense and vilification expressed by a total stranger upon god, his god, the divine lord who hadn’t surely marooned us in this dark times, the hope for salvation from this incessant evil and immoral world.  Surely the gods weren’t dead for they weren’t allowed to be one. It would be ungodly for even the gods to have forsaken us…..or have they? The priest for the first time in his life began to marvel at the existence of his faith. He surely didn’t get the gist of the man’s mockery but it was doubt that was realized. Now, the priest stooped low and touched the flowers that were being dispersed by a gust of wind that had suddenly transpired. He picked up a sunflower that was probably trampled and kicked unknowingly many times by the devotees. He sniffed it and gave it a faint smile.

A sudden paroxysm of melancholy grasped the priest and started to strangle him with its dark palms. He felt breathless while the sweltering was incessant. He could literally feel big lumps of sweat descend his nape and through his spine. His lips felt dry and he began hearing ocean waves clash against huge and dogged rocks that had stood the test of times.  He nonchalantly looked at the strange man but the invalid was already leaving through the narrow wooden exit yet he could still be seen laughing derisively. The mad man clearly meant to play a prank on the priest but the priest commenced having his own enlightenment.

The priest who was unable to consent to this new and naïve experience began to laugh hysterically. For a week the priest was mirthful. Sometimes he was in a spasm of laughter and sometimes it was mere masquerading.  A week later the priest died of laughter.


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