The Self-Taught Man came in to the café expecting me. I was scheming a public suicide in a short fiction I was working on. He came in through the sliding door, almost in rapture. His aquiline nose never ceases to fascinate me. Today the nose seemed slightly sad. He expected to die sooner because of his nose. ‘I inhale too much dust. I am surely getting an asthma in my early forties. Hear-Hear Kathmandu. Our love will kill us.’. He was convinced. I never doubted him. In fact, I never doubted him at all.
It’s late afternoon and I am dizzy. Saala. I just had an Espresso. Double Shot. I smoke too much. The waiter waved a glossy pink slip. A thousand rupees. Eight hundred for Surya Lights. These cafes charge too much for cigarettes. I merely recalled my new habit, recording expenses in a mobile app. It’s futile. What would I do if I had an inkling of my expense pattern? Why, I know what I spend on? Last week, I had bought a little book on Chinese poetry. I thought it was cute. Today, I got myself a shirt from one of a footpath dealer because it was cheap. I didn’t need it. My mother always harangues on the virtues of making a pilgrimage to Pashupatinath. I made it along with her. I was broke by the time a fourth sadhu brandished his parched palm towards us. She screwed her eyes. I grinned nervously.
I pick myself up languidly. A guilt similar to post-jerking engulfs me whenever I am leaving cafes. It’s the same morbid lament. The deed is done. I have an urge to run away. It’s mildly disgusting now. The Self-Taught Man caught up with me as I was leaving the vicinity of the sin. The motorbike didn’t start. I check the dashboard. It’s empty. I slap my forehead. I go back the cafe. He is resolute. He is awake. I am tired. He’s about a song now. Cotton Eye Joe. He’s memorized the lyrics. I try to keep up, but I jumble up the words. I keep telling myself that he’s a freak.
I get mail. Invitation to sit for an interview at an NGO. I look for their contact pages. I don’t recognize anyone. To get a real job is all about knowing people in Kathmandu. I will be skipping the interview then. I haven’t done anything substantial today. I feel sad. I think of Dali. Talent and hard work. I lack both. At the age of six he wanted to be a cook. At seven he wanted to be Napoleon. In mid-twenties, I still haven’t figured out if I like mo:mo or mo:mocha more. I light a cigarette and smoke nervously. Should my mother wake up, she would reproach me not with fanged words but with monstrous faces. The bland breeze of the night calms me down.
The June breeze is as lazy as me.
My little niece tells me that I am boring. She doesn’t know what sort of porn I watch incognito.
It’s deadline day. I merely finish the story on time. I send it to my editor. He promptly rejects it stating that it’s obscene. I reply that his self-righteousness is what’s obscene. He’s artless. Maybe that’s why he’s an editor instead of a writer. I am fuming. Some beautiful girls eyeball me. I bonhomie enough for one of them to blow me.
I apologize to the editor. ‘It was a paroxysm of rage and to tell you the truth I was a little bit drunk’ I entreat. Damn it! A cliché. Nevertheless, he buys it. I wonder if he gets such responses a lot. He’s a nice lad. He offers me coffee and biscuits. His office is huge. The loft even has a window overseeing the city. It should be nice to be an editor. I promise to come up with a social critique of commercialization in medical sector by the end of the week. He consents. He’s such a sweet lad. I am good at chakari.
Having spent half my day, walking from one room to another, I questioned myself, in the dreariness of the afternoon, ‘Why does it even matter?’ In the sanctity of my house, I seemed to have collapsed under the influence of an ennui so dreadful that I only realized in the evening, the condition of my mental faculties.
At dusk, I observed a fly banging itself on the glass window. The fly flew voraciously towards the pane and having banged itself on the hard, polished surface; it repeated itself. ‘It is rather foolish of the fly’ I reckoned but thereafter soon grasping how I had been banging myself into an invisible window in the form of employment, I was aghast of the similarity between myself and this fly. We were the same. Well, at least, I got bored of the meaningless, incessant banging and got myself out my situation. At least I had the privilege of leaving my window pane on a whim. Then I realized that the poor fly will kill itself and in a paroxysm of sympathy, I drew the window, letting the poor creature fly off to wherever it fancied.
At bedtime, I list my inspirations.
Hemingway. Ganeshman. Kathmandu. Lalitpur. Bhaktapur. Girija. Oli. Prachanda. Nima Rumba. Underside. Cruentus. Tashi dai. Bhimsen Thapa. Maldini. Dostoevsky. Apple. Freud. Woody Allen. Camus. Tolstoy. Star Wars. Peanut Butter. Guevara. Napoleon. Corleone. Manjushree Thapa. We didn’t start the fire? I sigh. I am tired of all these influences. I am a mere scumbag.
I am sleep deprived. I am in desperate need of a routined life. Well, I left my job which somewhat scheduled my time and now I can feel my entrails revolting against my mental faculties. This bohemian life of a story teller is rather repulsive. All I had to do was dispatch diplomatic mails. Here I am trying to get published and I can’t even write a decent paragraph. The office does want me back and I could use some dough. I am almost broke. The Self-Taught Man thinks it’s disgraceful to ask for money with one’s parents. I could use some filial reproaches. They are nuts in the most loveable way. The whole nation has gone nuts anyways. Well, history has it that the bewildered sati of Bhimsen Thapa cursed the country from the burning pyre. If one thinks about it, Kathmandu was probably cursed by a hundred thousand satis. I think I am cursed three times already. I am cursed for being a man. I am cursed for being a resident of Kathmandu. I am cursed for my mere birth in a so-called high caste. The whole of the country is excommunicating people like me for the sake of positive discrimination. The sins of the fathers do remain with us younglings. I should go back to sending mails.
Everyone told me that I shouldn’t quit my job until I had obtained another appointment. Friends. Cousins. Parents. Strangers. When one feels reduced and the learning curve is on all time low, how can one endure the tyranny of monotony, politics and unyielding gossips at offices? When I go to work, I don’t want to think that I am going to office. I want to feel that I am going to work. And how I worked when I did so. The slow gratification from working, I guess, that’s what life all about is, waking up each morning hoping to add to the foundations of yesterday’s work.
Now I can’t even find a decent job. The Self-Taught Man asserts that our nation literally leaped from thirteenth century to twenty first century in the last twenty years only. The Chinese want to invest in high tech infrastructures. The Americans sense that discourses about rights are redundant. The Europeans don’t want to empower women anymore. Nepalese people think that thy have received enough trainings. The Indians now know that Buddha was born in Nepal. I can’t relate to my country anymore.
I run my fingers through a Kantipur Dainik. The title reads, Balla Underpass. It’s a sin to be a Nepali. Why can’t the heading be ‘Ae hajur kholyo hai underpass’. Such cynical and partisan reporting is killing a whole generation in Nepal. Well, worse than killing. We don’t die. We live to die daily devoid of hope and love. The journalists who feed on the people’s hopelessness and lovelessness are equal to rapists. Both lack compassion.