Joining the real world

While I had lost interest in the course, I did attempt to study. After hours of effort, I found that I had absorbed little. I sat in the music room at the university and listened to glorious classical music – “he who hears music feels his solitude,” it is said. While I was striving to learn, I found myself grieving over the loss of my father; I worried about the plight of my mother and sisters surviving on a clerk’s pension; I drowned in guilt at the terrible waste of scarce capital I had caused; I feared for my ability to pass exams (this was reflected in my nightmares, and these nightmares pursued me for decades).

I waited in fearful apprehension of failure and its clear consequences. This is how a rabbit must sit frozen and in fascination staring at the jaws of the python about to have a snack. The cosmos was about to devour yet another bit of debris.

I do not know if this provides an explanation. Early in the academic year, I was resting one afternoon, when I suddenly felt a hard slap on my forehead. Half-awake as I had been, I thought that someone had come in and playfully hit me with a book. That is how it felt. I thought I was going batty when I found myself alone. Forty-five years later, I read that a stroke can happen at any age, and that a mini-stroke often feels like a slap on the head. How strange. The result is loss of memory, and an inability to concentrate.

Is this what happened to me? I wonder. It would certainly explain my predicament. However, it looks too much like an expedient rationalisation, attached to a pre-expiry confession. On the other hand, someone did say that truth sits on the lips of dying men.

Continued efforts to concentrate were fruitless. Eventually, recognising that there was no hope for me, I withdrew from the course formally, and told my mother. She promptly and correctly cut me off financially. I was left with six pence in my pocket. Since I had sold the violin and my father’s suits, there was nothing to sell. I found some part-time casual work and I had to live frugally. One weekend I did not eat at all. At times I walked miles because I did not have the fare. No one knew of my plight. To whom could I turn? Strangely, without money or hope, I had no fear of anything.

Thus ended my family’s dream. I would be derided by the clan and other members of the community for decades. Heaven knows what was said to or about my mother about her ambitions or about her fool of a son.

It was a terrible time. My mind must have shut off completely for a while. The transition from an empty mind which took in nothing to one which felt nothing was fluid. It was like a slippery slide, where only the emotion of failure, desperate failure and the futility of life raged. My feeling was that I had got myself into this hole. How on earth did I do that? I did not know or understand.

How do I get out of it? I had no idea. Where do I go from here? How would I know? It was all absolutely, absolutely hopeless. Where the hell was my god? Had I not broken enough coconuts in my time? No other student that I knew had attended the temple as I had. To what avail? I was in no mood to speculate about destiny. So, I decided – to hell with everything.

I was now shipwrecked. I had no one and nothing. God could go to hell too. Was that the way to talk to God? Who cared anyway? Destruction is destruction. Nobody could save me. So, I did nothing, except to find money to live. Join the real world, man! It was about time. And the nightmares rode on and on.

(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ have been drawn out to look at what good is a belief in God when gifts at birth are taken away without knowable reasons. A closely related issue is what drives some of us out of the sludge into which we were dropped from a great height.)