The Sticker

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch.

 

It is a summer evening and I am alone in my hostel room. With a book in my hand, I am apparently reading something but unable to maintain focus on the text. Two days back, a friend died in a car accident. Ever since, I have been brooding over the essence of life? Why is it too short? Why is death the ultimate truth?

I am a final year MBBS student. I have learnt a lot, from professors and books, about human life – about the body and diseases attacking it. But my questions about life haven’t been answered yet.

This frustrates me at times. Sometimes, a voice, emanating from the core of my heart, tells me to quit the medical profession.

“Death is the ultimate reality of life. You can never escape it. Why do you hit the books all day long? Say goodbye to this world of books and medicines and retire to a forest; sit under trees and enjoy the swaying winds. When night sets in, ascend atop a mountain and marvel at the mesmerizing moonshine; wander across the length and breadth of the forest. Live a carefree life in the gentle embrace of nature”.

All of a sudden, my eyes fall upon the sticker pasted on the cupboard. A red line on the yellow strip of paper reads: “Don’t take life too seriously. It is not permanent”.

There is no picture or calendar in my room, but this sticker. I like the quote, so I bought it a few days back from the market. I want to lead a carefree life, in accordance with this quote.

I hear a bang. It might be a thunderbolt or an airplane hovering in the sky. I pull the curtain off and look out the window. It is raining.

My room is on the top floor. Through the window, I can see adjacent buildings, a nearby river and as far as the Koh-i-Murdaar. But today the whole sky is covered with dark melting clouds. There appear two men soaking in rain, running towards a giant tree where a goat has already sought refuge. How ironic would it be if trees, like men, run for shelter. But, they wouldn’t. Come what may, they never move from their place. These helpless trees too live a life. I wish I were a tree. At least I would have stared in the face of death.

Meanwhile, someone knocks at the door in a familiar way. I say ‘yes’. Comes in the elderly delivery man from the hostel canteen.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” He asks me politely.

I give him a nod and he leaves the room.

He is a human being too. He has his own thoughts and ideas of life as well. I am not sure whether, like me, he is also being overwhelmed by thoughts of death and doom in such a pleasant weather, or maybe he is not bothered at all by what is going on in his surroundings, like trees.

He returns with a cup of tea.

“Uncle”! I call out.

“Yes, sir”! He replies.

“Please, sit down. I want to ask you something”.

He complies.

“In such a rainy weather, when the entire area is inundated with water, how do you feel”?

He is puzzled, as if I have asked him something childish or rubbish. He tries to grasp the meaning of what I have just said while I lament my stupidity to ask such a silly question.

“I wish it wouldn’t rain.” Comes his reply after a pause.

“Why”?

His reply takes me by surprise. “If it continues to rain, my mud house will collapse”.

I look at his face and then turn my gaze to the sticker. I say nothing, sipping silently the last drop of the tea.

It is a while since the elderly man has left the room. It is still raining outside with lightning and thunderbolts. The two men are still standing under the tree. And, the sticker? Its torn pieces are lying in the dustbin.

Koh-i-Murdaar: A mountain near Quetta, Balochistan