The Quintessence of Life
Nusrat Jahan Pritom
How do you know you're alive at this moment? For one thing, you're certainly not dead if you're able to visualiSe and read these lines. In that case, is that what living really means--not dying? Simply the ability of responding to the five senses?
In this world, so many stories, so many incidents go unnoticed. Each experience reveals a new vista in the spectrum of life. People are always on the move. Even loafers have something to do i.e. sleep; kids need to attend school; day labourers have to search for work, and muggers look for victims. 'Work' is typified differently by different people and characterised in each individual's respective way. However, there is always some sort of 'work', and life oscillates between that work and home. Sometimes something stirs up, and a fission of emotion boots in. Notwithstanding this, life returns to its previous semblance of monotony and 'tolerable happiness, happiness derived from tolerating certain frustrations existent in our lives. Not triumphant? "Never mind, next time perhaps"; "A little more effort and I'll get there"; "Whatever happens happens for good". Such positive thinking is meant to relieve most of the tension bottled up within us leaving little space for dissatisfaction. Even with such cheery thoughts very few are sure if that tolerance is really happiness or something else.
Consumerism and urbanisation has resulted in upsetting that 'tolerable happiness.' Needs are overlapped by wants in the rapidly modernising world. That contentment is regarded as practically improbable. In a developing country such as ours, more than half of society is plagued with poverty, and only a tiny minority lead luxurious and ostentacious lives. Naturally, the underprivileged not cited are those who are often the hungry, homeless and devastated, having to witness the scorching wanton display of wealth and excess. Consequently, the tendency of crimes in the third world countries is more evident. It's hard for any average street child to accept that they would always remain as the 'have-nots', though they may give up to 16 hours of grueling work per day. Being so young, they are easily hurt and affected with envy when they see the 'fortunate' squander their wealth so callously. It is unnatural that they would bow down to this slow torture every single day of their lives and not want to covet what they cannot have and to get even with society. However, little do these little fellows know that those whom they consider as the fortunate ones, in their impressionable age were themselves not happy in spite of their riches and comforts.
Covered in embellishment, wearing false smiles, most of the luxury-dwellers have become like stone. Every thing fits into a schedule and smiling seems to be a part of it at least for most of the time. Generally speaking, the intensity of this small life is felt not in those automatic 'happy' hours, where whatever that is wished for is instantly attained, but in those instants of pain when life seems more real. A damp, empty feeling. that something is missing still retains its position no matter how immense the treasury of material possessions is. So it is in such painful moments one feels more alive than ever, since at least then one feels that incompleteness which is closer to truth that they have ever come--a sense of which people are deprived of in their false lives.
Corruption in almost all formal institutions has thrived for so many years and reached such a state that it is a shock to actually witness the formerly influential and corrupt getting punished for their misdeeds. The echoes of the silent cries of masses have eventually reached the judiciary board. But as that cliched phrase goes 'justice is blind and justice cannot see," justice is still not perspicacious enough to free the poor children of their plight though they have been accused of no crime other than being born in a penurious family, repeatedly afflicted with various disadvantages. What was the fault of the child that he got such a punishment? Who says slavery had been wiped away long before the 21st century! In contemporary times we witness a very different kind of slavery. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were symbols of power. Their words were to taken as unquestionable facts even if they pronounced 'kill'. In this era, the affluent class are the reincarnation of the classic pharaohs though most of them hardly know this veracity and are unaware just what a powerful impact they have on society outside their spheres of peers and family. The majority of Bangladesh's population is middle class. The number of the upper class is very few. However, there is still a formidable number of well to do and an absurd agglomeration of rich arrogant lifestyles that constantly taunt the poor majority.
Take a hotspot, blazing with light, exhibiting gourmet food in a completely out of place, battered scenario. Because of the indecorous spot, the organisers tend to make the fast food shop more attractive absolutely disregarding the impact it would create on the underprivileged most of whom are also a part of that neighbourhood. In a world of consumerism, it's as if every business must have an expedient trend to pull and attract customers. Now when a little boy, passes by the place, he's not aware of the status quo of his identity. He's poor--so in society he has no identity. He doesn't know that the financial disposition of his parents is bankruptcy. All he knows is that he is dazzled by the rich food displayed on the shiny glass and he wants to have it, just like all those people inside the shop. What does the child's guardian do under such circumstances? Beats him, scolds him, tells him that he is an inferior being, forcing him to believe that he would always remain a sub-human no matter where on earth he goes and what he does.
This is but one example -- a very plain microcosm of the ugliness of the glittering golden truth. The main element that makes it so hideous is perhaps the disregard and indifference of the 'rich' people. Where will the poor go with their desperate needs when they are side by side to such colossal greed? If the present situation is alarming vis a vis crime, just imagine what the country would be in a decade? The rich would get richer, the poor more miserable, and the proportions would be just enough to set off violent protests from garment workers, day labourers in all sectors -- disadvantaged people would become more involved in paying the upper class, but not in terms of money. The apocalyptic signs of a revolution fuelled by revenge would become apparent. Not only the unemployed and addicts, but others too would become desperados. The low-scale wages would seem harsher than unemployment, creating more and more angst in the working class. This abrasive phenomenon can already be noticed in some service sectors such as the police force. When technology in time would get more and more impressive and a life of luxury would be regarded as a right, not a privilege, that is when the debacle will begin.
Even then, as is now, the sole point that would be missing is the absurdity of this wild goose chase. Happiness doesn't start with dissatisfaction, it ends with it. There may be needs, and there may be wants but excess of anything is a no-no. The raison d' etre of life may be hard to figure out, but living is not entirely wanting to get absorbed by luxury. Getting embedded in contentment is much better and leaves ample room for sharing.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008