Fiction: Players

Nilamadhab Kar

It was already dark outside, when they returned from the walk.

Duggu was sure, Camila has not moved a bit from the sofa since afternoon. He could see her eyes glistening in the dark for a moment and then moved away. She noticed him, he thought, ‘She must be jealous.’

‘Aren’t you’ Duggu teased, ‘jealous?’ Camila did not move a bit. Duggu was not happy with this avoidance. He growled and walked away.

Moments later when Ben picked up Camila and showered his affection, rubbing their noses, it was Duggu who was feeling jealous. He tried not to see. However, he could not stop himself turning and Camila was looking straight at him, as if making a point. ‘There is no point being jealous. Each relationship is unique, there is no comparison.’

Duggu turned his head away. ‘Does she really deserve this love!’ he wondered. ‘She does not do anything; she is just using his love.’

‘Love is not based on reason, my dear. People may do a lot of things to justify their feelings. But that’s it. You cannot earn love by doing something. Isn’t it great to be loved and live a life that way! Just be there, be available to be loved. And all are taken care of. No worries, no tension.’ Love can earn a good life.  A life yearned for.

‘Hmm. But I don’t want to live a life just by loving someone or being loved. I want to do something, I love my work, feel proud of it. I feel happy when I have done something for others. I think I earn my respect for my work. It’s a good feeling when you are appreciated. My work defines me. It looks like I am my work.’

‘Your work has become your life. Do you know when you won’t be able to work, it will be seen as a failure. As if you don’t need to live anymore, or worse, you don’t deserve to live. You cannot fight the feelings of uselessness. Maybe a death wish would creep in; when you are unable, when you become a burden upon others or when it feels like that.  And maybe you will be put to sleep. Do you think, life should resemble work, just work, and often for somebody else, to earn a living or appreciation! True appreciations are rare anyway; most are just lip-service.’

‘But, that’s my life. It has been, since I know myself.’ Duggu wondered why Camila is so miserable; she does not do any work, anyway. Nonetheless, he appreciated her words. She was making a point, it seemed.

Ben switched off the light and said ‘Good night guys, sleep well. Tomorrow is a great day; we are going to the hills for the weekend.’ He was a bit loud, maybe excited. Duggu and Camila could guess the excitement; Ben’s ex-girlfriend was back after a long time. They did not know what happened to the current one.

‘Is Gia the third one?’ Duggu wondered.

‘No, I think she is the fifth one.’

‘It does not matter, they are all the same!’

‘No, no way! Is that how you perceive?’ Camila retorted.

Both were lying on their beds, eyes half-closed, feeling cosy. It’s a good life; it seemed to them, whichever definition.

‘It will be great in the outdoors this weekend.’ Duggu tried to start another round of conversation. Camila did not answer.

‘Are you already asleep?’

‘I am not looking forward to it, to be carried in a carrier box.’

‘But it is a lot of fun. And we can meet Mike, do you remember him? The one that puts on a mask, funny dresses and tries to dance to some tune of his master?’

‘Yes, it’s painful, isn’t it?’

‘He is working for a living. ... … Hmm, it may be stressful, as almost all works are!’

In the morning, while Duggu was excited, Camila wasn’t, as expected. She avoided being pushed into the carrier box. Well, off they went. Ben and Gia kept on blabbing indiscreetly all sorts of things in the front seats, as if Duggu and Camila didn’t understand! They were not very interested though, most were same repetitive stuff.

It was not long before they reached the forest, on the foot of a small hill. There were a lot of people already, being a summer day. In the fair, it wasn’t difficult to spot Mike, as he is always surrounded by the children. He was jumping again and again, as if trying to catch his tail; and everyone was so amused at his failures at such an easy task. He has been trained to fail, if that makes someone else happy.

Camila was impatient. Even before any pleasantries, she asked him, ‘Are you happy?’

To the bewilderment of Mike, she explained, ‘Are you happy to put on this fancy dress and dance, making a caricature of yourself?’

‘Well, given a chance maybe I wouldn’t do this. I’m just trained to do this farce; not for liking it, but my life hangs on it. … … Maybe I would like to live a different life; maybe everyone would have lived a different life, given a chance, a completely different one.  … … Even I too like to jump around like my troops. But … …’

‘Why don’t you just do that, RUN AWAY.’ Camila was becoming too restive.

‘Sorry, Mike. Hope you understand Camila, what she means.’ Duggu was trying to pacify the atmosphere. It was a break time and they could catch up a bit.

Mike had a philosophical calmness around him, ‘Run away? Where to? To my independence? I understand I can do that straight away. But, is it that what I need! I have a relationship with my fellow. We work together, and live a life that is so unique to us. … … My troops on the trees have their life too; they also work hard, to get theirs, food, relationship; may be a sense of security, however fragile it may be. It’s not that they have just all the freedom; they follow a leader; there are rules … and boundaries; and there are relationships that are complex. But I am not afraid of that; it is just another life, another style.’

There was a pause, after this rather long monologue.

Duggu shook his head, ‘I know about my pack and the life they lead. No doubt they enjoy, but uncertainties are too many. You never know what awaits you, and from where your next meal is going to come.’ 

‘I too know many kitties, feral ones and their colonies. Maybe I have a more comfortable life than them, I suppose.’ Camila was much mellowed down.

Life isn’t life, as it seems, it’s far from the reality, it’s a make belief, magical, and may be better than the real life, but it isn’t real.

‘Do you still suggest Mike to run away!’

‘Maybe not, but how can I reconcile with my idea of being independent?’

‘None of us are independent, anywhere; we are rather interdependent.’ … … ‘Connected in more ways than not. We need our friends as much as our enemies or so as they appear.’

The words and the tone sounded wise. But there was a faint uncertainty in the air floating around like the clouds against the jungle over the hills.

There was a whistle and it was time for another game, it seemed. Some players changed sides, some retired.

Duggu and team did not know the name of the game; although it looked a bit different now from their angle, but the same play continued.

Camila was getting impatient again, to return. To home!

1 comment :

  1. Life isn’t life, as it seems, it’s far from the reality, it’s a make belief, magical, and may be better than the real life, but it isn’t real.
    Brilliant! like the story and the telling.


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