By-Shashank Reddy, NLSIU, Bangalore.
I sit here by myself, looking out across the parapet. A dark night. A dark city. Smoke fills the air. A semi-opaque mirror through which dimmed orange lights seek to penetrate the darkness that they see. Buildings. What are buildings? Useless impressions of chrome and steel behind which man seeks to hide from himself. I sit here. On an empty roof of a dilapidated building on the other side of the river with a cat and a raven for company. Once this building was a church. It could as easily have been a warehouse. But I say Church because people say it was a church and people say what they want to believe in these matters. A church has an aura of grandeur, of sanctity, of awe-inspiring reverence. A warehouse is a forgotten piece of history which only rats seem to remember. This is but an old building. No one in the city across the river knows what it was used for. Hence they believe it was a church.
The city will burn. It will burn today. It will burn tonight. Its reverence, its money, its stone facades and automated traffic lights will all disappear in a whiff of smoke and its members will understand that buildings do not matter in the greater scheme of things. What is the greater scheme of things? What role do the people play in the life of the river that flows past them? Maybe they do play a role. They can change the colour and texture of the river. They can stop its flow or increase it. Maybe there is a scheme there. So humans do probably play a role in the greater scheme of the earth. But does the earth play a role in the greater scheme of the universe? It does not. A puny little bit of rock.
Sounds. Noises. I can feel the shadow in the dark underneath. Someone moving. A man. A woman. Shadows do not have genders. They are the darker sides of man manifested, attached yet detached to flesh and blood and free only once the flesh disappears. Like it will tonight. A millions shadows will be liberated. The shadow moves and another joins it. A scuffle I can sense. A scream I can hear. A woman. Metal cuts through the pervasive night. Blood I can smell. I can intervene. Do I intervene? No. This is anothers problem. One problem among many. Each of which will become irrelevant tonight.
I look around at the darkness and at the array of lights that seek to make daylight perpetual and wonder how do you burn a city that is already lit up? Fire would become what it dreaded most, unnoticeable. You burn the darkness. Fire was born to be seen in the dark. Burn the darkness. The other side of balance. And the world will burn.
Another thought. How to make the world notice that it is burning? Maybe a primetime ad on TV. Or a sensationalized news bulletin somewhere between a special report on a celebrity and a special report on a celebrity. I gaze at the non existent stars. At the river waters that have become one with the night. At the defiant little flower that is growing under my feet. The world is me. I am the world. The buildings and the lights are illusions. Tricks of my existence. The people figments of my imagination. I burn the world burns.
I head across the roof to the place where the petrol cans are kept. I take one and walk back to my earlier position. And pour. Words form in my head. The last conversation I had today. An old bookshop, an older man. A question. “What is Literature?” An answer. “That which does not sell.” Fire. Fire on my shoes.