His life was an incessant motion, upward and downward, without any real destination. He was a liftman in the forty-five storey Narayana Apartment.
“Narayana!” Each day of his began with an invocation to his God. “Give me the patience to endure this purposeless motion.”
“If I move up to the 43rd floor by this lift and return to the ground floor from where I started, what is my displacement, assuming that each floor is 4 metres in height?” The young boy asked the girl the other day. They were students who lived on the 43rd floor.
It was that day that he learnt the tragic truth about his life. He lived a life with zero displacement. In spite of being in motion for over eight hours a day seven days a week, zero displacement! Motion without displacement, that was his life.
“Narayana!” He invoked his God again. Habitually.
It was a painful realisation. That he would live an entire life of motion without achieving any displacement. His pain was aggravated by what the boy and the girl discussed another day.
“Does the progress of the civilisation depend on great people?” The boy asked the girl. It seemed to him that they were discussing some book titled Lighthouse written by some Virgin Woolf. “What difference has Shakespeare made to the world? Would the world have been any different had Bait-ho-one never existed? The world exists for the average human being.”
“Some people have changed the world,” protested the girl.
“Instance?” Demanded the boy.
“The Buddha. Jesus.”
“Oh,” said the boy trying to conceal his contempt. “The world got some more gods. Or new religions. What difference!”
“Narayana!” A gasp struggled to escape his throat but it died prematurely. One of the skills of his profession is to pretend not to hear anything, not even see anybody, in the lift. People come and go. Up and down. His job was only to press the right buttons in the motion without displacement.
Somebody died on the 43rd floor. The lift could not contain the coffin in its horizontal position. So they placed it vertically against a wall of the lift. The dead person stood inside his cage and peeped through the glass square of the coffin. The dead man’s eyes were slightly open. Two narrow slits. Dark slits like deep holes. Was there a grin struggling to wriggle out through those slits?
Was he a great man before his death? Or an ordinary man to whom the world belonged?
When the lift reached the ground floor and the coffin was carried out, the boy and the girl entered.
“What is the death rate in our apartment?” asked the boy apparently mischievously.
“One per person, I guess.” The girl said. Was she serious? He couldn’t say.
“No,” said the boy apparently seriously. “It’s an indefinite number. Almost like infinity in maths.”
Soon the lift started its downward motion from the 43rd floor. Motion without displacement. Infinite motions.
Note: Shakespeare and the contributions of people like him to human civilisation belong to Virginia Woolf’s novel, To the Lighthouse. Beethoven is my addition but not the average man.
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