Submission Details

The Universe From My Balcony
The Universe From My Balcony
Sadi Sahar
Young Adult
Yes - full manuscript is available

A boy comes to India and becomes lost in the search for the meaning of existence. IDAS AVEST has spent all his life among books in his room, from which he has explored the universe, found its secrets, expressed his ideas, and spent nights reading about history. But when he travels to India to study, he faces something he has never read about in books. He faces existential angst, and from then on, he can no longer believe that knowledge is the answer. Overwhelmed by his strong angst about the human condition and the unjust distribution of joy, beauty, and chance among the people of the world, he withdraws into almost complete isolation. He restores some meaning in life, however, as he becomes familiar with the new culture, and makes friends in college who try to drag him away from his introspection. And, on a rare night out, iDas meets a young woman who is, at first glance, his complete opposite. SADEE GOHAR is beautiful and fashionable, shes always dressed in style and she can name every shade of green. Unlike iDas, she seems happy and sociable. But, just like him, she is searching for a larger meaning to life. And she realizes shes found it when she meets him. The unlikely pair begin a relationship, but iDas is unable to connect with her. Lost in his own thoughts, hes incapable of giving Sadee what she desperately needs: his eyes on hers. Having silently begged for his undivided attention, and long evenings spent together wishing he would really see her, Sadee eventually gives up hope of breaking into the heavily guarded walls he keeps around himself. And does the only thing she can: leaves him. His life seeming to sink further from the rest of humanity, iDas is persuaded by his friends to visit a psychiatrist, who diagnoses him with schizophrenia. iDas takes the medication, but struggles to accept his condition, claiming it disregards his thoughts and feelings as the delusions of a madman. Growing ever more desperate to resolve his existential crisis, he becomes obsessed with a new idea. He wants to be remembered for something after his name, so that the children of a thousand years will read about him in their books and see his picture and admire him, just like he admired Socrates, and Aristotle, and Buddha in his childhood and desired to be like them. This bare obsession leads to even greater isolation and loneliness, to the extent that he misses Sadee. And when their paths cross again, he is unable to deny the pull he feels toward her. Her feelings for him unchanged, they give their relationship another try, but iDas once again loses his anchor and, this time, he doubts the authenticity of psychology as a science. His doubt, however, leads him to the true nature of psychology, that it has no cure for schizophrenia. And so, he finally decides to leave the country and go back to the one place where he always had a meaning: his room. The story ends when iDas is at the airport, where he opens his notebook and writes this: I had made my room meaningful. From there, Id criticized this universe, found its secrets, celebrated life, discussed my knowing, counted my dreams, expressed my unhappiness, and spent countless nights reading books. Now that I had made life in that little room so meaningful and so colorful, what would happen if one day I came out again and decide to make the world a more meaningful place?

1. India

Come and read this book and I’ll tell you,
How the sun rises,
How the morning starts,
And how the baby birds begin to sing in their nest,
And how the mother bird is woken,
And how, when she sees the new day, says the universe is meaningful,
And how she goes out of her nest,
And how she brings her babies warm worms for breakfast,
And how she goes out again to explore existence,
And how she returns at sunset,
And how at night, before going to sleep, she tells them that there are other days of existence to come.
iDas had just opened his eyes. He had been sleeping naked in his warm room, with a fan revolving above.
He thought it was around nine in the morning. But the faint noise coming from the street told him it was midday. Lying on his back, he stared at the fan revolving above, till his eyes regained their fire.
He rose, and, putting on his shirt, walked to the balcony where the light dazzled his eyes and the noise grew louder. He looked down at the street. It was warm and noisy and there were a thousand buyers and sellers. He lit a cigarette while looking at the street, and thought about those buyers and sellers, and their many ways of life.
And there came the noise of music from a shop in the street. And it sung this:
Today the sun has risen, and they all have come to the street, and the show has begun noisily, and you’ve once again come to the balcony with your desire. The one desire hidden deep in your heart, the one desire for which you’ve forgotten the whole world, the one desire that has driven you crazy, the one desire above all others in this universe, the one desire they’re all looking for in this bazaar.
And you tell yourself that you won’t achieve it, for from your balcony you’ve seen many days in which the sun has risen and they all have come to take part in this show, and they began it noisily and ended it laboriously, but they didn’t achieve what they had come here for. And so you say you will never go down into that street, and you say what an imperfect existence! And you say why do they come here every day if they know they won’t achieve what their hearts’ desire?
But what if today is yours, what if today they have taken part in this show so that if you, by chance, come to the street you get your heart’s desire? What if it’s your day really? Don’t you wish the sun never sets and the day never ends till you get your desire?
Hearing this, iDas gave a contemptuous smile and dragged on his cigarette.
He then came back inside and went downstairs to the hall where he turned on his laptop. But it was broken. He called a computer workshop, and a young boy came and took it away.
He took his notebook and, lying on the floor, he wrote this:
Today is my last day in India and I want to spend it listening to music and reading my notes from the past two years.
17 March 2010
He turned page after page, till he got to the first.
It read:
Nothing is as real as life. I now know what Buda had felt when he came out of his castle for the first time. I now know I am as lost in life as Buda had been.
As he read on, the notebook took him to the day he had been at Delhi Airport, in a hall full of noise and people and computers, and passengers and their luggage.
While waiting for his luggage, he saw a man with a red mark on his forehead. The man was circled by a bunch of other men who were shouting. They were shouting again and again.
iDas raised his eyebrows in surprise. They were praising this man, worshipping him. Yet the man had not contributed to anything in human life, nothing comparing him to Laplace or Descartes or Khayyam.
He kept staring at them till they disappeared from his sight. He then found his luggage and walked away with no further thought about the man.
He walked past a sign saying Namaskar! And, as he walked out, he felt a window opened. And all at once hot air washed his whole body, and he heard a mixture of noise that made him feel life was more real than ever.
The cold and calmness of a few moments ago was something in another land now. He was officially in India.
Among the crowd there stood a boy who smiled as he saw iDas. He was Bahaw, iDas’s friend.
”Welcome to the land of gods,” he said, like a true philosopher.
But iDas didn’t say anything. He was taken by the moment. And, at that moment, everything was more real to him, so real that it almost looked like the past.
They got into a taxi. And as it made its way through Delhi’s highways, iDas sat back and stared out at the Delhi traffic and large signs that were designed to allure newcomers to India. Soon their car was caught in a traffic jam.
”So this is where they run the universe from?” iDas said.
”It is,” his friend replied over the noise of cars and rickshaws. ”And given the fact that the universe is designed on mathematics, you won’t be surprised they invented the zero here.”
”I thought they invented the zero to count the number of their gods.”
”That's one side of the story,” Bahaw said with a smile.
Bahaw, who was aware of Delhi traffic and its delights, said it was a long drive home. And, to pass the time with ease, he took out his pack of cigarettes. He lit one and handed the lighter with the pack to iDas, who was about to light one when the driver said something to him.
iDas was amazed. He didn’t understand what the driver said.
“Take out your hand and signal them,” Bahaw said, interpreting.
iDas took out his hand and signaled, and, after the car had turned to the right, he lit his cigarette.
The lighter Bahaw gave him was just like the one iDas had at home. He read the label and that was the same, too!
”It saysmade in China!” he said.
“Looks like you’ve no idea of China’s economy,” Bahaw replied, smiling. He breathed out a blue cloud of smoke and then said, “China exports prayer rugs to Mecca and baghvan idols to India.”
iDas made a puzzled face and said, ”Well, according to a Chinese philosopher, India conquered and dominated China for two millennia without sending a single soldier across the border.”
“Perhaps it was before they built the Great Wall,” Bahaw said.
“Perhaps,” iDas replied.
And they smiled like two philosophers.
iDas looked out, and it was so different from his home and his little library. He now felt he wasn’t what he used to think. It was as if he had been in a cave and had just come out after a long time. He kept staring till they were in a street filled with the noise of buyers and sellers, and carts, and vendors, as if life was a gala. The taxi stopped in this busy street and they got out.
iDas took his luggage and followed Bahaw. They climbed narrow stairs and entered a flat with a view of the street. It was simple, with a computer and a TV on a desk in a corner. And it was so untidy that iDas was surprised.
”So this is your castle?” he said.
”It's yours from now on,” Bahaw cried, walking to the kitchen. ”I'll be generous enough to share it with you.”
”I’m not much of a communist,” iDas replied, picturing his home which was a castle to him and he missed it right away.
”I wasn't either when I first came here,” Bahaw cried over the noise from the kitchen. ”But in a land shared by two million gods, you'll pretty soon learn how to share a flat with others.”
”Maybe,” iDas said. “But isn't it awkward to practice communism in the oldest democracy on the planet?”
”Such is life!”
“Such is life,” iDas murmured, thinking what a mistake he had made in life, by choosing to come to India in search of more knowledge.
Bahaw brought cold drinks, which refreshed them. He then called a nearby restaurant and ordered lunch, and it was brought in less than ten minutes. So delicious it was that iDas felt he had never had such a meal before in his life.
After lunch, they smoked more cigarettes, and, by sunset, they had emptied the whole pack.
That evening, they went to watch a movie.
”What's the buzz about?” iDas asked, as he saw a bunch of revelers standing on either side of a red carpet at the cinema.
”They're here for Amitabh Bachchan,” Bahaw explained over the noise from the crowd. “He's here to promote his new movie Bhoot Natt.”
”Oh! The one we saw posters for on our way here?” iDas asked, picturing the very poster he had seen minutes ago.
“Yah.”“Well, in that case, I suggest we join the crowd and see Mr. Amitabh Bachchan.”
”Don't be from those who go to see others,” Bahaw said. “Be from those whom others come to see.”
”That's quite a maxim,” iDas said. “But I've an exception to it,” he added, raising his eyebrows. ”Except when the one you're about to see is a very beautiful woman.”
They laughed.
They then went in to watch the movie.
It was midnight when they left the cinema. On their way back home, iDas came across a very strange view. He saw people sleeping under the streetlights on the pavement. They were real people, and he kept staring at them as the rickshaw passed them one by one. At that very moment, he felt he couldn’t breathe and his hands were shaking. But he kept dragging on his cigarette to escape that picture.
Back home, they dined together, but he was so disturbed that he didn’t notice what they were eating.
After dinner, Bahaw busied himself studying for the next day's exam, while iDas sat smoking and thinking. He didn’t know what he had seen. He didn’t know what it had been.
It had been oblivion. It had been inexistence. And it was in India that he had now seen the existence. But he didn’t know that. All he knew was that he had seen something that had disturbed him.
Something he had been so lost in search of. Something he had read about in books, written by those whose names were in the pages of history, those whose depictions were in the books of children. And those who were remembered and praised by humanity, those like Aristotle, those like Newton, and those like Einstein.
And he had always wanted to be like them, to end up in the pages of history, to find one of the laws of nature, to explain the universe. And to be one of those who knows it very well, and who discovers its wonders, and who names its stars, and who knows how the sun rises and how it sets, and how life came to be, and how many stars are there in the sky, and how old this universe is.
But now, he had seen something else. Something he hadn’t known. Something which wasn’t solved by Aristotle, by Newton, by Einstein, and by those whose pictures he had seen in his books when he had been a child. And it was the question of existence.
And it was the question of human angst. and the unjust distribution of joy and beauty and luck and chance among humans. And he told himself, existence is to be here today and not be here tomorrow. But why is it that you won’t be here tomorrow? And why is it that you were not here yesterday? And why is it that you’re not given a chance to choose?
He then asked himself what existence means to them, those who he saw sleeping on the street, those who are not on the happy side of life, and those whose share from the basket of life is so little, and those to whom this existence is so unjust.
And there was no answer. And so all his past exploration was in vain in his eyes, and all his knowledge was taken away from him, for it didn’t deal with this question. And he now felt that he existed. And that this existence was so imperfect, and that he was just another grain of sand in this infinite desert of time.
And all night there was him and his pack of cigarettes and this angst of existence, and it wouldn’t go away. And he knew very well that his wisdom and his knowledge were of no use. And so he was sane no more.
It was after hours and when his pack of cigarettes was empty, that he went to sleep.
He was woken by a knock on the door. As he opened his eyes, he saw it was daylight, and there came the noise of the fridge from the kitchen, telling him Bahaw had left for college and there was no one at home.
Then there came another knock and he rose and went there, and opened the door, and there stood a man with a book, and he asked if iDas wanted to buy his book. iDas said he didn’t want to buy his book. And with that, he closed the door.
Coming back, he went to the kitchen where he drank a glass of water, and it tasted like tobacco. He then left the apartment and went down where he bought a pack of cigarettes and a notebook from a shop on the street. Coming back, he opened the notebook and wrote this:
Nothing is as real as life. I now know what Buda had felt when he came out of his castle for the first time. I now know I am as lost in life as Buda had been. And I now know I had been living in a Plato Cave, away from the realities of life. I now want a way out of this big picture called life. I want to go back to that cave. But there is no way. There is no way.
And today I was woken by a knock on the door. I went there and I opened the door, and there stood a man with a book named The Atlas of The Universe. He asked if I wanted to buy his book, and I said no.
It was the noise from the street that brought him back to his room. And, as he looked, he was back in the present. It was a bright day, with the sun shining high above, and his room filled with noise coming from the street. And that evening in which he had come to the angst of existence was far, far away.
He rose and turned on the TV and turned to a music channel, and, lighting a cigarette, smoked it while walking up and down. What he listened to was this song:
I had spent all my life in a library, where I was lost reading about the universe. But now I’ve come out, and I’ve faced this existence. And on my first sight I am so magiked that I no more believe knowledge is the answer. And I’m sure there is something more to this existence.
I am here now and I exist. And all that matters to me is this question about it, and it’s so imperfect. And I can’t imagine it without this angst. And I no more believe knowledge is the answer. And I’m sure there is something more to this existence.
I now no more accept this imperfection. And I’m looking for something that could solve this puzzle, or something that could help me forget this angst. For I no more believe knowledge is the answer. And I’m sure there is something more to this existence.
By the time he turned off the music, he was warm and thirsty. He went to the kitchen where he made himself a cup of tea.
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2. Taj and Bozorg

Coming back, he turned to the next page. It read:
Today I was once again thinking of humanity and its diverse ways of life and its many desires and the long way it has come. I thought, it’s been a few thousand years since we invented language and had a cultural response to nature by building houses, cities, and civilizations.
As he read on, he felt as if his room moved back in time and took him to a day when his friend Bahaw was at his place.
“Still no furniture,” Bahaw said as they sat in the hall, thick with the smoke of tobacco and littered with empty packs of cigarettes and bottles of Coca Cola.
“I like simplicity,” iDas replied.
”But there is no relation between simplicity and a messy room.”
“Well, according to my contemporary, Steve Jobs, simplicity demands us to dive into complexities. And, Lionel Messi is my favorite football player.”
Bahaw raised his eyebrows. But before he could say anything iDas said, “And now, let me bring you a new product from Apple.”
And, with that, he walked to the kitchen while Bahaw stared in surprise.
Having brought two glasses of apple juice, iDas asked why Bahaw had come to see him.
“To discuss a philosophical question,” Bahaw answered, his hands wrapping round his glass of juice - cool and icy.
“I don’t want to discuss anything philosophical right now,” iDas said. “I want to enjoy life.”
“Let’s go out and grab some beer then.”
They had their drinks and then left.
Outside, the afternoon sun was high in the sky and the street was full of the noise of cars, rickshaws, and bikes. On their way to his favorite mall, Bahaw asked the rickshaw to stop by a wine shop, where he bought two beers and, opening one, gave it to his friend.
”You drink in the rickshaw?” iDas asked.
”Don’t worry,” Bahaw said, opening another one with a fizz. ”Just enjoy.”
iDas took the can - it was very cold and made him feel chilled. He took a gulp, and the taste, along with the smell of cigarette and the view of the setting sun they were passing by, gave him a sense of joy.
By the time they got to the mall, he had drunk the whole can and was wrapped in virtual happiness.
Inside the mall, it was cool and filled with carefree laughter of young boys and girls. But he was lost in admiration for human intelligence, and their curiosity and their intention to own the universe, and their attraction to their females. His thought was cut by Bahaw’s voice.
“What are you thinking?” Bahaw was saying.
”Do you know what the greatest power of humans is,” iDas said, staring at a collection of cards on a table. ”It’s the power to choose. We’ll take those small cards and get away with it.”
”Let’s do it then!”
iDas took two small cards and put them in his pocket. They walked out of the mall, and as they stepped into the street they cheered.
“WE did it!” iDas cried.
“Yahhhhh!” Bahaw said.
The street was full of noise and light and life. And the sun was about to set. They walked by shops with windows glowing in yellow light. And though there were many items on display, in iDas’s eyes nothing was as worthy as the two cards in his pocket.
“I’m as excited as Neil Armstrong when he, for the first time, saw the earth as a blue ball,” he said. And he imagined that experience, of a human representing his race, freeing them from an obsession, from a Plato’s Cave.
He was brought back into the street by Bahaw, who was saying, “We should get some more beers.”
“Okay,” iDas replied. And so, they bought more beers and, getting a rickshaw, went to Bahaw’s place.
The night had just fallen when they got to Bahaw’s place, an elegant flat decorated with white walls, leather sofa, and soft light. You could see Bahaw was like an Epicure while his friend was like a Diogenes, with no interest for social status and sensual pleasures. And that was the reason they were friends.
iDas preferred not to sit and, with a cigarette in his hand, walked up and down the hall. But Bahaw sat, with bottles of beer before him.
”Do you know why I stole those cards?” iDas asked.
”No,” Bahaw said, opening a bottle.
”To prove to myself that I can be bad. I’ve lived as a utilitarian all my life. Now I think I’ve been deceiving myself. I stole those cards to break my belief in utilitarianism.”
”I thought you did it for fun,” Bahaw said, drinking from his bottle. “In psychology it’s called kleptomania. It’s defined as the desire to steal for pleasure.”
Suddenly iDas’s heart filled with joy and he dragged on his cigarette in celebration.
”I just learned something new,” he said, pacing up and down faster. So happy he was that he wanted to open the window and fly, but feared he might hit the ground instead. So he changed his mind.
“I now know what a pleasure it is to be free from all fears and rules and bans that come of knowledge and morality,” he said, walking down the hall with his head dropped. “I feel I can even write an encyclopedia on the pleasures of wicked acts, but decide not to. But I want to make a formal announcement about something.”
“Well, go on,” Bahaw said, staring at his lost friend.
iDas came back and, standing in the middle of the room, like a Caesar, said, “I don't believe in human knowledge anymore.”
Bahaw didn’t show any surprise and simply asked why his friend didn’t believe in knowledge.
“Well, because it couldn’t answer my question.”
”And what is your question?”
”Why can't I enjoy life?”
Bahaw twisted his face. He drank from his bottle and said he knew someone who could answer that question.
“He’s a psychologist,” he said.
”What makes you believe that this question concerns psychology?”
”Well, the recent trend is that psychology studies happiness and the meanings of it. Your question might be the one they're looking for.”
“I should give it a try then,” iDas said.
He sat in a chair, and, leaning back, stared at the bright lights in the kitchen, which giving a sense of eternity that made him know he was drunk.
Having a gulp from his bottle, he gently put it on the table and then, putting his hands on the arms of his chair said, “So what was your philosophical question Mr. Bahaw?”
“Nothing. I lied. I wanted to see you and had no other choice.”
”You just spoke the absolute truth,” iDas smiled. “To the absolute truth,” he cheered, raising his bottle.
Bahaw raised his bottle too, and they clinked and drank.
iDas happily forgave Bahaw and asked if he believed in absolute truthfulness.
”What’s absolute truthfulness?” Bahaw asked in return.
”It’s an ideal moral code by my friend Emanuel Kant. He says, if people never lied in any circumstances the world would be a better place.”
”Well, I guess I can’t live with that code.”
“So you like the world as it is?”
“Exactly.”iDas smiled. “You know,” he said, “the wise adjust themselves to the world as it is. The unwise try to adjust the world to their ideals. And so, the world is indebted to the unwise.”
Bahaw admired his friend with a raise of his bottle. He then asked if they were iDas’s own words.
”No,” iDas said. “I stole them. I steal wise words and grand ideas with pride. But I don’t steal from my friends, of course.”
“Your friends?” Bahaw asked in surprise. He was under the impression iDas had no other friends.
”Yes,” iDas said, sitting back proudly. “Aristotle, my friend, once said 'without friends, no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods’.”
Bahaw gave a look of surprise. But before he could say anything, iDas rose and walked to the door where he began putting on his shoes.
“Where are you going?” Bahaw asked.
“To see my friends.”****
They were two friends, sitting on a sofa, in front of a TV, drinking tea and discussing life, in a room lit by florescent bulbs and filled with smoke and music.
”I’ve known him since he came to India four months ago,” one of them said. ”He’s changed a lot since and is not the same guy anymore.”
”You said you knew this genius for a long time,” the other boy said.
”No, I didn’t. I said I had heard from a neighbor of him. It was he who told me iDas was a genius.”
”I think your friend didn’t know him well, Taj!”
”I know,” Taj said. “But once you get to know him, you’ll find him a beautiful person inside.”
”That’s the problem, to know him. He doesn’t speak of his past, and he always talks of things most people don’t care about.”
”Just give him time, Bozorg! You’ll know him.”
Time dragged on and they drank more tea while listening to more music. It was an hour later when the doorbell rang.
”It’s him,” Taj said. He rose and opened the door. And there stood iDas.
“We were talking about you,” Taj said.
”Little minds discuss people; great minds discuss ideas,” iDas said, in a philosophical style. And, with that, he came in and began untying his shoes.
”Oh! I forgot!” he added, looking up. “Lao Tzu.”Both his friends looked at each other in confusion.
Taking off his shoes, iDas sat on the sofa like a king, and, putting his hands on its arms, asked if there was anything to eat.
”We’re not hungry now,” Bozorg said. “We’re going to Sufi’s to play snooker and will have dinner later.”
”That’s the difference between the elite and the masses,” iDas said. “The elite eats whenever they like, and the masses eat whenever they’re hungry. I’ll go with you on one condition.”
”What’s that?” Taj asked, putting a cup of tea in front of his friend.
”We’ll go to my place afterwards and watch the Euro 2008 Final.”
”I’ve no objection,” Bozorg said.
”Neither do I,” Taj added.
They waited till iDas had his tea. Then, turning the TV and all the lights off, they put on their shoes and left.
Outside, the city was full of light and noise. As the three friends made their way through Delhi streets, Bozorg asked who was in the final.
”Spain and Germany,” iDas said.
Sufi's was a restaurant crowded at night, especially at late hours. Those who came were students, to spend the night smoking shisha, playing snooker, and chatting about life.
When they got there, it was as he had pictured, brightly lit and filled with the noise of young boys and girls, talking and laughing.
”I did a great thing today,” iDas said, when they were at a snooker table. ”I’m sure it will go down in history as one of my great achievements.”
”What did iDas the great do?” Bozorg asked, bending at the table to make the first shot.
”I found that the shadow of caste is still haunting the soul of India. But I broke it today. I broke that which is a burden on humanity.”
”What did you do?”
”I told you. I crushed the belief in caste. Now, ask me how?”
”I invited a child of God into a restaurant.”
”Who?” Taj mumbled, who, sitting on a chair for his turn, was munching on a burger.
”A child of God,” iDas said. “It’s a name given by my acquaintance Mahatma Gandhi to the lowest class in India in an attempt to abolish caste.
“Mahatma Gandhi
” he went on as if reading an article from Wikipedia.
But Bozorg jumped in, saying, ”We know who Mahatma Gandhi was.”
”So, can I proceed with my pearls of wisdom?”
They laughed.
”Go on,” Taj said.
”Let me make my shot first, and then I'll tell you my story.”
iDas made his shot and then said, ”I was in Savera Restaurant near our college. And a child of God, a beggar I may allow myself to call him for convenience, came and begged money from behind the fence. I invited him to my table and ordered the same meal for him as for myself. By that moment, everyone around us was talking about me. Some were staring stealthily, and others were laughing inwardly. One even took a picture of us.”
Bozorg, who had been listening with interest, said, ”Dude! That's a breakthrough.”
”Indeed. Now, we can proceed with our game.”
They played on, and, as time passed by, the restaurant became noisier and brighter, and iDas happier. He didn’t know why, but his happiness came from that symbolic act earlier that day. And playing snooker was a way to celebrate that achievement.
It was midnight when they left the restaurant and went back to iDas’s place, a very large flat, so new and posh, but only half-furnished with no chairs or tables. As they sat on the small rug, littered with empty Coca Cola bottles and cigarette packs, Bozorg said, “O iDas! You’ll never learn how to live in culture.”
“Culture is all about being less enslaved to your time,” iDas replied.
And with that, he walked to the kitchen and brought three cups of tea. They had it with salty biscuits that took away the tiredness from their souls.
Then iDas went upstairs. When he came back, he was no more in the mood to watch the Euro 2008 final. He fell asleep on the floor in front of the TV.
The match started and the room filled with commentary noise: It’s Fernando Torres! He has scored!
”iDas! Wake up!” his friends said. ”Spain has scored.”
”Wake up, genius! You’re missing the good part.
”He’s not going to wake up, is he?”
They tried no more. By then, the night was cool, the room full of light and noise, while their friend, too keen to watch the match, was in a deep sleep.
The next morning, iDas woke to the voice of his friends talking to each other.
”Here wakes up iDas!” Bozorg cried, who, sitting like a Buda on the floor, was reading the newspaper. ”I think he’s in a terrible mood, Taj.”
”Don’t worry,” Taj cried from the kitchen. ”He’s always a zombie in the mornings.”
iDas didn’t say anything, and was amazed to find his room so tidy and clean. He took his cigarette pack from the floor and lit one. He then asked Bozorg to read to him from the newspaper.
Bozorg asked why he didn’t read himself, and iDas said he didn’t want to.
“Okay,” Bozorg said, unfolding the newspaper. “Here are the headlines.”
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia delivers a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.
“That’s quite the wisest conclusion on the history of civilizations,” iDas said in a tone as if he was a high authority on such matters. “A civilization is always built on stealing and robbing and bullying. They all have to admit their mistakes and apologize to the rest of humanity in the end.”
Then, dragging on his cigarette in celebration, he asked if there was any other news.
Bozorg turned to another page and read this: Bill Gates is in India.
”That’s news for our IT friend Taj,” iDas said. ”Hey Taj! Bill Gates is in India.”
”What’s he doing here?” Taj cried from the kitchen.
”Contributing to humanity,” Bozorg cried, “By fighting HIV through distribution of free condoms.”
”So just like condoms,” iDas said, ”Philanthropy comes in different shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and prices.”
”Dude! Believe me, all condoms come in one shape.”
They laughed out and it filled the hall.
They had breakfast, not in the kitchen, but in the hall, where they lay newspapers on the floor and the breakfast on the newspaper.
Afterwards, they sat speaking of the little matters of life. But iDas lay in the sun, where he opened his notebook and wrote this:
Today I was once again thinking of humanity and its diverse ways of life and its many desires and the long way it has come. I thought it had been a few thousand years since we invented language and had a cultural response to nature by building houses, cities, and civilizations. But why? That’s the question I have now. A very simple question.It was the noise coming from the street that brought him back to the present. And, as he looked around, he was in his room, sitting on the floor, with his notebook before him and a cup of tea near at hand. And there came a lively noise from the street. And those days he used to talk and laugh with his friends was a thing of the past. And he missed them very much.
He sipped at his tea to wash away the feeling attached to that memory, and then, lighting a cigarette, he turned on the TV and his hall filled with sound of music. What he listened to was this song:
For, looking for, for, looking for, looking for, looking for, they’re looking for, they’re all looking for.
They were all looking for when I was not here. They were all looking for when you were not here.
They were all looking for how it all began. They were all looking for why it all will end.
For, looking for, for, looking for, looking for, looking for, they’re looking for, they’re all looking for.
They were all looking for where you came from. They were all looking for where they came from.
They were all looking for where you’ll go. They were looking for where they’ll go.
For, looking for, for, looking for, looking for, they’re looking for, they’re all looking for.
He was lost in this song and, for a moment, forgot that he lived in the 21st century. By the time he was back, he was very tired and very thirsty.
He sipped at this cup of tea and turned off the TV, and then turned to the next page.
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3. I've Found You

The next page read:
Last night I felt I had a meaning. I felt I had dignity. I felt I was unhappy no more with this existence.
As he read on, the notebook took him to the past, when he had been in his room sitting with his friends over breakfast.
“What’s the occasion that your grace has made us breakfast?” Taj mumbled, with a piece of bread in his mouth.
“Well, I wanted to finally fill that evolutionary gap between us,” iDas teased.
“Dude!” Bozorg said, putting down his glass of milk. “You making us breakfast is not evolution. It’s a giant leap.”
They laughed.
After breakfast Bozorg took the newspaper and read this:
Fidel Castro announces his resignation as President of Cuba.
He paused and teasingly added, “Effective as of the Twenty First Century.”
They roared with laughter.
“That must be very boring, to be in one job for half a century,” Taj said, who, with the laptop on his lap, was sitting in the corner.
“Especially without being promoted once,” Bozorg added.
They laughed.
But iDas, knowing Mr. Castro had run a country for half a century, felt it was an honor to lead a nation for so long.
And with that, he puffed at his cigarette and listened as Bozorg read him the next headline.
SpaceX Falcon 1 becomes the world's first privately developed space launch vehicle to successfully make orbit.
Hearing this, iDas thought of the earliest astrologists, such as Thales and Zhang Heng, who had spent all their lives observing the sky and its mysteries. And of the many other humans who had done the same. In his eyes, they had wasted their lives studying something so huge, while their knowledge and their time on this blue planet was so little. But then he thought, what if they were given so big a puzzle to solve in a most social way? A puzzle in which you could involve the whole of humanity and maybe the whole class of intelligent life in which each individual is given credit for their contribution.
He blinked now and asked, “Have you ever thought we might have come from space onto this blue planet?”
“I once saw something like that on TV,” Taj said.
“I’m sure it wasn’t on Discovery,” Bozorg said. “They’re not that superstitious.”
“And I’m sure it was on the Cartoon Network,” iDas said.
They laughed, thinking he was joking.
“Well,” iDas said, “my friend Einstein once told me that every idea should be presented to children first. If they don’t understand it, then it’s a wrong idea.”
They now looked at him with admiration.
When his friends left for college, iDas spent the whole day at home. By evening his friends called him, saying, “We’re going to a party and are coming for you.”
“Okay,” iDas said. “I’m ready.”
Tossing his phone on the floor, he went to the bathroom, where he took a shower and made himself ready. Soon his friends came and they left.
Outside, it was cool after the rain, and the streets were full of the noise and light of Delhi traffic.
As they got into a rickshaw, iDas foolishly asked where they were going, and they said to a discotheque in CP. He asked where exactly CP was. They became angry.
“CP is Connaught Place,” Bozorg said, pointing angrily with his cigarette. “It’s the place you’ve been going almost every day for the past two years, you fucker.”
“Don’t bother him with the address,” Taj said. “Just tell him it’s in India.”
“Yah! It’s in India,” Bozorg said.
And they laughed.
They went to a discotheque, which was actually a bar. There was music, vodka, and girls.
Taj and Bozorg went for the drinks, while iDas, standing at a corner, stealthily stared at the girls. Among them one was beautiful to his eyes. And he fancied her, and told himself life is a coincidence; this night is a coincidence, and this moment is a coincidence; and the past, when I was in my room full of light and dust, was a coincidence; and the future, when the sun will rise and I’ll be in my class, will be a coincidence. And if I could be happy a little bit now, and if I could meet this girl’s eyes now, and if I could make her smile at me now, then I should consider myself lucky, and consider that time is kind, and consider that she is a gift of life. For hearts seldom meet, and strangers we all are at the end of the day.
But he knew he was a newcomer to life and would never have her. But then, as he wished he had her, he heard a soft voice. He raised his head and saw the girl standing before him, the one he had fancied.
“Hi, my name is Sadee,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“iDas,” he said, his eyes glistening in surprise.
”Where are you from?”
“A planet called Earth,” iDas said.
She gave him a strange look. She then asked iDas to dance with her and they stepped into the dance floor.
And then bingo!
He felt his room and loneliness of an hour ago was a thousand years away now. And a window opened in front of his eyes and he stepped into a noisier street of time, a one full of joy and color. And he told himself now that I’ve found someone who wants me to look at her, and who wants me to dance with her, and who wants me to share this moment with her then I should take it as granted. For every joy is a coincidence and every happiness is a coincidence.
And so he put his hands round her waist, and, knowing it was good not to always know what would happen next, let the moment be. And he told himself, I wish this music doesn’t lessen, and this warmth in her soft touch doesn’t lessen, and the ecstasy in her perfume doesn’t lessen, and we two dance on and on like this, and our eyes meet on and on like this, and the time be paused on and on like this. For this is all but a coincidence.
The girl’s heart was full of happiness. So elated she was that she couldn’t decide whether the moment was real or a dream. Then, she said, she didn’t care, as long as it wouldn’t end. And so her heart melted into a thousand quantums of joy, and she began singing this:
My heart’s desires were so little, and all my wishes were one or two. When you came and took my hand, and we stepped into the dance floor, then, without having asked, all my wishes came true.
Finally I have, I have. Finally I have, I have. Finally I have found you.
Don’t you know? It was a moment ago when you didn’t exist for me. Now I don’t want this life to go by without you by my side. I don’t know when or why, in the many passing moments of this universe, I suddenly fell for you.
Finally I have, I have. Finally I have, I have. Finally I have found you.
I look into your eyes, to read what destiny holds for me. You look into my eyes and see a thousand hidden dreams. You tell me make a wish, and I’ll make it come true.
Finally I have, I have. Finally I have, I have. Finally I have found you.
I feel it has been a good day or two, that you’re my obsession and what I pursue. Who knows when or where in the many unknown pages of this existence our paths might have met before. All I know is that there is no one like you.
Finally I have, I have. Finally I have, I have. Finally I have found you.
Don’t you see? We were unhappy a moment ago, when you said this angst of existence would never go. Now I feel perfect, since you came and took my hand and we stepped into the dance floor.
Finally I have, I have. Finally I have, I have. Finally I have found you.
All my ways now lead to you, in this lifetime and a thousand others to come. Let’s stop the time for a while and tell it the meaning of this moment. I’m sure it’ll stop being so stubborn, when it knows what I have for you.
Finally I have, I have. Finally I have, I have. Finally I have found you.
And so she sung this song to herself for almost eternity.
It was the voice of her friends that brought her back to reality. And as she looked, there was music, and many girls and boys who were all leaving. She felt as if it had been a thousand years since she was on the dance floor.
They stopped, but she didn’t let his hand go and asked him for his phone number.
”You give me your number,” iDas said. “I’ll call you, and you’ll have my number.”
“I don’t remember my number,” she replied.
“Call me from your phone,” he said. “And I’ll have your number.”
”I don’t have my phone with me,” she said. “My dress doesn’t have any pockets.”
”I’ve heard that in many cultures women use their bras as their safe pockets,” iDas said. “You could have been a bit utilitarian.”
At this point, the girl’s friend said iDas could have her number. iDas did so. He then sent his name to that number so that Sadee could have his number later.
When the girls left, iDas had a drink before leaving.
Outside, the night was cool after the rain. And as their rickshaw passed by small puddles formed on the street, he stared at the lights reflected in them, feeling as if he was in a dream.
By the time they got behind his door, the three of them were thirsty and Taj was in a hurry to go to the washroom. But it seemed as if iDas couldn’t find the keys.
”iDas! Hurry UP!” Taj said impatiently.
iDas, who was fishing his pockets drunkenly, said, ”There are two things infinite, the universe and

”Annnd?” Bozorg said.
”The number of pockets on me. But I’m not sure about the first one.”
They laughed.
Finally, iDas found the key and they went in. They sat over cold glasses of juice and cigarettes in the hall, which was full of light and music.
iDas was lost in his fantasies now. He fancied the girl, and her soft touch, and her perfume and her smile and the warmth of her body when the two had been dancing on the floor, both face to face, with his hands around her waist.
It was his phone vibrating that brought him back. He had a message:
Hi. This is my number. Sadee.
Hi, he wrote, with a smile on his face and Sadee’s name reflected in his eyes.
Did you arrive home safely? she wrote.
I did, he wrote.
He now wanted to share his joy with his friends. He rose and, standing in the middle of the room said, “She texted me!”
”Woooooooo!” Taj said in surprise.
”Great!” Bozorg clapped gently.
”Humans are emotional animals - at least I’m told so,” iDas said, giving out a cloud of smoke in celebration. ”Now, I should make some tea to take away the after-effects of the drinks we had.”
”No, no, no, your highness,” said Bozorg. ”We're at your service. We will make the tea.”
And, with that, he rose to go make the tea.
”I would like it with sugar,” iDas cried in a royal tone, as his friend walked to the kitchen.
iDas texted Sadee good night. And then tossed the phone away to disconnect himself from the rest of the world and enjoy the moment.
Soon Bozorg brought the tea. By then, the room was warm and full of smoke, and the three friends joyful.
”So, how is she?” his friends asked him.
”Is she beautiful? Is she hot?” Taj and Bozorg asked in the meantime.
”She’s a divine contribution to arts,” iDas said calmly, “and
” He paused as if lost for words.
”Annnd?” They asked, with their eyes at him.
”Global warming.”
They laughed out loud, which filled the whole apartment. And iDas took a sip at his tea.
By the time they had their tea, iDas was lost in himself again, wondering whether she knew how different he had been. He then told himself he should ask his friends.
”Why do you think she picked me?” he asked them.
“What do you mean?” Bozorg said.
“Why did she pick me?”
”Because she likes you.”
”What makes you say that?”
”Because,” Taj jumped in, “she’s tall and the only person who suited her was you.”
”No, no,” Bozorg said. ”That’s the wrong answer. She picked you because she likes you. That’s all.”
”But I’m a rationalist,” iDas said. “I believe all human behaviors and opinions are based on reason rather than emotions or cultural beliefs.”
”She likes you,” Bozorg raised a hand. ”And that’s all.”
“Yet, I still maintain that reason is the ultimate authority in human choice.”
”That is the most irrational thing I’ve ever heard,” Bozorg said with an angry face.
”Let’s hear what he thinks,” Taj told Bozorg. “Why do you think she picked you, iDas?”
iDas looked into his cup of tea and, picturing the bar and the moment she was standing in front of him, he said, “She picked me by mistake.”
”iDas!” Bozorg gave a disappointed look. “Here is a girl who likes you, and you are asking a thousand questions about her.”
”And about human emotions in general.”
”I think you have too many doubts, iDas. When you’re happy you don’t feel happy, instead you doubt your very emotion and ask a hundred questions.”
“He’s right,” said Taj. “You shouldn’t be like that.”
”What should I do then?”
”You should trust your emotions,” Bozorg said.
”And how do you define emotion?”
Bozorg sipped at his tea as if to make himself ready for a long debate. Putting down his cup, he moved his hands in the air and said, “Emotion, iDas, is like a language. Just like Persian, just like Hindi. You have to learn it. The most notable examples are love and sex. That’s why they say love has no language. And that goes for sex, too.”
”I think you're wrong,” iDas said, putting down his cup to imitate Bozorg. “I think emotion is like a place. Just like Kabul, just like Delhi. You have to get there. That's why they say you fall in love, or you get a place in her heart, or you-”
”Get into her pants,” said Taj.
”Those are the very words,” iDas pointed with his fingers.
They all laughed and it rang all over the hall, which was bright, warm, and calm now.
When it faded away, iDas said, ”The reason I’m not good at expressing my emotions is because I'm not good at finding addresses.”
“You’re emotionless,” Bozorg said.
Hearing the word, iDas’s heart filled with joy, a joy when you discover something by accident, like the joy Nobel had when he discovered dynamite.
”Emotionless,” he murmured, with his eyes narrowed. “The word that can define me.”
And with that he rose and, lighting a cigarette, walked up and down the hall, while his friends went on speaking about the night they had. He then sat and, opening his notebook, wrote this:
Last night I felt I had a meaning. I felt I had dignity. I felt I was unhappy no more with this existence.
It was the noise from the street that brought him back to his room. And, as he looked, there was no sign of his friends, or that night when they had been here with him. It was daylight.
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