The pandemic era is a gross reminder of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, an absurdist, existential play focusing on two ‘men’ and their wait under a leafless tree, for Godot. Someone whom they have never seen and are not sure they will ever meet. On my first reading, it appeared that they were waiting for God. Upon subsequent readings, I decided to call it ‘a wait for nothing’. As I first sieved through the acts, they seemed hilarious. A more profound commitment took me to the dark alleys of philosophy and spirituality, where I recalled an apparition that indeed we live in ‘nothingness’ which envelops ‘everything’ we ordinary mortals can envisage.
The novel definition of life as ‘nothing’ leaves me feeling like a zombie, and suddenly I start searching for meaning in everything I do, own, or yearn for. Pre-pandemic life is receding further and worldwide, social media is brimming with discourses on how to live well. It reminds us that we have whisked away and wasted our numbered breaths for generations. Consequently, masked humanity rises to inhale cautiously and painfully while trying to do some soul- searching and discovering the higher goals of existence.
It is funny how I intersperse writing this article with visits to e-commerce sites selling home linen and tableware! Human beings are unequalled in their zeal for hoarding their petty creations. Minds are entangled in mighty duels between philosophy and commerce. We are unsure whether the old order hath changed yielding place to the new, or we still have a return ticket to the past.
The pandemic has proved that we were not born for hedonism and self-indulgence because one such indulgence has supposedly attracted the virus towards us hosts. The epidemic also reveals how virtual our ‘real’ lives have become. Before the mask-era was imposed on the world, we eagerly scoured the internet and the information technology media for their dynamism in reducing distances and improving communication.
Then, the pandemic landed us in a soup and provided a legitimate reason to shut off our live sensory channels and couch ourselves in front of laptop screens with the realisation that our yearning for a whiff of fresh air outlives our desire for a life entangled in wireless connectivity. The humble human senses want to be operative and alive.
When we were done with discovering gadgets for our earthly lives, we moved on to exploring craters on the moon and searching for life on other planets! Almost all sci-fi movies talk about how the earth is on the verge of crumbling, and humanity needs another home. Little do they realise that we cannot abandon the land in the deplorable state we have stripped it to and flee to greener pastures. The idea of a villa on Mars seems as preposterous as the overambitious human who has been put under house arrest by a microbe.
A virus disparagingly informs us that our doings on the humble globe necessitate scrutiny before being passed off as ‘living’. The bohemian virus, enjoying hardly an iota of enlightened humanity’s glory, is playing director on the world’s stage, and also determining the number of acts we get to play before exiting.
The desperate wait of Beckett’s men in desolate surroundings under the dead tree reverberates as reality. The pendulum keeps moving back and forth as usual, and time hasn’t stopped running even though human activity is in the doldrums. The ticking of the clock reminds us of the precious hours slipping by. We cannot embrace the new normal and will do so only on the condition that old times return!
The wait for Godot has begun, and the play has become larger than life. It is not a game of hide-and-seek game but a real-life truth and dare. The past few months have bulldozed over ‘years’ of sanity and we have aged more, mentally and emotionally. Each day is a seamless entity bordering on nothingness. Madness is contained under masks, and every mind is a pandemic in itself. It is as though time has hibernated as winter will set in soon. We are trying to bring ordinary life out of slumber, in stages one, two, three, and four…of the lockdown!
All this time, Mr Covid is languidly sitting around, sipping his coffee over newspapers filled with updates on his colossal victories. Lazily, he watches the world struggling to rise and takes another sip.
We are waiting for the pandemic to end without realising what the end will be like and whether it is worth waiting for. If the world we designed was not ideal and will never be what it was, perhaps we should be looking forward to a new dawn and let ourselves be guided by nature. The more we harmonise, the more protected we are.
A desire to understand our cosy earth's nuances is far more judicious than a rush to condemn it, for wisdom has it that what we feel resonates in the environment and comes back. With hope for the restoration of nature’s order, I pick up my mask, place it gently over my face. A day well spent is an era in itself, and I may as well try to live one day at a time. Ben Vivere!
The writer is Assistant Professor, English, Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University, Jhansi