‘Patriotism, the other global scam after religion.’
Those were the first words of Prof.P that Jason heard. The first class he attended at the Institute, after leaving home, branded as the wayward son, the outlaw, the Communist.
This afternoon, when the news reached him, the words rang in his ears, as he paced the room thoughtfully.
The images were all over media. News channels fell like starved vultures upon the heartbreakingly beautiful young face of his brother, a war hero, a patriot, a martyr.
The unfairness, the fake glory of it all!
Thoughts of home clouded Jason’s mind. Mother would be sitting at the kitchen table, crying silently; Father pacing the front room, unfailingly keeping his emotions in check, receiving media and persons holding power.
Even in this conjured image, Jason could see the shade of pride mixed in their Mother’s tears, in their father’s dignified acceptance of condolences.
Then there might be the impudent enquiry about himself, the irony of the household. There would be a barely noticeable moment of hardness, when Father would clutch at his walking stick, his prize for sacrificing one leg to the nation, a yesteryear war veteran, a patriot;, when Mother would cringe slightly at his name.
Jason switched channels and there was Father, giving the speech he must have prepared the day his first son was born.
‘.. the greatness of his sacrifice. Mohan is not dead, today he is immortalized. At this home, this day would be remembered not as a day of loss, but the day when our son rose to glory. He is a soldier, and a soldier never dies. We are just his biological parents, this great nation is his Mother. And his last breath was taken protecting her. Mohan always..’
Jason turned the TV off and stood by the window looking out.
‘Have you wondered what happens when great trees fall?’
They waited for Prof. P. to elaborate. They never knew where his class was directed at. He had no chart or schedule. He was an old man who had read a lot of books.
‘”Our great mother nation”, “Lord our Protector”, “Our magnificient cultural traditions”, anything that inspires a state of worship, bordering on fanaticism, are glass idols that would be shattered.
Cyclically, world undergoes ripples when these idols are shaken, when some fall. You must develop the power to withdraw and watch, the deeper or central you are, the lesser you see.
When the idols shake, when the great trees fall, the ground shivers and so do all that stand the ground. Some shrubs get crushed underneath, some weeds, some flowers.
And from the fallen seeds and the decaying leaves, new life is born.’
During that lecture, Jason knew that was what he was, would be; one of the shrubs that would trigger the fall, and then get crushed under.
Today, that was his personal sorrow at the loss of his brother. Mohan was one of the weeds that nourished the imaginary tree. Their parents, Mohan, all the other nationalists coiled among themselves and rose to a height, such that they took the shape of the imaginary tree that they visioned. The nonexistent tree so came to life in this mob hallucination, more twines entangled, thickened and the tree structure became huge and morbid.
It was time to fell it. Twines had begun being cut, Mohan one of them. A tiny rupture in the facade.
Jason sat by the window gloomily. His brother had died in a combat with the anti-nationalists, the weeds in the books from the other side. Who is to judge, which is honey, which is poison?
Years at the institute had taught Jason to withdraw in space and time to watch. He wrote in the open notebook on his table.
‘Deep inside, or far out, the shape is always a circle. Time is cyclic, so is space. The ground is shaken, the ripple has started. These are time of chaos, when brothers are lost, when glass idols crack, when tangled coils untangle, when great trees fall.
When the ripple settles, when the decay is cleared, the air will be fresh for new life to sprout.’