The Man Who Saw the Sun

By Makarand Sathe

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B: What did you die of?

A: Accident.

A: You?

B: Heart attack.

B: [Looking back] And these two…

A: [Again irritably] Just leave them alone, will you? I will tell you about them. But only after a while. Have patience…OK? First tell me something. Did you fill up a form on your arrival…at that first place? That small place like a closet…with that person sitting at a table? And in front of his table, a smaller one, for us to sit on and complete the form?

B: Yes, I did fill up the form.

A: What did they ask? Name? Place?

B: No.

A: Occupation?

B: Nothing of that sort.

A: They only asked you to write twenty lines about yourself, didn’t they?

B: Yes. And I wrote just that…name, occupation, address, children, likes and dislikes, what else could I write? So they—

A: Tore it to pieces? Correct. Then what did you write the second time?

B: Briefly from my childhood to…

A: History! They tore it too, your history was torn… Sir, they know all that… Then, after this happened a couple of times, you handed back a blank form. Correct?

B: I simply don’t understand…what do they want from us?

A: Forget it. We don’t have the time. I just want to know whether you have come here through specific channels. See, finally, will Man ever be able to unravel the secrets of the universe?

B: Right. And the irony is that even if people decipher it, it may become more difficult to live!

A: Why do you speak of facing life? Don’t you realize that we are now dead, once and for all?

B: You’re right. But it doesn’t feel the same. This is an entirely different feeling—I mean from what we imagine what it would be like after dying.

A: So do you believe in it? What happens after death according to this religion or that…but first tell me…do you grieve when you remember your wife and kids?

B: Not at all! That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I had a feeling it would happen this way, but…

A: That’s because of the second chamber. Second place! Intense purple light, lit circles, thumping sounds…it felt like an MRI or a CT scan, right? You stand in that light, and some of our common feelings simply freeze. I mean they don’t die, they just freeze—all those feelings about wives, children and parents left behind, or all those unfulfilled cravings… Correct?
B: Absolutely right! But why? If it was to be this way, then why keep those memories alive?

A: Since coming here I have thought about it a lot. You know what I think? I think they want to keep us as we were. The same as when we lived our earlier lives. But…but now, after we are dead, those memories elicit entirely different feelings… We no longer behave as we did when we were alive. We change…they may not want it to happen that way! Those bloody bastards… [Pause] But ‘THEY’ means who?… Shit! Whom do you trust?

B: Wasn’t that precisely what they asked in the third chamber? Do you have faith? What kind of a fucking question. I told them I believed in—

A: Let that be, I got what I wanted. Now it is confirmed that we came here by the same route as the life we led. It’s not like the earlier ones. Horrifying things happen here. Just thinking about it makes my hair stand on end. This place strips you of everything. Then decisions have to be taken. It makes you act. Waiting too long without action and submitting blank forms just doesn’t help. You’ll realize that now that you are so restless. How will you manage yourself here, huh?

[B gets up and struggles to get out of the confines of the lit area around him. A follows to catch hold of him. B leaps ahead. But he can’t get out of the light, in spite of repeated attempts. A, who had tried to hold him back out of fear, now eases off.]

A: [Fearfully] Don’t…don’t go anywhere… Wherever you go…it’s the same… Look! Look outside…believe me…at least here we have each other for company… [B, realizing that he can’t go outside, gives up. A relaxes.] Huh…you can’t go outside, can you? It’s been more than ten minutes. You had ten minutes to make a choice. Now you’re stuck here. Sit down.
[There is a pause after the struggle. B is still standing.]

A: Do one thing. Take a deep breath. And thank your luck that I’m around…this place is weird. Strange things happen here. But from what happens here, on those historic facts, our progress is decided…understood? I haven’t a clue what lies ahead…because I don’t believe in religion, God and such things. Chitragupta, Kayamat… Apocalypse and the rest…I don’t think they exist. But here, I’ve realized we will get justice. See, I am a lawyer. I can recognize the tell-tale signs… But don’t involve yourself in these matters. It’s not easy to follow these structures…and I have my experiences, right? See, I’m a unique person. I have gone through what happened here once, and I am going through it again—how often does one get a chance to go through the present more than once? To amend history itself? And who gets a chance—[B looks at the two at the back. A again gets irritated and nearly charges at him.] Bastard! How often have I told you not to look at them? [Pause. Deliberately steadies himself.] OK! Yes, even they have been around here for some time. They too got the chance…to pass through the same situation again. And the fear is that they might behave differently this time. But…but I know it won’t happen that way. To take advantage of such historic opportunities, you need privileged people like us…with our kind of background. [Momentary pause. B faints. A holds him and gets him to sit down.] Sit, please sit. See, actually I am trying to help you. I too am a very, very sensitive man…just like you. Usually you have to wait here for a long time, a long, long time. But I am going to steer you through quickly. I have been through it once, you see! Let me tell you that history. Then we can learn from it. You will, won’t you?

B: Yes! Otherwise history repeats itself. Those who don’t learn from history make the same mistakes again.

A: [Flaring up] What do you mean, history repeats itself? Marx himself has already stated that. But that statement is of no use to us. Because now we have understood that it isn’t that straightforward. [Pause. Restless with memories, A yells.] History doesn’t teach us a thing! It only punishes us because we don’t learn from it, that’s all! Understood?

B: Why are you shouting? I’ll do what you ask of me…

A: I don’t want you to do it because I say so. Then it will lose its purpose. It doesn’t happen that way here. I want you…to do what I ask you to do, ON YOUR OWN. And that is a difficult thing. [Pause] Anyway forget it, forget everything… Let’s do it this way, let’s first calm down. Now, pay attention to what I have to say. Take a deep breath…release. Good, how do you feel now?

B: Relaxed.

A: Don’t be scared, tell the truth. I won’t shout.

A: Come on, tell me…

B:It’s like this, what will happen next… I mean that—I am waiting for something… I mean I feel that way… But I don’t know why…because of which… I feel restless.

A: Correct. This is like the life we lived, keep that in mind. The same thing happened to us. It started the same way. [Gets up, turns, and looks behind.] When I came here, of these two, this gentleman was already present… Now I can’t avoid talking about them. Let your curiosity be satisfied for once. This gentleman’s name is Khanduji. Khanduji Kale. He—[A stops mid-sentence, as if immersed in his thoughts, and comes forward and sits with his head down. Pause]

B: Then?

A: Then what?

B: What of Khanduji Kale?

A: He died.

B: That’s obvious. But of what?

A: He committed suicide.

B: Oh! I see. So that’s what you meant when you said they were not like us. Why did they commit suicide? A jilted love affair?

A: No.

B: Less marks in higher secondary exams? Share market? I tell you it’s stupid to commit suicide. Even I put in my stakes in the share market. But I always took precautions.

I played within my limits, you see… I mean one should always play within one’s limits.

A; He didn’t die because of the share market…he is a farmer.

B: Farmer…huh…then why did he… Oh! Oh!

A: Yes! He is a farmer. And he committed suicide. The rest we already know. Loans, cotton, daughter’s wedding, moneylenders…

B: No…I mean, yes! Meaning actually I don’t know the details. I…meaning I know that many farmers are committing suicide. But I don’t know the intricacies involved. Anyway, so he is one of them, is he? I mean one of those farmer suicides we hear about all the time? In that case I want to see him. [Gets up and heads towards the back. A grabs him and pulls him back.]

A: Sit here, sit. I can understand your curiosity. But their waking up at this point will not be convenient for us… For once listen to what I have to say.

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