“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.”
– Robert Frost –
“So, what do you think about the aliens?”
Unexpected questions can have the most unpredictable impacts. I was not expecting this one. You wouldn’t either specially when you are carefully pouring a glass of sparkling white wine for yourself at a friend’s place. The particular question resulted in two unwanted results. First and foremost, I spilt a bit of the wine since my left hand shook a little. Secondly, I hurt my right shoulder because my right hand darted forward to hold my eyeballs that had sort of popped out. This incident should be a lesson for all; never ask such pertinent questions at improper times. I dare say that your question might kill someone, if you are not cautious.
I turned around slowly as my eyeballs settled in.
“Aliens?” I asked casually, raising one eyebrow and taking a sip from the glass. A very large sip.
My friend was staring at me intently. He also had a smile on his face. The combination was quite unsettling.
“You know that they are around, don’t you?” he asked. “They are everywhere.”
The conversation was going nowhere. To break the monotony of the dialogue, he suddenly looked over my shoulder into the darkness in his backyard. I turned around gulping down another mouthful with an unsophisticated slurp and nearly choked on the wine. I did see something green lurking in the backyard.
“Not that, my friend,” he consoled me. “That’s just the new cactus I have planted.”
I let out a sigh of relief.
“They have been here since hundreds of years.”
“The cactus?” I asked.
“No, no, no,” he said trying to sound more convincing, “The aliens!”
“Have they?” I asked trying to look interested in the topic.
“Oh! Yes,” he replied. “Have you heard of Area 51? Erich von Daniken?”
I needed a whiskey now. I did not know about these entities and I had no desire to know them either.
“Come,” he said, making his way into the living room. “Make yourself comfortable and I show you a video about the aliens around the world.”
He showed me eight. At the end of it, as I left his house, I kept on darting over my shoulder lest I was approached by a very thin green individual with huge slanted eyes and a conical face. Since that day, I also have an aversion to the colour green.
It might interest the reader to know that I have had few of these experiences. They have not made me any wiser but they have definitely made me wary because topics like these jump out at you unexpectedly; even around the smooth corners of life.
Yoga is supposedly a “smooth” and soothing experience. It soothes your mind and provides flexibility to the body. At least, that’s what someone had told me and had convinced me to join the Yoga classes at the local gym. It was my second session and I was in the process of finding my bearings. Instead, on that fateful evening, I nearly lost my marbles.
I had taken up my position next to another gentleman who seemed to have an Indian background like mine. We both looked decisively Indian and definitely out of place on Yoga mat. The instructor was demonstrating and explaining an easy method of sitting in the perfect cross-legged position on the floor. While I was grunting under my breath to get one thick thigh over the other, my neighbor leaned across to me.
“Ah! You should have seen my late uncle.”
I stopped grunting and turned around to look at him.
“He would rise at least eight inches above the ground when he sat cross-legged and meditated hard,” said my neighbor.
I stared at him.
“Really?” I asked.
He smiled back with an ingratiating smile and nodded.
“Did you say that he floated up in the air?” I asked.
“Are you sure it was not the heat?”
He raised his white eyebrows.
“Heat?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I said. “You know how things rise as a result of intense heat? Indian summers are dreadful.”
He could not control the incredulity that spread across his face as he raised his eyebrows further and realised that his eyebrows had reached their physical limits. Around the same time my mental faculties had also reached their own limits.
“Flatulence, possibly? I asked. “Happens to many people.”
My yogic neighbor had gone red in the face by then. Before he could reply, a shadow fell across us. It was our Yoga instructor.
“Can you please concentrate on the class and not talk during the session?”
I apologized and threw a glance at my neighbor. He was scowling at me.
I did see him at ongoing sessions but he refused to look at me or take a seat next to me. I continued with my Yoga classes for a while and even did a few sessions on meditation; possibly hoping to float when I combined the two. My body refused to float up but my morale did. Downwards, that is. I gave up Yoga after a couple of months. I am sure my good Indian friend must be floating around by now. Arabs need that floating magic carpet, Indians don’t.
One lesson that I have learnt (the very hard way sometimes, I assure you) is that you never ever stop being surprised. The incident that jumps to mind, took place a couple of years ago when I had invited a few of my friends over for dinner. Many people of Indian origin are vegetarians. Based on this rather profound knowledge, I had carefully chosen my guests. Most the chosen ones did partake of seafood if not meat but I was to be proven wrong that evening.
After a round or two of drinks, as I was setting out the dinner, I observed that one of the ladies was staring dejectedly at the dishes.
“Is everything OK? I asked her.
“I have to eat only the salads tonight,” she replied with a tired smile. She had a faraway look in her eyes.
“Salads?” I asked.
“Salads,” she replied firmly.
“Salads”, I hummed under my breath and realised that the dialogue was getting a little tiresome for the others.
“Don’t you like seafood?” I asked the lady. I knew that she ate seafood because I had seen her gobbling down a few platefuls at another social occasion.
“I did in the past but I have given up since,” she replied. “I don’t want to be reborn as a prawn.”
I clutched at the table lest I fell down. I knew that I had two glasses of some excellent whiskey and I presumed that it must be numbing my senses and affecting my hearing.
“Reborn as a prawn?” I asked her. I wanted to make sure that my ears were in perfect order.
“Yes,” she said in a stentorian voice.
The lady on her left started coughing apologetically and the gentleman on her right reached out for his sixth glass of the red drop. I simply sat down in an empty chair and hoped for the best.
“But why on earth would you be reborn as a prawn?” I asked.
She looked at me. In fact, I realised that she was looking down at me and snorting at the same time. Horses do that quite often but I had never seen a human being make that effort.
“You are a Hindu aren’t you?” she asked.
“Not really,” I replied. “I am an atheist.”
She simply disregarded my statement and continued.
“Hindus are reborn,” she declared. “All Hindus must be reborn till they achieve Nirvana. In fact, you can be reborn as any living being. The chances are that you might be reborn as the species that you might have killed in your previous birth. Hence if I eat a prawn tonight, I might be reborn as one.”
I blinked and looked around. Everyone around the table was blinking. I was extremely relieved that only Hindus are reborn, although I did not say it loudly. Imagine what would happen if every seafood lover was forced into reincarnation. The world would be overrun with a special breed of crustaceans chasing the cycle of life.
I think that, except the lady in question, everyone loved the food that evening.
However, I did not touch the prawns that night. The thought of being in the same seafood curry with the lady, in my next cycle of life, was quite frightening.