I was on my way back from grad school after what had been a day full of classes. I saw this madman appear on the street. It was almostlike he was an ethereal apparition. He seemed amiable enough even with his ruffled hair, half torn clothes and the general demeanor of menacing carelessness. But there was more to him than what the eyes could surmise.
The mad man asked me with his unflinching eyes trained right on me, "What do you want from life?".
That caught me off guard. I was not expecting to be questioned by a random stranger on the road. Least of all by a mad man. It took me a while to gather my thoughts and formulate an answer. I told him what I feigned to be the right answer. That I simply don't know.
The madman was not satisfied. He urged me to ponder more. To be honest with myself. He egged me on saying that surely I knew what I wanted. The more I heard him say that the more I knew he was right. I did know what I wanted from life. But admitting my deepest desires to a random stranger was not something I was comfortable doing.
I figured I can be reasonably elusive with my response. I could always trudge along the banks of truth even if I didn't directly step on it. So I said "What I want is simple. I want to be happy in life. I want people around me to be happy."
"Bah! Humbug! Come on, boy! You are tiptoeing around the matter. Why? What does it matter what you tell me, a complete stranger who you ll most probably never see again." He was quick to chide.
As I stood there surveying the bearded six footed figure that had only moments ago emerged from the dark, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I couldn't walk away without answering him absolutely honestly. He had a strange calmness in his eyes that belied his apparent madness. There was nothing for me to lose. He dint seem interested in hurting me. He seemed genuinely interested in knowing the answer to his question. "Fair enough", I decided.
"I want to find my significant other. A love - of the truest and most unadulterated persuasion, that's what I want from life. I must confess I am a hopeless romantic, clearly."
Maniacal laughter is what followed the moment I finished saying that. And that annoyed me a great deal apart from making me feel foolish. I was about walk past him, when he said this.
"Ought not you realise that you have struck upon pure gold? In a world which has lost its bearing on what is truly of worth, where the meaning of life is lost, you have set yourself in the right path."
That caught my attention. I stared, unapologetically. No longer did I conceive him mad. How could I? What right did I have to make that judgement? He spoke coherently and with gumption. Moreover, he was empathetic towards my condition. Was I beyond judgement after all? Hardly. I was walking back after a hectic day. I had two bottles of rum inside my bag. Did it matter? Not at all. Point is, I was not exactly beyond reproach.
"The trouble with love is that the very idea of it has been corrupted by the mediocre perception of popular sentiment!"
Now, this was getting more interesting with each passing minute. I nodded in agreement. It immediately made sense to me.
"The trouble is that everyone has been imbibed with these fantastic notions, impressions and images about love. Everyone thinks that they know how it's supposed to be. They think they know how it's supposed to feel. Such fools."
"Just far too much has been written about it - too many stories, poems, essays. Heck, too many songs have been sung. Too many movies made too. It is all so infuriating. And now even this conversation is only adding to the clutter."
"What all this pile of garbage does is to muddle people. We are cajoled into a state of idiocy where we think we know what to look for. The clutter serves to make things indistinguishable. You end up not knowing how to recognize the real thing even when it hits you right in the face. This ignorance leads people to a life of perpetual hurt and unhappiness. We have to erase this ridiculous tendency from the collective conscience of humanity."
"The trouble is that we are not capable of not talking about love. We can not not force it to be a central theme in every cultural facet imaginable. It arises as a result of our basic need for love. There is nothing more fundamental in life than love. The need we feel for love is innate, though it is manifested in varying degrees in different individuals, differently during different time periods in their lives."
"Love is a state of lightness and of burden. Love is pure ecstacy and misery. Love is zenith and love is nadir. Love is strength and weakness. Its the most amazing balancing act in the universe. Its everything ever written, every song sung, every painting painted, every skipped heart beat."
"When we try to understand it, we end up fooling ourselves. It cannot be deconstructed. Not in the terms of how one feels. Science may one day explain how chemicals and neurons fire us up. But that will still be an incomplete and an outrageously unjust explanation for the most primal of emotions. "
I woke with a start. I was lying on the floor of my apartment. I couldn't remember when I had gotten home. The two empty bottles of rum certainly suggested that I was more than comfortable. And then the conversation between the mad men came back to me. I went back to the street where I found him last night. And surely enough there was no one in sight.
"Mad, indeed", the thought rang in my head as I walked back to my apartment ever so regretful for having stepped out into the peak summer sun.