The loss of innocence

October 31, 2013

It is not implausible. Not at all. For a man to live many lives in one life. But no matter what man he chooses to be in the multitude of men that all reside in this one individual.

Eventually the chastening passage of time will funnel this man to one realisation. It may creep up on this man unexpectedly like a thief in the night. But stand before him it will – the naked truth.

And when the truth stands before this man who has lived so many life times. He can do nothing but seek some measure of peace with it.

What may release this storm of memories from the distant past could well be a thing. Anything. An object. A faded photograph. Or a moment that recalls him back to the moment of his youth. And when this man slips into this other world. He can do nothing except look on like a dumb man transfixed by this object that stands in marvellous completion before him. At first he tries to summon his intellect to dismiss it. But it will not go away. It gnaws at him, compelling this man to strain hard to remember, but nothing yields.

Gradually that feeling of estrangement swells within him – he can feel it stirrimg in him like a coiled serpent and then it hits him – he realises that he has become a very different man from the innocent boy who once started this great experiment called life….has so many years gone by?….. And this man will begin to wonder to himself where is that boy now, who once saw the world through innocent eyes?

Where is he? 

The man peers into the mirror frantically, this time he searches for some lingering residue of the boy, but all he sees is a very hard and implacable man who has no feelings at all glaring back at him……..for a moment he doesn’t quite recognise the man in the mirror. It’s not me, he says to himself. Then he realises that boy is gone forever. Only the man in the mirror remains.

Many people do not understand what was the motivation behind the story of Franz Kafka and the doll. It has been a subject of intense speculation for nearly over a hundred years now.

But I know why the author felt compelled to do what he did that afternoon in the park in Berlin. I know. But I much prefer to keep this to myself….the horror, that is…the horror.

The story goes like this – one afternoon when Kafka was walking in a park in Berlin – he came across a little girl who was crying. She had lost her doll and was desolate.

Kafka offered to help her look for the doll and arranged to meet her the next day at the same spot. Unable to find the doll he composed a letter from the doll and read it to her when they met.

“Please do not mourn me, I have gone on a trip to see the world. I will write you of my adventures.” 

This was the beginning of many letters. When he and the little girl met he read her from these carefully composed letters the imagined adventures of the beloved doll. The little girl was comforted.

When the meetings came to an end Kafka presented her with a doll. She obviously looked different from the original doll. An attached letter explained: “my travels have changed me… ”

Many years later, the now grown girl found a letter stuffed into an unnoticed crevice in the cherished replacement doll. In summary it said: “every thing that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.”

When I first started to turn the wheel of life as a farmer. I was just a simpleton who was happiest minding my own business –  planting row after row of palms – one day I saw an immaculately dressed rich landowner in a creme bush jacket standing beside a shiny black Mercedes looking down at me from high above. He was on a hill – I took off my baseball cap and waved at him – he merely looked on impassively. I remembered his features, they were granite hard and he had an aloofness about him that was characteristic of all landowners – as if he was fashioned from stone – that very night, gangsters knocked on my small little hut. I was told, if I wanted to live, I should consider selling my tiny veggie patch to him and return back to Singapore. So I fought them all and eventually his lands became mine.

After that, that motherfucker cobbled together a motley crew of landowners to fight me. And I fought them all tooth and nail. I gave back as good as I sucked it all up.

Eventually all their lands became mine. And another came. I fought them as well. I have been fighting so long that I cannot even remember not fighting. 

One day when I was sitting down in kopitiam minding my own business munching on kaya bread and kopi O kauh – a group of businessmen sat down on my table. They poured me tea and called me taipan – that was when I realize there was no one else to fight in this valley.

Recently, I cast my eyes across another valley – as I need more land. That was when I saw him from a promontory – he looked like just a simpleton who was happiest minding his own business – planting row after row of palms in his veggie patch. When he saw me, he took off his baseball cap and smiled innocently. The man had just finished wiring his chicken coop. It was a beautiful smile and if I had to hazard a guess, this must be his first run at a season. They all have that wide eyed look of optimism when they’re new. I remembered muttering to myself – As I looked down from high above. I could tell this man had absolutely no idea that an invader was standing right before him or even the slightest inkling why I had come all the way here.

At that very moment, a storm of memories swept across the desolate plains of my consciousness…and I remembered who I am and whence I came from …that was when I looked down and said to myself, “Yes….I understand now….I understand completely”….the circle is now complete…I have come full circle.

“every thing that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.”

I finally understand…I understand completely..the horror…the horror.

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