Jammu and Kashmir, Road Journals, Short Stories
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Man’s search for meaning

When I returned to Ishbar that night, Shiban seemed speechless. But Dr Kaul looked at him with satisfaction giving an expression like “then he has seen.” And soon the moment came to explain to him what he had seen.

We sat around fire, while waiting for the food to arrive.

Open your ears, said Dr Kaul and he began speaking like reciting an over practised hymn. “The men in the east, he said, are trees; those in the south are flocks of animals; those in the west are wild plants. Last, those in the north like ourselves, who cried out while they ate other men, were the waters. When the collective sound of chewing filled the air, he started explaining about eating.

The act of eating is a violence that causes what is living, in its many forms, to disappear. Whether grass, plants, trees, animals, or human beings, the process is the same. There is always a fire that devours and a substance that is devoured. This violence, bringing misery and torment, will one day be carried out by those who suffer it on those who inflict it.

Pouring milk into the fire- every morning, every evening- meant accepting that what appears disappears and that what has disappeared serves to give sustenance to something else, in the invisible. There are some people who have become skilled in detecting evil with supreme ease. Evil for them was already apparent ever since the moment an axe first struck a tree or a hand uprooted a plant; a metaphysical evil, inherent in everything that is forced to destroy a part of the world in order to survive. Evil is therefore everywhere and in everything. This is why sacrifice is also everywhere and in everything. Quiet. Now finish your food !

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