The Lunatic World

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Sanjay Prasad Paudel

Today marked his second job interview that was a glimmer of hope amidst the darkness, threatening to engulf him. He stood before the cracked mirror in his cramped apartment, the harsh light revealing the weariness running throughout his body. With trembling hands, he lathered his face with soap and shaved with a dull razor that was a painful reminder of his poverty.

As he shaved his face, he pondered, “I need to find my next job.”

As crimson droplets mingled with the foam, Gokarna’s thoughts turned to the simple pleasures he had once taken for granted. Reading a newspaper with a cup of tea, warm and fragrant, had been his solace in times of hardship — a small comfort in a world of uncertainty. But now, even that simple pleasure seemed out of reach and he realised he had empty pockets, a stark reminder of his dwindling fortunes.

Gokarna’s heart sank as his hands reached into his pocket. His fingers felt cold metal of the few remaining coins. Five rupees — not nearly enough to afford to buy a newspaper –, let alone ease the burden of his family’s financial woes. With a heavy sigh, he began to search the cramped confines of his tiny apartment, hoping against hope to find some forgotten treasures hidden amidst the clutter of his meagre belongings.

He turned over the pillow, his hands trembling with anticipation, but found nothing but dust and worn fabric. Desperation gnawed at his insides as he tore through the room, flipping the mattress in a futile attempt to have even the smallest hint of relief. But the universe seemed intent on denying him even that small mercy, the empty space beneath the mattress — a stark reminder of his dire circumstances.

Just as despair threatened to overwhelm him, Gokarna’s gaze fell upon a small coin box nestled in the corner of the room, which rekindled a ray of hope amidst the darkness. With trembling hands, he pried open the lid, his heart racing with anticipation. Three coins—a modest sum, to be sure, but enough to animate his weary soul.

With renewed determination, Gokarna set out into the bustling streets of Kathmandu, the weight of his poverty hanging heavy upon his shoulders. But as he walked, his eyes caught sight of something unexpected—a two rupee coin, stitched into the cow dung adorning the head of a poster of Lord Krishna that hung over the entrance to a narrow passage.

For a moment, Gokarna hesitated, his mind awash with conflicting emotions. But then, with a deep breath and a silent prayer on his lips, he reached out to and plucked the coins from their makeshift perch, his fingers brushing against the rough texture of the cow dung. It was a small indignity, perhaps, but one he was willing to endure for the sake of his family.

With the coins clutched tightly in his hand, Gokarna made his way to the nearest newsstand, the weight of his poverty still heavy upon his shoulders but tempered now by a glimmer of hope—a hope that, despite the odds stacked against him, whispered of better days yet to come. Gokarna had come to Kathmandu with dreams as vast as the Himalayan peaks that overlooked the city. With little more than hope in his heart and determination in his steps, he had left behind the dusty streets of his village, seeking a new life and the promise of opportunity.

After months of toil and hardship, he had finally secured a job as a night security guard — a lowly position, perhaps, but one that offered a semblance of stability in the chaos of the city. Yet, as the weeks turned into months, the relentless grind of nocturnal hours began to take its toll on Gokarna’s fragile psyche.

Desperation clawed at his chest as he rummaged through the meager possessions scattered around the room, his fingers trembling as they searched for any sign of reprieve. It was then, in the dim light of dawn, that he spotted it—a small coin box tucked away in the corner, its contents a meager offering in the face of his mounting despair.
With a flicker of hope, Gokarna counted the coins, his heart pounding with anticipation. Three rupees—a paltry sum, to be sure, but enough to stave off the hunger that gnawed at his belly. And then, as if by divine intervention, he spotted two more coins glinting in the morning light—a gift from the gods, perhaps, or merely a stroke of luck in a
world that had long forgotten him.

With newfound resolve, Gokarna left for the jostling streets of Kathmandu, his eyes scanning the headlines of the newspaper with a hunger born of desperation. But even as he immersed himself in the words printed on the page, his mind was consumed by the weight of his wife’s words—the reminder of the burden he carried, the responsibility he could not shirk.

And yet, in that moment, as he stood amidst the throng of humanity, Gokarna felt a flicker of something more—a glimmer of hope, burning bright amidst the darkness that threatened to consume him. For in the heart of the city, where dreams were made and broken with each passing day, there still lingered the promise of a better tomorrow—a promise that Gokarna vowed to seize with both hands, no matter how much it costs.
Gokarna’s wife, Goma, looked up from her mending as he entered their modest apartment, his expression weighed down by the day’s trials.

“How did it go today, Gokarna?” said Goma.

Gokarna sighed. “Not as well as I hoped, Goma. The job interview didn’t quite go as planned.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, dear. What happened?”

“They said they need someone,” said Gokarna, “who’s physically and mentally fit for the job. I’m starting to worry if I can keep up.”

Goma told reassuringly, “Don’t lose hope, Gokarna. You’ve been through tough times before, and you always find a way. We’ll get through this together.”

Gokarna nodded, a flicker of determination in his eyes. “You’re right, Goma. We’ll find a way. For us and for our family.”

Goma, smiled softly and said, “That’s the spirit, my love. Now, why don’t you sit down and I’ll make us some tea? We’ll figure this out together.”

Gokarna stood outside the nondescript building, his hands clammy despite the cool breeze. He clutched the appointment letter tightly in his trembling fingers, his heart racing with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. This was it—the chance for a fresh start, a new chapter in his tumultuous life.

Stepping through the doors, he was greeted by the sterile scent of disinfectant and the low hum of fluorescent lights. The receptionist smiled politely, her eyes flickering with curiosity as she handed him a form to fill out. Gokarna forced a smile in return, trying to quell the rising nerves in his chest.

As he made his way through the maze of corridors to his new office, Gokarna couldn’t shake the feeling of unease gnawing at him. The words of the interview echoed in his mind: “You must be mentally and physically fit for this job.”

The days passed in a blur of paperwork and meetings, Gokarna throwing himself into his work with a fervor born of desperation. But beneath the facade of professionalism, a constant fear lurked—a fear of being discovered, of being labeled as unfit, of losing everything he had worked so hard to gain.

His visits to the doctor became a clandestine ritual, a carefully choreographed dance of avoidance and secrecy. Every glance over his shoulder, every quickening of his pulse at the sound of familiar footsteps—each moment was fraught with the possibility of exposure.

But amidst the chaos of his own inner turmoil, there was one constant—a beacon of understanding in the form of his psychiatrist. Dr. Sharma had become more than just a doctor; he was a confidant, a friend, a lifeline in the stormy sea of Gokarna’s mind.

Gokarna sighed deeply, “Dr. Sharma, I don’t know what to do anymore. It feels like everything is falling apart around me.”

“I’m here for you, Gokarna. Take a deep breath. Let’s talk about it. What’s been weighing on your mind?”
“It’s my job, my relationships, everything. I feel like I’m drowning in stress.”

“I understand, Gokarna. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. But remember, storms don’t last forever. We can navigate through this together. Tell me more about what’s been happening.”
“Work has been so demanding lately. I feel like I can never catch a break. And my personal life… It’s a mess. I don’t even know where to start.”

“It sounds like you’re carrying a heavy load, my friend. Remember, it’s important to prioritize your well-being amidst all the chaos. Let’s break it down. What’s one thing you can do today to lighten the load, even just a little?”

“Maybe I can talk to my boss about delegating some tasks. And with my relationships, I suppose I need to have some honest conversations.”
“That’s a good start, Gokarna. Remember, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. I’m here to support you every step of the way. And sometimes, just speaking your truth can be the first step towards finding clarity and peace.”
“Thank you, Dr. Sharma. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Dr. Sharma: “You’re never alone in this journey, Gokarna. We’ll weather the storms together.”

It was on a crisp autumn evening that everything changed. An invitation arrived in the mail —a simple card adorned with delicate script, inviting Gokarna to celebrate Dr. Sharma’s daughter’s birthday. Despite the flutter of anxiety in his stomach, Gokarna knew he couldn’t refuse.

As he stepped into the warm glow of the Sharma household, Gokarna felt a sense of belonging wash over him—a feeling he had long forgotten. The room was filled with laughter and chatter, the air alive with the joy of shared moments and shared struggles.

And then he saw them—the familiar faces from his office, his boss among them, laughing and chatting as if they hadn’t a care in the world. It was a revelation—a sudden, stunning realization that shook Gokarna to his core.
In that moment, surrounded by the ones he had feared most, Gokarna understood the truth that had eluded him for so long. The boundaries between sanity and madness, between normalcy and illness—they were not fixed lines, but fluid, ever-shifting spectrums that touched every life in their own way.

As he looked around the room, Gokarna felt a sense of liberation wash over him—a weight lifted from his shoulders, leaving behind only a profound sense of acceptance. In the eyes of the world, they may have been labeled as “lunatics,” but in that moment, they were simply human—flawed, fragile, and beautifully, wonderfully alive.

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