Letter from Aziz
By Aziz ul Haq
Publised in WORDS International
Feb. 21, 1965
One disadvantage I can also see. Of demolishing the hypothetical walls so nicely erected and so rigorously protected by the post-renaissance bourgeoisie world. The disadvantage of not knowing as to where to start and what not to say. Result: I have not been able to say anything to you. It’s not that I haven’t tried.
On the contrary, I have been trying in all sorts of various ways to say all those various sorts of things that I would like you to know. But could not succeed. I mean after writing them down whenever I would read them it would always appear to be just mumble-jumble. Now for sure I do want to convey to you the MUMBLE- JUMBLE. But not in a mumble-jumble fashion though.
You know 1 have a “writer” in me. Too. It revolts to see so horribly purged-out stuff. By me. So it tears the papers to pieces. In disgust and shame. Lest someone should discover them and read them. Lest someone should read them and discover in them the mumble- jumble that is ME. I can’t present the mumble-jumble in a mumbly-jumbly way. And this is exactly what one does, or tends to do, when one has broken the soundproof (Life-Proof!) walls separating the Public from the Private. At least 1 can see this disadvantage. I can also, I mean.
So what to do. What’s the way out? The other day I was reading Stephen Spender’s autobiography where somewhere he talks about James Joyce and Hemingway and others who so successfully developed the techniques of presenting the various layers of thought processes that go on simultaneously in one’s mind. I wish I was a James Joyce. To communicate the mumble-jumble. Because all these long dreary days that have just been passing away since I received your letter I have been feeling that if I say the things I am wanting to say in ways in which I have been attempting to say them there will ensue gross misunderstanding. Gross NON-COMMUNICATION. And to be sure I want to to talk to you, to communicate to you. Not non-communicate. Hence I could not write. Which, adding guilt to the already enough jumble-mumble of mine, further mumbly-jum-blified it still further to make it still impossible to say what I want to say in a way that would say what I want to say. You see.
This has been the DILEMMA. And it still is. THERE. Now what to do? Where’s the way out? That is the Question. To let it be what it wants to be – the clear communicating expression of the mumble-jumble of the events that happened to be my immediate Past.
The time period that has passed between the reading of your letter and the writing of mine, this one. That is the Question.
And. Here is the Answer! Now I get it! You see, so far I have been starting from 8:00 p.m. Friday the 8th when Linus Pauling talked at the PNE Auditorium. This I arbitrarily accepted as the starting point. And it never worked. It could never have worked because that was too arbitrary. Every time I started from there onwards I realized in a couple of paragraph’s time that I had to go back. So I went back by one event or two and again proceeded onwards, but again after another paragraph or two I felt that, no, I have to go back still I’m still, so I went back still further by another couple of events and again forward till 1 would discover once again that I had to go back. Or just quit. Result: the guilt that I have mentioned. The guilt that would say: Come on, man, write – he is waiting for your letter. And it went on becoming grave, graver, all the more graver.
But now it seems I’ve got it, the answer. In a flash it has just occurred to me that I’ve got the Answer. Just when l was asking what to do, where’s the way out? Right here. There. The day I received your letter. That’s it. The day I received your letter. That the Answer.
Everything that I have been wanting to say but couldn’t because it wouldn’t fall In proper order is orderly. Now. Just in that flash it has occurred to me. I see everything. Now. Ordered. The whole jumble mumble. I hope it works this time. I am sure it will. Let me believe so. Hope so.
When did I receive your letter?
Monday? Or was it Tuesday? In any case it was the day when I received your letter and Alex’s letter and sent my letter to Stu Groom. You probably don’t know Stu Groom. He was a class-mate of mine. A fourth-year metallurgy student. That is not important though. I mean, he is a friend of mine. And that should be enough. These days he is somewhere near Toronto. Working. I received a letter from him a while ago. Just a letter. How are you? and How is Life? and Hoping it is fine! Everything type of letter. And yet this was not really what the letter was. The letter was UNWRITTENLY present somewhere in that letter, I suspect, and somehow, it seems, I read that Letter and wanted to reply. Almost immediately. And I did. But right when I was writing that reply I felt that you should also read that reply. Although right after this thought I also thought as to what you’d say after reading that reply. I know almost exactly what you’d say. But. Nevertheless. You should read it, I went on saying to myself. Accordingly, I started typing three ; One for Stu. One for you. One for myself. But I said: Hell with it. You don’t NEED this letter what’s the bloody idea of sending it to you? Just to know what you think of it? But at what instant didn’t.I know what you’d think of it? So I just typed two copies: one for myself and one for Stu,. And went to dispatch it when l received your letter and Alex’s letter. And right when I was reading your letter it occurred to me once again that I should send you that letter. And also Alex’s letter. So that you may have all the three letters: your own, Alex’s and mine. To read them one after the other. Your own, mine and then Alex’s; mine and Alex’s and then your own; mine, then your’s and then Alex’s. And just see what IT says – the trinity of you, me and Alex or maybe me, you and Alex or Alex, me and you or Alex, you and me, or You, You, and You, or Me, Me, and Me, or Me You or Me Me or Me.
Now this is essential. The creation of the trinity and its communication to you. Because this is exactly how the jumble-mumble was created. In me. The trinity communicated. And there was mumble-jumble. Everywhere. And to know this jumble-mumble, to live in IT is essential to understand what I am saying and going to say.
So I am sending you the copy of our letters, mine and Alex’s. (You probably don’t keep copies of your letters. In that case recreate it!) And let the trinity talk. To you.
But before reading our letters you should know some of the historical facts concerning them. They would bring forth some of their latent meanings.
For example, the fact that after writing my letter to Stu I went outside of my room wearing the lab coat which Jamila had cut in height by four inches or so. And one of the lab attendants said smilingly: Your coat looks cut off. And I said instantaneously: Charlie, why do you say my coat; how about myself? Am I not cut off too? And he laughed; another lab attendant around also laughed. And I laughed. Too. A real pleasant laughter. I laughing at the cut-offness casually. Isn’t this great. Yea ! That is the word. Great. I was feeling great. Not in myself. Neither out there. No nowhere. Everywhere. Just great. But no. Not exactly. It wasn’t great. Great is not the word. It is so damned imposing, so artificial: GREAT. That’s not. the word. It should be something that would convey the spontaneity, the sweetness and light…. Here it is! “Sweetness and light.” That’s the word. I was feeling Sweet and Light. So sweet and so light that laughter was my way, myself. I was laughter. For a while. Laughter. Not the hollow drum-beating type. That’s the anti-laughter. It was the other type. No not the type. There is none of that type. You don’t have that type of laughter. You don’t have very many of them around to make them a type. You know what I mean. If you take a buckling, a smile and let it open forth into a flower, a laughter, then that would be it, the laughter that was ME, MYSELF. It was that laughter. For a while.
This is what the writing of my letter to Stu did. To me. As if the words therein were the dew drops and the morning breeze which caressed a hidden budding- smile within and turned it into the laughter-flower which was me, myself for that while.
It was that sort of letter that I wrote to Stu and the copy of which I am sending to you so that you may read it with your’s and Alex’s letters and see what the trinity says to you – the trinity of me, you and Alex or is it you, me and Alex or probably Alex, me and you or maybe me, Alex and you, or.. .. But! Haven’t I said these things already.
You know those dreams which you saw long ago and which would come to your mind all at once when you’d feel, I have seen this before somewhere, somewhen but where? and when? and all of a sudden that dream would burst forth. That was it. You saw it in the dream. And you’d be ashamed of the idea that what you were thinking of having seen somewhere was seen nowhere, was just seen in a dream.
Some such similar feelings I had recently when I talked about the trinity. I thought, I have said that before. To you. In exactly the same fashion. And then I realized where it was, in what sort of dream, in what sort of nowhere.
You see, this is what that writing of the letter to Stu has done to me. It makes somewhere a sort of nowhere and nowhere a sort of dream where. It is this sort of letter that I wrote to Stu and the copy of which I am sending to you.
But didn’t you write exactly this sort of letter to me, the copy of which you sent to me. Then why am 1 sending the copy of my letter to you ? But then, Why did you send the copy of your letter to me. But what is this you-me business of “mine.” Where and which is you and where and which is me. Didn’t the trinity say otherwise. But where is the trinity ?It is no longer. It is nowhere.
Coming back to the letter.
As you’ll find out after reading it’, I wrote it in two installments. One before noon. One after. After finishing the first one, coming on my way home I picked Him up, as you’ll read in the letter. So I was a bit late for dinner. Or at least I felt so. So I said to Jamila. Excited. 1 picked Him up today. At last. She asked, whom, the mad fellow? I said yes and gave a triumphant rather dirty smile. She got it and kept quiet. The dinner accordingly tasted rather dirty. Moreover 1 was in a hurry. I was late, in the first instance. And secondly 1 wanted to go back to complete the letter. So 1 left soon. In the evening, sometime when I thought it was opportune to do so, 1 asked Jamila as to whether she would like to listen to the letter that I’ve written to Stu. She nodded yes. I started and felt soon that I was too self-cautious. As it I were addressing a mean or something for the first time in my life – being fact aware of all my weaknesses and terribly cautious lest any or all of them should be exposed. Or was it different? Maybe I was expecting something in the very nature of which is embodied that sort of excitement. I was going to show myself naked to somebody, expecting that she would see it as I wanted to show it expecting that I would be able to arouse the sort of feelings that I wanted to arouse. Feelings of sympathy, though not exactly sympathy but neither very different from sympathy. Of pity, though again not exactly pity, neither something remote from it. Of sharing a tragedy – a cosmic Tragedy. Of understanding. Of love. And when you want to do so, to arouse these sort of feelings concerning yourself, YOUR WHOLE SELF, you have the horror: Say she doesn’t see the way I’d like her to see and doesn’t respond the way I am thinking she should or would ?Then! Maybe it was this type of exclamation mark that was there when I started reading that letter. To her.
And within a minute or so I realized that my fears were substantiating. I read: Congratulations and Canadian Society (MY ) and she smiled and said: What? I couldn’t look at her. How could I see a woman holding somebody’s in her mouth! How could I
see my wife that way! So I couldn’t look at her. And wanted to stop reading. But couldn’t. Somehow. Instead I continued. With a hoarse, weeping voice I continued. Instead. And when I finished IT, the letter, I looked at her. She tried not to look at me. There were tears in her eyes. Trembling. Talking. She was tears. The IT had talked to IT and there were tears. And I was immensely happy. As if the day of judgment had just passed. And God looking at me, at my deeds and then at me again says: Come here. Right here. You sit with me. For a while. And I don’t know what to do. Except feeling immensely happy. Or thinking that I was feeling so. Feeling my feelings.
You see, this is what that letter of mine did to me. The letter a COPY of which I am sending to you.
And now about Alex’s letter.
I do not know how far back I have to go for that, But decidedly as far as the 25th of September; if not further. They were having the International Film Festival at the Lyric those days. On Saturday the 25th at 2:00 p.m. a Polish movie was to be shown about which I had heard from Malay (Mukerjee) that it IS good. So I took my time off from the family at 1:00 p.m., drove like mad to Alex’s place, knocked at his door maybe ten minutes-to-two or so. No answer. Again knocked rather hurriedly and “rudely. “And Mother said: Who is it? Alex? I said: No mother. This is Aziz here. She opened the door. I asked about Alex. She said he would be at the Library. He has to see Wolfe there at three o’clock. I said all right. I am in a hurry. They are showing a very good Polish movie in the International Film Festival. I wanted Alex to see it. That’s all right. I’d go to the Library. I wish I could find him. Bye. See you in the evening. And I rushed back. Went to the Library. He wasn’t on the main floor in-between the philosophy stacks. Went to the fourth floor. At times he is there. Amongst the Arts books. He wasn’t there either. Where the hell is he? I came back down. Looked again at the philosophy section. No. Nowhere. It was twelve past two. Sadly I said, O. K., I go. Right at the exit, in-between the two exit gates. I met Harold Wyne. How are you? How are you ? Fine. They are showing an excellent Polish movie at the Lyric. I came to see Alex. I wanted him to go. Would you like to come? He said, No, he is to work for his thesis or something and then said Alex is at the German Cafe with Wolfe. 1 said when? He said right now; I have just left him; He will be there with Wolfe. 1 said which cafe? He said the German cafe. You don’t know? 1 nodded horizontally. He said the “first one on the right, the very first one. I said: See you Harold. And rushed to the German Cafe, the first one on the right. He was there with Wolfe. Hello Aziz. Look, he said to Wolfe. Wolfe turned back. Hi Aziz. How are you? I said; They are showing an excellent Polish movie in the International Film Festival. Let’s go. Alex said: When? I said: Right now. At two o’clock. Wolfe said: O. K, Alex said: It’s past two already. I said hurry up. He said: Let me finish my coffee. I said O.K. and sat down. Silent. Wolfe was silent too. We were all drinking Alex’s coffee so how could we speak?
And in the movie hall.
Now all this is unimportant. I know. But. I have said it. So what can I do. Now. You know at times I say unimportant things. In fact you yourself have told me about this. Remember one day when you were staying at Abbotsford you said: I wonder why do you talk so much about unimportant things ? And I had to hide the rushing shame on my face and said: Yea, I don’t know. I feel myself. So don’t make me shameful. I know. 1 feel it myself. Isn’t that ENOUGH?
In any case the movie started. Before the start, however. some fellow came up on the stage and said that the movie is for children but he hoped that the adults would also enjoy it. And we looked at one another. The looks said: Was the trouble worth it. I felt terribly small.
It is an excellent movie, He has heard. Heard from my ………
But my God what a movie it was!
It had two boys, ages seven and ten maybe. They were to go to school. But the bus did not come or something. So they planned to roam about in the city. It was about that Roaming: the things they see. The Things. The People. The Children. The way they see. A blend of fact and phantasy. So harmoniously blended that you cannot tell where fact ended and phantasy started. Which was which? Fact or phantasy? To be sure they were childish phantasies. Nothing nightmarish. Just plain, innocent, childish phantasies. Like the children’s stories. But the message was clear. At least to me. Who can tell which is fact and which is phantasy ? Where one ends and the other starts? To the children it was •all fact or all phantasy. Or neither fact nor phantasy. It just was the way it was! To us there were facts and there were fictions. But then we were seeing it with our minds, not the children’s. To the outsider’s mind, there are facts and there are fictions. But to the insider’s? How can you tell the insider which is which? How can you, the outsider, tell me, the insider, which are the facts and which the fictions? To me there are not THE facts and THE fictions. There are MY facts and MY fictions. And my facts and my fictions may be such that part of my FACTS are YOUR fictions and part of MY fictions are YOUR facts. So how can anybody apart from my own self tell me which are facts and which are fictions? And how can I tell which of MY facts are the fictions? How can I, or for that matter, ANYBODY. This was the message of the film. At least to me. And it was mystically horrifying. This message.
After the movie we went to the car. It was parked at a one-hour parking meter. There was a ticket for over-parking. I knew there would be a ticket. And there it was. But. What ticket! What over-parking! “How much you have to pay Aziz,” Alex asked politely, east europeanically, culturedly. But. What you! What pay!
It was five o’clock; We decided to go to the German Cafe. I was feeling hungry, recollecting that I hadn’t had my dinner or breakfast. We went in. I ordered hamburger. Wolfe also ordered hamburger. Alex just coffee. We wanted to talk about the movie. But didn’t. Maybe couldn’t. Maybe we were afraid to disclose that we didn’t understand anything of the movie. And yet we could not say like the contemporary critics, THE SCHOLARS, of modern art that it was hum-bug. I said instead to Wolfe. And now you should know something about, Wolfe. His mother is German. Part Jewish. He was Alex’s class fellow. I say was because Alex is no longer at the University, as you know. Wolfe wants to go to West Germany to study. Maybe Economics and Political Science. So I said to Wolfe instead: See. Sitting in the German Cafe with you eating hamburgers. Isn’t it great. He wanted to say (I presume): What is great about it? But he smiled instead. Just smiled. Instead.
And Alex said that he had to go. Home. At six o’clock Kirk (Kocrner) is coming. He has invited him to dinner. So he had better change. “Kirk has mannerisms, the culture you know,” Alex told us. “He will be properly dressed. He will feel embarrassed if I am not properly dressed. Let me at least wear a tie.” He said blushingly. And right then we realized that we were wearing dirty clothes, were unshaven, were sickly. But I said: “All right. You bloody east European. O.K. Go to hell. Should we come?” I looked at Wolfe. He smiled. Alex said that we can. Only he had to tell Kirk that we just dropped in. So we went to Alex’s place. Shortly after there was a knock at the door. Hi Kirk; come in. The well-dressed, well-groomed American came in. “I’ve brought some wine,” said the well- behaved American. “So nice of you,” said the east European lady. She was all smiles. All radiance. We were dim and dark. Me and Wolfe. The dark looked at the dark and darkness said: CULTURE. And the two darkness’s smiled their pagan smiles. CULTURE. Yes for sure. Dinner was ready. We said: Go ahead. They went ahead. Kirk, Alex, Alex’s mother. We remained seated in our seats. After awhile I said to Wolfe: Let’s go to buy some cigarettes. So I said to them: We are going to buy some cigarettes. We’ll be back soon. Everybody heaved sighs of relief.
Roaming on the streets I talked to Wolfe and he to me about things that somehow I don’t recollect. Which is rather strange. Because most of the time I can almost reproduce the dialogues, even. But not this one. Maybe we started with Alex’s and Kirk’s mannerisms. And probably I sort of complained’ to Wolfe about Alex that one day I was in town with Jamila and children and phoned Alex as to whether we should come to see him. And he was all excited at the phone to see us. But when we went he was not there. Mentally I mean. He was living the anticipatory future when his girl friend would be coming for dinner after which they – he, his mother and his girl friend – would go to Stanley Park. And he wanted to avoid my seeing her. God knows why. Which I don’t care though. That’s his business. But I am talking about the overall atmosphere. It was so damned formal. His culture which couldn’t let him say: No, please don’t come – I am to go somewhere or something – and instead forced him to say Hi Aziz, Please. I am so excited. I wanted to talk to you. And all that jazz. And thus made out of me a neighbour of his or something. A burden you have to put up with. A part of social living. Living my ……..
Then I would have talked about other things which I don’t recollect. I recollect, though, talking about that night that we spent at Kirk’s place. What happened to me there and how things look slightly tilted or something after that event. This was probably tied down with some idea about the movie. What was the message according to me. The blend of facts and fictions. My facts and my fictions and not THE facts and THE fictions because there are none of the kind. And I also remember that we talked about these things to the nearby Chinese store at the other block at Nicola St. And then finding it closed we returned? passed Alex’s house, went to Robson a couple of blocks up, and found a store open where we bought cigarettes. And I also recollect that the talk at Nicola was quite different from the one at Robson. Because at Robson I talked about what I call Sartre’s problem of “Handing over the Torch. ” That is: I know or can know only about myself and hence can be sure only about the sort of changes I may bring about. But the other is other I don’t know him; so on what basis can I hand over the torch ? He may take it in the direction in which I desire him to take it or he may not. He is him not me, And asked Wolfe if he had read Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine where he deals with the same problem, saying: Say we have won the communes and say Jesus Christ himself is the Chief. But he has to have his assistants. How can you trust them? Hundreds of thousands of them.And yet they are the real actors, the real doers. And Wolfe said No., he hadn’t read Ignazio. And asked if I had read Madame Beauvoir’s The Blood of Other’s. I said no, thinking (and this I remember of all things!): How do they spell BOVWAE in French? All the bloody vowels, a,e,i,o,u. What a way to name a Name. What an Existentialistic way to name a name. A NAME. This is why she would like to sleep with anybody and every body. I wish I had met her. That lady. The castrated catholic bitch…. No, I haven’t read it. I saw it just the other day at Duthie’s. And he said that she deals with the same problem there, too. And I remember al those various thoughts that would make her revolting to me. Ji. I can’t stand that Lady. I don’t know why?
You say she is good. She might be. But I just can’t stand her. Maybe I am a tabooed person?
I also remember saying to Wolfe that this is THE problem that haunts me. My coming over to Vancouver every weekend. To recover. To reunite. Myself This may happen. Or may not. I may be successful Or may not. But I know FOR SURE that she, Jamila would go mad. All sorts of horrors haunt her when I am away. I see these horrors pasted on her face when I go back. And the same is the case with Alex vis a vis his mother. She is terribly lonely, nightmarishly forlorn. She has nobody but Alex. And he seems to be choosing a course of life which would completely kill her. And Alex knows it. But doesn’t know what to do.
And Wolfe told me that this is true. About Alex’s mother. Last night when he phoned her, she picked up the phone and said: Hello. Is it Alex? And he said No, this is Wolfe here. And she said: Where is Alex And Wolfe said to me that he was sort of afraid listening to her asking about Alex that way. And I said: exactly the same she said to me. When I knocked at the door at two o’clock or so. She said: Is it Alex? You see.
And I remember we becoming sort of very very sad for a while over the thought. The vague problem.
And I remember saying after a while, This is the problem, the human problem. You see? What else is human? Hell! And I remember remembering at that time about Jamila and the family and saying to Wolfe: You know Socrates? When he was to drink the hemlock and his followers were advising him not to drink and to ask for pardon? Said: I don’t know about life after death. It may be bad or it may be good. But I know positively that if I don’t drink the poison this IS bad. I said to Wolfe: You know, to date I have always tried to make my choices according to that of Socratic commandment: Choosing a probable good by becoming positive of an act negatively! But under the circumstances, when I know what is positive – she would go mad – Jamila – Alex’s mother – if we continue our ways? And yet we also know positively that not to continue with our ways is also wrong, in fact impossible.
So what to do? Which of Socratic commandment to act upon? Where else to find out? Sartre is no help. Neither anybody else. Nobody. You see. This IS the human problem. My problem. What else is HUMAN?
And then we went upstairs. They had already finished the dinner. We joined them at coffee. And shortly after I intruded in the talk that was going on to bring it around to the question as to what science can do. Which problem can it solve ? Which HUMAN problem? And Kirk asked if I could make it more explicit. What do I mean? But Alex proposed that we go to the Lyric to buy tickets for the nine o’clock show. Kirk asked about it. Alex said: It’s named Repulsion. Must be good. And I remember mother asking, What? Where are you going Alex? And he felt The Feeling, I know; I felt it too. So did Wolfe, I think. So I said: Why don’t you come along, Mother? I hope it would be good. Kirk said: “It would be entertaining, we hope. ” But she shrank all of a sudden, saying: No.. You people go. I’d better stay. Home. And we went out. I with the question about science that Kirk would like me to formulate more explicitly becoming explicit in the form: Kirk dear. You see. Mother. You know the problem. “Do you? Tell me which science can solve it. How? By killing Alex? Is that the solution that you hail? You Logical Positivist. You know nothing. What do you know? Science. Problems.
We bought tickets. It was seven-thirty or so. So I proposed: Let’s go to the German Cafe. And added: I have sort of started liking it, its informal atmosphere. It reminds me of the cafes back home. So we went to the German Cafe. And started re-talking. Yea. So tell me which of the HUMAN problems Science can solve. And Kirk said: “For example, the problem of hunger. What is problematic about it? Kirk asked as to what I meant. I said: What is the essence of the problem of hunger. He answered: Man has needs. Some biological, some mental and some maybe spiritual. Hunger is a biological need which, for its satisfaction requires food. The problem of hunger is absence of food in presence of the biological needs of the body. I reacted: Hogwash. What’s biological ? This body and that mind and all that jazz. I don’t accept these dichotomies, these slicings, these hyphenizations. Man being an animal, a biological animal, a social-biological animal, a social-psychological- biological animal, a social-psychological-spiritual- biological, and all the other -als and -cals animal. Man is a whole, a balloon, as I say, not an onion with the various peels of social, psychological and religious etcetera one over the other. He is a whole, the human whole. There is no biological need. No biological need which is essentially different from a psychological or a spiritual need. Show me one. And I asked Kirk: If hunger is a biological problem it should have a biological answer. Then why don’t people eat their parents or children? Why don’t they loot or steal or beg” Why don’t they? If the problem is biological, just biological, then the answer is simple. Food, the biological requisite. And to the biological animal, it does not make sense to think of not eating one’s parents or offspring or stealing or looting. Now, I don’t deny people stealing or begging or looting or even eating their children. They did so at the time of the Bengal Famine. The Horrible Famine. But they did not eat it the way they would eat an “earned” foodstuff. Why? Because at no instance are they biological. They are human. Always.
And I told them: You know during “47” at the time of partition when we were moving to Pakistan, my father lost everything. He had nothing to live with No money. Nothing. And we had to go hungry. Or at least he had to, he and my mother. If hunger is a biological problem, as you say, then he could have found the biological solution. In fact he knew the solution. Food. But he could not beg because hunger, his hunger, was not biological. It was his hunger, and his hunger does not require food for its satisfaction. It requires food procured and earned in a particular fashion. This is the necessary ingredient. Food earned in a particular fashion. Call it social, cultural, ethical, religious, vanity, a fraud of the feudal or whatever, the fact remains that his hunger does not require food, but food procured in a particular fashion. And this is true for everybody. For every human being. Americans included. And I asked: So Kirk. What is the essence of the problem of hunger? Is the problem the scarcity of foodstuff per se or the non-availability of means to procure the foodstuff. That is, the non availability of means of procurement vis-a-vis the hungry person himself. And Kirk sort of agreed. Yes, he said. Then. I said. To solve his problem you have to take him into account. Because. It is because of him that there is scarcity. For him. In a world of plenty. Objectively speaking. If he had defined the means of procurement in a fashion different from the one he has, then he would have solved the problem of hunger for himself. And mind you, there is no problem of hunger except the one that the hungry people have. That is. The way they have it. And if this is true then why do you point out the hungry world as the problem which science can solve. Why not me? Am I not hungry? Why not? Because I am in the midst of plenty. But so is a hungry peasant in India. You say that the means of procurement are available to me. How do you know? How can you say? Did I say so? I did not. You say so because you are mistaking the social sanction for the individual sanction. Mistaking it by bifurcating the two. As if they are independent of each other. In theory they may be. I don’t care. But in practice. In the case of real people. Say in my case. Say the society sanctions a particular way for the acquisition of things, but my SELF does not sanction that way. Is that way available to me? Now say society sanctions a particular way but does not provide that way to me. Now supposing that I also sanction the socially sanctioned way, is the way available to me ? Both the cases are just the same. In reality. In factuality. In actuality. There is nothing like individual and social sanction. Existentially speaking. There is the human sanction. The sanction of human beings. Sanction of each and every particular human being to his or her particular being.
So choose me as the Problem. Solve my Problem of Hunger. SCIENTIFICALLY. You won’t do it because you are smart enough to know that no science on earth can even touch it. What to say of solving it.
All right. Let me come back to your hungry world. I mean the hungry world where others are hungry and you as a humanist social engineer are looking at their problem, planning for the blue-print of your actions. Fine. Now you say that science can solve this problem. Let us see how.
What do you do? You start analyzing the situation. And at the end of the inquiry come to the conclusion: There is not enough food because these people don’t work. They don’t work because they lack proper motivation; they lack incentives. They lack incentives because they have a wrong Weltanschaunng, a wrong world view. So you prescribe: Attempts should be made to provide them with proper incentives. But since this incentive deal is tied down with their philosophy of life, as you yourself scientifically know, you also prescribe that their decadent, feudalistic, religious, mystical and what not way of life should be abolished.
So you abolish his way of life to solve his problem of hunger. Is this the way that you are so proud of? Kill people to solve their problem of hunger! You ask: How killing? What is it then? Abolishing somebody’s way of life! What else is it? One’s way of life is a human fact, not a physical disease. If you have to think of it in terms of health and disease by all means do so. But regard it then as a mental disease and not a physical ailment. And you can’t cure a mental disease in the way that you like. You’ll have to cure it in the way the patient wants it. A mentally diseased person is diseased because he wanted to be something which somehow he could not become. And so long as he has this feeling of being non-that-thing which he wanted to be, or, what is the same thing, of being a thing which he did not want to be, he would remain sick. So to cure him you have to know what he wants to be. And to know why he could not become what he wanted to be. And how he can become what he wants to be. The cure is not to make him what you want him to be. He does not want to be sane. Otherwise he would have been so. He couldn’t remain sane because he couldn’t accept “sanity. ” Our sanity. The way we define it. So he chose insanity. He chose or his psychic build-up forced him to choose. It doesn’t matter. To me. The point is that you can’t cure the insane by making him what you want him to be. You only cure him when you help him become what he wants to become. Even help is not the proper word. You cure him only when you let him be come what he wants to become.
Now mind you, I am not ignorant of what the psychiatrists do. They do precisely what they should not. As I am saying. And I know that they do away with insanity. Successfully. But how. Not by curing the person. But by killing him. By replacing him with someone else. By emptying the glass of turbulent biting soda and filling it with champagne, cool delicious champagne. You can do it. I have no doubts about that. I know you are very good at the job. But for God’s sake don’t call it a cure. Call it by its proper name: Killing. And I’LL accept all your big boastings. You bastardized humanist!
But Hardial. This monologue about insanity just came up. It wasn’t said to Kirk. Or to anybody else, for that matter. It just came up from somewhere. So I’ll have to go back and talk what I talked to Kirk. But let me say that too. A couple of sentences that I came across while reading Faulkner’s Light in August last night. They have just jumped up to the fore. Hazily. Dancingly. They are obstructing my way. So let me do away with them: kill them. But better I should check the book for the exact wording. Here it is at the beginning of Chapter Six. MEMORY BELIEVES BEFORE KNOWING REMEMBERS. BELIEVES LONGER THAN RECOLLECTS, LONGER THAN KNOWING EVEN WONDERS. KNOWS REMEMBERS BELIEVES A CORRIDOR IN A BIG LONG GARBLED COLD ECHOING BUILDING OF DARK RED BRICK …..
What do you think. He is great. And this book seems great too. But this chapter in particular. It is marvelous. The way he is saying. His say. I wish I were a Faulkner. But that is madness. Wishing to what I am not. Doctor. Can’t you make me Faulkner? No. What? A Janitor. Instead.
You think you are kidding, doctor dear. Ask Hardial. He’ll tell you how great a service you will be rendering if you can make me a Janitor. In this world, this shit house of two – and-three multiple-ply toilet papers! To be a Janitor in such a world. Isn’t that blessing? A Janitor. A Janitorial Faulkner!
Going back to Kirk. Yes. The prescription. Fine. But say after listening to your scholarly analyses he says: I know. You can do it. And maybe I should. Change this to that. Myself to yourself. But what’s the idea. It’s all useless. All futile. In the ultimate analysis. It is all the same. You or Me.
And Kirk said: Are you talking about the Problem of’ FUTILITY? Here. He has said that. The right word. FUTILITY. What a beautiful noun. It exactly pinpoints. Yes, FUTILITY. I nodded. Kirk said he had no answer to that metaphysical problem.
It’s nearing nine. Said Alex. Or was it Wolfe. Let’s go. Someone said.
And for two infinite hours she struggled and struggled. She was eighteen. Maybe nineteen. She had a repulsion for men. Based on some deep-rooted fear. Each night on the bed she would find herself being raped.
She kills two factual persons in the process. Coldbloodedly. Defensively. Insanely. And then almost falls herself too.
That sort of movie it was.
Tense, terrifying. So terrifying that after an hour or so the spectators started looking for comical episodes. In the movie. Or outside. Doesn’t matter. Some comical episodes they wanted. To laugh. To laugh the horror away. That sort of movie it was. After seeing which, when people come out, they look as if they were coming out of a funeral home or something. Or maybe as if they have been robbed. Tense. Quiet. Pathetic posing.
What a repulsive movie. Said Alex. How about your scientific Gods, Kirk. Said Aziz. Let’s not talk about the movie; enough is enough. Said Wolfe. Let’s forget. Said Everybody. Everybody laughed. The mock laughs.
We decided that we’d have to go to the German Cafe once again.
And again somehow I don’t remember the talks that we talked at the Cafe.
Except that some when I started talking Maulvi Yasin. How one day back home at the Tea Time in the Laboratories Maulvi Yasin came along with a couple of “crusaders” and gave a sort of short speech inviting us to come to listen to the Crusade. In those days the Indo-Pakistani Billy Graham whose name I forget was on his crusade tour of Pakistan. And Maulvi Yasin was in high spirits. He took leave from the Laboratories and would attend every one of the sessions himself and would persuade others to do the same. That day he was canvassing at the Laboratories. I remember him wearing angel-white oriental clothes; shirt and a white “lungi” as we call it – a loose loin cloth to cover the lower half of the body. And I remember him addressing after his formal speech let to Hanif, a colleague of ours, and to myself. In particular. He asked me: Aziz, would you come ? And I remember thinking: For God’s sake, Maulvi. You idiotic moron. Why don’t you mind your own silly business? You know well that these imbecilic crusades are useless as far as lam concerned. You know – then why do you ask? Me. But I said to him instead: I don’t know, Yasin. I don’t think so.
And I remember everybody looking at me. Especially the puppet crusaders. I should not have said it. Why not? In matters of Truth you have to be truthful. Shouldn’t you? You hypocritical bastards.
And I remember Yasin’s answer to my answer. I remember even his gaze. He said: Listen to your Heart. To its dictates. If it says Yes, don’t you say No, then. And I remember how in that instant where Yasin was saying so I was overrun, was defeated (or was it a win?). Something in me which could be nothing else but my SELF I know becoming overwhelmed with the Truth, so to speak, and I was on the verge of saying: I’ll come Maulvi. You have won. But I didn’t say a word. I just tried to swallow down the upsurge of tell that I was drinking. As an after-thought I may say The counter-revolution was on. And it was successful: Like all the counter-revolutions of the world. You know. Only counter-revolutions are successful in this world. Never the revolutions. Until and unless or looks at the revolution, at its essence, as one that give birth to counter-revolution. Then they are successful Of course.
But forget about the after-thought. It wasn’t said at the Cafe, in any case.Anyway. Maulvi left us. And we learnt that I was with the Crusade. For days and nights. He didn’t sleep. Maybe slept at times for two-three hours or so And then at one of the crusades he was “overtaken. He started talking and talking. To everybody around. To nobody. To himself. To the SELF. Because his was no longer. But you don’t talk to the self either You talk from the self. Instead. Maybe from the self to the self. In any case they thought sleeplessness taken him. So he was asked to go back to rest. A relative of his brought him back to Lahore. Where the other morning while coming to the Laboratories he picked up a stone from the sidewalks and threw it at Ahmed Din, another colleague of our’s. Threw the stone and a couple of abuses. That day at eight-thirty or so everybody was saying to everybody else: You know Yasin. He has gone mad. Some said it laughingly. And some listened sorrowfully. But everybody said and listened that Yasin was mad. Everybody. Including myself.
And I told them all this at length. Also telling them that I don’t know why I go on telling these events so elaborately. I once told them to Hardial. At that time we were discussing something about madness or something. And Hardial advised me not to live that event so much. It is not good, he said. And yet I went on telling them in details how he was sent to the mental hospital, was given electrical shock treatment, how horrible and brutal and inhuman and primitive these treatments are, and how he would ask everybody to ask me to come and see him. And how I went to see him. And the things that he said. And then how he was released. Cured, apparently. And how he would say to me, sitting in the Laboratories: Aziz. My heart no longer feels at home. Anywhere. Not even in the mosque. And then how one day he said when he came to know that I’d be leaving shortly to Canada: Now you are also going. What will I do here. And I remember thinking at that time: here in this world. Are you saying that? Which was sort of what he was saying. Because after a couple of months I received a letter from Hanif informing about Yasin’s death.
And I told them, Kirk, Wolfe, and Alex, as to how that same night late at about 2 o’clock in the morning when there was a storm or something and everybody got up as everybody was sleeping outside under the open sky as it was summer and during summers we sleep in the open, most of us. Anyway. There was a loud hammering knock at the door. And I heard Maulvi’s voice. He was singing loudly a couplet of Iqbal. a Pakistani poet. The couplet says something to the effect that the drunkard is better than the pious god-fearing person who in his frenzies would give vent to the Truth. Or some such meaning. You understand. And I also heard him calling: Aziz Sahib. Aziz Sahib. Come out. And I remember Jamila saying: Don’t go. He is mad. And I sort of agreed. But I went out. He was there with Hanif. The moment he saw me he said: Come here. Close to me. Let me embrace you. There is light in my bosom. Immense Light. Unbearable. Let the bosoms embrace. And I embraced him. I felt Yasin was cold like ice. And yet there was warmth. Immense warmth. In that embrace. And he asked me to come for the prayers which he was going to say in a short while. I couldn’t say No. I didn’t say Yes either. I didn’t go. In any case.
My voice was hoarse, my mind was slow. Dying.
My hands were trembling seeking cigarettes as kirk observed and I said: Don’t worry. I am strong enough.
Strong enough to take the dose. And the coffee was coId. May 1 have another cup of coffee, please. A hot one. The waitress smiled. Or I thought that she should smile. Everybody should smile. I needed smiles. I smiled. Half a smile. The dead smile. The smile of the drowning sun.
And I remember saying, drinking the hot coffee, which wasn’t, very hot either, as to what I wanted to say through all this. And I posed the question: When was Maulvi mad? The morning when he picked up the stone to hit Ahmed Din? The night at the crusade when he started talking? At Tea-Time? Why not earlier ? How to say No or Yes? It’s a matter of definition, you say. Is It? Then define him sane. Can you? You can’t. Because you can’t define yourself insane. You cowards!
I also remember Alex bringing in the question of Futility and pleading for Suicide as the answer. The valid answer. To which I reacted strongly. So did Kirk. Suicide is not the answer. It kills the question. Correct. But it does not answer it. It would be the answer if the problem were physical. As Paul Tillich says. But the problem of Futility is not an ontic problem. Camus was wrong. Utterly wrong to pose the problem of Futility as the problem of to commit or not to commit suicide. The answer is consciousness. As Hardial would say. Or Marx. Or Hegel. Or Socrates. But Alex went on reacting stubbornly. Saying no to us and yes to Camus. To suicide.
I was alarmed at that. I remember. And when at one-thirty or so we left the cafe we went to kirk’s car and Alex was the same. We talked in the car. He was the same. We came up to Alex’s place.He was the same. Talking about all the attempts to face the question of Futility as Escapes. And I would say No. I went on saying No. No. Dostoevsky wasn’t escaping. He was facing the problem. Time and time again he would bring the problem to the fore. To grapple with it afresh. So would Nietzche. So do a whole lot of people. Hardial. Myself. This is no escape. To confront is not escape. Maybe Mohammed is escaping when he speaks of plunging himself in a movement, a communist movement or something where he would ban every Camus and Nietzche and Dostoevsky because as he thinks, they spoiled him. This may be escape. But not all writers. Not all people. But looked stubborn. A rock that has precipitated from the tip of the mountain down into the valley. A mountainous rock that wouldn’t move. Whatever you may do it won’t move. It just won’t move. The rock.
But we continued. We would have continued till dawn, maybe. When the police patrol passed by, stopping suspiciously, thinking somebody’s is being or something. And finding out nothing of the sort, said angrily: You boys. Be moving. Kirk said: All right, Sergeant. We smiled. All of us. Alex included.
We decided to depart as Kirk was to work in the morning; Wolfe had to see his parents; I was becoming sick, of everything for nothing; and Alex …. I don’t know. About him.
I said to Wolfe: Why don’t you come with me? I’d drop you tomorrow in the town. He said O. K. The problem was solved. I didn’t want to travel alone. That night. Because all along the talk with Alex when apparently I had the upper hand I was in fact losing. So long as we were together talking it was all right. But being thrown into loneliness all of a sudden. I won’t survive. Why don’t you come with me Wolfe? I’d drop you in the town tomorrow. He said smilingly, O.K. The problem was solved. I love Wolfe’s smiles. His innocent smiles. How can he smile his innocent smiles ? In the midst of all this mumble-jumble. I wish we could know. We. Wolfe included.
When we reached home, Jamila was waking. She coughed to say I am awake. I looked at Wolfe. He at me. The talk at Robson in-between. I took him to the second bedroom. And started talking, I forget again. The talk. Only I remember that sometime I went to the bookshelf, took Silone’s Bread and Wine, and showed him the sections where the girl comes to the inn looking for the priest and the dialogue that goes on between the two ladies. The girl saying: Maybe the priest is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. And the old lady becoming alarmed at the thought. And I was reading it to Wolfe thinking that he should think what I thought reading the passage – namely, who knows? I may be Jesus Christ. Myself. Who knows.
And I remember Wolfe talking to me about the Name Game or Glass Game or something where they would let a glass revolve round a table on which were written various letters and a name would come up through the motion and stops of the glass. His telling me how he did not believe it but tried once. And there was a name of somebody in some connection. Which is not important. The important thing is that when he finished the game he observed blood. Drops of blood oozing out of each of his fingers.
And I remember saying to him that I don’t know about these mystery games. Nor do I care for them. The people who try to approach God or something through these mysteries are on a completely wrong track. As far as I am concerned. There is nothing mysterious about God. To Jesus Christ. To myself. I don’t believe in God anyway. And never would. So I don’t care.
And Wolfe said he didn’t want to say that. He himself doesn’t care for God, the God of Mystery. He was just telling about the game. I said: Maybe. Without knowing what he was trying to tell. Without caring to know.