It’s a bummer when you make an effort in the name of professionalism and write something that no one will read. But being a pessimist has its advantages. If the world hasn’t ended by the time you read this, I’ll be prepared for the disappointment. If, however, the world indeed stopped existing sometime on Friday, ideally at noon in Guatemala — the country where the ancient Maya civilisation flourished and where an amazingly accurate calendar was created some 2,000 years ago — the irritation of having written this column in vain will be utterly eclipsed by the joy of registering the simultaneous end of my existence and that of my loved ones.
When it was noon in Guatemala on Friday, it was 11:30 pm here in India. If, as some experts believed, the end of the 13th cycle of 394-year periods of the Maya calendar called Baktuns indeed resulted in the end of the world, then most of you who were young should have been, as is customary at your age and during this time of the year, having a merry time half-an-hour before midnight on Friday. I, on the other hand, should have been lying in bed, surfing channels or reading William S Burroughs’ Exterminator!.
The prospect of dying, usually a dire one because of its nature of ‘going alone’ and ‘leaving behind’ loved ones, would have been minimised as everyone — from people you knew intimately to those whose existence you did not know of — would have stopped existing more or less at the same time on Friday (on Saturday in countries lying east of us). Such a wholesale destruction would have been fearful and the air must have been rent by terrible cries. But the comfort of ‘going together’, en masse if you will, was probably your last thought.
The problem with universal destruction is that the mental image that you have before dying is that of a climactic scene in a disaster movie. But once again, if you had figured out your incredible luck of not being left behind or leaving behind anyone, you and your loved ones would have been fine.
In any case, while many people would have died thinking of all the things they could have done if they were given a bit more time, brighter folks should have bathed in the thought of all the rotten things that did not come to pass as a result of the most final of all final solutions. The happy people of the world’s democracies went down thinking of all the suppressed people in countries like Syria and North Korea freed. Indian secularists also vanished, but not before feeling that some kind of justice had been meted out to Narendra Modi only a day after his ‘historic’ victory in the assembly polls. They would have chuckled till the end at the thought of the Gujarat chief minister's trajectory to prime ministership finally being scuppered. School children preparing for their board exams must have died happy that an unavoidable ordeal had been avoided. Fidayeens felt relieved before dying that what they had sought all their lives — by their planned but yet-to-be fulfilled acts of suicide with collateral damage — had actually taken place on a far bigger scale and with far more success than they or their mentors could ever have imagined.
The end of the world scenario, usually dreamt up by science fiction writers or Hollywood directors in the West, somehow never provided the flavour of a truly global apocalypse. It was almost always limited to the destruction of America and the ‘world’ conflated to the United States and its people. If things have turned out as they should have, a truly global world end of the world took place on Friday.
For those still in doubt (which you shouldn’t be because you’re no longer alive) about why apocalypse is always to be cherished over unavoidable individual or even mass deaths, Shakti Chattopadhyay’s great poem, ‘I Can Go, But Why Should I Go?’ should clinch the argument:
“I think it’s better that I turn around and stand
I have smeared so much black with these two hands,
all these years!
I've never really thought of you as what you are.
Now when I stand beside the ditch at night.
The moon calls out: Come on! Come on!
Now when I stand asleep on the Ganga’s bank,
The pyre-wood calls out: Come on! Come on!
I can go.
I can go along any direction I care.
But, why should I go?
I shall place a kiss on my child's face.
But, I won’t go now.
I shall take you all along.
I won't go alone before my time.”