“I’m your phantom dance partner. I’m your shadow. I’m not anything more.” ~Haruki Murakami
As if working for a bank weren’t traumatic enough, I am working for a subsidiary bank undergoing absorption in its parent. It is highly hypocritical of someone like me to feel mushy, I who for a frenzied bunch of years wanted the merger to happen so badly I wrote a couple of pieces that were run by newspapers, not to speak of the score of weblogs I scribbled decrying the myopia of the network clustered in but one state, or the parochialism of the junta that wouldn’t look a millimeter beyond its own kind.
Perhaps the genesis of my desire for merger into the larger and better acknowledged bank had an ulterior motive whose seeds were sown on the very first day I announced my existence to the manager of a branch in a rundown town immediately after my recruitment. It is difficult to forget the venom of his protuberant eyes which having failed to blast me into ionic dust focused on the gangly chap who was trying to put a tumbler of tea in front of me. I was put on live training from moment one, pushed crudely into an avalanche of payday customers who all wanted their withdrawal requests posted at once into unwieldy ledgers whose rusting spines threatened to rip open my wrists each time I tried to handle one. I had to take a shot of tetanus toxoid that same evening.
Apparently, the old-timer had a jaundiced mind that wouldn’t stand influx of younger officers from other than the home state. I would meet many of his emotional siblings over the years, and would eventually get sick of getting sick of them. Whereas earlier I had pitied them for their pathogenic nepotism, I have mellowed out to believe I have been the loser of the fixture all along. If I didn’t like the circus I was stuck in, I should have slowed down at the first roundabout and exited the turnpike. And now that the dissolution for which I had hankered in earlier years is staring at my eyeballs, I am reminded of Wang Wei’s poem In Answer to Vice-Magistrate Zhang:
Late in my life I only care for quiet.
A million pressing tasks, I let them go.
I look at myself; I have no long range plans.
To go back to the forest is all I know.
No surprises then that when a vulgar labourer prised off the name of the extant bank letter by letter and plonked them to the earth in broad daylight, it caused a flutter in the heart of the grieving flocks. The social media duly went into pooh-poohing mode and even my calloused heart agreed there are things such as reverence and honour, and the inevitable could have been achieved discreetly in the quieter quarters of a night.
Thinking of the larger tree we are headed to, I am perchance reminded of that time-worn but nonetheless precious Chinese adage that avers ‘crows everywhere are equally black’. Sadly, the odium has many forms and shapes, and it has been in the ascendant like fumes from a volcano in institutions, states and countries, and in continents all over the planet. Is this a rumbling for antiquated ways of life, of homesickness and of living cloistered lives, fuelled by lava of insecurity?
In about a billion year, the sun will fry up the earth like popcorn. Imponderable as the span of time may be, perhaps life as we know would have migrated and mutated to unimaginable coordinates and mediums. But what if a subtle change in our solar system makes it necessary for humans to shift to Saturn’s moon within next fifty years? We would all love to slip into the ark of nostalgia and flicker out to nada. Because letters hurled on the pavement are your phantom dance partners. They are your shadow. They are not anything more.