Jospeh Heller’s Catch-22 is one of my all time favorite books. It was years ago when I had read it, and I have since read quite a few more books, but I continue to think that Catch-22 is my favorite book. It becomes a bit of a tall statement to make when you factor in the fact that a) I do not remember very much from the book, except Yossarian, Major Major Major Major and Milo Minderbender; but I do remember how much I had enjoyed the book, and I have rarely enjoyed a book as much since. b) I enjoy pretty much every book I read, everything I see on the telly, all food, all music, the sound of my own voice, and the company of almost everyone (read everyone who is a good listener) – including myself… especially myself. “b” here makes it easy to understand why I might like Catch-22, but it also underlines how much a book needs to stand out from the rest for me to put it on my favorites-list rather permanently. Its a task ‘karela gosht‘ and yours truly achieve remarkably well under the heads of food and company respectively.
There was another book by Joseph Heller called “Something Happened”. It was, quite literally, a very forgettable book. I think I forgot to even finish it. There are very few books which enjoy that distinction. Actually, there are a lot of books which enjoy that distinction if you include tosh like “The Monk who sold his Ferrari”, “Who moved my Cheese”, anything with Jack Welch’s picture on the cover, and most of the over-priced nonsense sold as management guides/books under the head of ‘Books’. However, if we mean actual books by ‘books’, there are very few which I have not finished once I have got started on them. Every now and then, I labor through some complete waste of time, but I finish it. The few Terry Pratchett books I read, for instance, took me forever (Sorry Waleed), but I finished them (You are welcome, Waleed). I did not finish ‘Something Happened’.
But I like its title. It sums up my current predicament. I am not very reliably analytical, though I would be loathe to admitting that in a job interview. If you have a job to offer me, Knicq Analytical is my name on the passport as far as you are concerned. We read all the time about people who have their eureka moment, their epiphany, and adopt a whole new course in life. I have reason to believe that such people must be good on the analytical side. People like me… when they have epiphanies, they tend to like the titles of books written by Joseph Heller. Catch-22. Something Happened.
I was in college when a friend, whose time I used to waste every day on the pretense of joint study, had remarked that he was looking forward to beginning his professional life, and that he had every intention to put in 18-hour days to excel in his field. I was repulsed by the very idea. What is the point of 18-hour work days? There was more to life than work as far as I was concerned. I had that clarity even back then. I did not want to work myself to death – this I knew. What I did want to do though was a vague notion – too vague, in fact, to recall after all these years. For some reason, I was convinced that I would do well enough professionally, which, perhaps, is why I never gave it any thought. I wanted more out of life, this I knew; but what it was I wanted, I did not know. Nor did I bother to dwell much on it. I am not entirely sure, I know the answer to that question even today. There is a vague notion that it must involve people and happiness. I ought to have known with much more clarity after all these years, but… I don’t know, something happened.
That life conspired to have me put in 18-hour days at work is, of course, ironic. That putting in 18-hour days did not help me to excel in my field can be attributed to the simple fact that I have yet to figure out what my field is. Depending on the weather, the size of the pay check, the stubbornness of the boss, and ‘the doctrine of philosophical necessity’ I can be everything from a stalwart salesman to a marriage counselor to a management guru to an abject failure. My peers give me credit for a lot more than I have achieved, or will ever achieve. It appears, I have done a better job of selling an impression than I care to admit. Either that or I must have been well set on that path every one so loves to race on; people seem to think I was running ahead of the pack – or should be. I do remember the adrenaline rush from those days, so I must have done some sort of running… but then, something happened.
I am not sure if I had an epiphany at some point. I doubt if there was eureka moment. I have thought about it and I have not been able to pinpoint the exact incident which brought about this imperceptible yet tangible change in how I look at life, how I want to live it, and helped me decide what I do not want from it. It is surprising how much we think we have conrol over, when in actual fact there is almost nothing in our control. We worry about the smallest of matters or the gravest of issues; when in actual fact we have control over niether. What tomorrow holds is a secret which will unviel itself when tomorrow comes. If it comes. All we can do is do our best today, and hope for the best tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow brings can only be the best, and in that we must find peace.
Yes. Something happened, and I am glad it did.