nobody’s nobody

Few days back, while I was reading this book, The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, a story in that book struck me. In the foreword which had a catchy title, ‘the importance of being important‘, author shared a story, which I am not sure whether he originally wrote it or that story existed from a long time. For the simple purpose of sharing, I am telling that story here, in my own words instead of copying it verbatim and risking the copyright infringement. However, the due credits go to the author. I have changed the location and few other details from the original story.

Here goes the story.

***

Around 1200 AD, under the ruling of a notorious King, a terrible thing happened in one of the small towns of southern part of India. The town was only few kilometers away from the headquarters where the King lived in his palatial palace and ruled the kingdom.

On a Sunday morning, people of that town found that a stone idol of the deity of a temple was broken and desecrated. The news spread fast across the kingdom and its inhabitants feared the vengeance of the Gods.

King visited the temple the same day and ordered the town criers to announce the news everywhere to ask for the culprit to surrender in front of the court within twenty-four hours.

Six days had passed without any progress and the perpetrator never appeared before the court. Everyone in the kingdom was afraid of what the King was going to do.

Exactly, on the following Sunday, people found one more idol being destroyed in a different temple. The news spread quickly and people of the entire kingdom were panicked and gripped with extreme fear.

The King visited the temple again the same day and ordered to appoint security at every temple. Guards were posted at every temple.

Finally, their vigilance paid off and the culprit was caught red handed while he tried to destroy one more idol. He was brought to the King’s court the same morning.

“Who are you?’ the King asked.

“I am nobody,” the culprit said stoically.

“Do you know what a crime you have committed and the punishment that awaits you?” The impatient King asked raising his voice fiercely.

“Yes, destroying the idols is a blasphemy and… I know that it is punishable by death.” He answered almost cheerfully.

“Are you a madman? Aren’t you afraid to die?” The King asked, rather surprised by the answer of the culprit.

“I am not a madman and yes I am afraid to die. But everyone will die someday.”

“No fool would do what you have done, knowing fully that you are punishable by death if found.”

The culprit took a deep breath, mustered the courage to speak, looked around and said:

“All my life I have been a nobody. Nobody’s nobody. I have never done anything to distinguish myself from the rest. I feared, I would die like the millions and millions before me who died and no one remembers them. Eat, sleep, reproduce, and die one day. I wanted to do something that will make people notice me. Notice me that I exist. Remember me that I died as somebody.”

The court was absolutely silent for few seconds and then he added.

“Most people die and they are forgotten. For me, death is a small price to pay for immortality. People read my story even after few centuries, and they know that a man risked his life to become somebody. I will not be a nobody anymore!”

***

Isn’t that what we crave for? Immorality! We want to be remembered even after we are no more physically.

We want to be important and immortal. We crave for the attention of the people around us. We want people to notice our existence.

People who cannot create something beautiful and meaningful, go the other way by creating trouble. History shows us enough examples of the latter.

Often we see in the news that someone is trying to get publicity by announcing that so and so celebrity agreed to marry him/her. Many of them are like that man who demolished the idols.

Art is one of the best known forms to become immortal. We remember all the great painters, musicians, writers and so on, even a few hundred years after they died.

Similarly, we remember Napoleons, Hitlers, Gandhis, Che Guevaras, to name a few. Extreme trouble and extreme goodness is always remembered in the history forever.

The desire to be remembered and noticeable is a fundamental necessity in our lives which different people chose different forms and ways to express. Someone wants to create an immortal painting, someone wants to create an immortal novel and someone wants to create immortal music. Fortunately, these days we have enough technology to make sure our work remains longer than it used to be a few hundred years ago.

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