Lifeless Life, a short story by Nasrullah Khan

    In the dark gloomy room , a middle-aged professor was moving restlessly, plunged into dark recollections. He had too many failures in life -that was a sign of good taste.  His mother's fatal disease had augmented the sorrows of his spirit. He did not want to lose that last refuge. Five years ago his father's painful death had settled many horrible heavy things upon his mind, adding to his melancholic loneliness. He was an alien and outcast in the society of the proudest and wisest animals. All his hopes, dreams and ambitions resulted in nothingness -merely an absurdity, a grievous fiasco.

    To evade that dismal state of mind, he came out of the room to smoke in the misty moonlight, which was a reflection of his inner world. In the moving circle of smoke of his cheap cigarette, he started wallowing in the memory of childhood, how full of life he was, in the far off mountainous village where he spent many moon nights, while playing with his innocent peers, quite unaware of the agonies of the world. The wolves' howls were less terrific than man's stinging.

    He completed his early education in that village's sluggish school, where teachers were half literate, half human but complete brutish; they knew nothing about education, all they taught was slang and vulgar jokes. The professor had to burn the midnight oil to remove that impression upon his personality. The contemptuous memories of their brutish beatings passed across his mourning mind, leaving a bitter taste. The school was the only detestable memory of that rural life, otherwise everything had been very pleasing and memorable. He was in the dome of nature. The games, the innocent dreams and thorough association with all of the environment was very pleasant.  In that sweet sounding memory, one lovely catching face suddenly appeared in his mind: she was his child friend. Both of them spent the early days of life together. They would enjoy the beauty of young natural ties of pure passion. The long walks in search of colorful butterflies in the beautiful valley of the village used to be the most pleasurable event on Sunday. Before sleeping they would enjoy the stories narrated by grandmother, which would take them to the unknown imaginative world.

    The story of Juma Pagal (the mad man of the village) left a long lasting impression upon his mind. He was a very mysterious character of that village, who used to appear off and on. The graveyard was his living place, where he lived with many dogs.  Many stories were related about his madness but the most interesting was the one Pardesy, a talkative shopkeeper of the village, told him later on, when he was quite grown up. "Juma is 'ashik', the lover, of Rubab, the daughter of Choudry, the feudal lord," Perdesy told, "they both were class fellows in the city, and were good lovers.  But when Choudry brought her back, knowing the story, Juma also came back. Choudry kept him in his torture cell for forty days, and after forty days you can well imagine what had happened to him after forty days, the price of love. You can read the story of those days in the eyes of the lover." It was pathetic yet an interesting story. Anon, Juma was found dead in the graveyard. That event seemed to be very tragic at that time, but later on he found such  "choudries" everywhere, dominating the society;  they were the masters of his country.

    Those dreamy days passed very quickly and soon he was on the rough and hard track of life. The world of the madman was left far behind and now he was in the world of Kafka's Cockroach. In pursuit of his dreams he had to leave the village. In town he became the ardent supporter of the socialist party of his country. All his aims and goals were now focussed on the emancipation of poor people. His prime age was spent in pursuit of that dream. He spent most of the beautiful days of youth in dark and dingy jails. But when his political party came in to power there was no place for people like the professor, the exploiters occupied all the positions -that was an incurable shock for the professor, he had sacrificed the prime rose of his age.

    Later on, he got admission in Philosophy and indulged himself in the prodigy of the subject, which opened new windows in his mind. But his voracious reading and thought-provoking discussions created vicious problems for him. The dwellers of ignorance turned against him. Among them the most bitter were his teachers, who always set their sharpest-toothed dogs upon him. But his pursuit of knowledge was not disturbed by those little cankers. Rather he was enlightened by the truth, which Nietzsche revealed to him:

"Spirit is the life that itself strikes into life: through its own torment it increases its own knowledge--did you know that before?"

"No, I did not know it before," he replied to that great silent voice of the great man, and kept on working with those well-fed philosophers of his department.

    He had submitted himself to the ugliness of the educated class. In those days he came across Anjela, who was working on her book "The Last Man". It was very soothing to spend time with her. They could talk for hours without being a burden on each other. "Do you know what is rare in your personality?", one day she asked suddenly. "I think I can meditate for many days and you know thinking is the first step towards wisdom," he replied. "What are the next steps?" Anjela put another question, while looking in his eyes. "Yes, I would be a wise man when I would be able to claim the three things of Siddhartha: "I can think, I can wait and I can fast". He uttered these words while looking at the reddish horizon. "But there is something else which I love most in your personality," Anjela lit two cigarettes, gave one to him and kept on speaking, "I often feel that you have been passing through a painful process of thinking, you don't find words to express that agony, yet your eyes speak of that contempt." Anjela paused for a moment and started again:  "I can enter into your hidden worlds through your eyes, I know you are suffering in this sick society where suffocating mediocrity rules; you are often assailed by pain and have been struggling long against this pain -I can see everything in your eyes; your eyes often give vent to this disgust.  Don't store this pain into your mind, come on, speak about these ugly intellectuals in the most ugliest words -bloody, rascals, vultures." She started kissing his wild eyes wildly. He cleaned her wet eyes and burst out into alive laughter. From that day their friendship acquired a meaning -the meaning which was going to give birth to the great meaningless. They started looking at life with the same eyes -that was the beginning of real torture for him; he knew too late that to search for  an immortal relationship in this mortal life is the folly that almost every man commits. He had read about the bitter taste of love, but like all others he never cared for the advice of victims.

    The first day of his love-making was the last day of his wonderful freedom. The taste of the first kiss of the beloved remained with him for several days and he considered it the only truth in the world -how foolish he was. Man always fabricates beautiful traps of deception around himself to escape the disillusionment of the spirit. Basically he is alone, and this loneliness becomes more painful when he finds himself moving towards death. In the gigantic immortal universe his mortal presence makes him frightened and cowardly. To avoid that fear he starts developing more stupid relationships with others just to close his eyes to reality. But every relationship ultimately appears in the form of deception. Unfortunately man keeps on living with this disillusionment throughout his life and at the end surrendering himself to the unseen superpower -leaving the world never to come back to tell whether the deceptions are finished or he is in another sea of deception. The passive associations with friends, woman, or children is the greatest cause of human tragedy. Man creates pains for himself when he relates his happiness to others.

    This was what happened with the professor when he started thinking that Anjela could save him against the attacks of agony. He became quite possessive towards her. But she left him with a funny argument: "God is the greatest lover of man and He can never bear any rival in His love; He is one and alone; therefore He likes man or woman to be alone; they can live together but without such passion. Our separation is the will of that divine power, goodbye!."

    The tragic end of that relationship was not exceptional, but it left great emotional stress on the professor's mind. To overcome the humiliation of that failure he indulged himself in the dirty pool of worldly affairs. Now all his life was stuck to the stomach. He had become the character of "Waiting for Godot" and life was merely "shoe off and shoe on."

    Although the professor had surrendered himself to the monsters of society, yet the internal waves of dissatisfaction often disturbed him, when he was alone at night. All the pampering to his heart could not mitigate the suffering of his soul; suppressed emotions, augmented by the sense of loss, had sucked the essence of existence.

    That was one of the soul-destroying sleepless nights of the professor. He gave a dejected look at the descending moon, returned to his room and fell on the bed, waiting for another meaningless day of lifeless life.

Muhammad Nasrullah Khan sent this story from Pakistan.  He says:  "I live in a country where people are afraid of life.  Their sleep has lost dreams.  I want to reawaken their oppressed dreams;  I want to share their woes;  I want to share the suffering of their shrieking souls.  Humanity is dying and I am trying to put a few drops of water on its dry tongue so that it should face death bravely.  My writing is the echo of their flagging hopes and raging desires."   You can write to Nasrullah Khan at

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