Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The arena

People go there. They go there often. It’s a large well in the middle of town. They make prayers. They take circles around the well. They look into it. And smile. Also wave into it sometimes. Then they close their eyes. And pray. I tried hard. Many a times. To solve the mystery. Also looked into it. I didn’t see anything. I could only see some coins thrown by the people. And some food packets scattered all over. There was a rotten smell. Putrid. Repelling. It was hard to stand there. But people spend hours standing there and looking into it. They go there in large numbers. But only one person is allowed at a time to go near the well. Others wait in the viewing gallery. I also made a visit to the well. Other people were standing in the gallery. There is another place in the town. There also people visit in large numbers. It’s called the arena. Basically it is a large circular platform made up of red bricks with an amphitheater all around. It has a capacity of about 50,000 people. Herds of people go there every Sunday evening. For a show.

I was new to the town. I had heard a lot about these places. They were famous tourist destinations of the town. But I didn’t know the significance of these places. So I asked a gentleman passing by. He got frightened and ran away. I asked a number of people. Everybody acted strange but nobody gave me a reply. A six year old girl was standing in the corner watching me struggling in the new town. She pulled my shirt, gave a smile and said, “Do not worry. You will come to know…soon…very soon…” She laughed and ran away. I got scared and returned home. And struggled for two more days asking about the significance of the well and the arena. Until I met an old man having a cigarette in the corner of the street. I stopped there to have a cigarette. He seemed old but intelligent. Hesitatingly I asked him, “Why do people go to the well and arena?” He smiled and told me to accompany him. He was going to the well so he took me along. We reached the well. There was a ticket counter. Nobody could enter without a ticket. So we got the tickets. We entered the viewing gallery. Thousands of people were curiously waiting for something remarkable. It was hot. So people were getting restless. But nothing could smash their enthusiasm for the show. I asked the old man, “What the hell are we waiting for?” He told me to have patience and wait for the gong… Gong? I got irritated standing there in the hot sun on a marble floor. I was looking all over when I heard a loud sound. It was the sound of the gong. People got into attention and there was absolute silence as soon as the gong was heard. After few minutes, I saw a young girl. About 18 years old. With long black hair. Naked. Absolutely naked. She came from behind clearing the crowd in the viewing gallery, going towards the well. She reached the well. Folded her hands. Closed her eyes. And jumped into it. I was taken aback. For a moment I thought it was a dream. I looked around. And the crowd went into applause. People clapped and shouted victoriously. I looked at the old man pleading him to explain the situation. He told me not to ask anything and follow him to the arena.

It was six in the evening when we reached the arena. An equal number of people had gathered there too. We got the tickets and went inside. The tickets were costlier as compared to the well. We got the back seats. Since front row seats were reserved for the aristocracy. I was in a deep shit after watching that young girl dying in the well. I was not able to forget her face. I requested the old man again to explain what was going on. He told me to wait for some more time and let the show begin. I did as he instructed me. There was a loud cheer in the air. People were going mad waiting there for the show to begin. I heard a gong again similar to the one I heard at the well. I got frightened and decided to run away. But all the doors had locked and there was no escape. And I saw a smart man in his thirties coming into the arena. Naked. Absolutely naked. He reached the center and sat down on a chair. Folded his hands. And closed his eyes. Then I saw a six feet tall dark muscular man approaching the man from behind with a sword in his hand. He came closer and within a fraction slashed the neck of that man. I went into shock. Felt dizzy. The old man shook me and told me to relax. I looked around. And the crowd went into applause once again. I felt disgusted and came out of the arena. The old man followed me. I requested him to explain.

He told me that it’s a regular ritual of their town. Every Sunday two shows are organized. One in the afternoon. Other in the evening. And people wait for the whole week to watch them. He told me that the people are fed up of their lives. So they give it up in the manner they like. The hard ones who can do it themselves go to the well and commit suicide. And others choose the arena to get murdered. It’s the only option they have in their lives. It’s the only escape. But it’s not a moment of remorse. It’s a moment of renunciation and celebration. It’s a new beginning…a new life.

I requested the old man to take me back. I was really disturbed. I couldn’t sleep at night. The faces of the young girl and the smart man were dancing before my eyes, mocking at me. I spent the whole week thinking about the situation. And at last decided to visit the old man. I went to his home. Knocked. He opened the door and looked at me. I said, “I want to talk to you about the whole situation. I am very disturbed and confused. Please help me.” He told me to go back since he was very busy.

I asked him, “Sir, Can I come tomorrow?”

He said, “No, I won’t be there.”

I poked him further to know where he was going.

He told me that he was going. Going to the arena.

To die.