It wasn’t like this when we were kids, Dida used to say whenever we went out. Now they’re everywhere, she’d say shaking her head as if by doing that they would unsee her. Dida was right, they were everywhere: some hidden, some the size of mosquitoes, so small that you could barely notice them. A lot had changed since Dida was a kid. We now had technology to do all our work. And the cameras that watched us all the time. It was to make us safer.
How can it help you, if it can’t see you? That was not my line, it was Juni’s. She talked as if she understood everything.
She wasn’t wrong. She understood a lot. And she also knew how to turn everything into a business.
Juni was a pioneer, she patented the dream machine. It sounded great when she first spoke about it. It was at Mindre’s party. It sounded so fucking great. Like Steve Jobs. Yes, she was a pioneer like him. Pioneers, opening the lid of the universe a bit more. Perhaps people like Juni were the reason we became like this. A society of watchers.
So how did a man like Master O fit into all this? Was he a product of the times? Or was he really, really special? I still can’t say, even after all these years.
The years of seeing his pictures and holograms and videos everywhere. And the cousin gowns, the keychains and medallions. Everything was there to remind us of the fleeting nature of good. And how we needed to serve this one man who had this enormous power over us.
There was a screen saver of him on my phone. He was like Jesus in it. A slightly out-of-focus picture that gave his robe a blurry feel, as if he was slowly dissolving. Like a wisp of smoke that was slowly growing a face and a body.
It was like the morning after a death in the family. When a mixture of grief and anger hangs in the air like acid smog. Why now? Why did they have to die in the middle of all this? And all that? Couldn’t they have picked a better time?
I often wondered what went on inside his head when he was doing those crazy things. Those mad, unpredictable things that have no place in our world. Did he want everyone to think like him? Look at the world like him? I would’ve loved to be Master O.
I often got the feeling that he wasn’t too happy being Master O. Why did he feel this constant need to change the plot? Just when things were beginning to get comfortable.
I was there below with my crew when he sat on that giant tree. It was crazy. The unimaginableness of it. Who would have ever thought he would get on to the tallest tree in the land. He had been there for four days without food or water or any sort of place to stretch himself. Then on the fifth day they decided to bring him down.
We were waiting for the crane because the fire truck was not high enough to reach him. The joke below where we were waiting with our OB vans was how the hell did he get up there.
The second time they got a construction crane and then the Police Commissioner’s video flashed on all our screens. “We’re coming for you, Master O,” he was screaming in it. Imagine the Commissioner himself had to come. Suddenly, Master O stood up straight on his branch. For a moment there was stunned silence, all the cameramen stood to attention with their lenses fixed on him. He can’t be doing that, we were all thinking.
He didn’t, instead he waved at us.
The fireman who went up to put a harness on him was all over the news that day. Because Master O wouldn’t talk to us. The Commissioner said he was being taken for an assessment, which made many of us laugh. Debriefing Master O. Imagine that!
“What did you tell him?” I asked the fireman later.
“I said I would lose my job if he didn’t come down.” We were all there watching that moment. The short conversation between the fireman and Master O. And his laughter. That big, cheery, all the world’s sorrow-sucking laughter. Some channels had even sent the fly-spys to be around him when he was being strapped up.
It was a sight—Master O being lowered from the Millennium Tree, hands outstretched, his white robe fluttering like a peace flag against the blue sky. It was at that moment that I took my screen saver picture.
I truly believed there was no other like Master O. He was a limitless kind of person. Full of mad love. And this amazing soul brilliance that I had never seen in any other human being.
I used to see the picture every day. Every time I had to look at my screen, which was nearly all the time I was awake. I felt a kind of warmth emanate from it. It was as if he was there standing behind me smelling of that sweet scented tobacco—the kimaam that lingered on much after it had been absorbed by the mouth. I have no idea why I associated that smell with him. Perhaps it was a smell I remembered from my childhood, from my grandfather.
It was the greatest day of my life. Meeting Master O. It was like meeting God. I had never to spoken him before. And now I was going to interview him.
My hands were cold and slippery. But I felt this heat around my head, like the slow burn of a summer afternoon.
I was alone in the studio. I used to do that before my interviews. Thinking about my opening line. The ‘hook’ that would get everyone’s attention. Except that it was not going to be like the other interviews, where opening lines would work.
I had messages written to Master O that I had never sent. In each of them I was describing to him incidents from my life that were like those in his. Or at least I thought they were. Some of them he talked about in '10 Steps To The Long Shadowland’.
It was a process, he said in the book, of getting over yourself.
The Long Shadowland was a place inside us where our shadows grew bigger than our selfish selves and then they began talking to us. They started telling us about things from the past that we had forgotten. The Long Shadowland was a beautiful and amazing place.
I had prints of my messages for the interview. But I got cold feet. I mean, the reason why a secret admirer kept himself secret was because he feared his admiration. It was an unreasonable fear but it was stubborn and almost impossible to get rid of.
There was another fear.
The fear that you didn’t know which part of your life he would choose to enter and burn down to ashes. I was scared of the look that he got when he was really seeing you. Seeing not as you were in that moment but as you were and could be in other lifetimes. It was a staggering thing about him. To some people he also chose to tell some of things that he saw. Most others just felt him reading them.
As the time for the interview drew closer I felt it becoming more and more impossible for me to remain my interviewer self. I was worried if I’d be able to even open my mouth in front of him. I felt as if I was sitting on a rocket that was about to blast off into space, into the vast unknown. Some place totally alien even to my imagination and inner life that it made me both scared and excited.
Eleven minutes before the interview, the producer entered the studio. He seemed worried. Maybe some hackers had blocked Master O’s entry into our building, I was thinking. Or maybe he had gone into the Eye.
“What the fuck!?” I asked.
“You won’t believe it,” he shouted excitedly as he walked towards me. Then he screamed in my ear: “The Baulker-Stalker people are blocking his entry,” he paused to check my reaction, “they’ve made a human chain around our building!” The producer was a serious guy, I knew he wouldn’t be joking, even though we had jokingly anticipated a Baulker-Stalker protest.
Then he burst out laughing. “I am just messing with you,” he said. I could believe anything at that moment.
“Master O should be here any moment,” he said as he left the studio. I nodded vigorously and began to put on my ear piece and mic.
I had imagined a moment like that many times in my life. Sitting across Master O and listening to him.
Yet, despite all the love I had for him I never became a cousin. I always thought them too clingy, and preachy. And annoyingly persistent. They did him much disservice, I thought.
I loved the man but I had problems with his groupies. The cousins didn’t seem to live in the realm of reason. They were like a school of fish following the big fish: going where it was going, turning where it turned. I on the other hand was like a mosquito circling Master O from so far away that I was invisible to him.