In line at the bank. Queuing up at the fuel station. A slow-moving procession at the passport department. In an endless column to get gas. At the window on a dreary February morning, sky overcast, with a light drizzle beginning.
We wait. Everywhere we wait.
We wait for everything, whether in the physical or the metaphysical. We wait for materials like gas and petrol as much as we wait for intangibles like freedom and equality, respect and identity. The promise of being Nepali is an eternal longing, a wait so long no one knows when, or if, it will ever end. It is an absurd wait and we are all Vladimir and Estragon, Didi and Gogo. For like those two, we too don’t know if what we wait for will ever make an appearance. Godot is always just a day away, not today but surely tomorrow. Meanwhile, our masters have gone blind and we slaves have lost our voices. For those very masters, those Pozzos, once promised many things – a glorious republic, a vibrant democracy, development, progress, wealth and standing – just like Godot promised, not today but surely tomorrow. They have gone blind now, for everything is immaterial except for the dark that hides behind their own eyes (or glasses), that very dark where reason sleeps and produces monsters. And we slaves, we Luckys, once we spoke with conviction and feeling, a passion born out of what we thought of as values we should aspire to – freedom and equality, respect and identity. But now, in the midst of that long wait that never ends, we speak volumes of gibberish that pour liquid gold into the ears of those who would only deign to listen, poisoning them from within. Until, until, we don’t speak at all, struck dumb and yet, yet, still leading the blind.
But if we are Luckys, we are also still Didi and Gogo, waiting always. And this waiting, it’s not really a choice; it’s a compulsion. Since April’s disaster, thousands have been waiting. First, they waited for rescue, then relief, then reparations. Now, they wait for anything that will come. They braved the monsoon and they braved the winter. Not because they chose to, of course, but because is there any alternative really when the whirr of a helicopter’s blades triggers, Proustian, the palpitating rush of the earth rumbling underneath and the obliterating crash of an avalanche.
Sometimes, the waiting seems to come to an end. But it is almost always a false dawn, a sham of a thing, made up to look like something it’s not. So it was with the constitution, which finally arrived in September. Only it wasn’t really what we were waiting for. A celebration was held, a masquerade, where all dressed up in finery, the statute was unveiled, touched to forehead in reverence. And while some of us asked if this was really what we had waited for, others burned it angry and yet others marvelled at the elaborate farce. Much had been promised, that something wondrous would arrive. Instead, 10 arduous years, 10 long years, for something so meagre. Godot had metamorphosed.
Waiting implies hope and hope implies aspiration. In these godawful times, when we are neither here nor there, reeling from one natural disaster and a few unnatural ones, we wait for anything that might provide some semblance of inspiration. So when a football team runs a blitzkrieg and despite all odds, comes out on top, it is a rousing moment, especially when one considers the long years spent waiting for one Supreme Leader, among many, to vacate his toasty throne. Overnight, men become heroes. It is deserved, no doubt, but we have learned to reach for champions like drowning men clutching at straws. A prime minister dies and we extol his humility, his poverty, meagre qualities that have become all too rare. We have been waiting too long for another kind — a visionary stalwart, honest and open, global and local, respectful and compassionate, erudite and wise.
We all do our own personal waiting, whether it is waiting for a love or waiting for the bus, waiting on the rain or waiting for a friend. This is the waiting we do every day of our lives, not for some grand solution or some abstract ideal but for things simpler, the breath of a newborn against your chest, the touch of a longed-for hand against your own. But waiting is so much easier when you know the outcome is all-but-certain; it is much harder when you don’t know if what you wait for will ever arrive. But what else can we do? So much of the time, circumstances dictate where you are and what is coming your way. The universe is indifferent to us, but at times, it can feel so wilfully malicious.
So we wait, in lines, in queues, in columns and in rows. At the side of the road, in our bedrooms and every so often, day after day of our dreary, workaday lives. Maybe there is some romance to this waiting, some personal meaning to this cosmic absurdity, like Sisyphus with his rock. Perhaps, it is as Didi reasons, “What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come.”
What keeps us going is that there is light at the end of this abysmal dark, that we are not just waiting for waiting. But there is always that nagging fear, that maybe there is no end to the waiting and that life for us is just this, an endless delay. We were promised, not today but surely tomorrow. And we are afraid it is already tomorrow.