What if you just go to office and tell your boss, ‘I prefer not to”, if you are saddled with some mundane task? What if you refuse to do all work and still persist on going to your workplace? You do not want pay, but just occupy a place in your office, refusing to leave. Here, we all can imagine your boss’s next step. However, what would a 19th century employer have done in similar circumstances? He would probably just let his employee come and go as he wishes and even let him live there, till his patience runs out, of course.
You may have guessed that the previous paragraph speaks about Herman Melville’s, ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’. Bartleby is a ‘copyist’ who joins the narrator’s law firm. He is diligent for a short period of time, until one day he refuses to proofread his work. The narrator is momentarily lost for words when Bartleby says, ‘I prefer not to.’ After a few days, Bartleby absolutely refuses to do any kind of work, complaining of a problem with his eyesight. His boss tries to get him to move out of his office, but in vain. He also discovers that Bartleby lives and sleeps in the office. Though he looks pale and seems silent, Bartleby holds a power over the lawyer with his passive resistance, ‘I prefer not to.’ His boss considers calling in the police to move Bartleby, but somehow does not have the heart to do that. Does Bartleby leave or does he start working again for the lawyer? What exactly is his problem?
Herman Melville’s short story dwells into the emotional imbalance of a young employee and its impact on those around him. Apart from Bartleby and the narrator, there are two more important characters, Turkey and Nippers. Middle-aged Turkey is efficient in the morning, but loses his temper in the afternoons, making mistakes. Nippers, a young man, is just his opposite, preferring to work in the afternoons, but idle away the morning with stomach problems. The narrator is a highly tolerant employer and there is no question of turning anyone away. Though hilarious in the beginning, the story turns sad and miserable. Behind Bartleby’s blank expression, silence and mechanical attitude, there perhaps lurks some vulnerable man with a dreary past. If you have not already read this, check it out now to find the ending to this sad masterpiece.
Here is the link.
‘Gathering her brows like gathering storm, Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.’ – Robert Burns
The poet writes and looks at the telephone, his heart still thudding from the ramifications of her phone call. He recalls her angry words of never wanting to see him again and his equally vehement response. He regrets it now and wonders if she is also going through the same agony. The phone rings softly now, almost musical. He knows who is on the line. He smiles, tears his note and leaves to attend the call.
Sea boils with wrath..
each resident reciprocates
waiting for lasting peace
This was written for Haibun Thinking.
“Wise men talk about ideas, intellectuals about facts, and the ordinary man talks about what he eats.”
I stroll to the food court, listening to the stall owner gossiping about anybody who could not hear him. I smile, knowing that he would gossip about me after I walk away. He tells off everybody, but takes less money and always serves more than what they demand. The street dog enters the food court and barks non-stop. He throws some food at it, while berating the non-paying ‘customer’. The dog, understanding nothing, wags his tail humbly.
Stray intruders fly away
as lame words
fall on deaf ears
This was written for the Ligo Haibun Challenge. Thank you, Pirate and Esenga, for the opportunity.
Trees are cut furiously and logs are rolled down with delight. The horses, Ryan and Julie, dig the earth excitedly, knowing that something is going on. Deforestation is taken to a new level, with no sign of life, except for the humans. There is a strange sadness all around, even Julie and Ryan silent. Their groom unties them, letting them out to graze. As Julie feeds nearby, Ryan runs around in anger and excitement. All of a sudden, there is a loud shriek. Ryan is rolling down, with legs bruised from the log. Two horses now one, as Ryan is shot down. Humans systematically resume deforestation, as Julie watches.
All signs of life
destroyed with haste
machines at work
This was written for Haibun Thinking, a new challenge by Anja, Alastair, Summerstommy and Anelephant. Do please take part to support them and the art of Haibun.
I try to capture the beauty of the historical falls in my tiny camera. Many others are engaged in the same pursuit, some better than the others. A few visitors are lost in each other while others try to rekindle their lost romance. I spot a couple of birds, chasing each other near the falls. I could not name those birds, but they are blessed with red, blue and black colours. They chase each other amongst the crowds, move close to the falls and finally disappear into Iguazu.
lost in unrelenting water
This was written for the Ligo Haibun Challenge
“Somebody has been shot.” screamed Ron, bringing the cruise ship dance to a halt.
“Who? Where?” cried Walter. Then there began a hurried search amongst the dancers. Later, they discovered an old gentleman holding his heart and slipping down.
“Walter, treat him, man. Come along.” shouted someone. The reluctant doctor moved from the dancing room towards the dining hall. Walter, after checking his patient, ordered him to be moved to his room, saying that he would get back to him in a few minutes.
“Hasn’t he been shot?” asked his friend, disappointedly
“Nope. Apparently he had fainted from the commotion in the dancing floor.”
“But Ron said…”
“I know. I just repeated what my dancing partner told me.” said Ron
“Where is that girl? I danced with her, but had never seen her before. ”
“Me neither. She asked me for a dance.”
“I danced with her too. Hey, I am not able to find my wallet.”
Everyone complained of some loss. Ron hurried to the deck, feeling his finger for his expensive ring. He saw a helicopter flying close to the ship and a pair of red heels disappearing inside.
“Monday evening – Read up your biology from four to five. Chemistry lessons from five to six. Learn Physics from six to seven. Just spend half an hour each on English and Maths, since you are so good at these subjects. If you strictly follow these, you will be a class topper.”
Ruslan sighed, thankful that his father had missed the weekends. Just then, his father wrote the weekend timetable and circled them.
A few weeks later, his father breathed these last words before he passed away, “Study. Your future…” The next day, a tearful Ruslan and his mother were evacuated from the house by creditors.
Fifteen years later, Ruslan returned to his house. “Hurry up”, his boss shouted at him. The timetable was still there in the table, though the markings were faded. His father’s hollow voice rang in his ears. “Your future..”
Ruslan took his carpentry tools and slowly followed his boss.