“All the world is a circus, and all the men and women merely clowns.” ~ William Shakespeare
I read the quote as I stood outside the gate. Shakespeare? That does not sound right.
“Welcome,” a voice caught my attention. It was the gatekeeper.
“How much for the ticket?” The words came out compulsively. In fact, I wasn’t even carrying money.
“What?” the gatekeeper said and began to laugh. He laughed and laughed, and stopped rather abruptly. “Give me your email id. That would suffice. Here’s your ticket.”
“Fair enough,” I said and questioned the fairness of it, in my mind.
“That’s how it works here. You need food? Give your email id. You need a taxi ride? Give your–”
“I get it,” I interrupted him. “Should I enter now?”
“Sure, sir. Our assistant will accompany you.”
“But I don’t…” by the time I could finish the sentence, a little boy had held me by my hand and was now escorting me inside the circus.
“Take this mask, you will need it,” he said and put it on my face. I did not object. While in circus, do as the clowns do.
There were a number of doors; each door led to a separate colony. We entered the Facebook colony. When I asked the reason, the little boy said, “because you have the ticket for this colony only.”
I felt embarrassed. Wasn’t it obvious?
“Don’t worry,” he said, trying to console me, “this one is the best among all colonies. You will find everyone here. And no restrictions on the freedom of expression. On the Twitter side, for instance, you are not allowed to speak much. And on the Instagram side, no one ever talks. Clowns only talk through their expressions there. So, it’s not for everybody.”
Slight relief. And momentary too. As I entered the colony, the assistant disappeared, and then, all of a sudden, clowns started to appear from nowhere. It’s magical, I thought. I was overwhelmed. My friends, family, relatives – everyone was there. Even the strangers, or the ones that pretended to be strangers (ex-lovers, for example).
I was given a spot; and so was everyone else. For me, it was quiet at first. Not many clowns visited, and those who did, they ignored me. What to do? Soon, after crouching on my spot for a few hours (for no reason whatsoever), I discovered that the spot was connected to my house and I did not have to get the ticket, every time I wanted to be here. Same was true for everyone, I assumed. There was a door right behind me, which joined the two worlds. I kept switching between the real and the virtual world (as it was written on the either side of the door). But, all the time, one thing kept bothering me. Shouldn’t I be doing something here? So, one day, I decided to sing a song.
Within a few moments, there was a group of clowns standing next to me, listening to my song.
“That is not how you sing,” said one of them.
“But I am just–”
“Not how you sing.”
“Then how…” I said, but by then, the clown had disappeared. I shouted again, he came again, said something which did not make any sense, and disappeared again.
“Make some friends first,” said another one and tied a friendship bracelet to my wrist. How sweet, I said and realised there was no one around. I went back to the real world. But, the door appeared so tempting that I could not resist and came here once again. In a matter of a few days, it had become a habit. I would roam around aimlessly. Once back in the real world, I would realise that I was too tired to do anything. And once tired, I would go back to the virtual world. The life went on.
The colony was huge. Probably the biggest I had ever seen. It was like a wonderland. Clowns kept appearing and disappearing at their spots, in the blink of an eye. Others kept visiting (and revisiting) them. What was even more interesting was that everyone could be seen here. Everyone. Even the celebrities and other big shots. But their spots were mostly crowded and one could not really speak (or do anything) there.
I met a number of clowns on the way, and I made sure that I tie friendship bracelets to as many of them as I could. To the point that they became suspicious of my presence. That did not stop me and I continued to stalk them (in fact, we all stalked each other).
Every day was entertaining in the virtual world. A lot happened at every spot. Except a few. In these few spots, clowns rarely showed up. And when they did, they only said what they were doing and disappeared again. I am having a coffee. Gone. Got a job. Gone. Feeling lonely. Gone. I, being a naive resident, said okay, each time clowns mentioned what they were doing.
One of these days, I was taking a walk along the street when I noticed a few interesting characters. A female clown, stood at her spot and made different expressions after every few minutes. Many clowns (mostly male clowns) cheered and sang I like it. It was the most popular song in the colony. The female clown appeared and disappeared, but the onlookers did not move. Many waited to tie a friendship bracelet. So did I. But the queue was a long one, and so I moved on.
I kept walking. On the way, a male clown, who was wearing a female’s attire, tied me a friendship bracelet. When I asked him about his unusual style, he refused to admit that he was male and showed a number of pictures (of some other females) to prove his case. Then he poked me and disappeared. What was that? I wondered. “It’s a popular game here,” said another clown, poked me, and disappeared.
On my way back, I realised, a number of clowns talked only to themselves. No one listened or responded to them. Then, there were some that talked less and responded more. They visited every other spot and reacted and overreacted.
What should I do? I was talking to myself when I heard someone say, “take these. Memes are the answer to every question.”
“Is that free?”
“Everything here is free.”
I should have known that, I thought and picked a few from the lot. Turned out, his words did carry some truth. When nothing else worked, memes were the answer. Life was good.
Time went by. The crowd in the streets grew. And so did the noise. Every society goes through a cycle; it ripens and then it rots; the same was happening here.
A lot had changed. Like clowns, a number of other things had appeared and disappeared. Even the famous song I like it sounded phony. There were so many variations to this song now that it lost its appeal. Good manners were a part of history now. Ironically, everyone shouted loud to tell others to stay quiet. Of these loudmouths, most were paid to spread propaganda. They repeated the same words, no matter what the other clown had to say. Then there was moral police that kept an eye on what you speak or how you speak. One was often mocked, abused and harassed, if one did not conform to the norms described by the police.
I had started to dislike everything. The noise and the fights were maddening. So, I closed the door and went back to the real world. Everything seemed quiet here. Normal, as before. Sigh!