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The ship of Theseus

Written by : Abhisek Pattnaik
Image courtesy : Freak’s shutter

What would you deduce of your life if it has come to this point where you take a leave from office for no particular reason at all or maybe because you had grown used to the paid holidays during lockdown period, only to find yourself attending office in your dream during the daytime nap that almost lasted for a day’s working hours. Too many layers, right!

I was aware of the never settling debate of dualism in philosophy i.e. body and mind are two radically different entities and the debate of reality/identity based on it inclined on one of them over the other. It reminds me of the Ship of Theseus Paradox. The Greek historian Plutarch was the first to mention it in his works which goes like the following:

“During its long voyage as the planks of the ship of Theseus needed repair, it was replaced part by part, to a point where not a single part of the original ship remained in it, anymore. So the question arises, whether the now sailing ship still continues to be the same ship?” To this Thomas Hobbes later added another layer i.e. if all the discarded parts of the ship is collected and used to build another ship, which of the two should be called the real ship of Theseus.

Some argue that it is the body that goes over mind. But our cells die and according to some estimates every seven years we become a completely new individual, because in that time, every cell in our body gets replaced by a new one. But then, the identity of us continues to survive. 

And if we go by the narrative that it is the mind over the body, we do change how we think, how we perceive things as we age. I certainly would like to believe that we grow wiser with age. Then what is it that remains constant to continue to give us our identity?

Guess, I personally feel inclined to the analysis that says, the only thing that remains constant in us is change. Like ancient greek philosopher Heraclitus puts it, “We never step in the same river twice.” Our body changes, so does our mind and its faculties to allow us to see things differently. What remains constant to give us our continued identity is only the illusion of unity like the roll film where each frame is followed by another but it happens with such spontaneity that it appears as a single film.

But I’m a practical man and I can be accommodative. Coming back to my earlier question of what I should deduce from my dream is a topic for another day. “Mind over body” shall be my choice of reality when it comes to attending office, but only in my dreams.

Fish Korma

Lakshmi woke up 30 mins earlier than her usual i.e. five in the morning. And why not! It’s a special day in her life, after all. Raaju, her husband, had demanded for ‘Fish Korma’ to be prepared last night. Maybe it is the first time he demanded for something specific to eat in their one year long marriage. Rather maybe it was the first time they had a real conversation because of ‘Fish Korma’. Her shy nature in reflection to the typical indignant nature of Raaju, resulted in her spending most of her time in household chores. But, when Raaju demanded for a particular delicacy to be prepared, Lakshmi knew it was her chance to bridge the gap between them. After all, she had been trained well in the domestic dynamics by her mother. She understood very well that the route to a man’s heart goes through his tummy.

The day for Raaju started as usual. He left for the Tehsildar office i.e. the corner building in Banram village, sharp at nine. He was a man of bigoted principles and didn’t like even the slightest of deviation from his daily routine. All hours of his day had their specific purpose assigned to them. Lakshmi dialed up Chhoti Maasi, as soon as Raaju left for office. Choti Maasi was renowned in the Sahu family circle for possessing the best hands for food. Lakshmi noted down the steps involved in it cautiously as directed by Maasi, double checking them so that nothing was missed out.

And the preparation for the delicacy began. Diligently following all the steps as directed by Maasi, step by step, the ‘Fish Korma’ was finally ready. The aroma of it filled up the air of the whole house. Lakshmi was quite proud of what she was able to achieve. Afterall being the youngest, she never cooked at home.  And it’s only once her marriage was fixed, she was exposed to daily routines of household chores by her mother.
“Is there anything special cooking today, Ma?”, her father-in-law asked with a smile.
Lakshmi chuckled and went running inside her room, waiting for Raaju to come for lunch, lost in her own world. It was indeed a happy day for Lakshmi.

Raaju came back sharp at 13 05 hrs. Seeing him Lakshmi smiled.
“It smells good”, Raaju said while maintaining his stoic expression. She was excited herself to showcase what she was able to accomplish and went inside the kitchen to serve him the food.

As soon as she entered the kitchen, she was bewildered to find a cat next to the kadhai having ‘Fish Korma’ in it. She jumped inside after it to shoo it away but the cat was swift enough to take a piece of fish and flee out via the window of the kitchen.
She started shivering in horror as she got reminded of the last instance when the lunch was delayed and the way Raaju’s wrath was showered upon her for days.
“It’s necessary to keep the women of the house disciplined” is what he had said when his mother had tried to intervene.
She stood there confused, lost in her thoughts. She certainly didn’t want the beating again.
“Why is it taking so long!”, Raaju shouted from the veranda. It shook Lakshmi from her seizure and brought her back to life. And she started serving the food but the ‘Fish korma’ as if she had gone on auto-pilot mode; serving it the best way possible.
“Where is ‘Fish Korma’?”Raaju raised his voice puzzled seeing his thali missing it.
“It’s… it’s…” Her father-in-law cut in before Lakshmi could confess.
“Keep your temper in check Raaju. Bahu, you go Ma. Bring it.”
Lakshmi nodded and went inside the kitchen. Having no other option left, she asked Lord Shiva for his forgiveness for this one time, before serving the ‘Fish Korma’ to Raaju garnished with coriander leaves.

The rest of the day passed by in a fizzy for Lakshmi. The household chores kept her busy. Raaju came back from office at seven as usual. But, he had brought a gift for Lakshmi this time; a red shawl. Looking at Lakshmi he smiled and said,
“How about Paneer Kofta tomorrow?”