Samuel Beckett in his play ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953) talks about two aged and peculiar men waiting for a man named, well, Godot. Set in an isolated barren land, presenting an obscured image, with nothing but a drying leafless tree in sight, the play is a representative of the post-world-war dilemma and hopelessness. The two men look for multiple ways to pass their time while they wait- they talk; sleep; hurl abuses at each other other for fun; cook up imaginary stories; contemplate suicide by hanging from the tree (happily they do not have a rope); recall things from the past; and even exchange their hats repeatedly to kill the time. All this they do while waiting for Godot, until a boy comes to them with a message that Godot would not come today but would surely come the next day.
The next day, the two men meet at the same site, near the drying leafless tree. They cannot even recall why are they waiting for Godot at all, or who Godot is after all. Nevertheless, they wait. They wait. And wait.
Godot does not come.
The devastating World Wars perplexed the human beings and left them with several unanswered questions. What is Life? What’s the meaning of Life, if at all there is any meaning to it? How did God, if he is there, let this happen? What is the purpose of Life? Is everything already decided by Fate and we are only its puppets?
For Aristotle, the end purpose of Life was Happiness and Goodness; for Stoics like Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Logic was supreme; Kant believed in Good Will. Einstein’s purpose of Life was to achieve overall satisfaction. However, literatis like Samuel Beckett, discarded Life as something absurd! How absurd! They called life absurd and thus arose a new ‘dramatical’ genre called the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, producing plays that questioned existentialism. Perhaps the likes of Shakespeare had already questioned it centuries ago-
“To be, or not to be, that is the question:”
Or in the words of Ghalib-
“न था कुछ तो ख़ुदा था कुछ न होता तो ख़ुदा होता
डुबोया मुझ को होने ने न होता मैं तो क्या होता”
(When nothing was there, God was; had nothing been there, God would have been
I drowned because I existed, had I not been there what would have been?)
Such questions had always perturbed the minds of various thinkers down the ages. The World Wars only gave another sound occasion to delve into such questions again and deeply so. Now, after almost a century since the first World War, these questions have surfaced again, this time in response not to some war but a global pandemic. Unseen to the eyes and yet capable of destroying millions of people and property, the pandemic has been synonymous to a present day war! But War against whom? Against our own selves?
Not having learnt from our past mistakes, troubled about the present and anxious of our future, we petty humans are living in uncertain times. Nations have crumbled and Governments have failed and the mighty Nature has been angered. The only thing coming to our rescue is Art (which Wordsworth described as the ‘breadth and finer spirit of all knowledge’), and above all- HOPE.
So, as I began- the two men were waiting for Godot. Somewhere, they are still waiting for him. Who is Godot? Perhaps, he is a sense of purpose that keeps us going. He is a sense of fulfillment. He is Hope. He is testing our patience. Maybe, he is round the corner, and would appear just in a minute. He is surely about to come. He will come today. If not today, definitely tomorrow. He will certainly be there. And I will be there to meet him, will you be there too?
Samuel Beckett never explained his Play. Perhaps, just like it is with Life, he left his Play entirely to the spectators and readers to make out their own meaning and enjoy it in every way.
Another striking feature of this Play is the humour in it; for why not? Is not Life what the Play is- A Tragicomedy? After all, they say-
“To solve a problem, find some humour in it.”
(The cover images has been taken from Google Images and the image of the war from Pinterest)