Waiting for Godot | Raoof Hasan


“Was I sleeping while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake up, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That, with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?” — Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot”

“Waiting for Godot” has been a subject of varied interpretations ranging from it being a ‘sombre summation of mankind’s inexhaustible search for meaning’ to ‘a threnody of hope deceived and deferred, but never extinguished’.

Notwithstanding the interpretations, Beckett talks incessantly through his characters about humankind’s search for a variety of things, most importantly the meaning of life. Somewhere along the narrative, Estragon and Vladimir come up with a chilling thought:

“Vladimir: What do they say?

Estragon: They talk about their lives.

Vladimir: To have lived is not enough for them?

Estragon: They have to talk about it.”

These days, everyone around is waiting for their Godot — someone who has taken long in coming, and, in spite of the scourge of waiting that has denuded us down to our bare bones, there are no definitive signs yet of when it is coming, or whether it is coming at all?

This waiting has added a different dimension to life — a dimension that creates an allegorical impression of existence. Since there appears to be nothing more substantive to live for, may be, it is through waiting that we associate a meaning to existence:

“Estragon: We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?”

But, this waiting syndrome has stretched too long, with no signs yet of when it may end. There is talking, meaningless talking as to the date of the appearance of Godot. They are also talking of what it may look like? Will it be black or white, or grey? Will it come laden with hope, or will it dash whatever little remains of it? Will it provide food for the deprived millions who have gone hungry waiting for it? Will it provide justice to those who have sought it for generations? Will it have books replacing knives piercing into the palms of impressionable minds with blood trickling down reminding one of what needs to be forgotten?

Will Godot come at all? Or, is it the curse of Godot that we keep waiting for something that we seek so desperately? Is it that we need to give up on waiting and learn to live by what we have, or don’t have? But, then, there are some who point in the direction of the justices as the custodians of Godot. Oh, really?

I look that way in my pursuit of Godot, but I only see hollow figures clinging together, conversing in whispers. Are they afraid? What are they talking about? What is it that is taking so long? Why don’t they come forth and spell the judgment? Why are they hiding Godot? Or, are they also suffering from the classic symptoms of putting blame where it does not belong?

“There is a man in his entirety, blaming his shoe when his foot is guilty.”

But, they can’t do this. They can’t go on like this. There should be a limit to waiting for Godot.

Incessant, endless wait can make one go awry. Anything may happen. Anything can happen. Are they actually waiting for something to happen so that they could escape the responsibility of helping Godot appear with its eternal promise?

I remember when meaningful, extremely meaningful verses from that brilliant poet, Kahlil Gibran, were used to lend relevance to a judgment. I remember it well. I remember that it had something to do with pity. I also remember that it had something to do with a nation. Do I need to remind you, my lords?

It was much criticised. It was said that poetry is no forte of a judge. But, I remember I saw this as a welcome change. I saw this as an injection of humaneness into the dry annals of justice. I saw this as a drift to more meaningful things. I saw this as the forerunner of a transition from banality of thought to the birth of hope and meaningfulness.

It has been long since those heady days of purpose. The judges have continued to spend time in their courts, and time in their chambers, but the ray of light that they had kindled with those verses is now enveloped in a ring of darkness. And the hope they had generated then has no followers now. Not because they feel it did not happen. They know it happened, and they also know that they were suddenly charged with a strong feeling of something that was beginning to change around them. But, it was a fleeting feeling, a flash in the pan. It did not last. And when it was gone, it left behind a trail of numbness and the pain of utter disbelief. Those were strong feelings which still linger. And here comes another juncture when the path of hope crosses the path of despondence. Where shall it come to rest, or is this going to be an endless journey trickling into a vast, barren landscape signifying nothing?

Godot may not have come, but Godot is not gone either. Godot is still there. It lives in the imagination of all those who think, those who relate, and those who refuse to let hope slip out of their hands, out of their life because remaining in the dark, or continuing to suffer at the hands of oppression, institutional or oligarchic, is not an option:

“Vladimir: I don’t understand.Estragon: Use your intelligence, can’t you?

(Vladimir uses his intelligence.)

Vladimir: (finally) I remain in the dark.”

Godot lives. And as long as Godot lives, hope shall live, my lords!