The Three Wise Apes: Be Good, Do Good, Think Good
The Gothenburg Tales
Challenging the pageantry of paranoia over the Coronavirus pandemic, I went out for almost three hours and returned home with vegetables for two weeks. I shopped them at the weekend market in Kviberg. The market sells among other things out-of-date vegetables, and it followed government-suggested social-distancing measures due to Covid-19.
Shoppers from low-income group, overseas students mainly from Developing countries funded by their parents or banks, and migrants who are yet-to-get-asylum go there.
At home there was a relief till late in the evening because I was neither distracted by the bleep of my mobile phone nor with its blink. But I realised I had to call my widowed mother to know from her whether I should visit her at her villa on Sunday or whether she would prefer to spend the day with her newly-found widower-friend.
Since I returned to my mother’s home country — the UK has begun its Brexit from the European Union and the portents of Balkanisation of Her Majesty’s Kingdom into republics of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales is likely to happen, which could be stirred by some side-lined Tory or Labour or Liberal — as a result of job loss and loss of potential partner for life, my mother has become a priority.
Uninhibitedly, she resented my birth as a mistake of her life because of the man who had fathered me with her. However, the motherliness in her did not fail to shower on me as I started to grow-up and looked like my deceased Welsh father.
After divorcing my father, she returned to her country and looked ahead in life: She has four other children with three other men. Also, she is a wealthy mother, and all her children remember her: called her regularly.
We reckoned she would be leaving some leftover crumbs for us after she had spent all her inherited wealth.
Moreover, adults remember their parent, or parents, more and more when they fail to live their lives that is no way better than their parent, or parents.
I usually place the mobile phone on the dining table but it wasn’t there; I rushed to the doorway where I had hung my winter jacket. Involuntarily my hand went into the lower-outer-pocket on the right side of the jacket, but only my hand came out of it. My heart raced out of fear. I failed to notice there was a hole in the pocket and it was the first time I wore the jacket this winter.
Yet with un-subsiding hope, I frantically searched for the mobile phone especially in the trolley-bag. It was futile, I realised, to search for it anymore. I ringed that mobile phone from another decade-old phone via a social media app.
“Hejsan,” the voice beamed. Hejsan, a Swedish hello, has a ring of warmth unlike the other similar informal greeting, hej.
“That is my mobile phone,” I said in Swedish. And added in English, “Thank you.”
“I coming Molndal kvart e elva,” he said. “I tram driver.”
“Where should I come to pick it up?”
“You come Molndal eller where you come?”
There are only two commuter trains or trams that go to Molndal in Gothenburg. One of them passes through the Central Station in Gothenburg. I said, “Thank you. Which one?”
“Nummer four. How mycket take det for you to come?”
“About half an hour. I meet you at Central Station? Please.”
“You come kvart over elva, I go now.”
“Sorry, what is your name?
“Thor, tram mummer three six one.”
“Tusen tackar,” I said. Thousand thanks. I was unaware that I don’t know that trams also have unique identification numbers for the benefit of the employees of Gothenburg Tramways. I rushed out of the house with relief for finding the phone and trepidation whether it was really real.
By the time I reached the tram station by Central Station in Gothenburg, there was hardly any human activity. Perhaps coronavirus effect. I waited on the platform, but my heart throbbed as the Tram 4 chugged on to the platform. I waved at Thor, who was in driver’s cabin in the train.
Thor stopped the tram, unlocked his cabin and came out from the entry door of the first compartment. The entry door by the tram driver in the trams nowadays disallows commuters to enter and to exit due to the coronavirus pandemic and in the interest of the safety of the tram divers. “Here you go,” he said, and handed me the phone.
“Thank you. You are so kind,” I said.
“Not me, someone give me. I give you now,” he said. I admired his sincerity in discharging an unpaid public service, and his liberality to speak in another language without a fuss unlike the Germans and the French who snort or fart or frown at the sound of any other language in their lands.
“This is the best Christmas gift I could think of getting,” I said. I counted my blessings in medias res that I live in a city and a country where no one needs your mobile phone.
“You lucky man,” he said, “I ska go.” Before he got into his mobile work station, he jabbed his forefinger in the air in the direction of an artwork of the three men on the twelve-metre high pole who sit in a crouched posture, an asana.
The three men echo the motif of the three wise monkeys with the pictorial maxim: ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’, which has its roots in Buddhist lore. In Japan, the three wise monkeys are celebrated in a shrine in Nokko.
The Three Wise Men is the artwork of the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. It is made out of resin, steel, light, and glass fibre. It was commissioned by Clarion Hotel Post for its inauguration. Once the hotel was a public property serving as telegraph house now part of a hotel chain in Nordic countries.
Why men here in the place of monkeys? Presumably the artists traced the humankind’s evolution to the apes, and should have been higher up, philosophically or physically but.
“I will try,” I assured him and bowed in gratitude until the tram passed. Un-bowed, in slow motion I glanced at the three wise men, or apes, but they looked like they were looking with the look that said: Be good. Do good. Think good.