FORTY-TWO SAYS DON’T PANIC

One of the many aphorisms I have added to my intangible personal diary can be blubbered with two, rather simple words – DON’T PANIC. Emblazoned on the cover of one of the most breathtaking works of URSA MINOR, the greatest publishing house in the universe- THE GUIDE, it acts like a nerve relaxant. It makes your belly tingle and muscles quieten.

This anecdote is about how I came across it for the first time.

I was alone in a bar, in my dressing gown, and sipping from a can of Corona. My ape-descended brain was mulling over the question of how many pints of PAN-GALACTIC GARGLE BLASTER can BUG BLATTER BEAST of TRAAL can chug in one go. Though I was not aware of the terms, which BABEL FISH translates as- “How many pints of beer can a bear drink?”

Ford Prefect, an out-of-work actor, appeared out of nowhere and sat by me. “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so,” he muttered. He is my best friend- famous for gatecrashing university parties and getting drunk.

“Ford… you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it,” I grumbled.

“Okay. But first, type on Google – THE ANSWER TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING,” he blubbered with a ridiculous smile on his face.

I did it out of sheer boredom. I was a STRAG then- a non-hitchhiker. I was yet to adopt my current name- Dent.

Even when FORTY TWO popped up on the screen, I didn’t get bamboozled a PAIR OF DINGO’S KIDNEYS. Not that I already knew what would happen and wanted to impress Ford. It’s just that I was a VOGON- too dumb to get shocked. So he offered me one more task, to make the already maddening task of deducing MEANING out of the first task.

“Read Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams if you want to know LIFE,” he said.

To which I replied – “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”

To which he said – “You know, it’s times like this, when I’m trapped with Marvin that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

“Why, what did she tell you?” I asked, a little intrigued.

“I don’t know, I didn’t listen,” he replied and chuckled.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

Then I said, to stop nothing from happening – “Okay, I will read it. But will you leave me alone now? I demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.”

He said okay and stood up to go. And “So long, and thanks for all the fish,” came out of me.

I forgot about the incident. But back home, I didn’t know what happened to me, but I read all the pages of this mind-bogglingly exceptional work in a whiff of three months. And after finishing it, I said to myself – “Did I do anything wrong today? Or has the world always been like this and I’ve been too wrapped up in myself to notice?”

The main issue which had made me go through all this ass-ache was to find out the significance of 42 as the most correct answer to the ever frustrating question of life, the universe, and everything. But instead of simplifying things, it had ramified them into more rigorous and befuddling forms. It made me realize that even if we find the answer to the question, the question itself is missing.

But now, since I have thought about it all rather too much, I feel that the missing question and its known answer make up a pair of mutually exclusive orthogonal observables and one can’t find them together in a single universe at a point of time, which implies- we should continue drinking beer and not worry about the questions or their answers.

So now I’m relaxed. For why bother chasing a mad bull if it’ll whack his head anyway, and you can’t do a pair of dingo’s kidneys about it? That is the best we- the organic simulations of the programs of the most powerful computer ever to be built in the history of history, i.e. EARTH, can do.

Now I’d far rather be happy than right any day.


A dropout of various institutes Nachi Keta is a Kidney Transplant Recipient and a neurodiverse writer from New Delhi. His name is a combination of two terms: Nachi, which means ‘death’, and Keta, which means ‘a creative force’. His work focuses on mental health, oppression and the absurd in social and personal. 

His words have found a home in various magazines like Perhappened, The Bombay Review, The Howling Press and Sock Drawer, an updated list of which can be found here: nachi-keta.com.

Categories: Fiction

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Shawn Berman runs The Daily Drunk. You can follow him on Twitter @Sbb_writer.

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