The Upside Down
If tables turn, would you like what’s new on your plate?
It was another Tuesday night. I’ve had a long day. With all those teaching hours and traffic and that late pizza delivery. Ugh!! Why isn’t it the weekend already?! But even with all this ‘everyday crap,’ there’s always this one thing to look forward to at the end of the day. My bed. Fell asleep around 12:45 AM. God, I’d give up so much not to wake up. It was all dreamy and gleaming until boom!! Felt like I just fell off a building. Do you know that feeling? Except, it felt more real than it ever has. So real that if it weren’t for the mattress I felt under me, I would’ve considered myself dead. I opened one eye and glanced at the clock. 6:00 AM. Still, an hour before the alarm goes off, I’m already up, so I might as well start the day.
It’s 9:30. I still have half an hour before the sucking routine starts, so instead of driving, I decided to walk, and maybe I’ll catch a bus or something. I stepped out and looked at my watch: “9:35 AM, 306 Steps”. I start walking, and to be honest, it’s the first time I’m having a look at my neighborhood. God, it’s beautiful! A quiet street with houses on both sides. All of them look the same. So similar that if they weren’t numbered, I’d have trouble finding my own. But even with all the similar architecture, you can tell each one holds a different story.
As I walked past the houses: House 106. A woman steps out, dressed up as if leaving for office, followed by a man with a 2-year-old in his arms. They kiss the lady goodbye as she goes in her car. I’ve heard about house-husbands being a common concept these days, but it’s the first time I’ve seen one. I thought to myself, isn’t it just so sweet!! Loving the way they’re normalizing it. House 110. Another couple. They’re young. Probably in the dating stage. Standing by their car, I hear the girl say, “Maybe you should let me drive honey, we’d be running into traffic at this hour.” That Sounds strange. But then again, I shouldn’t be the one judging women. She could potentially be a good driver. Or maybe the guy just got his license and is new to it; whatever. House 123. Does this society even end? I’m already tired. This house is different. While the rest properly stood with the ‘home’ vibe, this one seems more like just a building. There’s a lady. It looks like she lives alone, probably in her late 40s. She stepped onto her porch with a drill machine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, no look on her face. She doesn’t even seem glad to be independent. As if fixing her own house is her 9 to 5 job.The series of residences finally ended.
It was weird. Something feels odd. I don’t know. Maybe that’s just how you feel when you wake up early.
I took the main road and stood at the bus stop. Even the hoardings seem strange. “Beauty products for men,” “Boys’ college,” “Jobs available: 20% seats reserved for men”. That’s crazy, dude! Don’t they have enough jobs already? As I stepped on the bus, the sign above said, “Please offer the seat to men and children” that sounds insane; that’s just plain absurd. Or is something wrong with me? Or did they put it up there as a joke? Yeah! They did.
With all these thoughts running through my head, I didn’t even realize when I got to the office. Now, this is where things got crazy, like super crazy. People were protesting on the road in front of the office building. Wait. These aren’t people in general. They’re men. Only men. With signs held up high saying “give men equal rights,” “treat men equally in the workplace,” and “Men can handle both, home and office.” I froze. Not like when you’re cold, more like when you’re scared. I want to get over there and ask questions, many questions. But I didn’t get the courage to walk, talk or even look them in the eye.
That’s when it hit me.My brain clicks on a thought, trying to figure the situation out. “Wait, whoa, wait for a second. That can’t be..No…This is not my world.” It was not until now that I noticed how all those strange things I’ve been seeing aren’t strange. It’s me. I’m the stranger here. At that moment, I understood what Blake Crouch meant in ‘Dark matter’ when he said: “It’s not that this place doesn’t feel real. I shouldn’t be here. It’s somehow my presence that’s a lie.”
It’s a different world. A world where they treat men as women and women as men. On any other typical day, this concept would sound cool and amusing to me. But not right now. Not when I’m standing here, living it. Thinking and wishing for this stuff is one thing; however, being part of it is widely different. It felt like all I’ve been told throughout my life had been a lie.
But, wait. Are we saying the multiverse is real? Because I thought that was just theoretical. I mean, that completely changes how we understand the initial singularity. We’re talking about an eternal inflation system. But to travel in between them, we would need a large energy stimulus. So how did I even…
A voice in the back of my head said. The one that woke me up this morning. It wasn’t another, just another dream. It felt real. I’d never know the exact reason for ending up in this world, but I had my theories. One of the roaming theories about the multiverse I have heard was every time we go to sleep; we temporarily end our existence in our world. Sometimes we wake up and return to the same world we left at night, but other times, it’s us switching from one universe to another. Feeling a fall, having a nightmare, or even getting sleep paralysis can be some indications that you’ve got yourself a new world. A new chance. A new existence. Mostly the new world isn’t much different from the one we came from, an insignificant slight detail change that too may be in a distant part of the world, so you don’t feel it to be anything different.
Being one of the newly appointed Associate Professors of Cosmology at the IISc helped me grasp this situation.
“But this world was completely different.” I returned from my train of thought and tried to get a hold of myself. I’ve traveled too far this time, and there’s no going back. At least not as far as I know. I have to do something.
* 4 months later *
It’s been quite a few months since I’ve been here. I’m still getting used to the totally flipped social system here. The experiments from the information I provided to my institute are not showing any promising results. Maybe I would never be able to reach my world, but this one still feels like a dream. Every day something new and irresistible catches my eye. Just the other day, I was invited to a wedding and witnessed the groom saying goodbye to his family and leaving for the bride’s home. Last week, this guy thought I was following him down the street and almost screamed for help. In every restaurant, you’d find girls pulling out chairs for their boyfriends. As badly as I want to leave this place, I still can’t seem to get enough.
Although being a man is one of the hardest things I’ve done in life. To know there are people you hold responsibility for. It’s not just what you’re working for. You’re expected to be strong and bold but also polite and calm at the same time.
If there’s anything I’ve learned is that life isn’t easy. Not as a man. Not as a woman. We all have our differences, and the only thing we share in common is the misunderstandings and misconceptions we hold. Just like a coin, every gender faces two sides of the world. Some struggles they spend their lives complaining about. And some benefits they’re too blind to notice throughout their life.