Monday, August 14, 2006

Past and present

Journeys have a magic in them. Whether you move from one town to another or you grow from one state of living to another, a journey never leaves you the same. It enriches. Like a flowing river you not only remain fresh but also gain a lot. We are on journeys all the time but if it is a conscious and deliberate one, we can decide the degree of enrichment.

I'm on one such journey--a physical one--travelling to chennai to attend the birthday function of my nephew and niece. The second class compartment is overcrowded. The seats are uncomfortable, more so for archana who is into her 7th month of pregnancy. I'm irritated at Dad who's sitting in the opposite seat, blissfully dozing inspite of the rickety journey. He was the one who insisted on a second class journey when we wanted to travel comfortably in an AC compartment. Dad's touchy about spending---between quality and cost, he'll opt for the latter. Anything at a lesser price and he's likely to go for it. His impoverished childhood and difficult upbringing have ingrained these qualities in him and makes him careful in spending matters. I understand all these yet I'm fuming within. I know I'll have a backache by the time we reach Chennai.

My sister stays with her inlaws in their ancestral house. This house is nearly 80 years old. When it was built and the occupants moved in, India was still ruled by the British. Gandhi, Nehru, Bose were the role-models--not Shahrukh, Ambanis and murthys of today. The way of thinking and living must've been different, the atmosphere could've been special. An oppressed people, coming together in great unity to break the back of the tormentor, finding inspiration and hope in outstanding leaders, abandoning their easy life and normal routine ----just for one word. Freedom!

This house bears testimony to that era. It's not just a structure. It has those special energies, that special mileu.

'Omkaara' is based on Shakespeare's Othello. There are good reviews, which means I'll somehow endup watching it. The trend is slowly changing in money-success hungry bollywood, where movies of substance are being made nowadays. Shakespeare's world was intimate during my study of Julius ceasar in college--but I've missed his other works and movie adaptations.

At lunch the topic of discussion is the number of movies my sister & brother-in-law watch every week. They say, they watch every other Tamil movie--mostly popcorn type, commercial, run-of-the-mill stuff. I suggest they watch 'Omkaara'--say it's based on Shakespeare. They stare at me as if I'm a relic of the past.

I'm reading 'Magic seeds' by Naipaul. Four days of rest and a mini-vacation in Chennai means that I can eat through this book's world. This looks more of a journal than a novel. It's as if I've written down my memoirs in a blog and then made a book out of it. The protogonist, 'Willie chandran', a perpetual outsider who joins an underground movement, searching for meaning in life, seeking and losing himself--this guy is Me. I should've read such books earlier instead of browsing through crap.

Chasing the horizon--something Nick pointed at in his comments makes me ponder over my everyday motivations. The horizon captivates only from a distance. When you reach there, there's no horizon. The illusion would've moved further, prompting you to go for it. You never reach it, you're always moving towards it.

Blogging douses my creative thirst-- it satisfies my need to give expression to my thoughts and share it with others. I have no more dreams or aspirations to write and publish. Feel it's good, in a way.

More notes

A lazy afternoon. I'm lying down on the sofa, gazing at the swaying branches of the coconut trees at a distance. Varied images flood in--from the novel, from the french movie I watched last night, scenes from yesterday's birthday party--and soon everything starts getting mixed up. I begin to go in an altogether different stream. Gazing at the ancient wooden cupboards and ceiling, imagining the sounds and silence of a different era, I feel as if I'm living in Pre-independence India--nearly 80 years back in time.

I'm a young man living in that momentous time, fresh out of college and into a job. My people are already into the freedom struggle, my dad's following the footsteps of the mahatma in some part of India. Everyone expects me to give up my job and secured life, and take a jump into the movement. Many of my relatives and friends, who have strong patriotic feelings are unhappy with me-- a lousy fellow leading a comfortable life. In social gatherings I'm looked at like an outcast, like a specimen.

Slowly I feel guilty for not joining the movement, and one day I give up everything and jump. Not just because I'm answering a social obligation but also because this environment changes me--it morphes my inner self, my aspirations.

Maybe without the environment I'd have continued my easy life. Or maybe, on my own strength I'd have taken a jump.

Cut back to august 2006. My environment wants me to lead a normal, balanced life. A life lead by everybody else-- a straight line from birth to death. And I'm a good boy who's answering to that social obligation. Yet there are occasions when an inner urge surfaces, a restlessness arises asking me if this is the life I want to live for another 50 odd years.

Most of the time I brush aside the restlessness, with an assurance that it will be answered in some future. But the future is a horizon. And the answer has to be found in the Present, in the now. It involves an unsettling of a stable world. It means a lot of explaining and convincing to be done to everyone else in my life. And that's something which creats discomfort--the very thought of it creates discomfort.

Am I, or are we, strong enough to listen to our hearts and follow our passions? Is it possible to just ride that wave of pure inner urge--minus any sentimentality or drama--just listen to yourself and live the life that you want to live? Can this restlessness give you the inspiration to break out of your old self, dash through all social obligations, and move on to a new life?

The answer is elusive at present.

1 comment:

  1. One can never catch the horizon, just chase it. It is an elusive goal that keeps us running without respite, without noticing the beauty of the flowers along our path.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”