Friday, May 02, 2008

No Reflections, No lessons....

We lived in a rented house for nearly 7 years before moving to our own house. The construction activity lasted nearly an year, during which Dad juggled between his office and monitoring the construction work-- a herculean task, given that he had to do it alone. I was about 10 then and was all excited about moving to a new house. What I never reckoned was that I'd be leaving behind a host of friends and playmates whom I'd known closely all along, moving away from an environment which was very familiar and intimate since my childhood.

Venu was one of those friends, studying a class above mine, who belonged to an austere, pious family, which was very particular about tradition, values and orthodoxy. We'd spent countless afternoons and evenings, creating and inhabiting an astonishing world where we lived multiple roles. We were the fishermen, bus drivers-conductors, police-thieves, cooks-waiters, movie heroes-villains, and much, much more. He was my best friend. He was thin and dark complexioned, but over the one year period during which our house got constructed, he grew to become plump and fair skinned. Kinda chubby. When I asked Mom, she said,'He has brain tumour.' I didn't ask what it meant.

He left school and stayed at home, invoking terrible jealousy in me because school was nothing short of hell for me. He'd borrow my comic books/story books and read them all day long. 'Lucky fellow,' I reflected while dragging myself through the never ending chore of books, study, homework and exams. One night, his parents put a cot outside the house in the garden, and made him sleep there. 'Why?' and Dad said,'Some custom.' Later they moved him back.

We shifted our house in the early hours of a Sunday morning. We woke up early, got dressed and hauled all the furniture and other belongings onto a tempo. Venu's parents had once again made him sleep on the cot, outside the house. They were standing outside and waving us goodbye from a distance.
As the tempo started, Dad said, 'Venu passed away last night'. Those words hardly got registered amidst all the excitement and trepidation of leaving behind an old world and entering a new one.

Transitions are easy, even desirable, when you're a kid, but somewhere on the way to adulthood you lose the flexibility. You tend to become rigid, unmoveable, brittle.. The very thought of change brings uneasiness.

Maybe 10 years back. I was journeying from Mumbai to Bangalore on a second class train compartment. A man in his late 40s opposite me was reading 'My days', by R.K.Narayan. After resisting for a while I broke through my reticence and borrowed the book. He was a seniour executive in an investment firm, carried a guitar, smoked endlessly, and soon I got familiar enough with him to borrow a couple of cigarrettes from his pack and begin puffing. Another guy joined us--a young man my age, an autorickshaw driver from bangalore. We made an interesting trio--A seemingly refined gentleman, sophisticated and successful; a rustic struggling to make ends meet, but jovial and carefree; a young student, bumbling and unsure. We chatted like close friends, shared cigarettes and fruits, joked silly and filled up the compartment with spiralling smoke----looks like an improbable scene from a stupid movie.

What keeps this incident fresh in memory is the dirty looks I received from a couple in the same compartment. Especially the girl, who had a horror stricken expression, who constantly glared at me for having picked up bad habits at such an innocent(?) age, for having the audacity to smoke in public . Not the elderly man, not the autodriver but me! They could do it but not someone my age, someone with my appearance and from my background. It was as if I was murdering someone right there; what might have caused them serious greivance was the fact that I gave no shit, totally ignored their concern and continued to burn the endless hours into ashes.

A slight apprehension about 2012, when our earth enters the photon belt on the 21st of December. What could possibly happen? Will we survive? Or will the man made systems survive? When I think about my savings and future plans, I tend to keep this date in mind. Will civilization collapse? Or, as a few survivalists argue, is the system already crashing? Are we in the crash, right now?

'I want to become enlightened, before any such thing happens.....' he said. 'I don't want to exist in that turmoil, the way I am right now.'

'So what's the plan? How do you get enlightened....?'



  1. Your reflections of the past stirs a lot of my emotions connected with childhood. You have also beautifully observed that as a child we are so flexible and ready for change which reduces as we grow up.

    The title of this post is probably the most beautiful and thought provoking of all. How nicely said - No reflection; no lessons. There is so much of depth in this.

    Thanks vishwa for your musings and observations of life around which triggers things within us.

  2. The death of a peer, when we are young, can be an introduction to reality. It was for me.

  3. Lovely post. The memories of childhood, playing with Venu, your excitement at moving house making you accept Venu's death so easily - beautifully expressed.You are right, as children we accept change so easily, and become so rigid as adults because we want to hold on to what we have.

  4. stirred something somewhere
    Can't emote as orkut says.
    Change and changes are refreshing like in the ad, the ease of the change depends on what lies ahead whether to forget or remember ... and of course our makeup

  5. Mn sir I am fan of your writings and find them so deep but simple , the story line you adopt is so unique in itself that you have turned love for readings in me . Actually i feel You are Baba Ramdev ;) of writings for a beginner like me :D :D . .. And particularly about this post its amazing piece about transition , childhood innocence and people living behind tags and enjoying the present moment :)