Monday, September 22, 2008

The Pleasure of Reading...

...surpasses every other pleasure--for me. Put me in a room full of books that get automatically renewed/replaced periodically and I'll stay there for all eternity, unbothered about anything else. We picked up this dirty habit in early childhood when Dad would bring home all periodicals, magazines, books of the day(He still does it nowadays, with more vigour) and we'd fight over each other to read the latest installment of Champak, Amar chitrakatha, chandamama....the habit got reinforced in late school and early college years when I had more friends in fictional characters than in real life, the fictional world being more authentic and fascinating than the drudgery of everyday existence.

Circa 2005. I discovered blogs. And also discovered that I had sufficient cash flow by which I could indulge myself by purchasing every other delicious book I could smell. Three years of software testing and I can say, I've read more during office hours than tested code(of course, by squeezing all work into my available 'work' hours and getting three headaches every month). I wake up early sometimes and read. Or sit late at night. Carry a book to the railway reservation queue. Or at the doctors. I read two books in between attending the marriage rituals of my sister-in-law. And sometimes during breakfast, I'll be eating more words than bread crumbs. Yet there are more unread books in my shelf than those which I've read. And my must-read list goes on and on making me wonder if I'll ever get to the end of it in this life-time.

But what's the point? Why read at all? Spend so much time-money -attention...for what purpose? The primary purpose is ...pure orgasm. Nothing else. And sometimes, a bit of illumination(eckart tolle, khalil gibran), inspiration(ran prieur, reality sandwich, Dave pollard) and new thought(last american man,flow). But most of the time, it's the simple intellectual and emotional kick/satisfaction that's derived by looking and wondering at life through eyes not your own. I bet, the pleasure center in the brain for sex, fruit-salad and reading must be the same!

And just as a new project starts at work, I come across this series of blogposts--a rendition of the Epic Mahabharata through Bhima's eyes. And a book on Ramayana by Kamala subramaniam which a friend has promised to deliver this weekend. And another set of translations of Marathi mythological novels in English (Mruthyunjaya and Yayati), which I'll get my hands on very soon.

If I were a gladiator I would've shouted, 'Felice di essere vivo e cazzo!' Yeah!!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dawn..still far away

You think that you're super detached. You think you're not sentimental. You pride yourself in your aloofness, in your stoicness. No, you aren't. You are very much human even if you have difficulty in accepting it.

A colleague leaves for another company after 4 years and you have a lump in the throat. He isn't a best friend, infact he's a pain sometimes, but this long association ends in a snap. And with this, something in you dies too. Where did this tenderness arrive from? You had become hard and opaque; you'd deliberately killed all soft feelings and turned rigid over many years. What was it that mellowed you? Made you responsive! Sensitive!

I know hunger. I've felt its pangs, an immense burning sensation that clouds everything--your judgement, your reasoning, the very awareness that you're a human being. Long back, when I was travelling a long distance with very little money and even little inner strength, I spent nearly two days eating two packets of biscuits and an apple. By the time I reached half the journey, I was mad with hunger and could barely walk. So when I hear the adage, 'The greatest God is the food God,' I agree wholeheartedly. You can speak lofty ideals only after your stomach is full. When hunger strikes everything else goes out of the window and what's left is a pure animal who's intent on surviving, nothing else. If there's anyone who's an exception to this, I haven't met him/her yet and would definetly like to know them.

There are reports of food riots breaking out in flood ravaged bihar. The administration has failed to cope up with the devastation there and much of the relief sent by the government is eaten up by the middle men, with only a trickle reaching the needy. What follows is pure survivalism. Hungry villagers armed with sticks and sickels have attacked the food godowns, grabbing sacks of rice and wheat, carrying them back to the waiting stomachs at home. It takes only a river to flood and a pathetic administration to fail and you have authentic human nature coming out.

Maybe you don't need such extreme situations too-- a small push will do. A funny thing happens every afternoon at the restuarant near my workplace. The crowd that collects at the food counter is a healthy mix of officials, executives, technicians and people from all walks of life. We buy the tickets at the entrance, hand it over to the servers at the food counter and wait patiently for the food to arrive. If there are 10 people who've ordered Masala dosa and the server brings 4 at a time, it's a sight to watch people jump over one another to grab these dishes. At that moment you aren't a manager or an executive from a Multi national, drawing a six figure income every month. You're a bloody stomach. And sometimes the cook comes out and peeks at us with a wry smile. He's no longer a poor cook ekeing out a living preparing dishes in a modest restuarant. For one moment, he's God.

'Everyone does everything for his stomach and for a peice of cloth,' sang a saint. How cool would it be if one could bypass the need to eat in order to survive! Maybe we could draw nourishment from the sun directly, the way plants do. And have no need to work, earn, struggle. Wishful thinking. Why not?

Amidst a never ending effort for a secure base, for stability, beating your hands frantically attempting not to drown, there are sudden flashes. That everything is just fine as it is. That you're better off swimming in the current and there's no need to panic, to reach the shore or find any destination. You're at home right now, here, in this very place and moment. Such moments arrive unheralded, at unlikely places--say, when I'm in the middle of the busy traffic, or under the shower, or while surfing the channels or observing my son at play....

And these moments are so fleeting that in an instant, you're back to your anxious self. You're again in the flux, in the struggle, fighting, seeking, hoping. But you know that the moment comes again. That it's not a freak occurance. That the relaxedness is your default state of living to which you'll go back soon. That you need to find ways to set up roots in that stillness, in that carefreeness.

'To utter the truth you need a simple courage,' he said. 'To accept something as true itself requires great courage. I hate to hurt others but is it because I'm scared that once hurt, they may pounce on me? Or do I have a genuine concern for their well being?'

'You might have a real concern for them...'

'Mmm. I think not. I'm scared that they'll attack me. Or maybe stay away from me and I'll become alone. Or even, if someone's hurt, it makes me feel wretched and I don't like feeling that way...'

I thought for a while and said, 'What do you want to do then?'

'Just speak the truth. And live quietly after that. No f pretense. I'm tired.'

I sit alone in the dead of the night, listening to crickets, barking dogs from another universe and the thud of my fingers on the keyboard. For one moment, I wonder what I'm doing here, putting my thoughts down, for what purpose. I have work to do, a waiting headache in the office tomorrow, followed by a possible dinner with friends in the evening and a relaxing weekend after that. I have several journeys to traverse, new lessons to learn and, inspite of bitterness and anxiety, a rewarding life to explore and celebrate. I stand on the threshold of new discoveries and an exciting tomorrow. When I'm truly tired of thinking and feeling for myself, I stand up and try to expand a bit, try to look ahead and around. No, I can't empathise with others. Expandedness is an empty word for me; I can only feel for a select few around me.

I'd love to expand, to feel the oneness with others, other beings, other things. I'd love to feel this Love--pure and pristine. Taste it. What's it like?

I'll find this Love. When I cease, it shall be found....