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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Farewell Jottings -- Part Three

Assortment of tiny flowers in the grass. Maroon multitudes sandwiched between green and blue never notice, but I do. Funny thing is, these probably existed back when the place was a forest.
Tall, bare concrete wall arches beautifully across the field. At partings we are promised completion -- it will be painted when I return. Supposed to feel good at the time but probably won't: will not laud progress, will selfishly feel outdated.
Little girl will tumble on without me. Will win things I never knew existed, fight wars I never heard of. A host of fifty seven will rise where there was a gaggle of fifteen; seventy three on seventy three will rise like never before -- new beginnings. Perhaps catalysed by recent past, oh praise oh applause! No comfort. Success no use in absentia despite gratitudes abundant.
Feel like a mushroom cloud, waning wake of potent impact: witness to noise, clamour, opinion, long after said event. Wane, however, non-negotiable. Can be extended by aftershocks as encouraged, to fade again alongside noisier clamour. Photographs and sundry evidence archived far from the sun. Radio silence that follows nearly undisturbed by few starry eyes.
Walls will be painted and repainted. Field flowers will live and die every season, as wild flowers must. Touch-me-nots will bow to different feet -- soles of shoes only they recognize: wonderful equalizer. Today's gritty new sport will be worn smooth, will be less desirable ancestors to sprightly young bouncers. As promised, flawed lines on concrete will be accurate soon. In future play if ever, will err on correct lines: blame old adjustments to the wrong. Games metaphorical and actual will have different players, all too short-lived to change the way they're played.
Hopeless hope to inspire the next wave of dreamers, to impact memory sufficiently to remain at the least a voice of conscience from days long gone (can you hear me?) Meanwhile, own memories to grow overgrown as is wont -- voices first to go; then faces and entire identities sequestered from the perpetual struggle to be relevant.
Successive visits will see diminishing recognition. Indomitable, the flux will carry away the familiar. Onus of excellence will pass to those irreplaceable to new and alien to old. Reminiscences will go from three a year to one, to none; greetings, reduced to transparent stares, will become colder and colder and emptier and emptier: at length will be a ghost of Hem Sheela past.
The stray cat will have kittens, maybe. Will she tell them about me?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Farewell Jottings -- Part Two

Tumultuous times lie ahead. The young are on their way to become the youth! Fires will be lit and cleansing floods will bring sweeping changes across hearts that will survive the first rite of passage to adulthood that is finishing school and getting into college. At the very cusp of this change, there are two things on my mind -- regrets and fears.
Unlike many of my peers, regrets I have none -- and that worries me because I fear that perhaps no regrets means not enough staked in the first place: that, maybe, I played safe.
Maybe in my fear of losing myself I lost you; maybe in my fear of never knowing myself, I never knew you; maybe in my haste to find myself I never bothered to find you.
You, my lost friend. You, the friend I could have made but didn't. You, the friend I made and then drove away. You, the smile; you, the light; you, the opportunity -- bypassed, perhaps, I fear, for the sake of me: me the brave who was not brave enough to save you, me the compassionate who was never kind to you, me the tolerant who took pride in looking down on you.
So, while regrets I have none because I never met you, fears I have in abundance that, somewhere, you exist, and in that somewhere beyond my reach you live, knowing me to be the person who could have been there for you, but didn't. Despite my confidence in my own assertions, I fear that somewhere there is someone who is a victim of hypocrisy on my part, even if that hypocrisy exists only in that someone's perception. (Or my own. Reality matters very less, dear unknown friend -- me thinking ill of me and you thinking ill of me are equally ill fates!)
The projector will drone on. Reel after grainy reel will flit away on the screen. Regrets and fears will change shape but will always remain. Laughably, shadowed one, these regrets and fears provide some of the best creative inspiration, some of the best screenplay for the dramedy of our lives. So if you think me a hypocrite (or if you think yourself a hypocrite -- one can always come to one's senses), fear not and regret not your past actions. Let it fuel you to greater heights, where your movie will be a blockbuster, where people will applaud you and chant your name. Believe, that despite all hypocrisy, despite the missed chances and swallowed smiles, your movie will get made. It will break the box office and get awards of the red carpet sort -- it'll even get ninety percent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Believe, I say, because self-belief has served me well, and because, if I had known you, I would have believed in you as well.
When you do become a celebrity, friend, give me a call. I'd like to know if and when our dance of hypocrisy pays off. Adios!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Farewell Jottings -- Part One

Emotional mush is always difficult to handle, but it feels warranted in this case, so please hear me out.
Your journey henceforth won't be easy. The world's general muck and your difficult personality are not a good match, and you are hellishly hard to like. So before we part, I'm going to pretend that the 246 days between our births were actually 246 months, and give you some advice.
You see, friend, growing up means that the ground beneath your feet will shift. It's only normal. You will learn that the world is unfair, and that foes always outnumber friends. You will learn that envy is a stronger emotion than gratitude. You will learn to suspect -- because people will have betrayed you. As I said -- it's only normal. But hopefully, you will also learn courage, grace and strength; hopefully you will find your voice, and you will love and be loved. Underneath the greys of essential suspicion, hopefully, you will see the sparkle of those rare few who will, in turn, see you for the sparkler that you are. Hopefully, my friend, you will not lose hope.
To put it simply, it's normal, and desirable, for you to learn two things -- one, that all the world's light cannot kill darkness; and two, that all the world's darkness cannot put out the light inside you if you decide to let it shine.
Now, you ask, all this while, what will I do for you? Where will I be when you go about this difficult journey? Maybe in a fit of indignation you will even question the kind of friend I am, to give so much advice and then disappear when our time here is done. You will say that you want to know more, to talk more; you will say that it only makes sense, and that we are not done -- if we want to talk, there's always WhatsApp! But you see, I will have a life and so will you. Talking so much works for carefree youngsters studying and working in the same place -- not for adult individuals responsible for feeding themselves and, in time, others. So, buddy mine, what can I do for you? Will I be physically absent when the going gets tough? Perhaps. But whether I know you in the future or not, remember that friendship means that I am with you in spirit, and in spirit, you have my otherwise unconditional support on one condition. The condition being, you ask?
Well, my friend -- it is simple. In spirit and, if possible, in flesh and blood, I will hold your hand when it's dark outside and it's difficult to see. I will grab your shoulders and pull you to safety when it is dark beneath you and above you and all around you. But I will run -- in selfish and mad disappointment I will run, miles away from you I will run even if it kills me -- if I ever find you inviting the darkness in and letting it invade your sparkling soul -- because I will not sit tight and watch while yet another light goes out. I simply won't. So promise me -- promise me you will shine.
Now, buddy, that's enough of all that. Steel your nerves, and best of luck. Gimme a fist-bump before we go.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Spirit of New Year's

Image Courtesy: globzer.com via Google
When the sun rises this morning, the birds won't know the difference. Neither will the trees, insects, cats and dogs, or for that matter the rivers, streams and rocks. Even the sun and the earth won't know the difference, which is ironic because all the hullabaloo is because of the earth completing a full revolution around the sun -- they won't know the significance of the specific point on the earth's orbit which we pick as a cut-off for our calendar years. In fact, if we look at it, that point varies across cultures, and many New Year celebrations exist outside the dominant Gregorian calendar system. Even within it, time zone differences mean that the same moment is not shared as the defining one between revellers across the globe. Sad, isn't it? It can almost make one feel that this entire New Year ruckus means nothing. Yet, New Year's festivities constitute one of the earliest kinds of celebrations in the history of human civilization. This tells us that, aside from noticing the repetitive nature of season cycles and using it as a measure of time, humans have felt the need to document and commemorate their entire lives in terms of this cycle: appraising their lives in terms of tasks accomplished in one such cycle, and treating each one as a new chance at the same seasons and the same conditions, providing ample scope for alteration and improvement based on lessons learnt from the bygones. The reason we love New Year's Day so much is that it represents fresh chances -- which, while invigorating, is not entirely true, because in our complex lives, not everything comes back every year.
No one knows who first decided to celebrate the periodic repetition of weather conditions. I like to think that someone sitting in a prehistoric cave felt cold, or hot, and started counting days until the same feeling returned after an intervening period of different weather of all kinds, and then noticed that it is regular. I like to think that this realization of regularity was quickly followed by a realization of the finality of hope -- a realization that no matter what, favourable times and weather conditions will return, and that long winters and long summers are actually never longer than stipulated, and that the worst will always pass -- and thus New Year's Day was born. The flip side, though, is that the same person probably also realized that just like the worst, the best will also not stay for long.
Amidst this New Year revelry, I would like to be the voice of reason, and point out that while motivating oneself using New Year's hope, and pledging to make changes, and of course having fun, are all very well, one must recognize that changes are never made abruptly at the stroke of midnight, opportunities do not replicate themselves year after year, and that New Year's actually signifies time passed -- time lost, not time gained. So, while it is wonderful that we are the only species on this planet hopeful (and intelligent) enough to celebrate New Year's Day, it is perhaps prudent to understand that the exact day does not matter as much as the idea of it does. We could pick any random day in the year for this. In multicultural India, we already have a bunch of different New Year celebrations. What they all have in common is the human intention of appraisal and improvement -- an idea that, while reinforced on this festival day, should permeate our lives every day.
To put it differently, we don't know at which point the earth started revolving around the sun. We don't know at which point our planet was when the first life form or the first human was born. We have no decisive zero from which to start measuring our years. Which means that, if we want it to, every day marks the beginning of a new year in some sense: maybe not as 'Happy' a new year, but a new year nonetheless! So I say, let New Years' Day be less about the day itself, and more about the spirit of human hope and our constant efforts not just to survive, but to live and live well, as individuals and as a species. Let 1st January be a day to honour Time, the only resource beyond our control -- let it be about making fruitful negotiations with Time to make the best of its fleeting nature.
In short, we can't party every night, but let tonight's party be an expression of a yearlong drive to make Time give us all it can, preferably make it suffer for all the limitations it places on us -- because we humans are boss like that! So do keep smiling, keep working for the better, and be grateful for the opportunity to understand New Year's -- unlike the birds, the animals and the trees, who will never know why none of us are sleeping tonight. Happy 2015!
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