The graph of my life

People think they know me but they don’t. Not really. Actually, I am one of the loneliest people on this earth. I cry sometimes, because it hurts. It does. To be honest, I guess you could say that it hurts to be me.

-Michael Jackson

It is sometimes interesting to see yourself through another’s perspective. For many who have known me since my childhood, the graph of my life would appear to have taken a downhill course. From being an unfaltering rank student, from being a stage figure and a public speaker, from a pedestal of popularity and fame, from being a role-model and reference, how is it that I am a ‘nobody’ today? This is a question that lingers in the minds of many of my school friends.

“It was you we aspired to be. But today, everybody who was a nobody then, is somebody. The graph of their life is on an uphill course, while yours is going in the opposite direction. It is a paradox. This is certainly not where you should have been!”, they say.

I suppress a smile. I can relate to what they mean. They painted my future in their minds a long time ago. A future, bright and promising. Like my friend pointed out to me, I never had to work hard. Where my friends put in their hundred percent, I only had to put in half that effort to succeed. For the rest of the time, I could afford to be mischievous and light-hearted, because success came so easily to me. How is it then that today, I am so far away from success? This intrigues them.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I too had dreamt of such a future for myself. In those years, we were so young and naive that we were ignorant of the currents of life or of the hunger of the soul. Our definitions of success were based on conventional moulds. Like my friends, I too believed that I would become a doctor or engineer, travel the world, collect achievements, live a comfortable life, and earn the status of ‘elite’. Though disguised under degrees and lifestyles, these aspirations translated into money and power. But back then, I did not know that money and power could not buy happiness by themselves.

However, unlike my friends who only saw my external embellishments, I was aware of my limitations and failures. I was aware of those aspects of my personality that would interfere with success. I was aware of my emotional intensity, my inability to commit to paths that could not capture my interest or imagination, and my inclination towards fantasy. I was always lost in the magic of the world, and that interfered with my ability to focus. Perhaps this awareness helped me accept failures and enabled me to expect less from myself.

All through my medical college, I was an average student. My primary motivation came not from my scores, but from the magic that some of my textbooks and teachers fed into my mind. I could sense the extraordinary element in the ordinary, and this thrilled me. I am grateful to those teachers who made me feel that there was something extraordinary about my perceptions and thoughts. If not for that, my self-esteem might have suffered terribly. Likewise, when I worked abroad, I was lost to the stimulation and novelty of my world. I failed to travel along defined paths, and collected very little in terms of external embellishment. But internally, I could feel the transformation. My consciousness had finally awakened enough to connect to the hunger of my soul.

It had been difficult for me to leave London, but when I found myself in Kerala, it may have been this element of instinct and consciousness that steered me towards the true purpose of my life.

“Why do you build small towers in infinite places? Why can’t you build one tower, and then build upon that?”

It is a question of significance. Any day, it is easier to build one tower. Imagine if I were to do so now. It would be so easy. I would only have to continue with whatever I do now. Live in Kerala forever. Continue with the current job. Get promoted. Some day, I would be Professor and HOD. I might enhance my CV through ‘research’, publications and presentations. On paper, I might narrate the story of my ‘professional growth’ with pride. Internally, my soul might just die. A little every day.

You see, my heart is not in this image of perfection we create for the world to see, acknowledge and approve. I like the kind of research I do every day. I am addicted to the joy of toying with perceptions and thoughts. They come to me at the most unexpected moments, like when I am walking on the street. I like experimenting with them on a serious note, and finding the real answers. That is how my first book was conceived. It was a book that arose from the questions I had asked myself when I had found myself drawn to diversity of personality. There is more truth in that exploration than the research papers we publish in most institutions in India. I don’t want a high from a prize for a paper or poster; I want a high from the paths of discovery I take.

I watch the Bee Gees sing. I watch Michael Jackson perform. I read Sylvia Plath’s letters to her mother, Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother. I watch the humming bird drinking nectar from the flower. What I see in all of them is their ability to lose themselves to the moment. To the joy of perception.

beegees

I don’t care for long years; I care for richness of experience. How much of life penetrated us while we lived? That is the question that matters to me. I have to be in love. Every day, every moment. With the world. With myself. And I would do anything that it takes to be in love. This principle has been the driving force in my life. If I built one big tower, I would have fallen out of love with myself a long time ago.

I have captured enough magic from this world within me. Enough to touch others with its spell. Every soul who crosses my path, carries a little bit of this magic in his heart when he leaves. That has been my highest high. I can make anybody fall in love with themselves. With the world. And for this reason, I am loved the most.

Beautiful moments with my mother, savouring the uniqueness of the relationship we share. Beautiful moments with all the people in my life, strangers included, breathing life into those moments. Beautiful moments in the lap of nature, cherishing this joy of being alive. Beautiful moments of endless conversations with myself, through which I discover the world and fall in love with it. Beautiful moments of exploring myself through work, reveling in what I discover of myself. This perpetual romance has been my greatest achievement.

Invisible to the world, but very much palpable…

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God’s work of art

As I drove to Anjarakandy today, there was a song in my heart. I deliberately opted for the narrow lanes that led me to the rear entrance of the college for then I could treat myself to stills from peasant life- a life where my heart is.

The sight of a farmer tilling the earth. Of the paddy in the fields, basking in the golden rays of the winter sun. Of egrets gracefully patrolling the fields, like an army of grim soldiers in white uniforms. Of women in sober clothes, gaily marching across the fields with sickles and baskets in their hand, the wind carrying with it the sound of their banter and laughter. Of cows tethered to trees, grazing lazily in the tempered rays of the sun. Of little children clad in school uniforms, pausing to pluck wild flowers as they zealously march to school. Of smoke rising from the hearth of homes. I could hear the wind whispering across the lanes, bringing with it the fragrance of a village- the fragrance of my childhood. This imagery of harmony, of oneness- this was my earliest perception of paradise. This canvas of fields that changed its character in response to the journey of the sun in the sky, and to the play of seasons, now bronze, now gold, now green silk- this was the first work of art I was exposed to. God’s work of art. However long I looked at it, however deep I looked into it, I could never have enough of it. It was a dynamic canvas that was as bottomless as the insatiability of my mind. I could go on digging, and there would still be more to dig. And in that work of art, everything seemed to blend in so perfectly. I still remember the joy I felt when I spotted the reflection of the setting sun in the still waters of the pond that stood in the middle of the fields, like a mirror sewed on to a green robe of earth. As the little pond gracefully embodied the setting sun that ruled the world, something awakened within me. I awakened to this joy of oneness. Everything in my life was subsequently inspired by this perception of paradise. This was the very first perception of beauty I was exposed to.

Today, I could find myself integrating into this picture of oneness, unlike the last one year when I was working here. The ways of the mind are strange. It sometimes takes a certain detachment to attach oneself to a perception all over again. As I have left behind all the ugliness that had coloured my life here in the last one year, I am able to connect to my old perception all over again. To those early years here. Those sacred years. Those beautiful years. Those years when Anjarakandy was like a melancholic story from Basheer’s novel and I was the central character of this novel. Those years when a certain silence had seeped into my life and that I shared with nature. Those paths from my old house to Anjarakandy- they are sacred paths. They took with them a little bit of me. When I visit those paths now, I hear the old voices, the old conversations. They bring back the old times, those perceptions, those memories, those silences. The stillness and silence of solitary nights, lit up only by the warm glow of oil lamps and the melancholic song of a wayfarer. They reflect all that I used to be at that point in time. And there is something so loveable about that phase of ‘me’. I fall in love with myself all over again.

Anjarakandy will always be special to me. It is not so much a place, as much as a perception- a precious fragment of my life. I don’t ever want to lose the purity of this perception again. Kerala, per se, is a perception whose oneness and beauty comes to me only when I detach myself from this land- when I walk its streets as a stranger; when I am shielded by anonymity.

Today, I met Fousiya. There is something so precious about our interactions. I am suddenly reminded of the warmth of a human-to-human interaction. She held my hand and said to me, “No matter where you go, don’t ever forget me. Keep in touch. It is only when you come that I feel something is alive within me again. I feel the magic of life, I feel its beauty.” I told her today that I had finally written her story. And I told her that though I wrote it, the wisdom of the words were all hers. Only because she wasn’t writing it, I was. It takes so little to make her happy. There is something I want to do for her. I have a plan for her. She has no expectations at all. There is so little she asks of life, so little she asks of people. Give her emotions, and she will cherish them, never asking for more. Grateful for the warmth. Grateful for the human connection. She bares life with her words, until life stares at you, raw and naked, and you begin to see it with your inner wisdom. For her, these words are matter-of-fact. She doesn’t realize their magnanimity. But when she sees me basking in the richness of these words, her eyes light up momentarily.

Human interactions fascinate me. I have no awards, but my life is lit up with the joy I have brought to numerous souls. Especially people less understood by the world, less valued, unfairly judged. Within the hearts of all such people, I have discovered the true nature of the human spirit, gleaming like gold. The true wisdom of our species is hidden in these hearts and they go about their lives, unrecognized, unnoticed. I have been most loved for these two reasons. One, because I can spot this treasure in them and make them feel their worth. Two, because I take them into their natural state- that world of pure perception that they are longing to share with somebody. I have often felt like a wayfarer, meant to give company to weary travellers who come from forbidden lands where most of us wouldn’t even dream to step in. There is so muc they have seen, there is so much that throbs within their hearts, and all they want is a listener who can listen to the throbbing of their heart. A companion for a small length of their journey.

I am grateful for this gift of life. I am grateful for this sensitivity. It enables me to feel so intensely. It enables me to allow life to pass through me, with all its richness and glory. This gift of perception is what I cherish the most. Now I understand that sadness too, is a tool to explore the magic of life, and that the possibility in sadness is so often greater than in happiness.

Dear life, I love you so….

The last leg of the journey?

I am so scared to hope! Is it likely that in a couple of months, I might be back in Bangalore? Is it likely that I might be back- to all that was familiar, all that was home? Is it likely that I can once again walk the streets freely, watching the setting sun, feeling the breeze against my face, smiling at passers by? I am too scared to hope!

For so long, I have been shut away. Like a prisoner who has resigned to his life in prison and does not dare to dream of freedom. Like a prisoner who can only cry when he is told that he will soon be free. I have missed so much. I have missed so many years of freedom. I have missed the company of people. I have missed feeling the outdoors. From my prison in Kerala, I can only watch the play of the seasons from behind the walls. I cannot run like how I used to, I cannot smell the roses, I cannot chase the butterflies, I cannot sing and dance. I have to be content watching it all from behind the walls.

It has been so long since I have dropped my defense, so long since I have lived free of fear. Life is so harsh here. Especially on women. Animals and women have no place in the scheme of life here; we are mere slaves. The women here are soft spoken and mellow on the outside, but their hearts are made of steel. Unlike urban women who create an impression of independence and strength, but are soft and vulnerable within. Women in these parts have resigned to the slavery. So they keep up an image of submissiveness, and find their own ways to safeguard their interests. Often manipulative ways. It is ingrained in them; it cannot be learned. After being treated with sensitivity and gentleness all through my life in Bangalore, it has been really hard coming to terms with the treatment meted out to women here. We deal with abuse on a daily basis- from the passers by, from the vendors, from the labourers, from colleagues, from neighbours. Of course, there are exceptions, but such encounters are lost in this ocean of brutality. All my energy is used up in freeing myself from the negativity meted out to me on a daily basis. Whatever little is left, is used to save myself from the harshness of the climate.

The climate is a calamity by itself. There are no dry days. All through the year, it is humid. Only the degree of humidity varies. Humidity is my greatest limitation. It makes me feel ill all the time; I can’t function normally. I feel like a youthful spirit trapped in an ageing body. My tolerance to exercise is zero. I hardly walk in Kerala. Simple household chores feel like a big burden. I struggle every day with migraine, restless leg syndrome, prickly heat, and sleepless nights. I manage only because of the AC in the bedroom and the AC in my car. The AC feels like a lifeline. It is not a commodity of luxury for me; it is a necessity for me here. This restricted pattern of  life is not me. I am driven by movement; walking and running and hopping and playing is integral to my spirit.

Somehow, I have survived ten years of my life here. But as freedom becomes a possibility, I cannot bear to think of spending a single day here after my release is sanctioned. I do not know how I survived ten years. There is much that I have lost to these ten years. But I do know that I have grown- in ways I couldn’t have grown otherwise. But, growth cannot be a reason to extend your stay in prison, can it?

I promise to put to good use the lessons I learned here. I only want to go back to being what I truly am- a child. When I am not writing, when I am not teaching, when I am not mentoring, when I am not into the roles that were carved out from the experience of life, I want to be that naive child I have always been, with not a care in the world 🙂

Dearest Bangalore, I hope you are not far away…

 

 

Questions to a Writer

Question: Is your writing autobiographical? Is your writing borrowed from your own story?

Answer: My writing is like a dish. When you taste a spoonful of a dish, you can tell there is salt in it, there is spice. But even the tiniest spoonful retains the essence of the dish. It doesn’t separate out into its individual components. So is my writing. There are elements of my own life in it. There are elements of other lives that have touched mine. From the past and the present. From reality and fiction. There is recollection and imagination. The final outcome is the result of an unconscious blending of all these components. Of all that I have written, there is perhaps not a single piece that is entirely mine. Yet, ingredients from my own life have seeped into each of these. But if you try to separate out my story from the rest, it is impossible. I  can no longer differentiate between what is mine and what belongs to the world. I think that forms the essence of all writing. A dissolution of the self into the universe.

Question: Do you believe that a woman has no identity of her own? That her identity is complete only in the presence of a man by her side?

Answer: A woman is not only a woman. There is a human being within her. There is an individual within her. Each, with a distinct identity of its own, and with its unique place in the world. The human being in her is to do with the inherent nature of her emotions. A being capable of feeling and reacting. The individual in her is the entity that comprehends and analyzes. These entities are independent of a man’s presence in her life. But the spirit of the woman in her is nourished by the presence of a strong male by her side- it could be a father, a husband, a son, or even a friend. Somebody who can offer her strong, unconditional protection and therefore the security that her vulnerable spirit seeks. It is this security that enables the woman in her to unfurl- the feminine nature of her personality to blossom to its fullest. The woman, with her softness, sensitivity, receptivity, empathy, shyness, gentleness, tenderness, sweetness, nurturance, deference, succorance and all the traits that bring out the aesthetic potential of her spirit. The very aspects of her being that the man seeks in her and that make the man-woman relationship unique and beautiful.

In the absence of this dimension, the woman is a man. And in being a man, she adopts skills necessary for survival in an unprotected world, but in the process, her feminine self is compromised. Her environment is not conducive for the free expression of her feminine spirit; one aspect of her personality, of her potential, is suppressed. This is not ideal because it takes her away from happiness.

The transformation of our environment is worrying. We have more and more women going into careers that compel them to reject their inherent feminine traits and adopt masculine traits. Also, male children are growing up in an environment where they are not exposed to the vulnerability of the feminine nature (they no longer see this vulnerability in the women in their lives) and are not taught to treat women responsibly. They are thus moulded into success-driven individuals who do not understand the vulnerability of the feminine nature or the joy and beauty such vulnerability is capable of bringing into their lives through its aesthetic potential. They end up rejecting the feminine nature because they associate it with weakness. There is an urgent need to protect the feminine, but that can come only from a change in the mindset of both men and women. That can come only from awareness and introspection. We need media, particularly visual media, to take a lead in this direction, and to project such stories that can create an impact and make men and women ponder about these aspects of change.

 

 

The Death of Culture

As a child, I was closer to my mother’s family. My mother’s family was made up of people who were culturally sensitive, and that made all the difference to the moments I spent with them.

It was my great grandmother who shaped my earliest perceptions of the world into which I was born. My mother was her first and favourite grandchild, and so, she came to take care of me when I was born. My mother was working and I was left to her care in the first year of my life. Though I have no conscious memory of that period, she gave me the very first impression of this world and I am certain she presented the world to me as a fascinating, enchanting place. When she left, I was inconsolable. I was just an year old, but she seemed to have created a deep impression in my mind. My mother recollects how I would look at every grey-haired woman thereafter and cry, “Ammamma, Ammamma!”.

My mother grew up with my great grandmother, and she had instilled in my mother a love for culture. She would narrate to my mother many events and experiences from her life, and she always described them in a cultural context. She had traveled a great deal with my great-grandfather who had a transferable job, and she saw each place and its people in the light of their inherent culture. While the other women exchanged pleasantries and gossiped, she was busy absorbing the difference in culture. She refrained from too much judgement; she loved assimilating, learning and absorbing new aspects of culture, particularly those that appealed to the senses. She infected my mother with this sensitivity to culture, and my mother’s memories were therefore rooted deeply in culture.

Bangalore was not a culturally stimulating place. It was a multicultural community where we were exposed to such broad differences that we had learned to accept difference as the norm. It was when I spent my vacations in Kerala that the cultural ingredients came alive and awakened my senses to the profound beauty in life. My mother’s ancestral house was in itself, a key cultural ingredient that shaped my early emotions. It was an old weather beaten house, and it was a miracle that it had survived the storms of centuries. That in itself, made it special for it was a relic from the past. I was fascinated by its wooden half doors that seemed to let the world in, its patio where we all gathered most of the time, its attic where mice could be heard quarreling, its dark kitchen where the hearth was always warm, and the backyard that looked onto pepper creepers coiling around the jackfruit trees. I loved some of the things that we children were asked to do, and that my cousins seemed to hate. For instance, I loved sitting in front of the lamp, reciting prayer verses at dusk. It was something we didn’t do back home in Bangalore. I loved the feel of pebbles and earth on my feet. I loved earthen floors more than I loved tiled floors. I loved taking bath because it meant drawing water from the well. I loved the sight of jasmine flowers that had blossomed overnight. I would pick handfuls of the flowers and smell them. I loved the wooden reclining chair in the patio where my great grandfather used to sit. I loved the high cot in my great grandmother’s room that served the purpose of a store. From its insides, my aunts would fish out cakes, sweets and savories. I loved the women who passed by our house, sometimes with sickles in their hand, in search of tender grass for the cows. They would smile at us fondly and ask a million questions. I loved the old temples we visited. The stone steps and pillars, the sopanam, the fragrance of the incense sticks, the sandal paste, the temple pond and the serpent shrines. I loved the little lamps that glowed in the dim light of dusk, and lit up the shrine. I loved the oracle’s performance though I was also frightened by his demeanour. I loved the graceful movements of the Mohiniattam and I loved the mudras of the Kathakali. I loved weddings where women dressed up the bride and the bride, clad in spotless white, her hair adorned with the most beautiful and fragrant jasmine flowers, reminded me of a swan gliding through a procession. I loved being part of the wedding processions that walked the bride and the groom to the bride’s new house. Though I was raised in the Hindu faith, and loved the cultural elements of this religion, I was equally fascinated by cultural elements of other religions. I was very excited by toothless elderly Muslim women who stopped to talk to my aunts. I was fascinated by the number of gold earrings that adorned their ears and by the zari bordered headdress through which silvery strands of hair broke loose. Their houses were a delight, and so were their weddings. I loved the boatman who ferried us across the river. I loved the fishmonger who hooted in the mornings and passed by on his bicycle, an army of cats following him dutifully.I loved the tea stalls where old men discussed politics amidst glasses of tea and plates of parippu vada. I loved watching women pound rice; I was in awe of their synchrony.

In those days, the men and women seemed to possess so many skills that we no longer have. People could grow their own food, catch fish and crabs from the streams, chop wood and obtain firewood, make a fire, and cook their own food. They could even build their own house. They could climb trees, swim, row a boat, walk for miles, and labour for hours. My mother tells me about how she would accompany my great grandmother to sow seeds, till the soil, and water the saplings. She remembers how during the cucumber harvest, men would erect a pandal in the fields, light a fire, and stand guard, so as to ward away foxes that ransacked the fields at night. Those sleepovers can never match our modern sleepovers.

In retrospect, I realize that culture played an important role in my formation. It defined the aesthetic framework that was necessary to make all my engagements with the world profoundly beautiful. It taught me to see the aesthetic dimension in all my relationships- with nature, with people, with other living beings, with living spaces. It taught me to explore this aesthetic space in my day to day life, in education, in religion, and in every facet of life I engaged with. The more diversity there was, the more was the scope for such aesthetics. Perhaps that was the reason I loved this country the most. It provided for so much cultural diversity. And so, my memories were rooted in these cultural ingredients.

Sometimes, I am aware that my mind is seeking something from the environment. It seeks familiarity. And that familiarity is to do with these cultural ingredients on which I was raised. When it doesn’t find them in the world, it resorts to the books and movies that have immortalized them.

Today, our lives are so empty. The death of culture is palpable. Instead of the soulful cultural ingredients that once defined our lives, there is just a human buzz- a mechanical buzz with no aesthetics in the monotonous scheme of our comfortable lives. In place of a memory, is a big void. Something that science labels as depression.

Culture is a carefully crafted, time-tested art that has ingredients that nourish the soul. I think these cultural ingredients were largely responsible for the sense of fulfillment that characterized the traditional way of life. Culture comprises of those ingredients that teach us to engage deeply and meaningfully with the natural world, and therefore nourish our souls. As we dissociate ourselves from culture, we are also alienating the mind from soulful ingredients that are necessary to anchor the mind to a fundamental framework of factors that govern life. Cultural ingredients awaken the senses to the inherent beauty in life. All memory and learning feeds on such aesthetic awakening. The definitions of all facets of human life- love, relationships, home, marriage, childhood, womanhood are deeply rooted in culture. Human potential is rooted in such sensory awakening. And so, this era of depression, violence and crimes is not surprising.

Earning my Freedom

prison

Finally, it is the kind of Sunday I have been waiting for.

I quit my job in April. While I haven’t resigned yet on paper, I resigned in my mind a long time ago. I have no plans of stepping back into the monotony of that job. The days since have been full. When I think of the dull routine of that job and the hours I would sit from 9 am to 4 pm, six days a week, trying to find something meaningful or entertaining to do, I feel the days since have been so productive in contrast. Ironical, isn’t it?

I regard the last few months as the most beautiful phase of my life. It was like being at sea on a self-charted voyage, with the exciting possibility of stumbling on new lands and setting foot on new frontiers, but also with the heavy risk of being at the mercy of the weather. I tasted freedom in its true sense and I realized how much courage it takes to truly liberate oneself from all entrapment.

For the first time, I saw life as a broad canvas on which one painted with a free hand. There were no practised strokes, no pictures to take cues from, no preconceived color schemes. There was just the canvas, the brush and the colors. I had to trust my hand. I had to trust my mind. I had to let it flow, anticipating the possibility of smudges and blotches. I had to be willing to take off the smudged canvas and start afresh on a new canvas. It was in these times that I came closest to Paulo Coelho’s words:

And when you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

The hardest part of the journey in these few months was that there was no income coming in. I was spending for all my endeavours, but with nothing coming in. Of course, I didn’t have to worry about it under my current circumstances, but what if I had to? I couldn’t go on like this. There were moments I felt worthless and confused. I had all the education and credentials to earn me a good job where I could be productive, but that wasn’t happening. If a job provided an income, it wasn’t providing anything for the soul. If a job gave me something for the soul, there was no income. How long could I go on like this? I consoled myself that this was a temporary state of affairs. I thought of people who could not have done this, even if they wanted to. At least I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to worry about my materialistic needs being met, despite the absence of an income. So I told myself that I would quit these endeavors only after I had savored their joy to some extent.

My life was like a circus in these months. I was taking on roles at random, depending on the immediate need. I was approaching schools, trying to convince Principals and Managements of the need to provide children something beyond their academic curriculum. This was hard because I had to prove to them that I had something concrete to offer. Sometimes I would take on the role of a communicative language teacher, hoping to connect language to students’ functional needs in terms of expression. Sometimes I would be a motivational speaker, speaking to them about topics such as school, education, or reading, hoping to connect these concepts to their motivation. Sometimes I would be an NIE teacher, using the newspaper as a tool to develop critical thinking ability in students. Sometimes, I would be a counselor and mentor, addressing their individual challenges. It wasn’t that I was trained in any of these. These were not the skill areas in which I was trained. But the drive to make a difference was so high that I just plunged in, trusting my instincts. I suppose the feelings of worthlessness were also a factor. I had to prove to myself that I had quit my job for a good reason. And when I was not doing any of these, I was a student. I sought courses that could upgrade my skills and prove useful to the roles I wished to play. This played its part in keeping my morale high. Learning new skills has always been my greatest high. So this played its part in keeping my feelings of worthlessness at bay. Towards the end, I also decided to tutor medical students on my own, for the pure joy of teaching. What I could not do in my institution, I wanted to do on my own. Teach to educate, rather than teach for a degree. There is an ocean of difference between the two. This has been an uphill task because students have been conditioned to structure their learning to suit exams (that unfortunately have nothing to do with testing of concepts) and therefore demonstrate resistance to true learning.

As I look back at my life, I see it as a circus. A circus, where I took roles at random, depending on the immediate need of the hour. Roles that sometimes demanded skills I had not been trained in. But life doesn’t give you that choice, does it? You just play the part and trust yourself to perform. But in retrospect, these untrained roles taught me the most. I suppose I always saw life as a long movie where I had the freedom to work on the character and the script, as well as act the character. So, in a sense, I enjoyed it. At different phases, I played different characters. I could look at my role objectively, revise the script and the character, and impact the outcome. I had the freedom to enhance the beauty of the character. And so, with each character, I let life pass through me in all its intensity, and I allowed it to transform me. To enrich me as a character. To add depth to it. That is when the true beauty of life dawned on me.

Towards the end of this phase, the clouds seemed to lift off, and some sunshine streamed in. I suddenly had the luxury to pause and look back at these last few months. I feel like a seasoned traveler now, wise from the diversity of the expeditions I have undertaken. Like that moment in ‘The pursuit of happyness’, it is that moment when the test has come to an end. I may soon be taking up a new role in life.

And as the possibility of this new role sets in, long-forgotten doors open and a familiar fragrance floods my senses. The world behind those doors is so precious and sacred that I do not dare to step in yet. For so long, I have been kept away from that world, imprisoned in a cell where I did not dare to dream of freedom. My feeling now is akin to that of a prisoner whose sentence and term in prison is reduced abruptly and the orders for release come, when he least expects it. The impact of the prison is so high that one is fearful of exposing oneself to the joys of the world outside. One is fearful of attaching yet again to that world; fearful of it being snatched away yet again. That is my current state. As I think of all the things that may come back into my life again, I can only sit and cry. I am too scared to be happy. It will take quite some time for this reality to sink in. At the same time, a part of me feels the joy of having earned it. This time, I deserve that world, for I earned it. It wasn’t just given to me for nothing.

Finally, it is the kind of Sunday I have been waiting for.

In case you wanted to know why, this is the first Sunday in months where I haven’t had to worry about the week ahead. There is no planning to do, no uncertainty to deal with. My mind is still. And I feel free to chase the butterflies within my mind- the multicolored emotions that I call butterflies. I hope you have a great Sunday too, chasing your own butterflies!

From the world of stars-I

The years I love the most are the years when there existed a distinct separation between the artist’s private world and his audience. To the audience, the artist was an unreachable star in the sky. We had to be content, looking up at that star, admiring the way it lit up our world. So we read books and watched films for the pure joy of savouring them, never once aspiring to make it to that world of stars. I read, not because I wanted to write. I  watched films, not because I wished to gain access to the internal world of cinema. To me, it appeared as if all these beautiful works of art were created in heaven and then sent to earth for us to savour; the names of the artists never mattered to me. 

When I first started writing, I was too shy to share it with people. I feared they would find it childish. If not for blogging, I might never have shared my ramblings with the world. The blog platform had the advantage of anonymity. Not a soul there knew me personally. Those were the days that I wrote the best. Partly because I wrote exclusively for myself. Those were years when I had lost myself. I was so lost that I resisted nothing, and into that void within me, a universe walked in. I saw through the void in me the abundance in the universe. Every object around me, animate or inanimate, suddenly seemed to acquire immense beauty. The world walked into my mind, draped in the beauty of sunsets, glow worms, monsoon clouds and love songs. It was as if my sorrows had found new expression. I still remember how an old man’s face came floating into my mind- a destitute or a mad man perhaps, with an overflowing, unkempt beard. I remember feeling attracted to something about this picture- I couldn’t point precisely as to what had captivated me about this picture. I couldn’t even point to where I had seen him. “Like weeds that joyously erupted in a long-neglected garden”, I wrote of his beard, not knowing where I found the words. But I was satisfied. No, ecstatic. The analogy seemed to capture what had attracted me to the image. I still hadn’t nailed it, but I had captured the feel of the image; I had captured something of the old man’s spirit, something of his life. It was then that I felt I had gained access into the beautiful world of language- a private world that quietly celebrated the beauty of creation. Like Michael Jackson wrote of his inherent inclination to music, I too had discovered my inner life in this world of language. I wanted to take a walk across this world, explore and savour. Quietly. Without too much noise. It was like walking through a beautiful garden, with no specific goal to chase. I didn’t even want to touch the flowers. I just wanted to sit down perhaps, and blend into the spirit of the garden- lose myself into its soul. I wanted to feel the garden, inside of me. That was all. 

Those were golden years. Especially the year that it rained incessantly. A landscape bathed in rain added character to my writing. Analogies came spontaneously. Never had I written with so much ease. And yet, the spontaneity was something that made me feel it wasn’t me who was writing them. My childhood belief came true. I felt these words had already been created in heaven, and at some moment when the veil between my soul and the soul of the universe was momentarily lifted, I gained access to the soul of the universe. The words were already composed; I had to only deliver it. Such moments were divine. It was then that I awakened to the joy of this gift from heaven.

Over subsequent years, my writing changed significantly. I evolved as a writer. I experienced a natural drift to analytical writing, as opposed to ‘poetry in prose’. However, I regard those early pieces as the finest writing that ever escaped me; their rawness and purity were never replicated in my subsequent writings. 

I am also attached to the first book I wrote. I am not sure if I would write more, but I suppose this book will always have a special place in my heart. When I published this book, I did not know what to expect. I still do not know how the audience perceives this book. The book deals with a complex subject. It is less of literature and more of a ‘film studies’ book. It is a scientific analysis of art. The issue with such books is that they have a highly specific target audience. A mental health practitioner may relate to the theories of personality, but not to the characters of the book unless he is familiar with these films. So the essence of the book would be lost upon him. A movie buff may be familiar with the films, but unless he has significant inclination to psychology, he would not relate to the theories of personality. What I love the most about this book is that through the deep insight concealed in these films, I taught myself how the interaction between personality and circumstances culminates in diverse outcomes, ranging from self-actualization to mental illness. This book was essentially a research study to me. I would categorize this as scientific work, rather than literature. But nevertheless, it is a gray zone. 

On account of its complexity, I felt I had to back it up with campaigns. I felt it was important to arouse interest in the book through campaigns where I could interact with the public and create a foundation that could enable them to understand the contents of the book to some extent.

All along, I had longed to be able to talk about its contents to somebody who could look at it from the same perspective as I did- from that zone of confluence of art and science. If Lohithadas or Bharathan or Padmarajan were alive, they might have understood, I thought to myself. Also, it would have been thrilling to read about one’s own work from this perspective- they would have been thrilled that their films were so true to the ‘science’ of human behaviour, to the extent that they even answered what science is struggling with (and can never answer): What steers some people to creativity of the highest order and others towards mental illness? Where does vulnerability feature in this equation?

Considering that these directors were no more, I came to acceptance that I may never have an audience that might really have the desire to know. I am sure there are many people in the field of Malayalam cinema who would be interested and would also comprehend, but what access did I have to them? Especially since my book was in English.

And then the miracle happened…