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…

A place to die

“Miaow…Miaow!”

The cry seemed to come from the bushes. I moved closer and caught sight of the creature. It was a black cat with white spots. As I took a closer look, I realised that there was something terribly wrong with it! It was emaciated and its coat was dull. Its eyes lacked lustre and its skin had peeled off at places. It was moving, but with effort.

As I looked at it, it threw me a desperate glance.

“Miaow? Miaow?”

Its plea was desperate. It wanted a place to rest- a place where it would not be disturbed. It almost seemed to say,”Please don’t chase me away! I can’t run anymore!” Something told me the animal would not live long. The animal seemed to be in the last leg of its journey. And yet, I was surprised by its mammoth effort at seeking a place where it could breathe its last. 

“What’s the matter with you, little one?”, I asked in gentle tones. The animal understood. It immediately lay down by the side of the pond. The proximity of water was probably comforting to it. We decided to leave it alone so that it could sleep. We checked after a couple of hours to find that it had moved deeper into the shade of the Bougainville. Every few hours, it changed its position, depending on the direction of the sun. In the evening, we couldn’t find it.

But it appeared next morning. I thought it looked more ill. It was quieter today, and probably in some kind of discomfort. We put out a small bowl of milk, but it refused to drink. It moved yet again in response to the heat, seeking cooler places. We put out some water and this time, it took a few sips with great difficulty. It seemed to be exhausted with the effort and lay down yet again. In the evening, we couldn’t find it. 

“Where are you, little one?”, we called out.

“Miaow”, a faint reply came from somewhere.

Eventually, we found it huddled behind a cement slab. It was much cooler here. The animal had however, significantly deteriorated.

That night, it rained. There were loud claps of thunder that made us shudder, despite being indoors. I thought of the cat that lay outdoors, at the mercy of the thunder and lightning, perhaps cold and lonely…and so helpless in its illness. Who was it to complain to? Do guardian angels really make it more comfortable for the dying? I liked to think so. 

How fortunate we humans are. We have houses and cosy beds to sleep in. We have people fussing over us when we are ill. We have pills and injections to make us feel better. I wish we had places where dying animals could be nursed and made comfortable. I wondered if the cat had survived the storm. I wondered if it had died of fear.

Next morning, it was my mother who woke up first and went to the kitchen. There were no sounds from the backyard, and in all possibility, the cat had died. 

“Oh little one! What has happened to you?”, my mother called out. There was no response. My mother sighed. “Well, end to your suffering”, she said aloud.

After some time, there was suddenly a loud Miaow, accompanied by a lot of noise that sounded like an animal rolling about in pain. My mother called out,”Little one, You are there?”  The cat responded to my mother’s call with an agonizing Miaow. To each call, it responded, using the last vestige of its life. A couple of Miaows later, there was silence. My mother found the cat curled up against the cement slab, clutching its edge like how a frightened, helpless child clutches its mother. Its face was now small and the magic of life had gone from its being.

My maid helped us bury it. 

We thought of this little creature that had walked into our garden just two days ago. We didn’t know where the dear creature had come from or what kind of life it had lived until then. We didn’t know how it found our house. God must have sent it. Death is never easy to watch, but I still felt glad the animal had sought us in its last days. Every creature deserves to die with dignity. I cried thinking of its suffering, but I was still glad it had come to us and not gone to a house where it would have been chased away. For a moment, the cruelty and selfishness of human beings dawned upon me. We have seized land that belongs to all creatures. Today, they don’t even have a place to die. I promised the dying animal that I would always treat all life with reverence.

When you are made of stardust-II

god

There was this poem I once read. It is called ‘Footprints in the sand‘. This is how it goes:

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

When I first read that poem, I was speechless. It was as if through this poem, God was prompting me to look back at my life and dwell upon those dark moments when I had thought I was all alone. I then realized that there had always been something- a clue, a direction, a sign that I couldn’t ascribe to anybody. Something to guide me when I was completely lost. My instinct would prompt me to follow it, and I would see light again. And then, I would learn to trust myself again.

But those were not the miracles. The real miracles were those moments when I would find myself caught up in situations that were beyond my ability. I would always approach such situations with fear for I was well aware of my weaknesses. At such moments, I would plunge into the situation, certain that I wouldn’t survive this phase. I would cry to nobody in particular. And then the miracle would happen. The universe would respond, and take up the burden. The most unexpected things would happen (what I would then label only as wishful thinking until they materialized), the most unexpected people would step into my life, and everything would be taken care of. It was almost as if a well thought out plan or scheme was being followed. But who could have planned it and tailored it so perfectly as to suit my needs? At such moments, this is exactly how I have felt- as if I was being lifted and carried by somebody, and then deposited on the shore, where I was safe once again. I would wonder if I had dreamt it all, and I would be filled with something that I can only describe as gratitude. A gratitude that would fill my heart with the invisible presence of God. I loved this feeling- it was more overpowering than the moments we spend praying formally to God. To me, this was the moment of prayer, for I could feel God flooding my being. In the gratitude I felt, there was God. And this time, my faith in the universe would be restored.

I have often felt that I am a child of the universe. At all the times that I have not trusted my ability to confront a situation and cried to nobody in particular, the universe has always responded- in a way only a mother can respond to her child. And this faith has made me feel loved, cared for, cherished and protected- a feeling that one cannot derive from mortal relationships with fellow human beings. I feel I have a universe to turn to, whenever I really need help. The helpless child in me has to only cry for her to hear me. I have often felt invisible chords connecting my soul to the soul of the universe- to the heart of life. When my soul bleeds, the chords tug at the soul of the universe, and awaken it to my misery. The universe then propels its infinite limbs- people, places, forces, and tends to me. I have also realized that I am also one of the limbs of the universe, and it mobilizes me when there is the need to tend to another suffering soul. Once we learn to recognize this power- the power of the central force of life that comes from the heart of the universe, it is impossible to feel lonely. 

Yesterday, I had been to the hospital for a follow-up. I bought a thank-you card and some chocolates. I met all the doctors and nurses who had taken care of me when I was hospitalized, and thanked all of them. I especially thanked the sister who had stayed up all night in the post operative ward and tended to my needs. They were thrilled by the card. I meant every word of what was written on the card. And they are apparently framing it and putting it up on the display for people to see! Everybody was happy and I love these moments when I can thank people and make them see the worth in the roles they play. I love the happiness of the world, and I promise that until my last breath, I will keep making people happy…as often as I can!

 

When you are made of stardust-I

I had felt a wall come between me and the world.

That was exactly how I felt. I watched with envy and sadness people talking, laughing and making merry. How fortunate they were, to be surrounded by people! They always had somebody to lend a hand- drive them around, take them shopping, take them to the hospital, take the burden off their shoulders. They could comfortably break down and crash because everything would automatically be taken care of. And here I was, running errands until the day before my surgery. I was my own chauffeur, my own maid, my own parent, my own friend. Not that there was nobody to help, but since the people who were willing to help were not familiar with my world, I would have to help them first- orient them and settle them into the role. There was nobody who was familiar enough to just take over without having to be told anything.

I played parent and child. The rational part of me was the parent. The frightened part of me was the child. The rational part of me did all there was to be done- the routine chores from which there was no escape, the hospital visits and the tests, the planning and organization that went into the surgery, and everything else. I remember how two days before the surgery, I had been out in the sun all day long, and returned to the car, only to find that the car keys had disappeared. I had finally given up the search and returned home for spare keys. If I had stayed longer, I would certainly have collapsed from a sun stroke. I remember feeling miserable that day.

The rational part of me also tried to keep my fears at bay. I worked part time until a week before the surgery, just to keep myself pleasantly distracted. I took myself out on nature walks. During those walks, I would hunt for lonely snakes and reptiles that were shunned and abhorred by the world, and feel this desire to hold them close. I would treat myself. I bought myself two chairs- a rocking chair and a recliner. I thought of the days after surgery when I would comfortably sit on these and read or write or just be. The child in me was pacified.  I remember how I had done dishes, washed clothes, swept, mopped and watered the plants until the last day. My neighbours had seen me at these chores and they were shocked when finally, on the day of the surgery, I told them that I was off to the hospital for a surgery. It was only then that they had known. People in these parts are different from city dwellers. They are very selfish and calculative. Every act must be justified in their minds in terms of potential benefits and losses. They will never do anything out of humanity. They shut themselves out all the more when they stand the risk of being approached for help. And so, I found it sensible to only tell them as we were leaving for the hospital.

In the weeks preceding the surgery, I also picked up something to obsess over. I felt the obsession was necessary to drown my misery. I needed something that would keep me glued enough to mop up all the misery until I was back to myself. In this, God helped me. I had been playing a lot of music. One Sunday, I listened to the golden voice of Michael Jackson singing ‘Heal the World’. There was something about that voice that cut through the frozen ice of misery in my heart and made me feel so overcome that I cried. I felt touched by something I couldn’t define or describe. My mother felt it too.

That was what triggered it- this obsession. I realized I was muddled about the events surrounding his death. I went back to a chapter I had opened a long time ago in 2009 when he passed away, but hadn’t done justice to. I looked at him as a child- the chubby little kid who was part of the Jackson 5, singing ABC. I was mesmerized. I watched his interview with Oprah Winfrey. The more I read about him, the more I listened to him speak, the more I felt that invisible force that was trying to say something to me- across time, across space. About him, and therefore, about myself. I realized I had the clue to my personality in his life. I also realized how grossly misunderstood he was. But then, it has always been like that…

The most beautiful souls have always been the most misunderstood. For they are made up of stardust, and not of the matter that ordinary people are made up of.

Towards my surgery, Michael became a living presence in my life. His views of the world, his love for the planet and for children and animals, his love for ballads, his self-conscious and shy nature, his oneness with music, the honesty and truth about his persona- they mirrored my internal world. I can talk to you about Michael as I talk about my own self. The night before the surgery, I remember looking up at the sky and asking, “Michael, Are you there?” In the rustling of the wind that blew through the trees, in the stars that shone in the sky, in the life that flowed in my veins, he was there…

He, and millions of others who have walked these paths before me. The Masters. The ones who belong to the tree of life, of which I am a part too. 

 

 

In search of criticism

Until I had written a book, I did not know how easy it was to get your ‘talent’ showcased in a newspaper. Until then, I lived in the notion that the newspapers somehow found you. I did not know that you had to go to the newspaper.

The first eye opener in this regard was my experience with an organisation I had joined as a volunteer. The members would organise events, and get channels or newspapers to cover the event. The tragedy was that the event would often be designed for this very purpose- something that would catch the attention of the media. But as an insider, I was witness to the fact that the event was the beginning and the end of a so-called social transformation process. The process was never prioritized; the members had got addicted to the transient publicity that the events generated. This was also the reason why I eventually quit the organisation.

I subsequently attended a book launch where I met some authors and journalists. It was here that I realised it was all about the right contacts. I remember coming home and leafing through the pages of the author’s book. Except for the poetic verses that were woven into the plot, I found the book rather mediocre. At the launch, somebody had compared the author to Kamala Das. That was painful. My experience of this book launch was so different from the book launch of a Malayalam author I had attended some months ago. Free of superfluousness and pretence. The speakers were mesmerising. It was there that I had first learned of Doestoevsky’s role in the formulation of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories. I had left feeling elated and inspired, and reunited with literature. In contrast, this book launch made me distinctly uncomfortable. I felt an urgent need to leave the place. 

At the time, I had many questions playing in my mind with regard to my own book. What I really needed was some genuine criticism. So though I longed for a hasty exit, I waited until I could hand over copies of my book to some of the people I had befriended, hoping that some of them would be kind enough to at least read the book and offer a genuine feedback. But it turned out that most of them took that opportunity to talk to me about their achievements and the status they enjoyed as authors and journalists. I came back home, feeling rather disappointed. It was only when I visited writer E.M.Hashim the next day and had a long conversation with him that I found myself restored to my optimistic and inspired self.

That night, I wrote a long e mail to my friend VV. I suppose it  strongly reflected my disappointment. I went around, seeking potential critics, unaware that VV had been deeply touched by my mail. My friends only had good words to say, partly because they were my friends, and partly because they were naive with regard to what constituted a good book. The professionals refused to comment. Some just pretended to be busy. Others were really busy. Yet others promised to read and let me know. But every time I met them, they only renewed their promise.

At long last, I stopped this pursuit and reflected on the whole scenario. Why was this book important to me? Because there was a truth in it- a strong message to society. Wasn’t there some way I could get the message across, without worrying about the status of the book or my status as an author? 

That was the turning point for me. I changed the course of my journey. With help from some beautiful souls I met in this journey, I initiated a campaign, targeted largely at college students. 

At some point, VV had called me and put me through to a journalist he knew.

“Call him now and tell him about your book. Be open and honest. He is a no-nonsense person. He will give you an honest opinion. If he likes the sound of your book, he will take it up. If he doesn’t, he will say so.”

By then, my expectations were rock bottom. Nothing to lose, I thought. I suppose he liked the sound of the book when I spoke to him about it. It certainly was a first of its kind. Nobody had looked at these films and these characters from this perspective. So he asked me to mail him the book. I sent him the book the very next day. Then there was no news from him.

By then, my campaign was gathering momentum. I was talking not just about films and mental health, but about fantasies, dreams and fairy tales. I could see that my thoughts had evolved further and I was on an exciting path of growth. So I started focussing more on how I could deliver the essence of my book through this campaign. I had never before had the courage to speak in Malayalam on a dais. But now, I was ready to speak in English, in Malayalam- whatever the audience and the situation demanded. It had become so important for me to deliver this message that I slowly started losing fear.

And then the phone call came.

“Do you remember me, doctor?”

I did. It was the journalist. I guessed that if he was calling me, it would be good news. And it was. So my book finally made it to the newspaper. But what made me happier was his honest criticism:”I didn’t get back to you immediately because when I received your book, it came as a terrible disappointment. The typographical errors, the layout, the structuring, the splitting of paragraphs, the styling, the chapter titles- everything was a mess. It deterred me from reading. So I read rather slowly, but when I completed reading, I was intrigued. By the analysis of these characters- something that hasn’t ever been attempted before. Especially since these are films that are known to every Malayalee. All of us have seen these films. My suggestion is that you republish with a professional publisher, and most importantly, translate it to Malayalam. That will have a wider reach- something the book deserves. What you need is a ruthless editor.”

Following that, he asked me many questions that made up for a delightful conversation because it is only when people ask critical questions that we think of our book from different perspectives. 

What we need the most in life, is a genuine critic. Not somebody who flatters us. Not somebody who demeans us. But somebody who holds up the mirror for us and reflects who we really are. It is this reflection that we must embrace.

My miniscule world

The  display of sarees and salwar kameez stared at me from the shops. Some hung loosely under the eaves while others were draped on mannequins. As they danced to the breeze, they resonated with a nostalgic charm and stirred something dormant within me…

Something girlish and romantic.

Something profoundly Indian.

Something long-forgotten.

Something left behind in the alleys of history and tradition.

Like a beautiful silk scarf that had dropped off the shoulders of tradition, only to be trampled upon by the horses of ‘globalization’.

I could no longer see the people on the street. All I could see was fabric.

Deep shades of green, blue and red that contrasted with pastel colors. Bright shades of yellow and orange that contrasted with dusky shades of brown and black. Georgette, chiffon, crepe and silk that gleamed against crisp cottons. Transluscent flowery designs that veiled opaque fabric. Embroidery, sequins, zari and beads that glimmered against the backdrop of plain fabric.

Most of the shops here belonged to Muslims. Some of the embroidery was handcrafted. It was exquisite and reminiscent of traditional Islamic embroidery. The kind of embroidery that I had only seen in salwars designed in North India. The kind of salwars that traditional Punjabi women wear.

I remembered that evening long ago when I had walked the streets of Southall, amidst shops that specialized in zari embroidered lehangas, salwar suits and wedding sarees. Amidst eateries that served North Indian sweets and savouries. Amidst makeshift stalls that sold Bollywood CDs.  Amidst signboards in Punjabi script. I remember the disbelief I had felt at what I saw. This was a slice of Punjab, transported to a different continent. A Punjab that was reminiscent of the pre-independence province of Punjab- a province that was as much populated by Sikhs as by Muslims. It was hard to tell the difference. Here, people appeared to live as they had lived for years in their motherland, before the partition. The border did not exist in the minds of the people here.

And that takes me to the serial I have been watching lately. Buniyaad. Who can forget the delicacies that Doordarshan had served us in its early years? That was a different era altogether.

I have always found myself drawn to the Punjab province and to the story of its partition. It may be on account of the numerous Punjabi friends we had when I was a child. Many of these families had their personal tragedies buried in the story of partition. It was as if they had been uprooted from their motherland that contained their most precious memories…as if they had left behind a precious part of their own self on the other side of the border. Films, books and serials that were centered on partition, added to my sentiments.

It is therefore not surprising that Buniyaad resonated with me and with the minds of many Indians, particularly the ones whose past lay buried in the Punjab of pre-partition times.

I watched the first few episodes, and felt a bout of nostalgia and heartache. The Punjab of those times. The houses that were homes. The community life of Indian villages, the open air, the slow paced life, the warmth and intimacy, the raw human beings. Those infinite moments that made one feel alive.

I was drawn to the manner in which love unfolds in the minds of the people in this serial- as a free-flowing emotion that is to be felt.

A gentle, slow awakening. Sublime. Spoken more through the silences than through the words. That irreplaceable feeling awakened for a person that permanently changes something within, never to be reversed.

As I watch the women in this serial, I am reminded of who I used to be. I had never longed for independence. I had only wanted to be a woman- a woman bound to tradition. A woman who was comfortable veiling herself in the garbs of tradition. A woman secure in the companionship of a strong man by her side. I had only wanted to dream; I had nothing to prove to the world. I was happy in the anonymity and privacy of my world. My dreams, I had wanted to keep to myself. They were secrets I did not wish to share with the world. In my moments of solitude, I wished to stroll aimlessly, and feel. I wished to talk to the trees and call out to the birds. I wished to chase the butterflies and the gurgling brooks, and I wished to lay on the soft grass and sleep under the skies. I wished to write poetry and prose, and hide it from the world. I wished to sing and dance, and I wished to soak up the raindrops, reveling in my perceptions. This world within me, was my secret. My only dream was to nurture it.

But life had other plans for me. I had to run away from my traditional garb in order to survive. Nothing feminine can survive in a world barren and devoid of love, and so, I put on a man’s shoes and walked. I adapted to a man’s ways, but deep within, these contrasted and conflicted with the feminine nature of my personality. But the need to survive propelled me in this new role.

It amuses me as much as it saddens me to think of the garbs we wear in order to survive. Anything, just to survive. These garbs of masculine aggression, of insanity, of feigned numbness. These masks that we learn to wear permanently and that eventually become our identity.

All that I am today- the roles that define me and the roles that I have learnt to revel in, is the outcome of the need for survival. The need for rising above the emptiness and loneliness. The passion for physiology, for teaching, for writing, for psychology- they were all born out of the emptiness and loneliness that caused me to find a higher meaning in life.

But beneath all these roles, is a woman. An Indian woman who unseen to the world, appears in the solitary and private moments of my life. Within her are all the soft feminine emotions that can no longer find a place in the world. She lives, somewhere within me. I can feel her at times- in that occasional throb of girlish excitement, in that occasional shimmer of a dream that crosses the eye, in that occasional quietude that fills the heart.

I can see her, somewhere in between the pages of the books I read, in the emotions that unfold on the screen as I watch these old serials and movies…in the words scribbled in my diaries. I am left with a longing to go back to her, but then I realize that there is an infinite distance between us now. And that longing then transforms into a mute helplessness…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utopia

You must be so happy‘, they said.

About what?‘, I asked.

Your book is getting published! What else?

I sighed.

Yes. I am very happy indeed.

This morning, as I drove to work, I passed the wetlands that have somehow survived the process of urbanization. There are green pastures in the vicinity. Just before Onam, those pastures were transformed into temporary shelters for cows and calves. The animals had been brought from different places. I would peer into those eyes that looked back at me in all innocence. I felt like a traitor. These animals were unsuspecting. They had no clue as to why they had been brought here. The whole day, those scenes played in my mind- the animals grazing on the pastures, the calves nuzzling against each other, little boys playing with some of the calves. After Onam, as I drove that way, none of the animals were around. The pastures and wetlands stared at me in mute silence-

A silence that seemed to echo the screams of hundreds of animals as they were slaughtered.

There is ‘Keagan‘- the calf in the neighbourhood. Every evening, it is at our doorstep for food. Bread, biscuits, oranges, watermelon- it will eat anything, as long as it is not tasteless grass! Keagan is a male calf and will be sent to the slaughterhouse soon. When I pat its forehead and peer into its affectionate eyes, I always think of that moment when this animal would be exposed to man’s brutality…

I wonder what one would see in those eyes then.

I think of my cat that passed away a few months ago. I think of its helplessness as it lay in mute silence, suffering, until death put an end to that suffering.

         Somehow, one can never run away from the pain and suffering that has touched one’s life. Even as one celebrates one’s ‘success’, these faces peer from the abyss of the mind- a reminder of how transient our moments of happiness are and how our happiness is rooted in the happiness of the world in which we live. 

My publisher looks at my book as a commodity. The future of my book is gauged in terms of how it would sell. Profits, expansion, competition– these are the words that govern the modern world. Aspirations are built on the foundation of these words.

If you ask me, I would say anxiety is the dominant feeling that defines my current state. A little excitement, a little happiness, but profound anxiety.

For me, the future of my book is defined by the lives it would touch.

Can my book bring about a social transformation, however little? This is my concern. For me, the publishing of this book is a dream, not an aspiration. And that dream is much larger than just building my identity as an author. That dream revolves around cinema and the human mind.

Cinema, that has been a companion to me in all my lonely moments…

Cinema, that taught me to celebrate my vulnerability…

Cinema, that taught me to love and to live.

When I watch a good movie, I experience a father’s love, a brother’s reassurance,  family moments, and all that I miss in my life. My loneliness abates and I experience the warmth and emotional comfort of a big joint family!

Could my book help people discover themselves? Could my book transform society’s perspective of cinema and revive ‘good cinema’? These questions define my dreams.

So, there is a long way to go. And if my book can bring about such a transformation, that is my happy moment.

        For that happiness is collective happiness- of a society, of a community. And it is only at that moment that the suffering faces that peer from the abyss of my mind will be put to rest. For they would have achieved their purpose in my life.