Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Isn't it the infinite unknown that scares us? that indeterminate stretch of time yawning ahead that fills us with dread and a vague sense of foreboding?
What is it that awaits us in the near or distant future? Years full of tinkling laughter and warm memories of moments spent with loved ones? Or innumerable indignities inflicted by the caprices of fate?
Will the future bring us numerous joyous days? will it be better than what we have now or will it worsen our present state of living?
It is the not knowing that hurts the most and fills us with an irrational longing to time-travel to the future.
And caught between this bittersweet push and pull of wanting to live in the present and being a part of the future we arrive at the very end, unaware.
Then, everything comes to a grinding halt. Right when we are on the verge of comprehending the great conundrum that life presents before us, time runs out.
How, then, should we live every day, every hour, every second that passes us by so unceremoniously? Do we spare a thought for them or day-dream about the time that will never come into being?

I find my answer in Kenzaburo Ōe's words - "I am writing about the dignity of human beings."  
Image courtesy:- nobelprize.org

This Nobel prize winning writer from Japan amazes me with his quiet strength and his infinite wisdom. He seeks out dignity in the most undignified people and events and refuses to believe that suffering can rob us of it. And he puts his thoughts into words that will remain forever immortal. 
This is how he reconciles himself with the crests and troughs, the lows and highs, the warps and wefts of our everyday existence. 
Because he knows, the chilling finality of death will erase away all our sufferings and the feelings of discontent and incompleteness. Everything will cease to matter - all the successes and disappointments, happiness and sadness, laughter and tears will melt away into oblivion.

Thus, should we feel pity for all the rape victims and acid attack victims of the world? or the ones languishing under the curse of incurable diseases and having the essence of life drained out of them every passing moment? or the ones earning a living by treating their own bodies as commodities in a market? or the ones we label 'illiterate' only because they are unfamiliar with the power of the written word?
Should we only shake our heads and utter a patronizing 'tch tch', our voices dripping with a vicious condescension, for the ones living in obscurity on the fringes of our much vaunted society?
No we should not. For that will be mere folly. An act of immeasurable foolishness.

Life is neither fair nor unfair. It is, but, simply as it is. It is an allotted stretch of time in which we are given the gift of sensation and the capacity for exertion - physical or mental or both.
Tragedies may befall us. Or they won't. We do not possess the power to prevent them from happening to us. But what we do possess, is the strength for calm acceptance..
It is like the all-knowing Murakami says - "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

People will arrive at our doorstep in the form of inseparable companions who offer us the beautiful illusion of perpetual togetherness. Then they will bid adieu, move on, along their own journeys after the time period, stipulated by destiny, has expired.
Some will desert us. Some we will desert.
Some will cause us unbearable pain. Some will provide unbound joy.
Some meetings will be serendipitous. Some petty misfortunes.
Some utterly painful incidents will lead us down the path of devastation. Or fortuitous events will help us scale greater heights of glory and prosperity.
But everything will cease to create a lasting impact in posterity. Every event and action and emotion will be absorbed by the eddying currents of time and disappear forever.
Thus there is no future rife with the promise of limitless happiness or dolour. The future does not define our existence and nor will it ever.
It is the all-powerful, ubiquitous here and now that matters. The now in which we smile and cry. The now which we often ignore while contemplating the shapeless tomorrow.
Life is lived in the present - with all its share of heartaches and shame and sorrow and moments of perfect clarity.

I guess I will stop craving for a time machine, after all.

On dignity and what Kenzaburo Oe taught me

It has been nearly 6 months since the Delhi gangrape incident. After that horrifying news made headlines, I have often spent agonizing moments in solitude, pondering over the meaning of Jyoti's life or the ignominious way in which it had to end. I wondered what will remain after the endless shouting matches on live television have died down and the world has moved on. How should I reconcile myself with the barbarity humans are capable of and the fact that millions of lives are being systematically destroyed every minute around the globe? How?
I have been pained to find no answer.
So I choose to honor her existence, in my own way. I choose to remember her by not letting the 23 years she lived and breathed on this planet be forgotten. Her life mattered. Immensely.
She had a 'now' too just like all of us and by remembering that I wish to keep it alive for as long as I can.
I will not be bothered by the random, umpteenth newspaper article mentioning the epithet conferred on her by her countrymen or somebody wanting to discuss the plight of women in this country by bringing up the subject of most brutal rapes. She will not be associated with only an act of brutality or end up becoming a mere statistic. Not in my eyes.
I will remember her ever so often, just because I want to - as a girl I may have known, as a friend I may have had, as a girl who still may have been alive if the world around her had not been so cold and unfeeling. I cannot for the world deny the unbreakable relationship I share with her just by virtue of being another human of flesh and blood.
I will probably start to forget her soon. I will probably remember her less and less frequently with the progression of time, as my personal troubles start to overshadow my pompous philosophies. But I will remember her, nonetheless. And this is how I choose to reclaim the dignity in her existence. And mine.

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