The Affable Anomie
- Name: Shamik Chakravarty
- Location: New Delhi, India
Friday, February 18, 2011
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Love and a Sense of Place
Pop music lays a truism upon us that really, love happens everywhere and if you truly are in love, it’s enough that it’s just the both of you and nothing else. Even the poets of old imagine an exclusively created world in which lovers perch together against just about everything apart from it.
But given the case of some people not liking ‘long-distance relationships’ and for that matter, Woody Allen stubbornly refusing to leave New York to be with his lover, reality at times seems to say the opposite. And this is where, for some of us, something as insignificant as Delhi (from the lover’s point of view) becomes larger than life.
Imagine sitting broke in North Delhi for two years, spaced-out not only because of studying, but also due to Kamla Nagar having been the only place you’ve been hanging out. Moreover, you feel dug-up and turned inside out just like all of North Campus being excavated for the Commonwealth Games. And when you bring all of this to your relationship, no matter how much love unwinds you, you still feel slightly stagnated. Given that there was a time when you could be in South Delhi and be all charm and wit, it annoys you even further.
Against the odds, we decide to go to India Coffee House (still CP, again the only accessible place and so you’re slightly sick of it) and the open balcony there brings about a certain candidness. We can now feel things beginning to move, and latch on to it for the next month. Later, with the threat of exams hovering about us, we sense the need for another sortie. So we proceed to JNU to get that extra sense of freedom, JNU being a place that is nowhere in particular. Invigorated by the breeze there, I tell her, “You’re exotic enough for me” and this somehow takes us further. Next comes the Basant Lok market, where the reassuring glow of the Fact and Fiction Bookshop and the coziness of Modern Bazaar (you feel like you’re in a refrigerator full of goodies) create that sort of world between her and me. We haven’t been to Khan Market yet, but I’m sure the white uncluttered atmosphere of the place is going to infuse us with a calm dignity and clarity of mind.Indeed, you did visit these places when you were single. Indeed, you might have been happy there. But the point is, when you are in love, these qualities become part of your psyche and become more worth cherishing. Even on the way to these places, be it in the metro or a bus, you face each other differently and observe different things together (you can have fun at the expense of T-Shirt slogans in the metro or enjoy the embassy-lined road in Chanakyapuri with flowers of various colours in a bus). A sense of place not only makes you do things together, but makes you the kind of people you really want to be. And is that not the essence of love?
Monday, May 26, 2008
A letter I once wrote on boredom, laughter and the rest (29th May 2007)
It’s really very nice of you to read my stuff, especially the ‘Ditties with no tone’ sketch (included in this blog). If you did notice that carefully, it is a description of mine, and everyone’s attempt to find meaningful content in life, and our struggle against boredom. Boredom has been one of the main themes of all my work and I consider it the greatest of all evils; I strive to find reasons behind it and explain its processes.
In the light of this, consider that I bore you at times, and this has been happening more and more often recently, when you have been in more of a hurry on the phone, and in this short time, like when someone goes up on stage impromptu, I land up bungling up by merely describing what I have been doing. What’s even more ironic is that I might be boring you in this very letter by discussing the boringness of boredom!
Well, the other day I really really called up to describe the opera. It meant so much to me. It was the nearest substitute to being in love and probably the greatest kindler of passions for those who are only a little in love. The elevated sentiment of it giving life to one’s deepest longings and the bringing together of the highest comedy and tragedy in it were quite a surprise, never really experienced by me before. I’ve never been so pained at unrequited love. It’s like when you’ve found a treasure but you suddenly discover to your utter bewilderment that the treasure chest develops wings, spreads them and flaps away disappearing into the stars: perhaps where it really belongs.
The story I might tell you later if you are interested.
The day before yesterday, my mother pulled me to the May Queen Ball at the ‘Ordinance Club’. I really didn’t want to go but I just thought, ”What the hell it might just be a different experience.” And so it was. The theme of the beauty contest seemed to be the synthesis of inner and outer beauty. From the beginning, I knew it was a gross mockery of all that smartness stands for and even perhaps what outer beauty is. For God’s sake do not judge a book by its cover is all right, but why on earth should the it be ugly!
And then came the great bit. There was this singer, almost lipsing his way to glory and a four member dance troupe behind him dancing with grins on their faces. Now they were doing all of this to the remixes of serious old songs, originally sung with the most serious faces. Added to that there were oldies acting out old songs in even slower motion than the old songs, like ‘Chaundwin ka chaand’, bringing out the absurdity inherent in these songs. When you come to think of it, all these performers were giving these old songs their due and bringing out a significant truth about life, love and other mysteries. In a way, these songs were extremely serious as the lyrics signify and the importance given to love in the greater scheme of things. But they are extremely absurd and ludicrous as seen in the amplified and magnified slow motion and the flippancy with which these dancers danced to it. It’s like Emran Hashmi and Udita Goswami in ‘ Tere bina meri shaam nahi dhalti’ or whatever, doing the most absurdly serious actions to what can be defined as puppy-dog-plastic love. Or as Oscar Wilde put it in a better way through one of his characters, he and his wife went their own way all day and when they met, they spoke the most ridiculous and absurd things with the most serious faces.
Perhaps this is what life is in general and love in particular. Every event in it can be viewed with utter seriousness and met with the most earnest attitude. But its incongruities make it necessary to give each one of us a right to laugh at them, however serious or sacred they may be. Maybe in slow-motion love we are trying to preserve the fleeting moment and thus struggle against the passage of time: rather serious and heroic, but at the same time absurd because it is futile to do any such thing, for who can wrap time in her arms? To all of this, to be fair, I’ll just add that shallow behaviour and loves deserve different laughs than the really profound ones. That’s probably the reason behind the difference between good and bad comedy.
Another thought that was rather funny and came in passing was that these shoddy dancers were like the common masses used by aristocrats for purposes of cheap amusement, mostly sexual, in the bygone era and that this is a modified relic of that. Again, like the parallels I’ve drawn between this and the opera, aristocrats had the use of the opera for the more profound side of life, serious or comic and this as the more flippant side of life. Perhaps we need both at times, and we even become both, coming to represent both the tedious and the elevated, the tiring and the sublime. I often like to think of myself as the moon, at one moment waxing excessively so as to be tiresome to the eyes, shallow because of flaunting its surface; at other times I’m dully covered, I become a mellow crescent moon when I’m quieter, dull crescent when quiet and boring, and maybe at the right and appropriate time just good enough to shine the right amount and covered with the right proportion of clouds to be soothing and brilliant at the same time. And I can venture to think that most of humanity is like that, in different degrees only they don’t realize it that they themselves and others happen to be so.It's rather ironic that it would be quite a drag without these longdrawn tedious processes. Imagine being the same all the time. Bo-ring.
Being with you has taught me stike a balance between seriousness and flippancy, silence and talkativeness, childishness and adulthood and even sanity and insanity. It's not that I accept conventional ideas of any of these: we need all of this at the same time and I guess we spend a mojor part of our lives trying to strike the perfect balance, an aesthetic charm. It gives us a will to want to do something other than just earning money and work like an animal. As C.S.Lewis said "There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious." Lose that balance and you lose the desire to live, at least not mechanically.
Ho hum, I guess I’ll have to end here. I’m writing this because it’s easier for me to write when I’m addressing it to someone than to no one but my self. Authors write better when they know they’re writing to an audience than not. According to my psychology book, humans perform better when others are around because of an unconscious desire to be competitive. To end, all I can say right now is that I thank you for being my audience for the time being.
Labels: On Humour
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Oscar Wilde's Homosexuality, Catholicism and his hunt for Ideal Beauty
Stephen Fry in his interview, who acted as Wilde in the film ‘Wilde’’, and other scholars have often puzzled about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality. But one look at Michaelangelo's David by any man might just give the answer to this conundrum.
Indeed, Wilde was enraptured by the idea of beauty. But as is natural with all humans, he had the desire to possess it, and perhaps with his passionate temperament, this desire was stronger than usual.
It might arguably be said that all longing and art comes from this distance between beauty and the desire to possess it. This produces what the Germans call Sehnsucht, vaguely translated as 'inconsolable longing'. This disparity also produces irony, as is seen in various ways in which overstatement and understatement take place, represented as distance from the normal.
This desire for beauty overtook him when he saw beautiful men. If you watch the movie 'Wilde' , you would come across a scene on the couch with Bosie and Wilde making love, but Wilde being intensely pained at the whole experience, and his complaint about his own compulsive behavior when it came to his homosexual 'lovemaking'. Yes, past reason hunted, no sooner had, past reason hated. And this intense pain, this overbearing and compulsive desire to possess beauty was his tragedy- his beautiful tragedy. His hamartia.
A connection can also be made with this disparity between beauty and the desire to possess it with his love for Catholicism. In the the act of partaking the sacraments and the mass, the sacramental and symbolic nature of the world actually gets one in possession of beauty in a sense, in a way that metaphors which are parts of beauty in us, but not concretely in our possession. The sacraments then become the most concrete objects of beauty than can be possessed.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Men, Women, and the In-between.
The great thing about family is that they laugh at the worst of our jokes. I think that's the reason why people get married and are eager to have families--immediate or extended, and that's probably one of the reasons why the whole institution exists-- to help people get away with jokes without embarrassing themselves; embarrassment only takes place in front of friends, girlfriends and outsiders, and not really with family, the family being more forgivable most of the time. Quite obvious, I would think.
Before getting married a boy-man is exhorted by his girlfriend to 'grow up' whenever he makes an attempt to be funny. Well, he indeed is funny in the beginning stages and full credit is given to him for being so. But then this man's sole responsibility becomes to 'grow up' and get serious enough for marriage. But then again, when marriage does come, he now obtains the freedom to crack as many wise ones as he wants to and get away with them as he isn't insecure now about his wife leaving him for this 'irritating' but little foible of his (little? and yeah, his girlfriend would surely have left him) .
Of course, his wife has to take it and accept that 'humour', that particular bent of his disposition as she has to do others. His children have to bear them because he is their father. Still, a corollary of all this is that the day the wife stops laughing no matter how funny you are, is the day you know you have a major problem--or that your marriage is on the rocks. Marriage is all about compromise isn't it, and well, when that doesn't happen, there must be something grevously wrong. And that's when it's time for the man to compromise with his funny bone. Life isn't all fun and games, is it?
At least that's what women want us to think. But then, from the time they are kids, they have been playing at being adult--what with the dolls' house and the kitchen set, so it is more likely that they are playing games all the time since we can't figure out when this girlish game-playing stops and becomes the womanly not-game-playing: humans are creatures of habit, old habits die hard and all such reasons just go on to prove this all the more.
So it is women who are the ones playing games most of the time. We men are serious with our joking. Dead serious. Our life depends on it.
Labels: On Humour
Monday, October 29, 2007
We have to fear death somewhere. This is because if we don't, I doubt if we would attribute any value to life. In other words, one of the main reasons we fear death is precisely because we value experience. A complete attitude of indifference to death might reduce any value whatsoever, and might produce a kind of nihilism which would justify not only the reduced worth of our own lives but also of others, thus producing a kind of psychopathic attitude, logically speaking (that is, if the principle of non-value is applied consistently.)
And again to fear death too much would be another extreme, the consequence of which is all too obvious, and here life might be valued to that extent that living itself would be paralysed because of the fear that one might lose it. In this picture I would bring in the value of comedy, or rather the comic view of life. In the latter case, the comic view of life helps because one can laugh about death, life and everything, knowing that one ought not to take it all too seriously and be willing to let it go when time calls.
But to counterbalance it, one must take the tragic view of life as in the first case, knowing all too well that death is inevitable, there is nothing one can do about it, and there is much sorrow at the loss of this grand wonder called 'life'. That's why especially we feel sadder at the death of a younger person with 'potential' because he or she hasn't ' experienced 'life ' to the uttermost. So comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, and I say this especially to those to whom this comes as a surprise. The greatest comedians are those who are aware of this. To find out why this is so, just try telling yourself "I'm gonna die" in a funny Donald Ducky voice!
Labels: On Humour
Monday, September 24, 2007
The black Mercedes is wading through the street; wading because the air is not air anymore-- it is an apple pie which has intermittent fits. One day, we went out to this elite five star hotel and my cousin ordered an apple pie; but they gave only a small triangle of an apple pie worth the whole world, which was going to be transmogrified into air in my cousin's belly.
My cousin is a whippersnapper. He believes that everything is possible. At least he shows that to be the case and he has this long black curly hair: My cousin is a crow.
He hasn't called me in a long time and has nothing to convey except for the occasional "Whats up?". There is a crow outside my window, a lost part of the community who sit outside and keep saying "Whats up?" to each other. Now this crow was discovered by this kid who visited my house. He was listening to some of the heavier music I had in my collection. He got sick of it and so he went to my window. He discovered the crow at the ledge, which wasn't moving but moved when he tried to open the window. But the crow didn't fly. It wanted to stay away from the other "Whats ups?"
So "Whats up?"...Nothing except the lilting hum of the cold cold air conditioner behind me in a coffee shop. There is a picture of a woman with coffee beans spread across her navel in a C pattern and my friends next to me have fallen into a sudden silence; one of them is writing something else and one reading a novel. I wonder whats in their minds...hmmm
The kids were listening to an album called 'A Crow left of the Murder'. The image reminds me of my cigarette extinguished in a blob of tomato ketchup on a white thermocol plate. One of them became a fan of the long hair I had, which my mother was after. He kept on praising the virtues of long hair all evening, this ten year old kid. He protested with me against my mother's activism about the ignominy of long hair. I felt a solidarity with this little boy, this young little boy with whom I had just watched a superhero movie. But I was and am scared of the crow he may become, or maybe emerge as a new superhero- Crowman- whose catchphrase is "Whats up? Don't fear, Crowman is here!".