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Location: New Delhi, India

Monday, May 26, 2008

A letter I once wrote on boredom, laughter and the rest (29th May 2007)

Dear N---,

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.

Thanks again,

Love,
Shamik

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