Sunday, January 27, 2008
It made me sit and think... something I have not done in a long while. I remembered those long discussions we used to have, sitting on the back-benches in Class XII-S, with the warm afternoon sunlight pouring in through those dirty, broken window panes... I remembered myself loudly asserting that maturity is “all about knowing who you are”, while DR insisted that it was the ability “to know who your friends are”, (and therefore, by implication, to know who your enemies are, as well). I remembered PN firmly declaring that it was “the capability to make your own decisions“, while SB thought that maturity was just a term employed by parents to make you feel guilty about doing things which you want to, but should not (her case : when she wanted to scribble on the walls of her house out of pure artistic impulse, and was flatly refused permission by the parents, who thought she should be “mature” enough to know what not to do at her age).
So what is “maturity’ all about?
The ordinary definition would be “to be adult”, to be-- to use a childish term-- “fully grown-up”. But like all abstract terms, there are no well-defined norms by which to state that “this is maturity” and “this is not”. For instance, a girl of 18 years is considered mature enough to marry... yet if the same girl is in a relationship with an older man, she is thought to be a child, and the man is often accused of being a “cradle snatcher”. And God forbid if the girl is 17 --only a year younger— the man may be branded a paedophile.
At home, if you are living with your parents, you are considered mature enough to do a lot of work, yet not mature enough to take any important decisions with regard to your parents, never mind that you are 35 years of age and earning really well...so long as your parents are not dependent on you, you are not mature enough to run the house or take major decisions.
I believe maturity is an inherent quality that comes naturally with age. One need not legally be an adult to actually be one. Maturity is to know who you are. That will automatically make you aware of who your friends/foes are. Maturity is not only the ability to make your own choices and take your own decisions, but also to be able to live up to them, to be able to take the full responsibility of the consequences of your choices/decisions. Finally, maturity is an ability to look into yourself... to be able to analyze your merits and demerits, and to be able to accept yourself exactly as you are, without making excuses for your faults. “That’s backbone”, as Conrad would say. How many of us are well and truly “mature” , if maturity is to be defined in these terms? I cannot pretend to be one...
Friday, January 25, 2008
White Nights is a simple story. It is the tale of a loner -- a dreamer and a romantic—who finds love in a chance encounter with Nastenka, a simple little girl who is, in turn, waiting for her lover. They meet for four nights, against the backdrop of the ‘white nights’ of a St. Petersburg summer. The love lies in their connection, in their friendship, in their conversation, in the way they pour out their hearts to each other, though they are strangers to one another. Yet, when Nastenka’s lover returns, she leaves the nameless friend, and goes away with her lover. But there is no bitterness on the part of the nameless friend :
“ But that I should feel any resentment against you, Nastenka! That I should cast a dark shadow over your bright, serene happiness! (...) Oh no – never, never! May your sky be always clear, may your dear smile be always bright and happy, and may you forever be blessed for that moment of bliss and happiness which you gave to another lonely and grateful heart!
Good Lord, only a moment of bliss? Isn’t such a moment sufficient for the whole of man’s life? “
The dreamer’s hands rise up in benediction over Nastenka’s future, such is the effect of the moment(s) between them. It refreshes him, and gives him the strength to live his life all over again. Dostoevsky here explores fully man’s inherent loneliness, and his need for love, for human company...a fact that is especially relevant in the life of modern man. The need may be fulfilled only for moment, as in the case of the protagonist of White Nights. It is for him to savour the moment, make the most of it, make it last his life as the one moment that changed the way he looks at life forever...
One wonders whether something should be made out of that moment.. would a relationship really have the same quality of beauty and clarity that a moment of connection does? I suppose it cannot. And therefore, to try and convert a moment of love into a long-lasting relationship, or a long-lasting situation, is a futile effort. Over the years, the relationship changes, as do the people involved in it. Perhaps the relationship changes precisely because the persons do. And perhaps this is why White Nights ends as it does. Would the nameless protagonist choose to write about Nastenka if he did marry her? Her charms would have worn out for him after years of marriage and the daily business of living in the real world (which is notoriously not pretty, and lacks charm). Perhaps this is the same reason why Jesse and Celine (from the film Before Sunrise ) remember each other so well, and want to meet each other again- yet end up doing so ten years later (in the sequel, Before Sunset). Such magical connections of love are not meant to be confined within the defined norms of a long-lasting “relationship” – they rise above that, they go beyond, into a different realm where there are ideas but no illusions; where love is enhanced by lust, not diminished by it; where reality supersedes the best that imagination has to offer, yet is by no means unreal .
And perhaps it is the touch of the tragic, the sense that the moment is not to last, the ephemeral nature of the whole thing, that gives the moment its everlasting beauty. Proving yet again that man’s life is a complex pattern of paradoxes and ironies.. while it is defined by the eternal quest of man for that symbol of beauty, of grace and love ; that something that would give meaning to his entire existence...a Nastenka.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Sometimes I trudge through muddy roads while rusty tramcars trundle past...
Sometimes I feel tears trickling down a cheek...
Sometimes I am a ping-pong ball thrashed from this end to that...sometimes I am the table on which the game is played.
Sometimes I am the cushion she rests her foot on ; sometimes I am the heel of her shoe.
Sometimes I hurl a brick at the stillness of my reflection in a pool of clear water.
Sometimes I slash my wrists with the shards of broken dreams.
Sometimes I wander through the fish market, in search of silence. Sometimes I am a piece of dead flesh, on the butcher's table...while my blood is spattered on the white walls.
Sometimes I step in front of a speeding bus...and am pulled back by a passer-by..."Ey! Paagal hai kya ?!"
Sometimes I stand at cross-roads, holding on to a sign post for dear life.
Sometimes I just stand and watch the colours of the rainbow fade into grey clouds...
(written on the 6th of January, 00-30 hrs)