Friday, April 27, 2007

Conceit Unlimited!

Today I asked myself what right I had to call someone ‘conceited’ when I am the very embodiment of that adjective. I’ve just finished with the novel, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – 33 days after I started it – and ended with some rather profound reflections. I felt like writing something about it, and suddenly an urge to use an ink pen after so many years grabbed me. The desire to see lines written on crisp white sheets of paper in blue ink was so intense, that, I rushed to buy one – 9:20 in the night! At the store, I chose the costliest – a Parker – without a moment’s hesitation; as if my words deserved no less…As if a humble Rs. 20 pen wouldn’t be worth my words - these words.

But justifications abound- as always.

The Fountainhead has impressed me; enough to be written about with a ParkerJ.
It impressed me so, for in it, I saw a near perfect description of me. Ayn Rand has articulated my innermosts with the precision of an ace archer; and boy has it struck home!!

Not a very racy writer, but Rand successfully made me persist through the 700 odd pages with her glorification of ‘my’ elements. With infallible logic, Rand made a virtue of selfishness and a vice of altruism – as I nodded my head in greedy agreement.

Rand’s argument against those ‘do-gooders’ is that, the prerequisite for doing good for someone is for that someone to suffer. The defence of the egotist, in Rand’s words, is his complete independence – in act and in motive. The creators and the second handers is what Rand calls the egotists and the altruists respectively by virtue of the style of their existence. The second handers are those parasites that feed on the ideas of other men for survival. The world is almost full of these leeches – the kind where one man depends on the thoughts / opinions / judgements of his neighbour; and his neighbour depends similarly on his neighbour, till it comes back a full circle. The few who stand out of this parasitic chain are the originators – those men and women of genius who start from ground zero. They have nothing to take and nothing to give. Creation, for them, is an end in itself with no proclamations of purpose. It is they that swim against the current and smirk internally at pointed fingers. It is they who defy the accepted that are condemned, stoned, jailed, exiled, or better still killed – but there’s never a trace of self doubt. This is the soul of the sacred, the innocent, the selfish, the egotist. Rand strips the preachers of sacrifice and bares their lust to be serve; for where one serves, there is one to be served. She condemns the relationship of bargain, its premises of give and take and its implications of a slave and a master. She speaks of the co-existence of two ‘independents’ as the only form of an equal and open relationship. The truly independent man’s will is free; his purposes entirely for himself. His actions stand alone, independent of the needs of other men. This is the celebration of conceit – of thinking ‘too much of oneself’ - in all honesty.

This is where the cord struck and this is where it has reverberated with the most. People who know me well enough have heard me call myself ‘selfish’ – and with considerable pride. But I was really never able to accept myself as such completely. Teachings, learning and conditionings had been playing their parts in managing to plant that one inconspicuous little seed of guilt, each time I acted in my interest. Duty, albeit impregnated with distaste, kept nagging until I did what I was ‘supposed’ to do. I bore the weight of my dishonest smiles and their fake gratitude. I let ‘me’ take a backseat and social expectations rule the roost when the stakes seemed high. I ask myself now how high these stakes are really - A severed/embittered relationship? A lost job? Gossip? Are these really worth dragging my integrity/independence to the sacrificial altar?

Have I strength enough, like a Howard Roark, to be put to trial by society time and again? Learn to be unmoved by criticism because I trust myself in all entirety? Can I really ever learn to not compromise or co-operate (and take kudos for it), for they are not really possible (not in the real sense of the term)? Can I really live for myself as all those of an independent spirit ought to?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lessons from Ma

I had a fight of sorts with someone last night. 'Of sorts' because what meant to be a pacifying intent between the two original parties of the fight initially; became my fight. I know now that I shouldn't have raised my voice - as I knew then as well. But the art of controlling ones emotions, (of which temper tops the list), is something I'm trying to acquaint myself with. I managed to keep the curses in check despite of cannons of those being spewed by the other side. The curses, of course, were meant for the original other of the fight. I was just trying to calm my acquaintance down. But, before I knew what was happening, I caught a few tears dribbling down my right eye. Moments later I walked away, having obviously failed in my mission, with a proud silence.

But my eyes betrayed my intent as they kept reflecting my turmoil inside.

I realised after a while that the pain was that of shock. I'd never before seen anyone curse or swear so much, in person. I mean, movie characters and roadside hooligans had played their parts giving me reality bytes; but to see someone I felt a lot of affection for behave like that was totally uncalled for. Curses against the person I could take; but curses directed towards somebody's parents broke my heart.

I often pride myself in not being very attached to my parents; and probably for the greater part - the superficial one - I'm not. But I'm slowly getting to realise that I'm so deeply indebted and attached to them, that I'd be ready to cry murder if someone even does as much as point a little finger at them.

As I sat thinking, so many things that my mom had told me assumed a new importance. Her words had remained with me, but the meanings behind them struck me like thunder. "It's no big deal to put the other down", she'd say. "True valour lies in making the other realise his mistake with grace, silence and most of all, respect". The importance of not speaking foul and more importantly, of speaking well dawned upon me. The proverb - 'Words have a life of their own....' - assumed an entirely new meaning. I realised how lucky I'd been never to have been forced to face people who had no control over their speech. What a blessing it was to not have had to listen to foul language even in the bittermost of fights.

I thought for a long time...about my parents, about how much they mean to me, about the invaluable lessons they'd taught me, thanking God and praying that I may responsibly pass these lessons to my next gen...before sleep claimed me for its own.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Gut wrench

Ambulances always do this to me - this unbearable gut wrench albeit for a few minutes. Perhaps it's selective perception, but I always seem to see an ambulance, blaring its sirens, pass by when I'm on an evening out. And for the next ten minutes, this 'low' weighs down heavily on me, as thoughts of 'what terrible time that family must be going through at this moment' start going round and round in my head. There are no personal associations (as yet.. touch wood), no bad memories, yet this terrible sinking feeling.. quite inexplicable.
Last evening as I was driving back home from work, I heard some noises - siren like. I looked at my rear view mirror. Nothing. And I shrugged it off as I might some unpleasant auditory hallucination. Kept driving. But the sound wouldn't stop; and before I had the time to check the rear view mirror again, it got louder, convincing me that yet another ambulance was close. Very close this time. I could hear the frantic honking of the driver along with the feeble siren (of a feeble van of some feeble little nursing home) as he drove fast - as fast as the office hour road traffic would permit. The ambulance overtook me and left me shivering as this chill ran down my spine. It drove past me and drove on. The rash and swift rider that I am, I followed close at heels. Once the ambulance was ahead of me, I tried peering inside, to see who the unfortunates were. The next instance, I was loathing myself for wanting to be a mere spectator to someone's misfortune. The ambulance's honks jerked me out of my reverie. I saw the vehicle try desperately to get some space to overtake a car...and it was sometime before the car gave it some leeway. Those were the moments that were of greatest anguish to me... In utter helplessness, I cursed the car driver to give way. Of course, no one heard. If I could, I would manually lift the ambulance and get it to its destination...
Until, I took the other fork of the crossroads, I was numb. Numb with the gut wrench, my longest ever.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thinking aloud

I'm suddenly on the edge of the expanse of my patience. It's like this unspeakable restlessness has grabbed me by the throat and I really am at a loss of all thoughts. I'm blank and thats the end of it. This thoughtlessness is stifling me. It's patience with my job, my boyfriend, my life, my colleagues, the fake in the guise of my boss.. everything in short. My only solace is in my writing. It's my substitute for physically running away. I want to, run away to somewhere. Run away from my self, run away from everything I know. Not trying to reach that for certain, but to reach a place which has the power to awe me, amuse me, thrill me.. in every sense of the word. It seems ages since I've felt something new. New knowledge comes across everyday, but they seem stale when felt with the same old emotions. I want to scream the top of my voice...yet there are no words coming out when I try to. I want to jump off a cliff...a bottomless keep falling, falling, falling. I'm oscillating between wanting to feel and not to feel... but something, anything. Help!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Music Divine

This song called ‘Maula mere Maula’ from the movie Anwar has become a recent favourite of mine – my daily dose of a high and a few stray tears. It is a beautiful blend of the Sufi and Quawali genres, sung by Roop Kumar Rathod with the music direction of Mithoon. Keeping aside the creators, who’ve all delivered their arts flawlessly, I find myself tempted to talk about the creation – this priceless piece of music. The song literally has me swooning with its addictive background score and the chants of ‘Maula mere Maula’. My not-so-favourite singer Rathod almost pours liquid silk on the profound lyrics. The song almost pleads in pain for the love it feels. The words of praise sound more like prayer. The boundaries of mortal love and the love divine seem to merge into each other whilst a mystic union takes place. The sentiment of covetousness seems natural and desire seems innocent. Adulations are absolute, yet intact in self respect. The sanctity of sensual descriptions is preserved as it smells of the purity of the purest of loves. The aftertaste of those soulful violin and flute notes is close to reverence. As the voice-work of Rathod tugs at the strings of your soul, the tabla beats become one with your heart beats. At the end of it, the power of music is humbling as you ride the waves of emotions with the rise and fall in pitch.