Friday, December 25, 2009


A day's dose of misfortunes and rebuffs take you very close to reality. And then, when you have come around to the fact that you're an ordinary person just like anybody else, you step on that piece of glass as if by mistake: you open that multimedia file casually, and are immediately drawn into an other world. You lose your identity, you assume a new one; you lose your bearings, and the day's good work is undone—the lesson you should not forget, and the lesson you invariably come around every other day, just as painfully. This, my dear friends, is the sharp-edged sword called modern life.

Modern life is fraught with the danger of communication. There were avenues of communication earlier on, too—but the difference is that, with the ubiquity of communication, it makes no difference to the outside world. But it changes us, the communicators, radically. Often, we are the only ones who are changed.

This is a very difficult sword to wield, a burden, and a throwback to the earlier heydays of the printed book. Somehow, those who know how to write, or write in the hope that they do, are most infected with this sickness; understandably so. Those who write, consciously, are somehow under the impression that they are indeed changing the state of things, 'in their own way.' But they would do well to shake off that false pretension.

Each act of transcendent communication—by which I mean those communications which cannot be refuted directly, those which are not addressed directly to a participating listener—is an apology for communication. All such communications are monologues, and under certain conditions, closely rival the claims of mad ravings in its social relevance. Almost every writer falls prey to the attractions of transcendental writing, the most common form of which is philosophizing.

(Or, the Cruel Joke of It)

And, at this point, I take my hat off to that dear friend of mine who has, to this day, held a clean sheet in this regard. He has written little, so he is almost immediately absolved of any complicity in that heinous crime called transcendental writing or philosophizing. Rather, he's been one of those poor souls who has found himself, time and again, under the spell of literary and philosophical sophistry. Heidegger, Derrida, myself, we all have played a significant part in his moral confusion. At this late stage, let me ask forgiveness for my part of the crime.

I would not risk this apology at a different time. Perhaps I'd never even have thought of writing this, had it not been for the fact that he's singularly angry with the world, which is to say, with himself. I'd not have written this, choosing instead to dwell on those green pastures of wishful thinking populated so often by philosophy, by great writers, and by great filmmakers. We always chose that false world. I would not have written this...but for an almost insane feeling of dearth—helplessness, lack of understanding, lack of feeling, a sense that somehow I have betrayed him, left him to the elements. This is a most sickening feeling, I live through it every day until finally sleep snatches me away under some pretext or the other.

He has fallen upon hard times, when he seems to be asking for harsh truths, the harsher the better. Usually he's of a very mellow disposition, keeping his contradictions strictly to himself, never voicing his misgivings, always assuming (and nearly always wrongly so) that the world is all right, everything is wrong is due to some fault of his. While this position can be justified, very few people in this age do so, preferring, rather, the very easy belief that there's nothing wrong either with the world or with them. To them, I ask, just like he would, 'Why then this poverty, why is there so much suffering, and why so many wants and longings?'

We are all at fault at one time or the other, but we always manage to move on. We are 'practical.' He, however, lacks the artfulness necessary to switch between these two modalities of 'practice' and 'theory.' My friend refuses the easy pill on most of the occasions which present an easy way out. He, instead, taxes himself, forces open his side of the matter, searching for ways to implicate himself, to incriminate himself. Often, fully knowing it is a fallacy, he assumes, by habit, that he is somehow responsible for a bad state of affairs. He takes it on, all the grief and all the despair, slowly drowning himself in his sorrow, by degrees, until somehow the world, the call to duty, can magically jolt him out of his stupor. This is the personal gift he always asks of the cruel, indifferent world: whilst he is sinking, provide that real jolt so that he can yank himself out of the mess.

This form of worship, benign to the caustic society which drives him to it, is a malignant tumour which has gotten hold of him. To each, his own. To each, his own peculiar brand of melancholy. But he derives nothing out of it, but still more despair for no fault of his. A first-rate poet and a very unassuming painter (I think he's hung up his palette some place where even he can't find it), he's trying to make the transition to the world ('making the switch'). All he asks, in return, is a little space for him to live, and a little peace of mind.

The smart person could retort that you don't need either to live in this world, and, true enough, most of us have neither yet do very well. We do get little islands of peace, very rarely, but most of the time, we, the felons, are talking to ourselves as if we were talking to a thousand and getting their approval—this, then, is the danger of transcendental communication. We invoke the worlds for us to communicate with, and believe—yes, we really believe—that such a world, such an audience, is real. And we are kings in that world, and we are thus authorized to run slipshod over those who are really sensitive and see the skewed nature of things. Naturally, there are those like him who are trampled underfoot. Nobody ever asked a flower how it felt when plucked.

Degenerating—as always

We all take a lot from the world, we rob it, we deface it irretrievably. We have no shame, because nobody else, it seems, has a right to ask, as they too face the same ultimate consequences as we do. When we leave it, fortunately, everything is valued in terms of money. We will be remembered fondly or harshly for a period of time, according to what we gave back in terms of money, or how much debt we left behind for our near ones to repay. This is a great comforting thought; but nearly all men who die, die grumbling.

The logical man needs no god; yet he needs woman. Why is that? The logical man, it would seem, is at times an animal, and needs to satisfy his biological needs. Then what prevents him from being spiritual at times?

The great tragedy of a godless world is not the death of god but the death of morality and responsibility. Without a god, a very good reason as to why we used exercise moderation in some things is lost completely; we no longer need to keep track of anything. But man answers poorly to other men (Jesus!); history records two World Wars, and God died a little more on each occasion. Gods, it would seem, thrive best during peace time. Death reigns supreme during war. To each, his own.

Shame is not when we are caught in an unnatural pose; shame is when we refuse to believe that we are sorry for something gross we did. The trick, then, is to assume an air of impassive importance, of disinterest, so that, with the passage of time, these stoical images would define you and ultimately release you of all charges. Hitler is becoming fashionable among a generation which knows nothing of the Holocaust. As they say, fashions change.

Germans are not known for their theatricality. But just recall all those images of Herr Hitler with his squirrel-like propensity in front of an audience, and one begins to wonder—

Ego Thrash

'Sir, it is three rupees short—'

He looked at the bill carefully, yes, it was 253, and not 235 as he'd made out. He had looked at the bill placed in the folder head downwards, and simply placed the three banknotes—two hundreds and a fifty—and left, to save the time. He had even left a Rs. 15 tip. But now—

He blurted out his excuse, and gave the young waiter two more bills, of ten rupee each. It was the first time and he used to leave good tips always, yet—

Signs of bad times visiting, like black death returning. And it's been almost a year since they had been regularly visiting this restaurant, spending as much as Rs 1500 every month on an average. Only a while ago he'd overheard an irate customer ask rather brusquely whether their rules were so strict as not to diverge from the prescribed menu for those who were staying. The waiter had said yes in a most forceful manner. And a lot of other things came to his mind, such as the dimly lit room, and a hundred other irrelevant points, half-formed and malformed, all ruses to cover up his shame.

He quickly put the car into gear and slowly reversed into the road, like the injured animal he was. He tarried to tip the guard, but the windows were drawn, so he did not. Understandably, in retrospect, it was not to be a very pleasant evening, dining out.

Jaunty notes

At NH, The Wit's Back

At home, M is again showing some symptoms of a cold (slightly congested nose, and she's horribly inward-drawn), and took some time to drop off, but she did. Is on the penultimate of the two little pills.

[1737; 90']

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