Sunday, January 25, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

They sat in silence, viewing the world through their individual looking glasses, and contemplating on what greeted them on the other side. A smoke had been shared just a moment ago and both of them had kept themselves busy trying to blow rings at each other. But now, when just the smell lingered around, they did not know what to do with their hands or minds. While Ritwick lay on the bed staring at the wall above, Shlok smiled goofily as if a long lost memory had suddenly found its way through an unknown recess. The duo seemed to be walking through the same corridor, albeit in different directions, peering through each keyhole at leisure, picking up lost pieces, and trying to recreate something that had happened a long way back in time. Surprisingly, not even a trace of worry distorted the expression on either face. It seemed conspicuous by its absence, and they did not talk about it, lest the unwanted guest make a sudden appearance.

There was just a hint of a breeze and the curtain on the door quivered when caught in it, the yellow flowers on it appearing to be daffodils “fluttering and dancing in the breeze”. The ceiling fan was idle and two of its blades formed a smiley that conveyed its sadness at being singled out. The radio-clock played an instrumental number from an unknown Satyajit Ray flick that seemed to have been made for the occasion. Ritwick hummed along, oblivious to his pathetic attempt at impersonating the tune, while Shlok tried his best to ignore him. A solid rectangle of light filtered in through the lone window in the western wall. The window seemed to be greeting the sun’s dying rays, politely bending them to suit its own whims. So what bathed the room was not a fiery white, but a mellow mixture of yellow and red, almost maternal in its feel. The motes danced around in the pale yellow radiance and traced out abstract patterns while doing so. Needless to say, the room on the terrace was almost perfect for imaginary afternoon philosophical sessions. And so they did. In other words, I made them do so.

“We do not believe in consequences anymore.”

Shlok propounded this while still smiling goofily and so the effect of the observation was lost on Ritwick. Ritwick, in turn, continues staring at the wall for sometime before giving his two cents.

"For the record, I believe you have copied that line from somewhere. However, I will ignore that for the time being. I understand your need to temper your actions with purposiveness. For some time now, I have feared that my actions do not have any consequences. Sometimes, I almost detest it when people like me, people who have been more fortunate than so many others, trivialize everything in life. Everything has to be associated with being cool, hip, fun, and all things cooler. I guess you have only taken this abhorrence of carelessness to a higher level. Didn’t you say something about deciding that whatever you do has to have a certain purpose or consequence to it? But does that mean we deny ourselves every other pleasure in life just because of its inconsequentiality to others? I will confess that I do not propose a solution to this problem. But my instincts still shriek that a balance can be struck somewhere in between. Can’t we be selfish and selfless at the same time?”

Shlok stifles a chuckle and stops staring at the wall above. Instead, he occupies himself for sometime by observing the two lizards on the western wall, the one with the window. They had emerged out of their secret lairs early (the sun had still not set) and seemed to be engaged in a furious round of courtship. Somehow, their love and hate relationship seemed to symbolize everything that was going on in his life as well. Finally, when Ritwick had started fidgeting at his indifference, he carefully crafts his reply and tries to make it as abstruse as feasible.

"Consequentiality is definitely a way out. The efficacy of all actions lies in their impact on others. Didn’t we read about Gandhiji’s talisman in our NCERT books? Weigh our actions and see how they affect others? I think the idea is to detach your self to the extent where you may love all, and enjoy all. There is neither pain there, nor unhappiness. You might say why bother about all this. But to me, the otherwise is tantamount to cheating my purpose. I am afraid, my friend, that there is no middle path of indulgence. You can be either happy or sad. Indifference is the best lie that we craft for ourselves. It helps us in getting by that sense of guilt that’s innate in all of us. It helps us in believing lies like ‘we can be selfish and selfless at the same time’. It helps us in ignoring the consequences of all our actions.”

Ritwick looks at Shlok as if he had been slapped for breathing too hard. However, he regains his senses and finds something to say.

"Isn’t that taking things a bit too far? It is a liberating experience to give in to our weaknesses sometimes. Not everyone can be a Gandhi or Amte. Not everyone can be a Mahatma. You are becoming increasingly inflexible in your thoughts and actions. Why don’t you experiment more often? Not just with relationships and people, but with your ideas and opinions as well. Just let it go and enjoy being weak for some time. I have visited those lands and it was a welcome experience.”

Shlok smiles serenely and says, “That’s how I have come to look at things. I am afraid that retracing my steps is not a luxury that I can afford. But we are talking nonsense. I must not make you think anything. What about love and girls? What’s your take on them? I know you are not homosexual.”

Although Shlok had raised this subject as a mere diversion, he knew that Ritwick’s understanding of the subject would bring him one step closer to comprehending what went on in his friend’s mind. Ritwick, on the other hand, was oblivious to all such underpinnings and plunges headlong into his narrative.

"Do not blame me for philosophizing, I know that’s you forte, but I guess getting to know about love is more important than being in love. The rush that you get out of anticipation can hardly be matched by fulfillment. I fear it becomes a downhill ride from there on. I even read a piece about this in that zany tabloid that people call a newspaper – The Times of India.”

Shlok can not come to terms with Ritwick’s understanding of ephemerality. Trying to think several things at the same time, he looks out the window. The sun has almost set and soon the mosquitoes would be swarming the place. So he gets up and switches on the bulb, the artificial equivalent of the orb which had just breathed its last. As he proceeds to close the door, Ritwick continues his line of thought.

""Do not get me wrong, but I find it hard to believe that something as fascinating as love can actually last long enough. I believe that the phase we call ‘being in love’ lasts for just one-eighth of our lifetime. Let me put this in a more familiar perspective. It’s merely a three hour movie in a day long extravaganza. What do we do with the remaining 21 hours? Mope about how we wasted every other opportunity chasing that one dream? Look for something better in all the remaining places? Believe me, but it’s most important to find what makes one really happy. I think it’s the only thing that can turn the 3 hour movie into a day long festivity. It’s the only thing which can make other experiences complete, and make them last. Everything else falls into place then. But most of us never get there in one lifetime. So it’s a bit of a predicament, like everything else.”

"So, if I have understood you correctly, you do not believe in the entire concept and would rather stay away from it?”

It’s not that simple. It’s not just black and white I presume. Normally, people end up falling in love mostly due to lack of choice. In a perfectly normal relationship, without any labels mind you, they end up giving each other so much of themselves that even the prospect of staying apart seems an impossibility. On the other hand, giving up more, without adverse repercussions and without altering the very nature of the chemistry, appears just as unlikely. People are often consumed by the other person. Love, and a lifetime of it perhaps, seems the only way out. In a way, it is the malaise and the cure. And we never read the symptoms right. So it doesn’t matter if I believe in it or not. Doesn’t matter if I want to it or not. There is no running from it. It will end up coming back to me. For better or worse I do not know.”

"That’s an interesting line of thought. Love is due to compulsion eh?”

"Please don’t make it sound derogatory. It is one of those things I still want to believe in. And you are making my entire understanding of it sound profane.”

"Not at all. Your thing about losing a part of ourselves to the people we love is quite intriguing. Because the only escape from that is detachment. And hence the paradox you see. Love seems a way out. But would you risk it? Would it prove to be your undoing? The realization that your happiness is inextricably intertwined with that perpetual fear of misery.”

"So what do we do Shlok? Do we deny ourselves the fleeting pleasure for fear of the pain we might have to endure later? Do we do that and isolate ourselves from even the momentary blip of happiness? I understand that is painful to be possessive about things that have the downside of not lasting forever. But does anything really last? Is it easy to let go? These things might be better understood if viewed from a different perspective. Because the one we posses is grossly inadequate. And so I go on for now. I cling to my possessions, thinking that some of them can last. Baah. But I am rambling again.”

Shlok shifts around on the bed and turns to face Ritwick, who is now sitting upright on the carpet.

Keats gave us two important thoughts: ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’; and also ‘Ignorance is bliss’. As long as we our sufficiently ignorant, we tend to stick to the pretence that meets the eye. The idea is whether we wish to be joyous in our ignorance. If that be it, then I have nothing else to say. If not, then maybe you should ask yourself whether you want to continue this slumber of never ending dreams. It’s more comfortable then, isn’t it? To be asleep and be fed with an imagery of permanence: your dollops of utopia?”

Ritwick racks his brains in order to comprehend Shlok’s discourse in its entirety. When he fails spectacularly in doing so, he does what only he could – come up with an example of Shlok’s philosophical ramblings from popular fiction.

It’s like the Matrix isn’t it? We are happy as long as we are in this make-believe world of the machines. But as soon as we are granted freedom from that slavery, we realize how the decision to break free was not as easy as it had seemed. Cypher’s actions capture this dilemma very effectively. Once he has seen the ‘real world’, he wants to return back to his matrix. To his well paying office job. To his fancy dinners. Ignorance is bliss as you say.”

Shlok couldn’t help smiling at this unlikely analogy. He tries to weigh it against his own statement. But then decides against it. Both of them had had enough for a day. And it was beginning to show.

"Yeah, right. Somewhat like The Matrix. But I guess its time for dinner. And I can hear your Mom calling us downstairs.”

As is expected out of such conversation, both the pseudo-intellectuals dwelled more upon the questions which were never asked. Nothing substantial is expected to come out of the conversation. For what Morpheus called the “real world” tends to downplay dreamers like themselves. In all likelihood, they will go back to living their lives in a manner which would be the exact opposite of their ideas and opinions. But change can only come in minute quantities. We do not live in an age of revolutions. They are a thing of the past. The very fact that this conversation dwelled upon a subject like this is, is an improvement. I am sure they will work something out.


  1. First of all, congrats for being awarded on 'some' blog. Man. I heard you cried Miss World style after reading that poshht. wheeww, ye to hona hi tha.

    And about this post. It was all a mixture of 'confusion, fiction, observations, opinions'. With Shlok and Ritwick as IC heroes. :). (Btw you did the right thing by exchanging the names :P, otherwise to ...phewww...)

    Mere liye - Angrezi kamjor hone ke nuksaan - thoda convoluted(hope the right word :P, otherwise contact me in person, after all am for roommate :D) par achha laga :). Kuchh baar aur padhoonga, fir aur appreciate kar paaunga. (Waise itni bak was not expected :P).

    And haan. You are Old and you life sucks.

  2. As Saransh said, would have to read it again to appreciate it fully.. though it feels one of ur better posts at the first glance...

    Hmm.. about the philosophy.. maybe someone should join me in reading Fountainhead? different purposes altogether though...

    And why do all all discussions bearing even a trace of philosophy come around to discussing love? is it humanly impossible for us to discuss philosophy without mentioning love?
    Though i agree.. love is the disease and its the cure... you know of the pain that awaits you, yet you wanna experience the bliss while it lasts..

    and i guess i kno who ritwick nd shloka r ..

  3. Do Shlok and Ritwick actually have SUCH conversations? I am asking in all seriousness because conversations like these exist somewhere OUTSIDE the realms of my understanding. Ofcourse after concentrating ALL my powers of comprehension on the screen, I managed to make some sense of it all. "Do read aaram se. Not cursory type."

    As "Rozz" pointed out, this love manages to shove itself into every discussion. So much for all your inexplicable emphasis on novelty. Anyway I realized I am SO lazy that I'd rather ignore than ponder over something as "convoluted" as the topic you have so volumously discussed.

    Confusion? In copious quantities.
    Fiction? And you believe I'm actually buying that?
    Observations? Ok.
    Opinions? Interesting ones indeed.

  4. Since the post fails to make an impression on anyone, I think an explanation is in order (even if that is something I don't like). I am afraid I had not intended it to be interpreted this way. However, if a person does not understand what I am talking about, it must be the way I am talking. But.

    I had not intended this to be philosophical discourse. Some questions that rage through the mind found vent in the form of a conversation. Could there be a better way? Simply stating them would have made for good rhetorics, yes.

    And people can actually have such conversations. I have not made up them up. Although its not just two people conversing at one point in time. They are spread over several people over several places and through different mediums. That's why the tag fiction. Because some of it is true. Some made up. So yes, I think some of the realms need to be more inclusive.

    More importantly, I think love is not the main idea here. I am afraid it's been understood the wrong way. Although it's one of the ideas. What I had wanted to discuss was our preoccupation with everything transient and our disregard for the consequences (or lack of them) of our actions. That's where it starts off actually. But nevermind. It's just a damn post anyway.

  5. Why O Why, my dear old chap, did you have to come out with explanations?

    Anyway, this is indeed one of your more interesting posts. Hat ke hai, if you get what I mean. And I would like to think I followed most of it.

    By the way, this is totally irrelevant, but the writing style reminded me a bit of Hind Swaraj :D

    Quite effective.

  6. Like Chandni, I never believe that all that you write is fiction but then, you say it that this is from thoughts aplenty and from conversations of many people. :)

    In any case, a true confession now - this was lovely and perfect. Especially the conversation that happened before the love topic. You really think people like being on the only 'either black or white thought'? There are ages who live their life with just these two colors but then, the world hates them :)

    One can either be happy or be sad - well said.
    Maybe we must converse often for I liked the conversation in there that you call fiction.

    ps: ignore the typos bcoz I typed this from the iPhone while travelling in the bus and you must be aware of the touchscreen woes :)

  7. Piper dear, I hoped you would understand it and I am glad you did. As far as Hind Swaraj is concerned, I take your word as final :P

    Prasoon Ji. Your typos are welcome as long as they keep coming. And yes, we MUST have such conversations because indifference is indeed the best lie that we craft for ourselves. And I call it fiction only because of a lack of a better word. I am sure you would understand.