Friday, December 25, 2009

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt

Elizabeth Bishop's One Art has been stuck in my head since last night and I figured the only way it would stop haunting me was if I wrote it down here.

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent 
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something everyday. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing further, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Its hard to explain why I love Bishop's poem so much. Maybe because losing one's possessions (tangible and otherwise) is a natural phenomenon and each one of us can relate to in some obscure manner. Although, what I love the most about this poem is how the poet is in denial of her suffering over her losses.  She wears a mask of nonchalance and repeatedly tells herself that these losses weren't disastrous in order to move on. The very fact that 'losing' is termed as an 'art' by the poet shows that she's trying hard to mask her grief by pretending to be indifferent about all that she has lost. However, if read carefully you can feel the poet loosing her much worked upon detachment and self control as the poem progresses. The cracks in Bishop's composure are highlighted not just through her words but also through her use of  punctuations. At first the poem flows smoothly but towards the end it has a lot of breaks in it. You can feel Bishop's organized thoughts giving way to fragmented sentences and her non ability of coping with her losses.

There are two lines in this poem that leave a deep impression on me. The first being "so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster" - which just goes to show the non permanency of all material acquisitions as well as relationships. The other line that moves me deeply is Bishop commanding her own self to "Write it!". She tells herself to put her grief down in words. Over here you can almost feel her pain and understand that appearing calm and composed has become a huge burden for her and that she must admit her grief before its too late. And in this way, while pretending to describe her losses casually Bishop leaves behind several clues to the fact that she is silently (and deeply) in  mourning.

A lot of people have analysed and dissected this poem endlessly, debating over the nature of the poet's loss. Whether she's lost a friend or a lover or someone else. Whether her loss occurred due to the said person's death or a break up or an argument. However, I feel that a mark of a good poem is that it ignites a similar sentiment in its readers and makes us re-live/feel the very lines of the poem in a completely different context, a context based on our own life or experience - and One Art does just that for me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde

I just realised that I am a child of two very diverse philosophies. There are days when I am a materialistic girl lusting after designer clothes, shoes, bags... wanting to spend it all, live it up and generally be fabulous and then there are days when I want to change the world and I am naive enough to believe that I seriously can. On days like these I long to break free from labels and find a real meaning to my life and human existence. I want to find God, understand religion, venture into politics, do some meaningful charity...

Dr. Jekyll

Mrs. Hyde

I wouldn't go so far as terming this as a split personality, only 'coz these two very different sides to me coexist rather peacefully most of the times. I try and control my frivolous capitalistic greed by educating myself constantly with healthy doses of history, current news, philosophy, art and culture. As I write this I can't help but hum the more I learn the less I know about before (UB40'S Higher Ground) to myself.

Hopefully as I grow older and wiser (and have a boudoir laden with exotic fashionable goodies to occasionally retreat to :P ), I shall in Chuck Palahniuk's words want out of the lables and not want my entire life to be crammed into a single word. A story. I will want to find something else, unknowable, some place to be that's not on the map. A real adventure that for now remains A spinx, A blank. Unknown. Undefined. 

 And I am certain that now that I have defined this insatiable need and put it down in writing here...I shall get there eventually.

Here are some beautiful lines (written by I don't know who) to help curb our never ending materialistic desires.

In gloomy tones we need not cry
How many things there are to buy
Here is a thought for you and me
The best things in life are for free.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Never Forget

To live in the hearts of millions of Indians, is not to die...
...Dedicated to all the brave officers and soldiers who lost their lives fighting terrorists in Mumbai on 26/11 last year.

Angels Weep

A year after battling one of the most serious terror attacks in history, we are yet to take any concrete actions against those accused of this ghastly act. We have the resources, we have the man power, we have the faith to tackle terrorism. All that is needed is a change in our attitude. Let us not forgive and forget, let us stop moving on from every tragedy that befalls our Motherland, let us stop getting back to normal each time we loose so many of our countrymen...Let us for once stand up and reach out to one another in the face of terror, and let the world know that any act of terrorism shall not go unpunished in our country.

Hoping for a swift, just and sever judicial order against all those guilty for last year's massacre in Mumbai.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stopped To Smell The Roses

Ques: So what have you been doing these days? (With an accusingly evil glint in the eyes)

Ans: I confess to have been sitting on the fence refusing to make up my mind. But in my defense I say I'm taking some time to smell the roses before I succumb to the daily grind.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(From T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

One of the things that I've learnt in retrospect is that it's okay to not be a part of the rat race and its okay if you don't get there first. It's okay to take your own sweet time before you reach a decision, and that most of these decisions are not life and death ones anyways. There's always room for amending/improvising or just simply not adhering to your previous visions. Some may call it frivolousness but I call it evolution.

So unless you're Hamlet whose acts of delay & indecision eventually lead to his death, I say its okay to take some time off, chuck that job in a windowless office, get out of a rut, not be no.1, procrastinate endlessly, holiday in the bahamas or (in my case) stop and smell the roses... As long as it makes you happy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Destiny vs Free Will

The past few months of my life have been no less than a roller coaster ride for me. I went through a series of ups and downs, involving a period of generally feeling low about being stuck in a rut before I fell in love and experienced the highest of highs. But all throughout last year, anytime something good happened to me or something didn’t go as per my expectations there was always this neon sign that blinked in my head which read “Free will vs. Destiny”. Was I living the life that I had made for myself through all my actions and inactions or was I just a puppet playing out a part that was chosen for me by a higher power. Since I’ve never been able to conclude on this dilemma I’ve finally decided to put my thoughts in writing and see where they lead me.
Destiny refers to a pre determined course of events which will take place irrespective of any/all circumstances. While free will is a result of our rationalizing and deciding. Whenever I think about Free will versus Destiny I can’t help but wonder… How much of a say do I really have compared to the destiny already mapped out for me before I was even born? Is everything that happens to me predestined or do I actually make a difference from what I think, plan and do?
I must admit that life seems pretty random every time I sit and think of it as destiny. It is like no matter what I do the end result will be the same so why bother trying to do the right thing? Going along with these thoughts I can’t help but equate destiny to some random draw of lottery where some of us get lucky and some of us don’t. My mind continues to debate, if God has really destined everything for each one of us then what were his decisions based on? How did a few of us end up getting the winning number on the lottery and did the rest just run out of luck? Did God randomly pick a few mortals and decide that they were the chosen ones and the others would have to struggle? (An inevitable brief pause occurs as I drift away thinking about destiny and how people say that everything we get in this life is a sum total of our karma from our previous births. Although, I’m a Hindu I really can’t relate to this explanation of my previous lives karma influencing my today and decide to resume my writing).
Free Will. Aha! Two magical words capable of shaping up my life. Free will seems to imply that I actually have a choice and say in determining the course of events in my life. That would mean that I can have anything that I want if I put my mind and efforts to it. Surely life can’t be that simple, all of us can’t have everything we desire. There has to be a catch somewhere. And there surely is. With sheer free will would come sheer coincidence. Imagine the zillions of ‘free wills’ of every living creature on this planet just floating around in space. Opposite free wills clashing with one another, all trying to reign supreme. All of a sudden life seems chaotic and I feel like I’m making my way through a jungle armed with pretty much nothing but my own tiny little free will. If our life is truly a set of coincidences based on the whims and fancies of all living and non living things then the universe would be in deep and utter chaos. So is my free will just a residual of adjusting zillions of free wills of others which were exercised before me? If this is so, I’d feel like I was shortchanged from something better which was in store for me. (Another long pause while a series of rational and irrational thoughts come into my mind. Until now I was always of the opinion that I could make anything happen through my will and determination but I’m not so sure anymore.)
Well, so which one is it Destiny or Free Will? How do I really know what is destined for me until I have survived it? In this sense I would only be able to experience destiny in the past. Wouldn’t I be a happier person thinking I do the things I do because I want to do them and not because I’ve been pre ordained to do them? Or maybe there is some kind of a law of nature where everything in the universe has only but one course to follow, and if this were the case; I wouldn’t be able to change a thing, so should I just give up trying and allow myself to drift with the flow? My indecisive Libran self can go on and on, endlessly debating over the two options but I must draw a conclusion somewhere and put my restless mind at ease (At least for now!)

So this is where I conclude. Choice or Fate… How about my choices leading me to my Fate? Now, that is a thought which not only reassures me of my capabilities but it also reaffirms my faith in the Almighty. Thus, no matter what I do in my life my destiny shall unfold before me. This may be willingly or unwillingly, by accident or by purpose. And, in the case that I don’t like where I am headed in life I will be able to change things. While certain circumstances and events shall remain predetermined and beyond my control, I shall possess the absolute free will to determine where I go, how long I take to get there and whom I bring along the way.