This is my response to Devdutt Pattanaik’s “Delightful Truths of Cult Leaders” which appeared in the Mid Day on 21 December, 2014.
I generally do not write without knowing enough about the issue. After going through Devdutt’s article, though, I figured if a person of his callibre can write something as dumb as what he has written, surely, I can do better than him. Comments to the contrary are always welcome.
Hello Devdutt ‘Myth’ Pattanaik,
Let me start by saying that I once used to be a fan of yours. I thought you were a good summarizer of our classics. But after going through Delightful Truth of Cult Leaders in Mid Day, I have to say that you are at best a great generalizer and at worse a deliberate confounder of the “many truths”. Your generalization about Rajiv Malhotra (not Rajeev Malhotra) in the article and branding him a ‘cult leader’ has no credibility and reeks of an effort to sideline and marginalize an authentic and independent voice. Below, I would like to address this in some detail.
Unlike the ‘delightful’ tone you have used in the article, read my response in the tone of Kakabhusandi, the curious crow, who really wants to know what is going on with you.
Let me ask you straight away, this is the first time in any published work of yours you refer to Rajiv and his work, what is stopping you of all the people from going into the specifics and do a purvapaksha on the “powerful and profound truths” that Rajiv has to offer? If you term – him writing against, rebutting and challenging Doniger’s monopoly – as a successful “witch-hunt”, then one can only doubt your skills of using a metaphor.
You yourself say that Doniger has her own “fan following that believes every word she writes is the truth and nothing but the truth”
In another article you were quoted thus: “‘..problem with Wendy’s writings is her unapologetic and rather naïve obsession with psychosexual analysis of Hindu gods.’ But the bigger problem is, he (Devdutt) warns, ‘Discomfort can turn to rage when American universities start promoting Wendy’s speculations as ‘the’ truth, rather than ‘a’ truth, one that may not necessarily align with popular beliefs on the ground.'”
Dear sir, I crudely submit that her “fan following” are the “American Universities”. You think American Universities are not already promoting her views?
You say – Discomfort can turn to rage when American universities start promoting Wendy’s speculations as ‘the’ truth, rather than ‘a’ truth – are you seriously unaware of the issues raised in Invading The Sacred?
Let me quote from its cover jacket, considering in your busy schedule you wouldn’t have the time to go through the whole book,
“a powerful counterforce within the American Academy is systematically undermining core icons and ideals of Indic Culture and thought. For instance, scholars of this counterforce have disparaged the Bhagavad Gita as “a dishonest book”; declared Ganesha’s trunk a “limp phallus”; classified Devi as the “mother with a penis” and Shiva as “a notorious womanizer” who incites violence in India; pronounced Sri Ramakrishna a pedophile who sexually molested the young Swami Vivekananda; condemned Indian mothers as being less loving of their children than white women; and interpreted the bindi as a drop of menstrual fluid and the “ha” in sacred mantras as a woman’s sound during orgasm.”
With such (deliberate? feigning?) ignorance, you shouldn’t have proceeded with your article. You try your best to balance by commenting on Doniger failings however were able to put out an interview with her in 2009 when her book The Hindus was published. In your introduction to that interview you wrote (emphasis mine): “Anyone who is serious about studying Hinduism needs to study the works of Wendy Doniger(b.1940), who for over 40 years has been researching, translating, and commenting on Hindu scriptures and stories.”
Are you yourself not guilty of promoting her truth as ‘the’ truth and not merely ‘a’ truth? In contrast, Invading the Sacred was published in 2007, it has been 7 years and there was/is no similar interview or any effort from your side in showing similar empathy towards Rajiv. Do you care to assimilate the many truths? Or are you merely satisfied by this half-attempt to de-legitimize his serious work by calling him a cult leader?
It is telling when you say, “Cult leaders are not liars; they do present powerful and profound truths. But the problem is that it eventually stops becoming about what they are saying, it becomes about them!”
Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t become about them if people like you addressed their truths rather than calling them names. In a way what you seem to be saying is, “Rajiv’s assertions are powerful and profound truths, but I won’t go into specifics of his research and mock it by reducing them to buzz words.” or “I don’t have any disagreements on his content but with the form and where it is coming from!” Why would you have issues with the content if you have refurbished some of it as your own, I wonder?
Criticise Rajiv all you want but don’t do such a shoddy job at it. Rajiv often tells his “fans” something like, if you have to challenge and topple the existing monopoly you have to do your homework right with due diligence. Maybe you can learn from him like you have done so otherwise. But unlike last time please give him credit.
Looking forward to better informed articles from your side.
Other relevant references:
Authored By Prashant Yadav
Edited By Kshitij Sharma
“CHEERS to Good Times!”
Six glasses go up in the air for a mid-air collision and then everyone gets quiet for a second or two.
The party has now officially started and as usual I am the first one to say something. In parties like these it is risky to start a conversation as everybody is busy gulping down their drinks. It is like interrupting a Lion during his meal, just because you feel like having a chat. But that’s how it goes with me I guess.
Hi! I am the (s)talker! They call me Percy.
But as soon as I pronounce as much as the h of hi(gh), 14 eyes look at me with the look of friends pleading me not to begin for the sake of their friendship!
Friendship, ah! It’s that interesting doodle life allows you to draw when circumstantially you are unable to hang up the phone, because of someone like me who just wouldn’t shut up! As of now, I was busy drinking with my buddies, but much has changed since we mutually drew ourselves into each other’s lives…
Back in the old days when we were pursuing Bachelors of Engineering, smokes and drinks were an everyday phenomena.
Everybody used to look forward to the mornings, pockets stuffed with cash, hands full of cigarettes (some ganja or hashish in some secret bracket of the wallet to the disappointment of pickpockets in search of money unless they needed it to buy some ganja or hashish!).
Then the wait for that elite gypsy at the college khoka. It came, we unloaded the cash, the source unloaded you know what and off we were to the famous joints in our sprawling college campus made famous by our tribe.
Very little has remained the same since then.
The fairer sex who in those times was hard to spot by, leave alone the fact that there could be one in our group, has taken the reins. Our pockets had loads of money only to provide for our drinks, as meals were home sponsored – God bless my mom! Now we hardly have time for drinks or for that matter even catching up with old friends. So when catching up happens, as is the case now – it is all formalities.
So for once, smoking cigarettes is a criminal offence in public and suicidal in front of girlfriends!
And how they kill you with their eyes and nobody knows except you.
You just think that you don’t have to look at them and their anger would pass. High hopes indeed! You can feel your skin burn as you feel their asexual touch of eye-rays caress you like they were smouldering cigarettes all aiming for your face from the wrong side. You see your skin smoking. And before the devil knows, you’re dead.
There must be an angel, with a smile on her face up there somewhere, as my girl is nothing like that!!! Lucky bastard, that’s me. And Neha shares The Secret (more on that later).
The cash that we didn’t care about much earlier has disappeared though. Imagine women entering your lives just when you stop getting the pocket money from your dad’s wallet and you have too much self esteem to rely on the picket-money, again from your dad’s wallet. Although having a whitish blue sweaty collar job does bring with it a wallet whose secret brackets are loaded with a number of credit cards (that buys us no weed, neither the time n money for drinking with unknown friends or Taus away from the clingy arms of my friends’ girls. As we now meet only in their esteemed company and I don’t mind that, it’s just that they have a habit of counting the number of our pegs, puffs and pennies not spent on them.)
Should I introduce my fellow Doodlers or you will like to know them as we go along? Well I believe the latter is better so as to avoid unnecessary write-ups and if you prefer the first option go and read their Facebook’s About Me sections.
This gang of six tries to meet at least two times every year and that’s some catching up we do – one unique location, tables full of snacks, drinks freely flowing (not literally as it’s all about money honey and that too ours), latest designer wear, jewellery, funkiest mobiles and best of the cars.
In a way, it does add glitter to what we had in college days.
So I ask my NRI buddy, Prahlad how is life abroad in these tough times, tough times meaning without a girlfriend and not economic recession. “It’s all cool out there, buddy”, he begins and I get it that he just doesn’t get it, “life is easy and fast, we don’t have time even for prayers and morning wishes. Social life is there but only in form of twitter, facebook and all that. Anyways what’s up with Sharma and all”, he asks casually, “what’s he up to?”
God knows what happened to my now-sounding-so-cliché friend. And then I listen to his question and wonder if I represent all the ‘unfortunate’ people working in India or am I their spokesperson as everybody asks me how they are doing.
“Hmm”, I pause,” Sharma is doing well for himself”, with a question in my mind that should I ask the same question to the people whom he left in Dubai, they must be doing quite well for themselves as Prahlad is in India now!
Anyways the need to hear myself out loud to change the mood of the party has me blurting out, “You know buddies, there is this place called Bhangarh somewhere in Rajasthan which is, you know…haunted, well I say let us hit the road and see what the mystery is all about.”
Vishal was prompt in his dismissal and said it must be some tourist gimmick as there is no such thing as a haunted place.
Neha interrupted, “No, even I have heard about it and you know what, the government has officially termed it as a we-don’t-take-your-responsibility kinda place to visit after sundown.
Someone, I guess it was Prahlad, who googled it instantly on his big screen mobile. We got the image result that read:
The Government of India
The Archeological Survey of India, Bhangarh
Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited. Shepherds and woodcutters who enter Bhangarh area will face legal action.The Kewda or Pandanus trees found in Bhangarh area belong to the Archaelogy Survey of India. Is it forbidden to subject this tree to any kind of harm?
Note: Anyone flouting of the rules mentioned above will face legal action.
Supervisor, Archaelogical Survey Board
The eerie mood was set…and then – cheap thrill: the screen went black!
“Battery was already low…” smiled Prahlad sheepishly to our faces absorbing the transitory gasps.
Eesha said, “What ya(ar), we are meeting after a long time and honestly, I have my share of ghosts already – let’s talk about something else.”
Mahima in a very ‘I’m Fine!’ voice asked everyone to not talk about it right now.
“What the hell man”, I said to myself and then they heard the echo. “Come on guys, this is also a celebration, it’s just…that we will have company…from the other side as well!”
Laughter broke out. I wondered whether it was them or my sense of humor was that bad. There was a pause. And I realized it was only Neha who understood that I was serious, even though she laughed out the loudest. So, I went on, “Let’s do this…Guys…we owe it to ourselves…it would be so spontaneous…”
“Dude, people here are not comfortable discussing such things…”, Prahlad said, raising his voice so that he could be heard in the entire pub.
“Oh, just talk about yourself buddy”, I smirked.
Somebody felt insulted and someone understood the joke was aimed at them and after all if it was Mahima then somebody has to give weight to her concern; unfortunately Prahlad was always that somebody.
Prahlad and Mahima left the table.
Vishal quizzed how Neha got to know about Bhangarh and asked abruptly, “What do they mean…Why has the Govt banned the place?”
Neha replied, “I read it that the place has been officially termed as ‘haunted’ because whenever they tried to set up their office in Bhangarh to study the place, it got thrashed by some evil forces or something. Legend has it that the whole place is cursed by some sadhu who wanted the princess of the town but she turned him down. In turn the sadhu cursed the whole kingdom and the kingdom got vanished overnight. Now what is left is the destroyed kingdom and people from all over the globe visit the ruins.” Her saying it matter of factly helped and Vishal got interested.
Prahlad and Mahima joined the table back, “We just went to the loo”, Mahima explained. And they just had to go together because well, Pakistan is a ‘good’ neighbor to India.
Eesha showed interest and Vishal was already making plans to visit the place.
Wooow wooow woow…Bull’s eye now we are talking, I thought.
“Lets catch up with zombies and see who shits in their pants first!”
Mahima gave me an ugly look.
“Do dead people shit?” was my reply to her.
Well blame it on the movies about friends, which came to my solace (and of course p2p and torrent downloading) to fill the void that friends of the younger days left when they left, but I was more than excited to be a part of this filmy situation for real. Meanwhile, everybody warmed up to the idea of visiting Bhangarh. The girls called at their homes to seek last minute permission from their folks to stay over at a friend’s place and guys, well they had no one to call to. It’s not like we don’t have families it is just that no one is interested what we are up to leave aside our bosses in offices. We asked for the bill and the transaction was made over the table.
Off we went to parking lot to head towards Bhangarh – but wait – where was everyone? In my excitement I had drifted apart from the group, I called Prahlad who was on call with Mahima. He connected me and everyone was on conference, “ Guys what is this, where is everyone…?” and then what I heard was “kdfjfkgfhfvbfjfhfhgbdfjkghdfgjhdfhjgb” buzzing in my ear!!!
Sorry but even I could not understand Zoozoo, so I asked again, “Let’s all meet up at McDonald’s ground floor, okay?” They Zoozoo-ed back and I disconnected.
I got a brainwave of an idea for a film: A guy like me exposes a telecom company’s conspiracy to leak critical information when people make their travel plans. They would leak it to the hotels of those touristy places for hefty money and when they were hijacking our conversations we will hear Zoozoo sounds. I heard those Zoozoo sounds because of the encryption process software had a bug that hasn’t been fixed by a S/W Developer (whose character would be based on me) because he bunked office to catch up with his buddies. He worked in India’s leading IT company whose clients were these bad ass telecom company but then he becomes a part of the conspiracy when he becomes a victim after hearing the Zoozootranscripts. More on that later. Yawn!
Well now the problem was everybody had their own cars and if we wanted to go to Bhangarh we had to go in one car and leave behind five cars in the mall itself. Nobody wanted to do that. So what do we do with the five mean machines?? Can’t leave it in the mall for more than 24 hours, can’t go back home as everybody puts up at extreme points of Delhi n Faridabad. So what could be the safest place where one could park the car. Vishal threw an idea which everybody disagreed with but later on had to agree.
You see, Vishal could be the only person who can give ideas because it was evident that we were going in his Tata Safari and hence he had no objections as to where we park our cars.
His idea was to park the cars at the police station!
That was one place, reasoned Vishal, where one could park cars for free n it would be safe at the same time. I disagreed instantly at first because secretly I would have loved to come up with a wacky idea like that.
Wondered if someone else also thought like that, but then there seemed to be no time for mental wanderings, and the rush of being part of a collective action was getting to us.
Now that the problem of keeping the cars safe was solved, there arose a new one.
Safari is a big cruiser but to my ass’s bad luck Vishal has a big music system in it, so where would the 6th person fit? As we soon were to find out, inconveniences like these were going to be the least of our concerns!
«««««««««««««The Cigarette Ghost«««««««««««««
He was standing and digging in his shirt pocket for a cigarette that he could not find. It later came to him that he was not wearing the same shirt from office. He was waiting for a ride, hoping, someone could drop him somewhere and save him from the smoggy cold on the highway. Office shirt had a pocket which had a butt which contained enough bosom in it to make him high for the night.
He remembered the truck ride. The driver had agreed to take him all the way to Jodhpur.
The driver was a minding-his-own business-kind-of fellow who was busy humming an English tune which was copied into an Indian song, so it was difficult to know his music preferences and his exposure to world music or to take a guess about how many languages he knew.
As soon as the driver saw him breathe in through the butt from his shirt pocket, his butt was kicked out to puff the highway dust.
The Dream Began.
He faintly remembered coming back from office in that shirt that she had only ironed in the morning.
She had wanted to get high with him. It had been long. They hardly got any time for themselves with the children taking up their priorities…
…the bigger one always smiled when he saw mother and father kissing secretly, unlike the tell tale grandmother of a daughter who parroted to the whole neighborhood what happened in their house…
“Our children might have this idea that we conceived them with kissing!”, he had complained once.
“Do not say what you thought as a child, honey, bunny, cutie pie! Mmmmpchh…chh..chhaa…”, she had trailed off in glee, kissing him, mockingly now.
“They are much smarter than their cute smiles. Your daughter maintains an e-diary through which she gives daily updates to her friends about our kisses and misses…”
He had smiled and opened his mouth, “That’s a breach of privacy…even by…the kidsssssss….we’re parentsssss'”, he began but she thought better and sealed the air carrying his words with a barrage of kisses.
That evening with the children out for the weekend with their grandparents, she was dressed in her wedding lehenga.
Looking prettier than she did 10 years ago, she waited for her magical husband to return. He had worn his black pin striped wedding reception suit to the office and was longing for the night out from their past to begin.
It was their 10th anniversary. Only their 3rd celebration without the kids…
He tried to remember a highway song he had heard so many times.
It seemed like another life.
All the good songs had been forgotten now.
All the bonhomie, he could understand – but it was not for him.
And the sad songs, like the one playing in the truck, seemed so unreal.
How could someone sing when one could hardly speak?
It was now two years since that fateful night.
Two years since he last saw his wife smiling.
Two years since everything made sense.
Two headlights were approaching him. He had that sudden rush to be saved. He wanted a different life.
“If ever…”, she had breathed in, “…anything happens to me, promise me that you won’t go on the self destructing guilt…trip… of yours…”, she had prophesied before they got married and pecked on his cheek.
Now it seemed like a premonition.
“If anything happens to you, this man that you are marrying”, he had pointed towards the mirror,” won’t be alive to do anything to me!”
Yet there he was, that man all alive on the highway. Faint reflection of what he once saw in the mirror but alive with all the hope that the two headlights approaching could bring. This was similar to what he had felt when he saw the two headlights of that truck and like then he did not know that it was a truck till it stopped a little ahead of him.
In the TATA Safari, a female by the window was about to scream; only she did not know it yet.
He, on the highway was rising to the hope and wanted to wave his hands to be saved.
As the Safari came closer and it dawned on him that
it… was… a Safari…the Safari…that he was driving…and in whose accident the children…the children…
Then it happened.
His raised hands caught the branch of a tree by the highway, the tattered shirt felt his dehydrated and desiccated body sliding out of it as he fell face forward and as the Safari moved across the scene, what was seen was a ghostly shirt hanging by the branch which equaled to a seemingly close resemblance of a body less and invisible ghost, just lingering by long enough than the trees rushing by to scare the shit out of the pack of six doodlers.
Let me begin by saying that I am a novice when it comes to Shakespeare. I have heard/seen/read more appreciation of his works than experienced them first hand. So what follows, is not a response of a bardolater. Also, I haven’t seen Rajat Kapoor’s previous forays like C For Clowns and Hamlet The Clown Prince so would reserve comment on those. The name of the play hinted that my ignorance was not going to come in the way of my experience, but then what’s in a name anyway!
I happened to catch Nothing Like Lear’s 07:30 PM show at Kamani Auditorium on 8th September with friends. The show started at 07:45PM, unlike the reviews which said it would start a little earlier than the scheduled time.
Fifteen minutes into the tale of this one man act, the rambling protagonist on stage had the audience in splits – luring them into prompting his lines as he rebuked them for their cue, much to their joy. The clown’s interaction was a delight, I was with him as he used his body language to full effect and he was self confessedly glad that I was.
Thirty minutes of a chuckle here and a “current affairs joke” there, I caught my mind doing a thought experiment. It revised all the jokes on which I laughed out loud and realized that most of them were stand-alone, without context and would have worked even if this was to be restricted to a stand up comedy act.
The synopsis told me that it was going to be a tragicomedy, so did not pursue any further with my psychic inquiry, half hoping that I was soon going to have my laugh caught midway with the heartstrings tugging, which Vinay Pathak is more than capable of doing (case in the point, Dasvidaniya).
But when the thespian did attempt to tug at my the emotional chords, they broke!
The self-deprecating humor worked at a certain level, the character critiquing the society/audience calling his performance “Avant-Garde” – gave hope that it was to continue in that vein to make the emotions more real and push the boundaries of comedy-drama on stage by making the audience laugh and cry with equal intensity in one single act.
Sadly, it was not to be.
The moments which were supposed to shock and make you dwell upon the questions posed by the actor, histrionics notwithstanding, (maybe) like “Why is the child called a bastard for no fault of his own?” came to pass without making an impact and were as stand-alone as the jokes before them. They failed to whir up empathy and thus seemed like aloof white clouds unburdened with rain.
Then there was what seemed like a vague, though deliberate attempt to extend the runtime of the play by showcasing a rant on the lack of filial love, bringing the daughter’s ungratefulness to the fore. Aiming to bolt the laughing audience out of their glee abandon by an abrupt change of mood, it however, failed in my eyes. One sided relationship was reinforced beforehand between the actor and his daughter and unequal perspective of father’s love and its betrayal hogged all the limelight. This turned out to be devoid of any cerebral connect. And as the supposed Lear on stage was evoking the madness into him, I was left seeking the context-less jokes, few and far between they then seemed to be.
The disjunction of the experience was to also lure me into seeking subtext. That too was without any success. In the beginning we were told repeatedly that, “it (the show) hasn’t started yet!”What did he mean by that and when it did start what difference did it make? So much so that when it ended and ‘Lear’ Pathak bowed and left the stage, I waited for him to come back and say, “it hasn’t ended yet!”. But it was not that abstract to be construed as an exercise in Abstract Expressionism. For if it were, I could not even try liking it.
I have learned not to take reviews seriously and not read the ones for they might give the story away but my disconnect with the play, now matches my disillusionment with some of the positive reviews I read after watching it. The glowing ones seemed to be so appreciative of the concept itself that they are blinded towards the content. Is there some pressure for liking something which is perceived to be different? Maybe they relished the laughing so much that they did not care for the ubiquitous inanity of it all.
Alas, all I took back with me was the joke which ended with the cockroaches all drunk. Lamentably, I wasn’t.
When I first saw Gadar-Ek Prem Katha with a crowd that cheered every move of Sunny Deol, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly.
I felt that it made my day.
It went on to win hearts and mind and seetis, along with more than ₹ 100 Cr in 2001 when tickets were cheaper, that means more people saw it than the blockbusters of today.
In the days of Kargil, “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha was a box office phenomenon and sold more tickets at theatres in India than any film in history apart from Sholay (1975)”.
But what’s the point of all of this with the title of this post.
This post is a response to those who link the success of blockbusters to judge the voters en masse for the corrupt who are in power.
This begs the question:
Who are the masses who make movies blockbusters and who ‘supposedly‘ vote the ‘least‘ capable into power?
Feel free to share your valuable opinion. Or otherwise 🙂
I talked with you and again my mind is buzzing to tell you what I think in the best way possible.
Did I still pursue my inner quest, to be better than I was before with you, in my worst possible time and situation?
Allow me to begin.
When it happened, it was so that I used to feel, every passing second of my waking time that I could never be forgiven for what I did.
It came to pass and along with what I felt, there were spurts of harmonic rushes, during which I denied my (in)actions as not quite guilt ridden as I thought earlier.
I would pass the buck, blame you as an equal in the robbery of the goodness in me and then would justify by claiming you to be as wrong as I was in my mind’s eye.
Nothing was wrong and it didn’t have to be that way if you could take the initiative to talk about it.
This came to pass too, I started living two lives.
One the sorry figure(only he didn’t apologize) and the other a carefree bastard(only he did not know it then).
The bastard would continue preaching what he himself didn’t believe once he became the sorry figure. The sorry figure’s life was uni-dimensional in feeling sorry. Sorry for her, sorry to himself, sorry to the world. Needless to say that too did pass and life continued to be a series of really sad phases.
It continued like that till a very real transformation happened, real in the sense I identify it most with the person I still am. This was just before everything I thought/did/felt became meaningless for 10 days or so before the sun started shining again.
We met again with other friends, for old times sake – only the current times hadn’t really ended.
Bryan Adams on the radio sang, “Please forgive me…”
We were hijacked by the moment, you were looking out of the window but I saw your face in the side-view mirror…Objects in it were indeed closer than they appeared. The rivulets of your tears matched your curls – the eyes seemed to be searching the memories going past like the trees on the roadside.
Now I tell you all this to evoke that memory with tears hazing my view.
We were discussing Dasvidaniya before that song began, how you said that it ended aptly before your capacity to take more of the implied sorrow began to fade. Just then, “…still feels like our first night together…“, faded in and we fell silent.
I kissed your hand before I dropped you home, and I held it a little tight before I let go and you said goodnight.
I remember the hopeful drive back home that I had, do you remember me telling you that?
The next day I saw The Truth about Cats and Dogs, that you had always wanted me to see.
Don’t you see the irony now about what Noelle was talking about “Did you ever look in the mirror so long that your face didn’t make sense anymore? It just becomes all these shapes. Just shapes. Not good or bad.”
You keep staring in the mirror for hours, what is it that you look for?
Do you remember how I drew your cartoon on a paper when we met again that night and quoted the above quote.
In the car you held my hand again and life was worthwhile again…You asked me jokingly how I remembered the complete dialogues of movies…
Don’t you remember anything?
How we laughed later that Bryan Adams was such a corny excuse to infuse in us the love we really felt for each other.
How you felt cheated that I stopped enjoying the sitcoms after marriage.
How I would make genuine efforts to enjoy them but then judge them on the subtle political undertones they espoused.
How you would judge me back for not being able to laugh anymore.
Anything at all?
She would have gotten really upset at his behavior had it been another day. Wasn’t she always a little submissive to his disposition, she wondered. Had it been another day she would not have said what she did for she knew how he reacted when the topic of their marriage cropped up for discussion. She was aware of his every mood – and what caused it – and she somehow ended up by equating this understanding with her love for him. How beautiful it is to understand a person so deeply. Had it been another day she would have responded with that understanding.
Today being the day it was triggered something inside her that couldn’t be identified as love. And the Ganga, having soaked the sun, illumined the wick of her mind to pave way for her outburst.
“Why are you so shit scared of my questions…?” she began.
“What is it that you want me to do?” he asked.
It was her turn to look away. Exhaling through her closed lips, she made an uncharacteristic sound as if purposefully mocking his plea. Seeing her reply, something told him that he was wandering in an unsheltered territory of their relationship but he couldn’t be sure. So he calmed down with,
“Achha seriously, I want you to help me figure this out…”
She twitched in acknowledgment, still avoiding his eyes.
“I thought I would buy the shop in installments and considering one week for renovation after all the paper work and all that, on the first of next month I had imagined us to be receiving your parent’s blessings.”
“What?!” she was shocked. Was it a surprise? A joke?
She felt weird. It did not sound right to her.
The discomfort that she felt was at her own self. She thought of not getting excited at the sound of just his words. It did sound like a reasonable plan. Maybe she felt disappointed in his fidgety and reckless way of dealing with confrontation. No, it wasn’t that – she fought with her thoughts. How could it be that the man she looked up to get so pointlessly agitated as soon as she touched the topic of their future, which he thought questioned his intentions!
Maybe she was over-reacting, but she couldn’t stop herself, “Why now?” she asked, “Why now…how did you find such an easy answer to my perpetual question…so easily? How do you have a solution so clearly thought out now at an instant notice of my outburst? I don’t want to feel satisfied by your plan although it does sound sensible to me,” he raised his eyebrows and tried to smile but she ignored and continued, “but you know what? I don’t trust the plan because it is just a plan! It has been more than 2 years and all I have seen you make are just plans and I have had enough of them.”
The table felt the thud of her hand and the vibration pursued via his elbows and pulsated itself to his heart.
He was shaken by the surprising intensity of the frustration in her eye. He was shaken by her exasperation of which he was the cause. He thought about what she had said. In their earlier conversations he just went on maybe because he liked the sound of his voice and the assertion of his myriad and random views just led her on. It led both of them to believe that life was to be lived in the moment and that is what he was practicing. Did she not share that view with him?
She was waiting for him to reply and all she could see was his perplexed expression. He was staring blankly at her. She suddenly felt regret at having said what she said. She felt that maybe, maybe he did not share her concerns at all.
As the majority of her scuffle with her heart had been silently fought in some sub-conscious recess of her mind earlier, he could not quite comprehend today’s unexpected unrest in her otherwise smooth and predictable behavior.
“You don’t think about us and our future when everything is going fine how do you suppose I understand that you will take a stand when things are really rough?!” She stopped and thought that she was making it more difficult for him to understand by just voicing her uncontrolled thoughts out of her buzzing mind and so she decided that enough was enough and got up and started walking away.
He could only begin to absorb what had happened as his eyes, disconnected from his mind saw her moving away. Involuntarily his feet felt firm and his body stood up. The head itself couldn’t know what the body was doing.
A slight thought was given to his bodily movements; his frame of mind disregarded it as he had disregarded her. She was fooled into thinking that he would soon act and do something about the promises he had made. Of course you could have done this and that right, his old-self made an attempt to make him ponder a little, but she really didn’t let you know what she was feeling, you played along and carried on because she misled you into believing that she was fine by accepting you as you are. She seemed fine by all of it and what is all this now?
Like a lifeless, breathing image of himself he dragged his body in the direction she had gone. Down the stairs, she had become a part of the crowd that was going towards the Laxman Jhoola, but she had cut across to the spiraling road that went down to the Ganga Snan cafe and had disappeared along the curve.
He thought he would run and catch up with her but at the bottom of the stairs he also met the crowd thronging the bottleneck at this end of the Jhoola. He made his way past them, lost in the guilty realms of his mind – disillusioned at the prospect of what he would say to her when his legs caught up with hers. It seemed that she had moved away holding an end of the thread that he had coiled over himself. The coil of self-righteousness had begun unraveling.
His mind was churning and mental retina was forming images of the time they had spent together – “…You can be whatever you want to be.” She had read from a book about a year ago “But you’ve got to know what you want to be first. As that knowledge alone would create the drive in you to achieve your goal…” He had dismissed it as “self-help crap” then. Now he thought that in dismissing it, he hadn’t really given any real thought to what was being said.
He thought he was done justifying his actions and words with more words. At least he thought so in so many words! It could be really easy for him to blame her right now, he told his old self. He grew all aware of his need for her which jolted him out of his reverie of (mis?) leading himself on.
He was surprised that she saw through his farce before he could. But now that she had seen it, wasn’t she the one who could help him the most at this hour?
He saw an old man smiling at him with toothless glee as he moved on.
He saw a little girl giggling blissfully as her father played with her.
He wondered whether he felt sorry for himself. He wondered whether his pursuit of her was foolhardy attempt that would again lead to such a confrontation if they got back together.
She was sitting on the spiral staircase of the Balakrishna massage center, looking at the heavens for answers. It began to drizzle and all she got were drops of rain, hitting her face and then sliding across her skin before they were united together at the chin and fell to the ground.
He saw her as soon as he reached the curve, she didn’t seem to notice or care. He thought he fell in love with the faraway look in her eyes as if he was looking at her for the first time. He saw her indifference – an hour ago it was muffled pain at his futile plans. He wanted to go and cry in her lap. But he went to the adjacent shop and gently removed the plastic curtain protecting the books from the drizzle and went and sat besides her, covering her from the rain. She did not revolt or show displeasure.
The plastic sheet over their head began to make sounds at the falling drops of rain on it. It filled their proximity with the lack of silence that was needed to break ice between the two alleged lovers. Alleged lovers – up until now.
Her eyes closed and she let a lot of air out of her mouth, as if she was trying to hold on to the oxygen inside her forever. She started crying. He could just muster up the courage to ask, “Are you okay…?”
“This is the first time… this is the first time as far back as I can remember you have shown your care for me by doing something…” and she dug her face in her knees.
The shop keeper whose polythene sheet had been taken away came and started calling them names.
Although he couldn’t hear any of it and she didn’t look up, he just looked in the shopkeeper’s direction, gave the sheet to him and smiled. The shop keeper went away, continuing with the name calling.
He put an arm around her and said, “I know better now, I think.”
Surprised at his own admission, he quietly said “I am sorry.”
Together they sat there till the rain drenched them. In the rain drop silence she got up and wiped the rainy tears of her cheeks and smiled.