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Thursday, December 1, 2022


Perhaps we are all occasional existentialists .To many of us , sometime or the other in our lives , is revealed that life is pointless. In Tolstoy’s description of things “moments of perplexity and arrest of life, as though I did not know how to live or what to do…”This is just one of those days and I don’t know what is bothering me. Nothing has changed, I tell myself . Nothing that I can notice, except for a slight sensation of being ill at ease. In the middle of contentment and well being a sudden surge of ennui, an onrush of undiminished acedia ,some heartfelt bitterness overtakes me . I become aware of a profound indifference to everything. Reduced to a kind of clockwork condition, the zestlessly ticking human machine goes on. In absence of a better definition I would say that I am in the grip of “pink sadness”. “Pink sadness” says Mary Ruefles, “ is not your fault, and .. even the littlest twinge may cause it, …” But that does not help alleviate the condition. Nirmal Verma’s observation ‘उदास’ शब्द ‘उदासी’ की जगह नहीं ले सकता। suddnley assumed a new meaning .People medically inclined will be quick to judge me depressed but they would miss the point.
Intrigued by a small passage in Camus ,early in my life , “ Have you ever had this feeling of a sudden withdrawal from your surroundings and you start wondering, who are you, why are you, what you are. All those urgent concerns which left you restless and distracted melt away leaving no trace . The mind dies and the promised truth is far from being delivered”. I tried to transport myself into this state of being. I was young, I had many commitments, small incentives could send my spirit soaring up. Even serious problems could only knock me down, transiently. I would be up on my two feet , ready to face more blows should they come my way. The prospect of being alive tomorrow in itself was worth living for .I, like everyone else of my generation took tomorrow for granted , it spread out in the future beyond the horizon as far as eyes could see or my mind could wander. I could laugh away the thought that plagued Antoine Roquentin ,“why this eagerness to live in limbs that are destined to rot?” as an existentialist excess , a bit of theatrical posturing .
I guess as you grow old your appetite for future starts getting weaker. The present tense belongs to youth. Its optimism is not shaken by events expected of the future . The memory of that carefree existence is now only a memory, beyond active recall or recreation. It has been replaced by a vague, constant longing for something or someone- or apprehension- beyond the horizon of reality, outside the realm of the approachable. I seem to be longing for “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited”. May be it is a secret wish that I could turn the pages of my life like one turns the pages of one’s favourite books!
My love of books served me well during dark times. Even some well-thumbed volumes never lost their appeal and they could thrill me to the core . I turned the best past of two shelves the other day to find a book to drown that dull tom- tom in my mind, which kept me restless and anxious. But without much help . Betrayed by the books in which I found an inexhaustible font of solace and comfort , I realised , too late , that the pleasure was not in the books per se , it only came through them. The recipient was as important a part of the process. I have all the time in the world , I am free to read or write as I choose, when I choose but I don’t . Or more precisely I can’t . The words were at my beck and call. Summoned in ones or twos they would be swarming in great numbers , jostling with each other , clamouring to be considered . But suddenly they have turned renegade , have chosen to seek refuge behind some iron curtain , beyond a shout , beyond a call. The little wretches are out of temper; disobliging; disobedient; dumb. What is it that they are muttering? “Time’s up! Silence!” as Virginia Wolf would say .
But the baffling silence within clamours to be muffled in a cacophony of voices. Not necessarily a raucous jaaz , even a sad tune on an old battered trombone will do . I am not much into Urdu poetry but these two couplets form Firaq Gorakhpuri floated into my mind .
सुकुते -शाम मिटाओ , बहुत अँधेरा हैं। सुख़न के शमअ जलाओ ,बहुत अँधेरा है.
Let the silence of the evening break for it is very dark. Initiate a conversation to dispel the darkness which is very deep .
चमक उठेंगी सियाहबख्तियां ज़माने की. नवा-ए -दर्द सुनाओ बहुत अँधेरा है।
It will begin to illuminate the ill-fated darkness of the world . Sing a sad song for it is very dark .
Whose voice shall it be? In that moment of fecklessness I could not care less. “If the sea is destined to breach the dikes/Let all the brackish water pour into my heart.”
James Joyce, B. R. Sharan and 42 others