Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Long Day's Journey into Night

Yesterday after posting about Lalit (see post, 'Goodbye Lalit') in the evening, after work, I seemed - I was trying to reason why - falling into a downspin. It was nevertheless a lovely day with the laburnum in full bloom on soggy streets visited by a hailstorm (that's right - in May) on the way to work. But wasn't it Sting whose album Mercury Falling (1996) alerted us that a drop in sunlight brings in the blues?

I tried to put a handle on it but couldn't find the reason for my, suddenly, abject disinterest in things around me. Motivation had never been this low in quite a while. I shopped for reasons . . . yes the trip to UP (see post, 'Kallol - Comeback Kid'), and bussing around did take the wind out of me, and I had been cavaliar about my food . . . But deep down it was not quite it.

8 pm saw me flop on the bed and just crash. I knew I was supposed to eat something but didn't feel like it. It was almost midnght when I awoke. I didn't know I was so tired. Sleep was the balm I needed. I felt renewed. With a new clarity . . .

Maybe I was feeling this way, just maybe, because I had come to that stage in my life where I had seen it all. The important thing was to accept that I was indeed feeling this way. I decided to accept this thought. And I began to feel better. OK so you feel there is nothing more to achieve in life is it? Life is boring - so how can you change the script? Do you want to change the script?

I needed to talk to someone. To feel a presence to echo the stirrings of my soul. Right here, right now. The sms went out to two people at 0013 hrs (today). One of them didn't reply. The other was to my poet-friend Zorba who (usually) sms's me poems in the middle of the night- 'Writing a poem Zorba?' my fingers typed, 'What does the pallid moon say?' His almost immediate reply was the kernel of strength - 'Reading I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak, having my drink, waiting for sleep to come. While the Moon waits over me. Howdy mate?'

That did it. I felt a new energy to move. I could do the same things too. I kept the water on the fire and started cooking a portion of my rosary-shaped Goa sausages. I was really hungry by this time with the potatoes, onions and tomatoes merrily boiling away with mirth. By 1 am I set out dinner but before that some lovely homemade wine from Pune . . .

Yes, at the financial year-end I needed a new agenda. I was travelling - in India largely - why not abroad now? I had the means, and friends too across the continent. And there was my second book to publish A Peace of India: Poems in Transit. It is true, a sponsor I was hopeful of had backtracked, but only last weekend I came upon a corpus amount which would do quite nicely.

And yes, the house was in a mess. Creative chaos, I like to say. My fingers reached out for scattered pages of newspapers buried under the debris on my table. A report on Gulf carriers Etihaad and Emirates doing booming business in the Middle East made me want to take a plane to Tunis . . . Etihad CEO James Hogan had grandly called the airlines hubs positioning in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, 'at the crossroads of the world,' to which Jane Simms, London, had helpfully added 'the geographical centrepoint between East and West, leaving them ideally placed to serve the rapidly developing economies of India and China' (Economic Times on Saturday, New Delhi 17 May 2008: 4).

I slept soundly till 9.15. And a flurry of calls this morning made me feel as bright as the new day.

Perhaps being in Delhi we have to confront the problem of excess. We are removed from circumstances where we have to labour, manually, for our next meal. But in this struggle there is a greater meaning. And a reason to live.

But Lucy Kellaway scoffs at this 'reason to live' and 'meaning of life' nonsense. She hopes 'we will all start to be less unreasonable in demanding reason from work' - or life, I would like to add. She continues, 'If my agony customers are anything to go by, the people who worry most are in grand City jobs. My hunch is that this is because they are paid so much more than they feel their efforts are really worth - a thought that tips them straight into the its-all-meaningless abyss.' ('Aim Low to Find Meaning at Work' Business Standard, Weekend, New Delhi, 17 May 2008: 17)

The title of this blog came to me from my MA (Eng. Lit) days in Goa because at once I thought it so appropriate. The title of Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer prize-winning play Long Day's Journey into Night (1962) made me think of how sometimes the entire day is a journey into night. Day befuddles and clarity dawns only on the fringes of night. Western thought has happily believed the opposite binary, i.e. light = reason / darkness = doubt. A peeling of the layers of the self is possible only in the stillness and richness of repose.

Apne Gam Le Ke

-Nida Fazli

Apne gam le ke kahi aur na jaya karo
Ghar mein bhikri huee cheezay ko sajaya karo.

Jin chiragho ko hawaao ka koee khouf nahin
Un chiragho ko hawaao se bachaya jaye.

Baag mein jaane ke aadaab huaa karte hein
Kisi titli ko ne phoolon se oodaaya jaaye.

Khudkhushi karne ki himmat nahin hotee sabmein
Aur kuch din abhi auro ko sataya jaye.

Ghar se masjid heh bahut dur chalo yu kar le
Kisi rotey huay bacche ko hasaya jaaye.

In Your Loneliness

In your loneliness do not go elsewhere
Arrange instead the scattered articles in your room.

Of those lamps which have no dread of the wind
Save those lamps from the marauding winds.

I used to bid myself welcome in the garden
Disturb not the butterfly at the flower.

To commit suicide, all have not the courage
Beguile fate yet now for a few more days.

From the house to the masjid the way is far.
Let a weeping child be made merry again.

(Freely translated from the Urdu by Brian Mendonça)

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