Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random thoughts this New Year

Bangalore has been deliciously sunny for the past couple of months. I start sweating before I pedal 10 kms on my bicycle which, I'm glad to report, has been restored to its former glory. The fact that I can reach a deep countryside within 7 minutes of leaving my apartment makes biking a joy. And I've realized that Ian McEwan makes more sense when I'm perched on the side rails of a culvert, with birdsong in my ears and a competent writer pummeling the area between them.

The other evening, during a discussion with a friend, I heard myself say that, in many ways, the true saint is the exact opposite of the writer. She asked me to explain myself and I gave it my best shot. Perhaps I'll be clearer with the written word.
The Human, it has been famously said, is a meaning-making machine. Seen in this context, the saintly amongst us are those who have made their peace with the universe. They've chosen their path - be it God, a higher consciousness, a grander Logic, whatever - and using this path, squeezed their meanings out. They're satisfied.
The writer, on the other hand, deliberately wanders through his favourite paths, often knowing that he or she is trapped in a maze. He might have accepted that he cannot contribute a new thought to the world. Perhaps every worthwhile thought was in place even before the first hydrogen atom was born. But he must still try and find newer perspectives to his pet ideas. His characters and stories must find newer answers to his persistent questions. To ensure all this, he must think and feel without reservations. Feel, especially. He must put himself out there. In his life and through his books. Every emotion must be felt in its fullness; and when the emotion turns cold, he might consider probing it for an insight.
Juxtaposed against the saint's life, one might say that the writer chooses to be "ignorant." His craft emerges out of this ignorance.
Just a thought. Don't hang me for it :)

Noted civil rights activist and leader of AP's PUCL K. G. Kannabiran died in late December. I had interviewed him in 2008 and he came across as regal and assured. Since his death arrives in the lingering wake of K. Balagopal's, one fears that a whole generation of Andhra's civil rights stalwarts is fading away. Is the second rung ready to occupy the intellectual/ideological positions vacated by their seniors? One hopes so. Because the Dandakaranya region requires bold, unwavering voices more than ever before - Dr Binayak Sen's incarceration being a case in point.

Am reading Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani. I confess that I wouldn't have picked up this book were it not required for a new assignment. But Nilekani has managed to engage me so far. I don't quite agree with many of his perspectives on the history of modern India, but I'm keen to know what he has to say about the future.

Finally, I end with a fragment of a poem written recently by my friend Mohan Ramamoorthy. Mail me if you'd like to read the whole thing.

In the hammock
Inert is my body
Restless is my mind
Furiously juggling
Random pieces
Of conversations, gestures
To figure out something
(about you... that, I suspect, concerns us)

Happy 2011, everybody.


  1. Lovely meandering post, Esh!
    I could almost be sitting there with you...

    Mohan's fine poem captures that moment when the mind is darting everywhere. As I had suspected, it reads beautifully...not something that lends itself to being spoken aloud.

    I agree with what you've written about the writer. However I'm not sure if the perfect saint (no doubt a mythical person!) is a passive person. Such a person, methinks, will be busy absorbing everything and radiating aanand (joy?) inside and around. That's fultu work.

    Just a thought...

  2. Thanks, Pat.

    The entire poem is sublime, Pat. Want to have a lookie?

    You're right about the mythical perfect saint. But will this person be able to feel the inner turmoil and hence churn out literature? Isn't a spirit of enquiry needed to write fiction? Who knows? Maybe he's elevated himself to a plane that allows him to slip in and out of "normal, puny" mode?

  3. Happy New year ,Eshwar.
    The writer to me seems like a buffalo wading in the muddy pond of ideas and relishing its lazy ways while the saint has come out of the dirty pool blemishless and is at peace with himself.But the writer is noticed and of interest to the world while the saint is mostly out of its radar.
    Yes Sir,do give me the link for the poem

  4. @Parthasarathi sir: I like the imagery of a buffalo in muddy waters. :)
    Will send you the poem.

  5. Truly random thoughts..the writers getaway place and the mode are nice..:)I dare not read the poem further....at this point..but surely shall come back... its a matter of time....this is a randomly beautiful article..
    Every emotion must be felt in its fullness; and when the emotion turns cold, he might consider probing it for an insight.... hum...quite a strong technique..I am beginning to like this technique..wow..Thank you for this lovely post..