Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Living in the present continuous

Alright, we've all heard about it. Life is bliss in the present continuous.
Time is a ruthless master. It haunts us with memories from the past and threatens us with the uncertainties of the future. But there's a way to subdue this tyrant. Forget the past, don't worry about the future. Just focus on this tiny moment passing you by. Milk it for all it's worth. Make it count. Easier said than done, eh?

Sportspersons are, I think, naturally acquainted with the concept of the present continuous. They call it "being in the zone." Imagine commandeering a F1 car around a curvaceous bend at 180 mph, or hooking a bodyline bouncer from the world's fastest bowler for a six, or blocking an accurate, curling free kick with a sublime dive. These are just a few examples of how sportspersons respond to stimuli with aplomb. How are they able to do in real time what others cannot fathom even in slow-motion? The only explanation is that these "superhumans" are able to dissect time into ever-slimmer slices and then utlise each slice optimally. You might say that, while on the field of play, they're extreme proponents of the present continuous. After all, when you chop the present finely enough, you get the present continuous.

I myself have used this idea extensively in the past four years. When your present sucks, the wise option is to live in the present continuous. I try and follow this dictum whenever negative emotions don't rule over my soul. Of course, the concept is less glamorous when a writer practises it. A writer living in the present continuous frowns upon the parts of speech till the sentence rewrites itself. He focuses on making his fictional character's situation more poignant and only then worries whether the backstory still makes sense. He manifests the most urgent thought on paper and then ponders over where it will fit in. For instance, I wrote this paragraph before beginning the article.

But the hands-down best argument in favour of living in the present continuous was provided by my friend Priyam. As a tireless crusader in an NGO that caters to those suffering from dementia, Priyam helps people who have neither a substantial recollection of the past nor a notion of the future. Dementia subjects seem to live in a time warp, and when treated with sufficient love, care and understanding, these fellow human beings become beacons of wisdom. They teach us the merits of the present continuous.
Now, here's the clincher:
An elderly woman was diagnosed with cancer. She was devastated. She underwent the treatment procedures, but was always sad and bitter. She fretted endlessly about her condition and lamented that her life was finished. A few months later, she was diagnosed with dementia. She kept forgetting herself till she forgot that she had cancer. And just like that, she ceased to worry about that dreadful disease. By the time she entered Priyam's orbit, she was at peace with himself, enjoying life as well as she could. The sentimentalists amongst us might say that she had conquered the disease!

Yea, man. Living in the present continuous rocks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Line of zero control

The Indo-Pak political reality swallows positive cross-border opportunities on a daily basis. Here's one off them.