Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The distorted popular

My daughter asked me about the interpretation of these lines from the very popular poem, "The Road Less Taken" by Robert Frost -

"Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;"

She wanted to know the exact meaning of the words 'just as fair'. As I explained it to her, I read the following two lines -

"Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same."

Wait wait... this means that the poet is saying that both the roads were pretty much the same. And I freaked out.

Not on the poem itself, because the meaning of the poet was clear. But on my own understanding of what the poem said. Or rather what I thought the poem said. Truth be told, I had never really read the poem properly, though it forms a integral part of my subconscious, and there have been several times that I have referred to it in conversations, with myself and with others. Stored as it is in my mind, the poet celebrates the doggedness of pursuing ones own unique vision, the risks involved in doing so, and passionately advocates following ones path - even though there have not been too many people who had earlier walked that path.

But the poet does not do that at all! The poet is saying that as the years go by, he probably would justify the path that he had taken by wistfully called it the "road not traveled", though in reality he had no means of knowing if the path indeed was not traveled - but the need to somehow see oneself as a hero, a lone traveler will make the poet deceive himself by calling the path so, in the future.

My appreciation of what the poet has written has jumped up several levels. My own estimation of how I think has taken two steps down. Two large steps down.

I, who snacks on words - how could I allow myself to subscribe to a popular opinion - without reading the poem itself? It did not take me even 2 minutes to know that the popular opinion and take away from the poem is very different from the way the poet intended it to be - and yet, yet, I took it to be true. I believed the popular opinion to be true, though I could have easily assessed for myself on whether it was true or not (which I did today).

Popular has the propensity to distort. Beware of the popular! And beware of your own propensity to blindly follow the popular.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I am not what I used to be. You are not what you used to be. Constantly changing life has changed us, and will continue doing so.

Let us be aware of what each of us has come to be. If we can still love each others changed self with our changed self, it would be rare. And beautiful beyond measure.

Let's constantly create a new "Us". Shall we?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blind Spot

TOTD: Everyone has been incredibly stupid at one time. Some at a few times, some several times and yet others, multitude of time, and of course, some see just a few moments of intelligence in their lifetime.

The propensity of mankind, myself included, to do stupid things amazes me..

Friday, January 18, 2013

The burden of guilt

Going through a Gurudutt phase. Something about his insights into the feminine psyche, specially the indian feminine.

Watched Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam yesterday. Saw it for the first time, though I had watched the songs several times on TV, specially my favorite ones - "Bhanwara bada nadaan he" and "Na jaaon saiyaa chura ke bainya".

The movie is a story of a bygone era, of jamindars and havelis and eccentric men. The movie tells the story of Chotti Bahu, played by Meena Kumari, with her quest of being a ideal wife and soul mate, seeking fulfillment in a marital relationship - and the observation of a impressionable young man, who gets acquainted with the feminine for the first time. Beautifully enacted, sensitively told story.

As I watched Chotti bahu, I realized that like Chotti bahu, indian women invariably carry a burden of guilt around their shoulders. An indian woman feels guilty if her husband is a philanderer. She is the one who feels guilty if she can't bear a child, she is one who feels guilty if her husband is a drunkard, she is the one who is demented by guilt if she touches a bottle of "sharab". Sometimes, she is also the one who is considers herself guilty if her husband dies!

She is the one who carries the onus of being pure as drivel snow. She is expected to be a goddess, no less. If she chooses not to be a goddess or the revered mother, she has only one option open to her, of being a slut.

She is not allowed to be human. She is not allowed to seek things for herself, but for the family, the husband, the children. She is defined by her relationship to them, and there she carves out an identity. And if any of these externalities of hers - her husband, her child, her family, her family's health, her family's wealth, her family's honour - is not pristine, it is all her fault. She reminds herself of her responsibilities every passing second, tormented in guilt at the deficiencies, specifically more so when they are not her own.

 Why do Indian Women accept guilt unconditionally this way?

Guilt is handed down to us from our mothers, our aunts, our friends. It is dinned into our ears, and given to us as an ornament, as a sacred robe we dare not sully. We all wear it, like a badge of honor. Refusing to see that the husband's, child's, family's guilt, in most cases, does not belong to us. Correction - it does not belong to us. Ever.

Amazing that it took a 70s movie for me to see that.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Long shadows

TOTD: Some people have long shadows. There are no warning signs of their arrival in your life. When they go, they leave long shadows. Some dark ones and some light ones. Some may even impact your life by changing its route forever.

You can only see the dark shadowy ones when you peer back into your periods of darkness, and recognize them for who they were, and what they did to you. Amazingly, you continue to feel for the dark shadowy ones in the same way as you did when you let them into your life and allowed them to impact you. Even now when you know they were dark for you, you continue to ache for them, rationalizing what they did to you with reasons that you find easy to accept.

Ah, the deceptions that a human mind practices on itself!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Memory vs. knowing

TOTD: Our memories define us. Make us what we are. Often it prevails over what we know.

For example, if we played with a pet lion when we were kids, we will continue to think that lions are friendly beings, even though the combined knowledge of the world will tell us that lions are unpredictable wild beings. Memories trump rational thinking.  Memories are also selective. More on that later.


TOTD: And now there is this new place to display affection - Facebook! I am seeing immediate family members, who are under the same roof,  having saccharine conversations on facebook.

When a husband and wife hug each other too often publicly, one can safely assume that they sleep with their backs to each other more often than not.

Is this the typical Indian way of doing things - Haathi ke daant: Khane ke aur, aur Dikhane ke aur?

Friday, January 4, 2013

To be Someones World

TOTD: It is hard to be Someones World. Someone can get very anxious about the state of his/her world - which is you - and force you to be the kind of world he/she wants you to be.

I am in my world, and you are in yours. Let our two worlds bump each other playfully, hold hands, and walk merrily besides each other, and still, be within themselves.  Must one become the other?