Thursday, March 29, 2007

On "Growing Up"

I have always wanted to race with time and fastforward the process of growing up. Infact, i do not remember much from the age of 11 or 12 because most of it was spent speculating what it would be like to be 16, 18 or 20. Now, at twenty, when I hear my friends talking about their childhood, i sometimes feel like i have missed out on something. On the other hand, each person's life is his or her own unique story and mine was meant to be written this way.

One of the reasons for this enormous desire to "grow up", I recognise now, was to have my parents take me seriously. I would feign unnatural maturity and courage, all for the sole purpose of gaining an entry into that forbidden realm that my parents seemed to shut me out of on the grounds that i wouldn't understand. Not that my parents didn't give me love or attention. Infact, for most parts of my childhood, i was a spoilt little brat who got what she wanted even before she could ask for it. But what i wanted was somewhat different.

I suppose I was a child who didn't want to be treated as a child. I wished my parents would confide more important things to me and entrust me with responsibilities. Whenever i tried to help out with household chores, i was rebuked and sent off to play. When I tried to ask my mother why she was upset, she would tell me i wouldn't understand such things. It was perhaps a sheer sense of helplesness that governed childhood that made me anxious for adulthood.

A particularly observant adult had once come up to me and said that adults are just as helpless as kids. It's just that they have perfected the art of pretending that they are in control. I was embarassed at being discovered and looked at him as if i didn't know what he was talking about, quickly moving away to hide my blush.

Now, standing at the threshold of that much coveted domain, i recoil and wonder whether i really want to cross over. Adults teach children, almost on a default mechanism, that one must never lie. However, most of adulthood is premised on selective focus, hazing out the parts that don't feature in one's scheme of well-being. For instance, patriarchy is men's justification to overlook what they do to women, and the bourgoise coins up terms like 'Social Darwinism' to absolve themself of any social responsibility towards the proletariat. A common strain between all of these is that they essentialise certain norms on which they base their tautology. ( Notice how conveniently i have excluded myself by using the third-person pronoun!)

The major difference between an adult and a child, from where i stand, is that a child asks questions and an adult simply learns to overlook things knowing that if all questions were to be answered, a whole established system of norms would be turned on it's head. Perhaps that is why most revolutionaries are young and most status-quoists acrrue a certain seniority, both in terms of age as well as in terms of rank. However, we come across many revolutionists, disillusioned from their cause and dejected into poetry as time passes. Adulthood seems to be synonymous with a certain acceptance of things as they are. It's a bleak picture to see the avant-garde conform to the precursor of social acceptance viz. lying to oneself.

Perhaps fighting the tide seems easier to me now, than it will to a future self. If i were to the read this very post years from now, would i smile off my infantile whims, or sigh with a sense despondency and quickly turn away from it? Or would I read it with a sense of accomplishment at having managed the difficult feat of keeping the child alive in me?

At this juncture I am reminded of the story of my grandmother and me ( I call it 'the story', because i have no recollection of it, only repeted recountals from various relatives. ) It all began ( for me) when i asked my mother the reason behind my extraordinary term of addressal for my maternal grandma: the vernacular word 'danda' which translates to a stick or a rod. She explained to me that when i used to be tiny, i asked a lot of questions and it so happened that one day when i was out in the gardens with my grandma, i had exhausted her with innumerable "what is that?" and "why is it like that?". So when i turned to her with a bewildered look at having seen the bamboo stilts being used at a nearby house under renovation, she said what roughly translates into, "That's a danda; and if you don't stop asking questions, thats what i am going hit you with!" For some reason the animated gestures with which she said so, struck me as funny and i burst into a fit of giggles. Then on, until the day she breathed her last and for that matter, even now, she has been my 'danda'! Perhaps, it is even apt, for I never stopped asking questions for as long as she was with me.

This very danda of mine, wizened with age, was to say to an older me, " don't ask so many questions. A person who questions so much, is never happy in life."

Uptil now i have not conformed to this axiomatic advise of her's. I know it was given with the best of intentions and with a sense of tender protectiveness that I defied so often when she was alive and miss so dearly in her absence.

It would be presumptious of me to say there is no truth in the statement of the lady who had witnessed the better part of four generations in her lifetime. However, at this juncture, when i am about to step over into the world of adults with an unsure, trembling foot and with no danda to pick me up and sail me over, the way she did with all other thresholds when i was a child, i pose a definitive question (yet again!) : what is adulthood?

Is it a disillusioned acceptance of the state of things ? Or does it entail a sense of responsible self-reliance, wherein you make your own choices and bear their consequences entirely by yourself?

On one hand, when you conform to societal norms to be accepted into the realm of adulthood, what you are giving up is the child in you who urges you to ask questions and know 'why?' In other words you are belittling the importance of asking questions. If you do this, you find ratification from the majority and sense of secure well-being. It is not that if you take this path, you will not face strife and pain. But what will happen is, that you will notice that most people are party to that same strife and will derive your solace from that.

On the other hand, if you go the other way, you are dismissing the idea that adulthood has anything to do with conformity at all. What you are then asserting is that the act of asking questions maybe child's play, but to be able to actually answer them encompasses true adulthood. In this case, you would probably have to undergo more strife than the first case, but you would be better adept at dealing with this strife because you would know the cause of it, instead of trying to fight off a ghost that you are not allowed to name.

Again, i really can't say whether these are youthful theories or whether they shall stand the test of time. All I know is that if adulthood reequires me to give up asking questions, I am going to be in denial for a looooong time to come. On the other hand, if it means i get to hunt up the answers to my own questions, I sure am 'game'!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


The blogging world is much like the black hole of cyber space. The anomalous ideas that it sucks in from all parts of the world, adds up to the matter of it's behemoth gravitational center. It is also true that it deludes those who view it from outside; one must be a part of it to truly know it's nature. Thus, here I am, sending my abstract musings into it's center in the form of echoes that fill up it's empty abyss.

Echoes, because ideas always have precedents, originating from some level of the unconscious (whether collective or personal); echoes, because they are mere reflections. Even though they are perceptible, their very existance is suspect. Thus, they endlessly fill the abyss and yet when we see it, it continues to remain empty.

The world is too huge to fit within the lens of the camera. Thus we choose a point of focus and in a Single Lens Resolution camera, which undoubtedly gives the best quality pictures, the surroundings blur out. That doesn't however mean that the rest of the world does not exist. Human perception, like cameras are handicapped with limited resolution. They fail to encompass all at once. One of my favourite urdu couplets by Mirza Galib reads, if we cannot see the ocean in a drop of water and the whole in a particle, man's vision is but a child's plaything.

Plato said that humans are capable of only having Opinions on the Idos of things, taking for granted ofcourse, that the Idos remains constant. However, being of a cynical, materialist worldview, I automatically write off the Idos as mutable; and then, all we are left with is an Opinion of an Idos that once was. Hence only a fleeting reflection that soon dissolves and leaves us to painstakingly build our Opinions again.

My view would infact render man's vision a child's plaything, for indeed, even when we come close to viewing the ocean in a drop of water, the drop has already evaporated and we are left wondering if the ocean was but a figment of our imagination.

poised gape of hollow portals

Breaking frail ingenuity
Calling on liberty
Stashed away in shame
Squashed flame
Of a smoked out butt
Damning the rheum flood.

Echoes fill the empty abyss
Vindicating the word of promise
Reality, a revered reverie
Time, it's corollary.

Piercing shards persist
Even in ignoble demolish.
Look at me and I exist.
Look away and I diminish.
Poised gape of hollow portals,
Perception lights the world of mortals.