Wednesday, November 23, 2016

wondering what we're doing here


Today I asked Dheeraj if he considered himself a serious writer. He asked me what I meant. Somebody who takes his writing seriously in the larger context of literature, I replied. Then I asked myself the same question- Do I consider myself a serious writer. The answer came out- a resounding No. Ofcourse I crave the admiration and reputation but I'm too much of a post-modernist to hold categorical differentiations and a self-doubting skeptic to see myself in such elated company. No, I'm better off being a lowly blogger; the freedom is too succulent.

Anyway, I just shot off December's column yesterday. Again, more of the same. For all my talk of escaping external boundaries, like Sravani says, I seem incapable of seeing beyond the walls of my perpetual fixations. Too fuckin' bad. Read Nostalgia, Lahore, and the Ghost of Aurganzeb- the argument is heartfelt, the language is luscious. I'm stuck around page 150 of Infinite Jest. It takes a few pages in every sitting to get used to DFW's rhythms and idiosyncrasies but the investment is totally worth it. He's a writer of prodigious gifts and yes, I've quit dreaming I'd be like him someday. He's just to bloody good. Also reading Gollapudi's Saayamkaalamaindi. Surprisingly gripping. What else. Copied True Detective and Modern Family. Haven't started watching because a part of me deeply believes TV is lowbrow, too popular, too easy, too damn entertaining. Oh! I'm such an elitist douchebag. (I'm disgusted by my ability to rather not watch anything than enjoy an entertaining film. Guilt way outweighs Pleasure.)


After this month's column was published, I received a mail from a Mr. Nagaraja Setty (publishing the contents below) reading which I felt a rare pride. I was mildly surprised that someone actually reads some of the stuff I write but his letter touched a deep nerve.


Hello Sirish,


I am Nagaraja setty going on 82 years and lived in this great America since 24 years old. I enjoyed reading your article. Every word in it is "truth". That is why we say Truth is God, Truth is beautiful etc. You write very well. If you do not mind please e-mail me a copy. I want to share it with my some "wordly friends".


Thanks. Regards

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In the waiting hall

Why do we do what we do? Why do we wake up in the morning, get ready in a hurry, rush to work, spend hours doing mundane work that will only ensure we will have work to do in the future, try and please the right people to step up on an imaginary ladder, drive back during rush hour, curse the lines in the supermarket, gobble down food while watching news on TV, try to understand our teenage kids, wish we were more patient with our parents, look at our spouses with disappointment and go to sleep castigating ourselves for not spending our days better.

We did not choose to be here and we do not know how to be anyone else. We are surrounded by disappointment, frustration, helplessness, cowardice. Sure there is happiness- We cherish small achievements, take pride in the success of our kids, celebrate important events in friends’ lives, give to society what little we can and spend time on weekends pursuing hobbies. But I’m surprised with how little there is to life. Even if a few lucky souls transcend beyond this transactional, wrought form of living, it’s still eating and excreting, buying and wanting, working and procreating, playing and dreaming, talking and dying. Life would have been absurdly funny if it wasn’t so comically grotesque. Considering the fact that we know we’re mortal, I’m appalled by how we choose our priorities. We are obsessed with accumulation and consumption: of information and food and things, of power and money, of pets and goodwill. Traditional knowledge has repeatedly been trying to point us to the more important stuff but we consider it to be too banal. And that is a sad paradox because the reason for its banality is its prowess at being proven right over and over again.

I recently came across a philosophical position that actively discourages people from having children. The proponents argue that by giving birth to a child, you are condemning him to a lifetime of suffering. Assuming we are free-willed, rational, conscious beings and not micro-orgasmic colonies whose only function is the sustenance of those microbes, that argument makes a valid point. When people themselves have no idea what they’re doing on this planet, what it means to be alive and human, what our purpose and destiny are, do we have a right to give birth to another being who will have to pay a, literally, life sentence. Most people do what they do because everyone else seems to be doing it. For all our aspirations of intelligence and transcendence, we’re eerily similar to single-celled organisms whose only motive is safety until further procreation. It’s a pretty disgusting way to live actually when you think about it.

It is the mundanity of stupidity. I’m an admirer of the human ability to attain genius, glory, godhood. I am mesmerised by the flame of intellect even though it’s short-lived. Einstein and Ramanujan, Joyce and Mozart are not here to bask in people’s admiration. For all we know, they didn’t crave for it. But even they, not just us, were being driven by the lunatic inside their heads. The fact that they chose to follow the his directions even when the world around them was trying to crush their individuality is a mark of the strength of their character. Or maybe it was just that the madman was more insistent than he’s for the rest of us. Either way, we’re all going to die. God or No God, it does not matter. It’s tragic that all our lives are essentially ‘timepass’ until death arrives to guide us to places beyond our comprehension. The only upside being that it’s going to come soon.

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