Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On building a better world

September Column for AZIndiaTimes:


It is easy to theorize and proclaim esoteric opinions when you’re a bachelor. Much harder to do so once you’re married. Of course, it’s hard to declare anything original after you’re married but, stale marital jokes aside, marriage bestows on you a responsibility towards society. You’re not an arrogant-genius-outsider anymore telling the world what’s wrong with it. If anything, you’re part of the establishment now. You have been assimilated.

After all, I’ve been married only 26 days as of writing this so I’m no mouthpiece for all married men but the difference after marriage is real and palpable. The essence of bachelor life, even if you’re in a relationship, is about being unmoored. It is about making the best of every moment as you keep drifting to nowhereland. It is about hungry midnight searches for open restaurants, philosophical discussions over drinks with friends, long conversations on footpaths; It’s about having the time and energy to argue and fight over arcane topics simply because you have nothing useful to worry about. As a bachelor, the society was my adversary, the arrogant giant that was unwilling to change its ludicrous habits and I had taken it upon myself to shout at the top of my voice all that was wrong with it. Being a bachelor is about questioning all authority and doing everything to subvert it, even at the cost of one’s own detriment. It is about being naive and stupid, about being starry-eyes and believing in your ability to shape the world according to your will. It comes from the confidence of being constantly surrounded by friends, of being proud of your intellect and abilities, of being able to live like a spartan and to tell people who love you to get used to you. It is the life of a narcissistic. And it’s great fun as long as it lasts.

Getting married is a wonderful thing. I’ve never felt more special in my life than on my wedding day. I had been against traditional marriage not just because of the preposterously high cost but also because of my belief that the rituals are empty. (Even if they were once filled with meaning, we have debased them too much for them to have any sanctity left.) Yet, on that day, seeing that so many people turned up to wish us well, albeit for a variety of reasons, something changed.

There is a conspicuous change of lifestyle after marriage. I wear a watch, shave more often, dress better, make a point to greet neighbours, understand that money can be a source of good, see the class structure more clearly and am making an effort to uphold it for my advantage. I fret less about the Hows and Whys of every action and worry more about my comfort and happiness. I’m doing everything I mocked in others until a month ago. Does that make me a hypocrite? No, because I’m acknowledging the change. A turncloak, maybe. I don’t tell her, Accept me or get lost, like I told others. I’m more considerate of the impact my behaviour in the society will have on her. Till now, I was part of someone else’s family (my mother’s) but now I’m beginning my own. And that realization gives me immense power and responsibility.

At least in the urban, middle-class India that I live in, family is the primary block of society. The Grihasta Ashram is the centre of the ecosystem. The other Ashramas contribute immensely to the society but they need the householder to survive and thrive. The change in perspective has been quite sudden. Again, it has only been 26 days so my opinions could be half baked. Yet I can’t deny I’m enjoying the transition. Life has become less about making a mark for myself on the cold, magnificent linearity of time and more about focusing on the present moment and making the world a slightly better place right now. Reality has become more real. When I write my To-Do list these days, I write more prosaic stuff than End World Poverty and Win an Oscar. The size of my world has shrunk to a more manageable size. I’m the lord of my world instead of being a loner in the background in someone else’s. Actions and rewards are more tangible. I feel less alone. The world didn’t give a hoot when I yelled suggestions at it. However, now I have an opportunity to build a better world from scratch, to implement and learn from my thoughts and experiments, opinions and ideas, dreams and fantasies. I’ve been asked to transition from critic to creator. Let’s see how that goes.

“All right, Mr. Wrightman, I gotta bat. Let me just leave you with this thought. You love the Sox, but have they ever loved you back?” -Fever Pitch

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