Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"By now, with the conversation disintegrating, his sense of humor began to return to him, and Gyan began to giggle, his eyes to soften, and she could see his expression shift. They were falling back into familiarity, into common ground, into the dirty gray. Just ordinary humans in ordinary opaque boiled-egg light, without grace, without revelation, composite of contradictions, easy principles, arguing about what they half believed in or even what they didn't believe in at all, desiring comfort as much as raw austerity, authenticity as much as playacting, desiring coziness of family as much as to abandon it forever. Cheese and chocolate they wanted, but also to kick all these bloody foreign things out. A wild daring love to bicycle them into the sky, but also a rice and dal love blessed by the unexciting feel of everyday, its surprises safely enmeshed in something solidly familiar like marrying the daughter or son of your father's best friend and grumbling about the cost of potatoes, the cost of onions. Every single contradiction history or opportunity might make available to them, every contradiction they were heir to, they desired. But only as much, of course, as they desired purity and a lack of contradiction.

"The sister was trying to hear but Gyan had her by the braids and was pulling her home. Sai had betrayed him, led him to betray others, his own people, his family. She had enticed him, sneaked up on him, spied on him, ruined him, caused him to behave badly. He couldn't wait for the day his mother would show him the photograph of the girl he was to marry, a charming girl, he hoped, with cheeks like two Simla apples, who hadn't allowed her mind to traverse the gutters and gray areas, and he would adore her for the miracle she was.

"Sai was not miraculous; she was an uninspiring person, a reflection of all the contradictions around her, a mirror that showed him himself far too clearly for comfort."

page 259, 262, The Inheritance of Loss


I was having tea with a friend of mine, and here's more or less how the conversation progressed:
"I still wonder why you called me intriguing," she said, referring to a birthday card I'd given her. "You don't say things for no reason, right?"

As I was about to reply, she went on: "Do you always think before you speak?"

"Not always, sometimes I realize what I say is not what I mean and it's disappointing," I thought and said. (I should have said, "no, I usually end up not speaking when I think.")

"Do you think people can always be rational?" she asked.

I went into a spiel about how we can never have enough information, we can never interpret it right - so no.

After a while I asked her:

"Do you think people who act emotional are stupid?"

Before all this we had talked about how a way of live becomes the norm in the society. How one's job becomes the most important thing in one's life, how everything else is supposed to be transient until we reach a certain age, how one has to be really ambitious if one wants to get somewhere. How we hang on to people only as long as they give us pleasure, and the moment they don't, we feel no obligation. I was referring to that.

"No," she said, getting me slightly wrong, going into the IQ vs. EQ debate, "those who are stupid are the ones who try to control everything, rationalize everything. You never know the reasons why someone acts a certain way - maybe they didn't get the toy they wanted when they were little...."

I didn't listen to the rest. She always accuses me of trying to rationalize everything. I was offended.

I do try to understand things, understand people, myself. I want clarity. Sometimes I eliminate my options just because I want some clarity. I decide I want a certain thing and block other possibilities. Maybe I want order, consistency, rules to live by. A definition of what is good and what is bad. What is right and what is wrong. What makes sense and what doesn't. What is meant to be and what isn't. What is conceivable and what is not.

People who want contradicting things all at once, people who believe in one thing now and another thing later puzzle me. You can't hold on to them. What is this then, a jungle? Don't we have any rules at all? Don't we learn anything from the past? Shouldn't we try to get out of this mess?

My friend has a point. Maybe I should lift the barriers in my mind, allow my mind to be free, allow myself to be inconsistent, disloyal to any one option. Jump into the mess rather than looking down at it from the sidelines, thinking it's beneath me. Alright.


"What kind of man are you?" she asked. "Is this any way to behave?"

"I'm confused," he said finally, reluctantly. "I'm only human and sometimes I'm weak. I'm sorry."

"At whose expense are you weak and human! You'll never get anywhere in life, my friend," shouted Sai, "if this is what you think makes an excuse...."

"I don't have to listen to this," he said jumping up and storming off abruptly just as she was in powerful flow.

And Sai had cried, for it was the unjust truth. page 249.

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