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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twenty-eight years of solitude

Some reflections on life

BP Koirala starts his Atma Brittanta with a peculiar statement that yet it was not time for him to write about himself. Of course, that is his greatness and great people are always more simple, straightforward and as BP himself says, emotional. That book is at par with Nehru's autobiographical works, particularly with respect to portraying the society and political upheavals of that time. Unfortunately, BP Koirala passed away too early and we are now deprived of more illustrious books in Nepali history.

The point now is, should I shun writing about myself citing BP's explanation; given that I am one of the thousands of self-advertizing people of our era and have done little to nil for larger society? This has always been the question before me whenever I sit down to write about myself. Should I burden the readers with my boring words about a parochial past that interests very few? Am I writing something really meaningful or am just writing for writing's sake? If I have sorrow, frustration and unfulfilled yearning in my life, should I share that with others who do not necessarily share parallel realities in life? If I have a miniature happiness every now and then, is that worth sharing with others? And finally, do my writings have any meaning in the longer term; say for the generation to come?

To me, every person beyond a certain level is a secluded entity. One may elaborate and express oneself to whatever lengths and depths but, at the end, there remains something that cannot be shared or expressed. Sometimes that seclusion becomes a prison, especially when one is going through tough times, and the person suffers. Other times, that becomes like the imagined world of paradise when the virtues of success and liberty abound in one's life. But the latter is a very infrequent happening in my experience. Over all, the secluded and solitary self of a person is a place where one is pretty vulnerable to recurrent to persistent bouts of ill-being.

Some of the geniuses of our times have adapted to that omnipresent solitude in a productive way. That way the seclusion results in a productive life. But even to them, sometimes it becomes unbearable and the whole episode ends in a tragedy; the monumental example being the tragic suicide of Bhairav Nath Aryal, the legendary satirist of Nepali literature. The tragic end of Michael Jackson's life could be another example when success, fame and money cannot even scratch the melancholy that tends to boil inside a person.

But each of us is not a genius. Some of us have terribly unproductive and counterproductive  ways of coping with the raging solitude inside ourselves. Many unhappy people end up torturing their immediate neighbor; mostly the spouse or any other family member(s). Others show a delinquent tendency and become a burden for society itself. Either way, we see the raging external manifestation of that solitude yet fail to even peek into the root cause of that.

For a vast majority of us, of course, the truth lies in between. We are neither extraordinarily productive nor perceptibly coercive. Yet we carry the burden of solitude inside us, regardless of where we go and what we do. There are very few people who have been able to thoroughly study this universal solitude and express it in literature. To name a single person, Anton Chekhov is a person who could be labelled as the master of demystifying this precise solitude of ordinary people. His story Ward No. 6, is probably the best work of fiction ever written about the lengths and depths of solitude a person carries.

And somehow I have come to believe that the nature of solitude inside a person keeps changing over time; over longer term if not in the shorter. This way, the solitude that you have today is quite different from the one you used to have a few years back. As a measure to cope with the grimmer aspects of life, we have so adapted that the the solitude of the past nearly always appears to be more shallow and less intense than it was really at that time. This is what gives birth to nostalgia: we tend to forget the bitter side of the past so that the baggage of troubles keeps remaining bearable as the perceived joy from past is forced (often with little success) to nullify some of the sorrow at present.

I have no idea how patient my readers are and what dose of sentiments they can withstand. The reason I express myself in this article so deeply is that I have just completed twenty eight years of life. And scratching my head, I just thought it won't be an entirely bad idea to write something about life this birthday around. After all, I am not poking my nose into someone else's business and I am at liberty to write about my business of sorts. Until a year back, I was the sole reader of myself with few exceptions if ever. This time around, the readership is clearly in plural and I can count it even in dozens. This fact elated me to write this; but honestly, those who cannot bear more of the 'slobbery sentimentality' (to borrow words from a character of Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov), can just skip reading more from this point onwards.  

So there was I, talking about solitude. If I love anything about writing, it is my observation that it helps to rarify, dilute and demystify certain amount of that solitude. On that process, a work of literature helps the readers also to do the same with their own baggage of solitude. This article will be unduly prolonged if I go on listing the books and writers who have impressed me and in some way or the other shaped my way of looking at and understanding the world but I am reluctant to miss few names: Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorki, RabindranathTagore, Prem Chand; and of couse, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. These writers have explored the solitudes of so many characters that I can see my own solitude pierced by the LASER-sharp expression in their acts of fiction. While making us cry and laugh through their shrewd creations, these and many writers have dealt in great details about the predicaments of the ordinary people.

Honestly, I sometimes become mesmerized by my own writing, especially the ones written long back and forgotten. That gives me a rare insight of what kind of a person I was back then. This also helps me to understand the nature of a person as something fluid that keeps changing, albeit slowly and often imperceptibly; over time. And this gives the much needed relief at the time of troubles because this way you are convinced things will change; and if they are at worst, they will definitely change for better.

And of course, life is never as monotonous as this article erroneously depicts till now. There are moments in life when the solitude deep down is forgotten altogether and one can simply enjoy. We justifiably want, yearn and attempt to enjoy more and more moments in life. But the terrible fallacy of so many people around us is that we see happiness as some technical union of commodities of physical comfort that can be easily bought with money. The outcome is that, with the phantom hope that there is joy and happiness somewhere down the line, we just focus at one thing at present: earning money. In the process, it is usual to even risk the physical and mental health. While overwork and unorganized and physically passive lifestyle cripples the physical health ruling out any real joy in future, a range of corrupt and dishonest practices meant to heap more and more money make one mentally unhealthy. Parents focus on the education of their children hoping that they will eventually earn money and hence help them to buy happiness. Schools educate the kids in such a way that, in future, they will be able to earn more money; not exactly teaching them things of real importance.

In this way, by the time we mature, a thoroughly distorted picture of life and happiness takes shape in our psyche. In the rush to earn money to buy happiness some time in future, people trample on happiness of other people, they exploit and pauperize them, thus multiplying the number of unhappy people in this world.

This cycle of running away from the solitude and chasing happiness is so universal that people have failed to recognize this process as such. And joy and happiness have become a kind of stereotype which best suits the political and economic system of the society. And as the market exercises full control over desire and even the thought system of the individuals, the best-advertized commodities are commonly and fallaciously believed to be the most gratifying things in the world thereby creating maximum joy and happiness for maximum number of people.

Well I have no enmity towards market and the current political system (and there is little I can do even if I have it) but somehow the explanation leads to them and I easily deflect from the subject matter. And for sure, this article has limited scope and I am shortly closing it.

So here stand I, with an age of completed 28 years, reflecting about those years. So far as my own solitude is concerned, I have undergone through periods of extreme suffering when I had no concept of this precise thing. Yet those moments of suffering are over and now from a distance, I can safely say with a degree of detachment that no pain and suffering is there to last forever. That is basically because the solitude inside ourselves and also the personality itself of a person is in state of flux and does change over time. And over time, I have discovered writing as a means to somehow scratch, dent or even dilute that solitude inside myself. I never know if any known writer would ever term this an accomplishment of writing but I definitely do so. This has helped me to make life smoother and has come as a cushion at times of extreme distress.

And in the years to come, I want to explore this solitude in more depth with more extensive reading of the works of literature. Meanwhile, I will continue writing also, for myself and a limited but very committed readers of mine who are very frugal with criticism but extremely liberal with praise. I owe a lot to them. And in this virtual birthday party I say to all of them: cheers!! It makes me immensely happy to share these words at this occasion. Let the year ahead keep myself happier and more creative. Happy birthday to me!!

More from memoir section:
Revisiting the +2 years-2: Moments with brother and friends 
चैत्र सात: एक दशकपछि )

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