It took me more than one whole day to figure out the “mango people in a banana republic” thing and I felt horribly alienated. Everyone else on both side of the Vindhyas seemed to get it and oh how! Even after I “got it,” I couldn’t understand what everyone was upset about. We have been a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit for the last seven decades and every time people try to change that they either get arrested or publicly maligned, get offered a parliament seat or driven to bankruptcy. It has never bothered us. Moreover, the political classes have been unperturbed by comments such as these by the common man for much longer than seven decades. Not being affected by what the common man feels or has to go through is as good as mandatory for survival in the political system now. If anything, this comment only differentiates Vadra from the rest of the people who feel the same way but know better than to verbalize it. So I have been a little disoriented of late. But then, this post is about Barfi.
No, no, not about how mango people feel about politicians – I meant the movie in which Priyanka gives Ranbir one of those ones.
When I finally started writing this post, even Barfi jokes had disappeared from the social media. In the face of the usual jibes about my tardiness, I plonked along, more in an effort to stand by all those who fall in the grey area of borderline intelligence, for whom it takes time to “get” things, to do things and to make things happen. World Mental Health day came. World Mental Health day went. But some posts just sit there, know what I mean? This post is a tribute to late blooming, deliberate living, two-finger typing, beer-bellied web crawling, and forgetting what you were sent to the store to get. This one is for each one of us who were called slow pokes, lazy bums, duffers, and had to carry home “capable of doing better” remarks in our report cards term after term. This one is for slow learners and the hearing impaired, as well as for the never-married. In case you have already forgotten what you came to the store to buy – this post is about Barfi.
There is no conflict that cannot be resolved through dialog. This belief of my mentor is at the heart of what I try to do with my life – in daily life, here on this blog, and elsewhere in the social media space. There, of course, are times when dialog leads to greater confusion and upheaval, but if the spirit of dialog is nurtured and kept alive, it leads to a clearer and more meaningful understanding of the issue at hand without fail.
The Right to be Wrong
A recent dinner table conversation got me agitated. We were talking about how one’s looks and dressing led to being discriminated against at establishments and institutions. As is the nature of mealtime talk at home, it went from Manipur to Modi and from Siachen almost to Sri Lanka. At a particularly heated point of the discussion, I was asked whether my writing was not a way of being judgmental of people’s lifestyles and beliefs. In what way was my attitude in endorsing minimalistic/frugalistic need-based lifestyles different from that behind the rants of religious fundamentalists or even the government’s insistence that we grin and bear it? I denied it with the vehemence that only married men can conjure, but it got me thinking. I respect people’s freedom to live their lives as they wish, and I expect the same from others. Yet most of my writing is centered on promoting what I believe in. The Rushdie’s and the Coelho’s of the world might need entire novels to say it, but for me it takes a short sentence. You have the right to call me wrong, but it is not wrong that I am right.
There is a handful of music and musicians that have a deep emotional significance for me that I cannot put in words. This significance is something so strong that I believe that the day I can write about them to my satisfaction, my purpose for having been born would have been fulfilled, and that till that day arrives, death will have to wait. Janis Joplin, the screeching, moaning, hurting queen of soul and blues, is one of them. Janis (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) influenced me as a young person not only in terms of music but also in terms of understanding alienation and loneliness. Her songs and her live recordings have been a source of comfort to me through the years.
I have often wondered why I feel so strongly about her music and her life. Of course, the romanticism of her rebellious personality and the tragedy of her battle with drugs and alcohol were major factors, but they were temporal; yet, even from a more mature and “norm”al perspective, her work remains extremely close to my heart, meaning much more than music for recreation or songs in the background. For me, her songs symbolize the battle cry of the individual against the might of the system, the unshakeable conviction and the pain of knowing how simultaneously powerless and overpowering that battle cry is, and the longing to share with others the glorious vision of a just and compassionate world.
Today, 42 years after that sad and quiet morning when she died, I put together some of what I have tried to write about her in the past.