Thursday, March 31, 2011

Crazy for Cronin

I heard about The Citadel when in college. I sort of became obsessed about getting a copy and reading it. When I did, it seemed perfectly justified. I found his view of the individual as compelling as Ayn Rand, and extremely practical. There is no utopian idealism here. Maybe, now as I write, I realise that Farooq Sheikh - Dipti Naval starrer Saath-Saath was on a similar theme. The idealist hero who loses his way and then returns when he loses his love.

Then I read Beyond This Place, another compelling book. I was amazed and thrilled to find Dev Anand and Madhubala in Kala Pani acting out the Indianised version of this book.

Both movies stand out for their memorable songs.

The Stars Look Down and Northern Lights were probably the last I read back then. And recently, The Lady in Red Carnations had me as hooked.

In a recent conversation with a friend, the desire to revisit Citadel made me go back to the book. Despite the passage of years, the book remains as endearing and gripping as ever. A reread of Stars Look Down and then Hatter's Castle made me want to read more of Cronin. The former is about miners and their struggles, while Hatter's Castle, set in Scotland, is timely in its insight into human nature, its trials and tribulations. Though it is set in the Englan of 1800s, I don't think we will wonder if such people existed. That is what makes them classics, I suppose.

My supplier of books, the local librarian, has one small row right on top with Cronin's books. I was appalled when he told me I could take the entire lot, read them one by one and return as I finish. "Doesn't anybody read him anymore?" I asked, saddened that such a gem of an author is so neglected. Their loss is my gain, and I am hoping that he doesn't let me down.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Duty is Duty

I admire my dance teacher for many things - her enthusiasm for life, the excitement she is still capable of feeling when she buys a dress, a piece of jewellery, discovers an eatery or watches a good movie. Of course, she dances with the energy of a teenager and works out to keep in shape.

But this morning, when I was in class, something else struck me as admirable. She has a 90 year old mother who is bed ridden. My dance teacher is single and nearing 70 herself. She rushes around her various responsibilities and travels for programs.

At no point has she thought of leaving her mother in an old age home though that will be one less responsibility for her already rushed life. She has a full time attendant, and anybody who has dealt with them will know what a headache that can be. She travels for programs, and is worried about leaving her mother alone with the attender. She did try arranging a home once for a short while when she was going abroad. But decided against it in the last minute and cut her trip short. This time too she has to leave in a few days. But she says she doesn't have the heart to go.

I think that, beyond everything else she does, makes her an excellent human being.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Careless Whispers

Words once uttered cannot be taken back. Like an arrow, it can find its mark and hurt. One can only hope at times that it misses its mark and is impotent.

Words spoken in confidence, spoken in anger, spoken in genuine concern - they can all misfire and come back in a form that is surprising and twisted out of context. It poisons the air for the person who said them, the person who heard them and the person about whom it was. And yet, though we may experience the consequences of our indiscretion - intended or not - the one lock for which there is no key is the mouth and we continue to exercise it as if our weight loss depends on it!

Recently on hearing Wham's Careless Whispers, I couldn't help recollecting the zillions of times I said something and it was misconstrued, causing heartache.

In all humility, I think if we learn not to mind the words but take in the essence, there will be less pain in the world. If someone has said something, to see if one can learn from what they intend saying rather than what they actually said. Not to take it back to them and fight about it, but be polite and keep one's distance, and try not to repeat the mistake. For there is a learning in every situation. And maybe in being bitched about too!

And...not to carry tale from one to another. If A bitches about B, not to think it our duty to immediately convey to B what was said by A. Maybe A said it in a context, and only to unburden, not for B to hear it. By being an unwitting conduit, we can only worsen the situation.

But the mouth, the loose mouth, the eager mouth...sigh! To control it is more difficult than a tsunami that visits only once in a whil.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't Judge in Haste

A blogpost by a friend of mine on decency reminded me of this incident.

This was the year I shifted to Chennai (Madras back then) from Kolkata (Calcutta) - 1990, was all of 17 or 18 max. I was staying at my aunt's place in West Chennai and my dance class was at the other end of the city, near the beach on the easter side. A good one hour by bus, the only means of transport on those days.

I had to go for rehearsal at 11 or something on a Sunday, and that Monday there was to be a bandh. On Sundays, as it is only 40% of the buses would ply on the road.

By the time I got a bus and reached my class, it was 1. I finished in a couple of hours and returned to the bus stop. Knowing it was no use waiting for the direct bus, I decided to get into whichever bus came, and change at the next point. I got into a bus where the number looked unfamiliar, but the route written on the side suggested that I would cover half the distance. Since students were issued passes, I didn't need to tell the conductor my stop name. Ironically, I saw the direct bus right behind this, but didn't attempt to take that.

To my surprise, the bus started moving north. I could still have got off at  a point from where I would have got another bus. But assuming it was taking a circuitous route I waited, and landed up in North Madras, in a place that I didn't recognise.

Panicking, I finally asked the conductor, who had realised that I was lost but was hesitant to approach. The driver was taking the bus out to park it in the depot and offered to drop me at the main road. As I was getting off, the conductor offered me money. I refused, standing on my pride. They advised me to take an auto.

Autos were a scary thought those days. But realising I was very late, I caught one, only to land up with one where the driver had a companion. It was almost 7 by now - and for me, a completely scary experience. We took a route that I was not familiar with, and all gods must have been called to protect me that day.

They did an overtime job and I reached my aunt's house safely. The driver and his companion had been as scared as me when we lost the way in one of the neighbourhoods.

I realised that we underrate our human fellows, most of whom are incapable of thinking up harm to others. A handful of those who do spoil our image of our fellow human beings.
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