Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Reading Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own

Look inside and write; trust the little voice inside you. Be honest, be true, to yourself. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own was a revelation. Entranced by the magical prose accentuated by poetic touches and straight-faced logic, I read with appreciation the lines Lady V composed. Cleansing, rigorous prose composed with so much sanity and devotion that a reader is rejuvenated directly she opens the first chapter.

Feminism, or for that matter equity feminism, is a troubled ground that requires great tact and not verbal vituperations to challenge the gender discrimination issue; and many writers who begin well end up losing all rationality when they confront some of the negative dialogues the patriarchal class happen to shower or have showered upon the “delicate class”. In such turmoil Woolf is composed, she is the phlegmatic saint believing in logic and finely pointing out the same for the blindfolded population.  

The arguments Woolf points out in her essay are wholeheartedly applicable in modern days as they were the time Woolf wrote her text. That every woman in order to be a fiction writer, or be successful in the creative field must have some congenial creative space, and that when denied lead to a break in the thread leading to a loss of several natural talents. A creative space and financial independence are two factors that directly affect the quality of prose a writer produces. And Woolf ventures to clarify her points by examples from literatures written by women from the jorum of antiquity, which, by the way, was not before the erstwhile Eighteenth Century when creative situation ameliorated for women, thanks to Aphra Behn who dared to walk outside the satin-folded life (pun intended) and carve a creative niche of her own partly due to unfavorable circumstances and partly because she was a brave female.  Imagine how different situation would be if we were stuck in the mud of patriarchal superiority. Democracy is all for the good, but what about in-home autocracy? How many women dare to come out of the dictatorial home rule? You can defy the government, but can you defy the geriatric rule? Your traditions, at least in India, forbid you, your upbringing stitches your tongue and you end up taking the path suggested and often jettison self-interest in the interest of the family and society. And yet we forever retain a certain grudge, a spoonful of malignancy against the egoistic male sex that made us choose a path we did not want to take.

But there have been women like George Eliot, Jane Austen, and Emily Bronte who made most of their impediments and have written in a voice devoid of malignancy against the then superior sex. The negative capabilities of their fictions give them the universal air that makes their prose glow with the vibrancy of creative celebration. Woolf suggests towards the end of the essay that when one writes one should forget about one’s sex. To affirm male superiority and feminine subservience is to affirm the antinomy of the cosmos, the pity and terror of the confirmation unchain in the human soul, especially in the case of women, an ennobling catharsis and a rush of deep-seated negative assertions. And negativity seldom breeds good prose, or poetry for that matter. But isn’t it difficult to empty the impressions of life, well or bad, and create fictions for the sake of creation or for pleasure? May be this is the most challenging sport in a writer’s life, to write out of oneself, to shut the distractions, to cover the windows, drown out the noise, physically and mentally, and write as clearly, as evenhandedly as possible.

It is evident that Woolf herself could do that in most cases, for most of her creative ventures have been highly successful and you could hardly deny, judging by her refreshing prose in Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, etc., that she had all the qualities of a literary genius. But harking back to the Room of One’s Own, the essay with its various pleonastics, its redundancies and to-the-point avowals suggest, ingeniously, the practical nuisance which happens when a chain of thought is broken; it takes time to mend the bond and re-think, and in the meantime, you talk superfluously. That is the reason why our worthy antecedents chose prose instead of poetry to deliver their thoughts. Poetry is a concatenation of thoughts, imageries, and emotions and can seldom beget awesome results unless written uninterruptedly. And since these women seldom had a room of their own and often used a common living room for creative work such interruptions were more than probable, hence the deluge of prose and paucity of poetry.

One of the most striking ideas presented in the book was the communion of the masculine and the feminine in the human brain for successful creative results. Woolf is of the opinion that a human brain has two sections, masculine and feminine, and writers like Coleridge, Sterne, Keats and Shakespeare managed had androgynous brains which made their works equally attractive to both the sexes. It is when one of the sides dominate the other that the breach of communication occurs that ultimately leads to one sex possessing or declaring antagonistic opinion about the other group. "A collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished." 

What I liked most about the book is the honesty with which Woolf presents her arguments. She takes you on a ride and gives you refreshments by means of images and descriptions of pedestrian scenery, of London, of her room, of her bookshelf. You feel her presence in your own room, her thin, cold breath on your shoulder, a brushing of her loose hair on your arm, a whiff of feminine scent. In her ways she makes you emulate her methods, she urges you to read, to observe and draw your own conclusions.

“The looking-glass vision is of supreme importance because it charges the vitality; it stimulates the nervous system. Take it away and man may die, like the drug fiend deprived of his cocaine,” says Virginia Woolf in the second chapter of the book. Okay, I agree that as civilization has advanced poetry has declined and the “looking-glass” vision does not interpret in the drug-demonic context anymore; however, inobservance sure reduces vitality, but where’s time to perceive and consider? For those of us who can somehow afford this pastime may continue with this habit. It surely is an amazing pastime judging the world and like a sapient scientist order observations in a well-made rational modus.

To this effect I stepped out of my house to observe the Indian culture with a scrutinizer’s eye and jot down my findings accordingly. The road outside my house guarded by wooly-headed green trees like sentinels droopy under the effect of some anodyne posed solid questions. How is the Room of One’s Own relevant in Indian culture? And how does bookish feminism interpret in real life? Do people care at all about what literature has to saw, or for that matter what Virginia Woolf has to say on the subject of a writer training her eyes? Apparently, nobody cared; however, I was willing to experiment to satisfy myself that I do retain the eye-sight that’s imperative for a writer.

My walk took me to a busy thoroughfare with honking vehicles approaching from all sides and huddling of confusion before a left turn. The corridor had sidetracks which holds a furniture shop, a flower shop where long sticks of sick looking carnation and roses marinated in a small plastic bucket, its proprietor sitting idly and eyeing the traffic and rubbing his eyes. The cycle-rickshaws nosed-in; smells of Chinese food and Indian tandoor, South Indian coffee and other food stuffs amalgamating into a puzzling alchemy; and people, returning from their daily engagements, heading for pleasure spots. What a busy scene it was, active, demanding, rigorous, and un-poetic. Obviously, a room of one’s own was indicated if one was to write poetry under the circumstances.

I concentrated on the feminine population which surrounded me: women dressed in crisp corporate clothes, in cool short dresses, in descent salwar kameezes, and in well-worn sarees travelling alone mostly. Most of them had groceries hanging  from their wrists in cloth-bags; some were driving; one or two of them texting and all were busy in their ways. It is this business, this air of untold confidence they exuded in their movement that made them stand out in their own ways. Of course, it would be erroneous to say that I observed all the women in the vicinity. I earmarked a few of them and followed their movements and came to the conclusion that Indian women prefer multi-tasking and that the percentage of working women has indeed advanced such that in a given public gathering you tend to observe more members of the hitherto considered delicate sex than their male counterparts. I wondered if the women I saw had rooms of their own, I wondered about their roles in public affairs and domestic lives. It was evident that they had equal rights and opportunities; I wondered what they thought about this “equality”, did they really appreciate it; consider it at a boon or a commonplace happenstance of advancing civilization?

It was difficult, if not impossible to accumulate their views, but judging from their appearances it seemed that they do cherish their independence. As I walked back home I began to consider the ideas Woolf so rightly puts on the table and apply it in my own life. I questioned myself what does a room mean to me and discovered that a room has a two-fold connotation for me: first, a creative space, and second, mental independence. A room to me is a space where I live and write the way I deem desirable. It was when I applied the idea personally that I realized that in the absence of my comfortable, creative niche I cannot function; I realized how important it is for a writer to own her own space and unequivocal independence.

 “If a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it,” Virginia Woolf says in The Common Reader. What she means in the passage is that women must write as honestly as possible and express what they feel rather than what they were taught to think. A room is a four-walled barrier that shuts-out outside influences, that hides the adamantine claws of male supremacy, the perforce opinions. Indeed, women must strive and create this niche for her not by force but by intellect. Woolf suggests that deprecating the opposite sex and considering our own sex as the subservient clan is a mistake and women has to actively compete with other forces for a place of prominence in the market place. The new possibilities for individual self-fulfillment are ample, and it is to us to carve out our own place, the rooms we would call our own by our own ability and not by stressing gender differences. 

(Pictures from the web)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Double Income No Kids (DINK): A modern necessity or a choice?

 The skyscraperized modern tenements we observe in the ever-expanding metropolitan cities in India are testament to the fact that India is moving and growing fast. As the facades of ancient architectures are fast being replaced by modern sleek designs, young India too is heading towards a contemporary westernized lifestyle. Joint families are being replaced by compartmentalized nuclear households carrying two or three members. The powers of opinion, freedom, and of course the independence that comes from monetary stability, especially in the case of women who heretofore have been puppets in the pantry, seem highly attractive to the present generation. The wish for this freedom-oriented existence is propelling the ambitions of the young people such that they now prefer to walk away from traditional roots and opt for self-sufficient, pleasure driven lives.

The apparently humorous moniker given to self-sufficient couples with no kids— DINK, has deep inner meanings. Notwithstanding the momentary advantage, the contingencies that are tailed to this acronym are too grave to ignore and must be appraised thoroughly. It is surprising that the traditional Indian family with impleached customary ancestral rituals is lying in a moribund state, its survival being threatened by the questioning mind of young adults who (un)wittingly have come to hold everything ancestral as unnecessary. A modern Indian youngster generally considers her career high and places the need to establish a family and have kids lower down her list of priorities. And even if she chooses to marry, the prospect of a childless household—an anachronism in the quintessential Indian mindset— is usually more attractive to her.

Even though Indian society seldom acknowledges such livelihood, the increasing percentage of couples with no kids in metropolitan cities proves that such an existence is very much in vogue. The ample joys of singledom, the pleasures of financial independence as portrayed in films and in commercials add on to the overall sheen of this kind of modus vivendi by making its prospect seem not only acceptable but highly desirable. Also the lack of time needed to nurture children, concerns regarding over-population, memories of abusive childhood, the perpetually unprepared feeling are among several other factors impelling young couples to choose a twosome households.

The sofalizing Generation Y has been accused of being the laziest generation preferring Facebook to face-to-face interaction and virtual world to the physical one. The prevailing millennial attitude is that taking breaks for fun at work makes people more, not less, productive. Likewise, they accept that their work will bleed into evenings and weekends. And having no kids to take care of more or less, in their opinion, adds to the productivity at work. “Today’s young people are much focused on trying to work hard and to get ahead,” said Carl Van Horn, a labor economist at Rutgers, USA.

An interesting survey by the Associated Chamber of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on “Changing Consumption Patterns of Delhi” shows that DINKs are high spenders.  Living solidly on the present, DINKs generally follow the Horacian Carpe diem and usually prefer to nurture self and spouse to kids. An average of thirty-five percent of couples (in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore) spend more than half a lakh on travel and travel-related expenses every year. Forty five percent of them spend about Rs. 5,000-10,000 on non-essential items while sixty-five percent are fully aware that it is being without a child which is giving them the financial freedom. Their stats compared to the stats of households with kids show a marked difference.

It is dubious, however, if a twosome, self-sufficient household has any long-term benefits. It cannot be said with surety if people opting for twosome households will be equivalent in their happiness level with people with children, or whether in future they would crave for children and perhaps have them anyway. In many cases young couples not so much disown the wish of having kids as postpone it on account of practical necessity. Yet we can hardly disagree that priorities of the Millennials are different that the primacies of their antecedents such that there is often a culture clash when the old and the new put forward their arguments for or against twosome livelihood on the table.

Nevertheless it is an accepted fact that social life bred in the jorum of generations has certain positive elements that refresh and rejuvenate office-oriented corporate livelihood. Man is a social animal, he is the begetter, the nurturer and such tendencies come naturally and nonchalantly, and it is hardly feasible to repress the natural urge of a complete family life based on in-fashion societal preferences. Couples opting for a twosome childless lifestyle must undergo a thorough self-appraisal and judge preferences before taking any decision. They may keep in mind the fact that several couples with kids have successful careers and that leading a childless existence has generally lead to lonely adulthood. Rebellious iconoclastic notions generally cease to sway the mind when it had matured, hence any hasty decision taken during early life based on societal judgment should better be avoided.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Directly I opened my eyes this morning I knew it was Independence Day. The first intimation I had that things were about take a patriotic turn was the sight of a bevy of security personnel lingering in the neighborhood of the front lawn under the newly painted flagstaff with nonchalance written all over them, and the panjandrum of the safety staff with a vindictive whistle dangling from his mouth into which he blew intermittently. It was in fact the whistle that plucked me out of my dreamless and made me rush to the casement with morning eyes to inspect the proceedings downstairs. The proceedings had not begun at that hour and the final drill practice was in the process of initiating; but judging from the stray-lambish style of the would-be marchers I divined that an hour or two of wait was indicated before the celebrations.

My time sense was absolutely accurate, about two hours into the morning /I observed the group, now dressed in their neatest possible way and tucked in gloves and knee high white socks standing in proper line and a handful of citizens and two of the gardeners setting up the table and directing the event. The weather in Gurgaon being inclement most of us preferred to observe the actions from the cushiony warmth of our dwellings. I found myself hanging at my kitchen window with ample alacrity as the group started singing in a business-like way the Indian national anthem. Their collective voice rattled on. Inescapable, immanent; their auditory spectrum saturated with the clicks and pigeon sounds and patter of raindrops of cement. The song continued for a moment and then ended rather hastily on account of the raining gaining force and soaking the protagonists.

No sooner was the anthem finished, the flag was hoisted, and a series of hurried claps sounded and the security personnel did an attention pose, which I daresay disappointed me for I had the idea that they would do a formal march like the military men and school children. I remember my school days when perspiring in the humid landscape of Kolkata we practiced marching in the school ground one week before the Independence Day celebrations.  Naturally, I had expected some such outcome in this case having seen this clique doing their alerts and marches in the morning on not less than three occasions in the past week. But all ideas of forward-marching was jettisoned when I observed the personnel disperse and then come back carrying food packets in plastic bags and start distributing them.

 I walked back from the casement and drank a thoughtful cup of tea thinking about independence and our celebrations. The Prime Ministers enervated speech was being featured in the television channels; I wish the guy had more fervor in his speech, a dash of passion and vigor might do him some good in making people actually listen to what he was saying rather than yawn and change channels. May be I am sounding a dash unpatriotic in expecting an obamaesque makeover for our erstwhile PM; but let’s face it Indian political scenario, at least to me, is unattractive on account of its major players being either corrupt to the bone or lacking the heat of life. A herd of vintage colored snapshots with outrageously weird conceptions and believes have been loose on the premises for a time out of mind. I think it’s time we get some action and do a purgation of some sort to rid us of some these oldies and inject some loyal patriotic blood into India’s system

But where is loyal blood to be found? I wonder. Is there am ambrosial fountain filled with the minerals, or is there another treasure trove which guards the secret recipe? In any case, the India I see on this holy day is not the India I have in my mind. I agree that we have walked a long way, for years we have endured outside rule and accepted a subservient status, our treasures have been looted, out libraries burnt; but we have also waked away from such bludgeoning history and created a new and shinning India for us. There must have been hoards of loyal blood involved in this building process. And thus it sounds almost ominous when on this Independence Day the nation’s leader presents in his dreary old tone a list of should and woulds rather than solid steps against the cantankerous corruption issue eating away the marvelous country.

It is, however, always easy to blame and advise others. What have I done for my country? I question myself; I have been good, straight and caring. I have admired the heroes of the past and emulated them in my own way; but if solid renderings are taken into account, my score is nil. May be we all need to zap up our systems and be a little more active in guarding the respect of our country and remember not only on independence days but on all days our subservient history, our dramatic independence, and our corrupt, marvelous and dreamy present. 

Happy Independence Day 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I See: Ramblings before heading for the dreamless

As I lose myself in the rigorous, demanding prose of routine livelihood, the pure joy of writing, the dessert of the day that unwinds and purges the dirt and grime of quotidianism, is missed like rain in the arid pastures of North India. Yet, I am forever cognizant of a stifle in the cardiac region; something ceaselessly repeats inside me words and sentences. Every day as I leave my house and as the vehicle strides in its jolted journey toward the destination on the other side of the town, I see and hear noises of the morning-eyed India, and all along the way the meta-voice chirps happily freshly-baked expressions.  It almost nudges me to reach for my notebook and start scribbling, as I had been normally doing for a time out of mind upon waking up and only recently stopped owing to the Nuevo academic schedule. And it pains me, even disturbs me, the thought of turning down something that comes naturally to me.  It is almost impossible to write something on the way since the road conditions are seldom conducive to creative squiggling.

The not-writing-down-my thoughts, however, does not hold me back from observing and delighting myself at the various random images I come across; the leitmotif of humanity is presented with such variety that every day I am awed like a child at the  miscellany I observe on the roads. Somehow writing sensitizes you and you feel like a youth at heart observing and regaling at the physical and internal beauty of the world. Although appreciation is temporal since an ordinary day’s experience eventually hardens you such that at the end of the day you find that the voice inside you is enervated, if not absent altogether. We must accept the drudgery of existence nonetheless and customize our creativity around it. So I have allowed myself one hour every two days and fifteen minutes every day to write down my impressions.

Right now, I sit at my desk possessed by the knowledge of a typical day, inflamed with the wondrous and sensational fantasies dreamed up during an automobile ride. The first sight that entranced me was that of a stretched out sheet of cloud and a lump of the same on the opposite side. I seldom check out clouds, but this morning I did; there was something awkward in the flocculent blanket  that drew my attention. I have of late been making a study of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and have been intrigued time and again by the vastness of imagination of the blind man. I could not say if it was the result of my lucubrations, or something else entirely that made me think that the nebulous patch on the face of heaven was that of a stretched out god, sleeping, peaceful. I could make out his nose, slightly snub; his toes, two of them missing; his puffed-up coiffure, and two tiny cloud-bodied cherubim just abaft his knee area. A car, a cloud-made ambassador, to be precise, was heading towards this sleeping divinity. I wondered if the archangel had restrained its majestic pennons and was driving the four-wheeler in question. How he would look behind the windshield: goatish, profligate, meretricious, or insane? A concatenation of honks from different motors forced me to give up my thoughts half-way and concentrate on the earthy attraction. By this time I had spent almost ten minutes inspecting the dome above. What was funny was that the driver having divined that I had been inspecting the airplanes sundering the sky at regular intervals (we were close to the airport at the time) asked me whether I liked flying. Imagine my consternation when my solemn thoughts of a straightened-out god on the bed of clouds were taken as review of aeronautical parts by this pilot in the front seat!

Anyway, after this aforementioned incident, I looked up only once or twice to check out any new cloudy figure that might catch my attraction; but there weren’t any. In the meantime, I observed the earthy world on the streets, a universe unto itself, a microcosm of the young India vividly platted before me. And all I had to do was look. I observed shinning cars, reds mostly followed by whites, and a handful of blacks; women sitting in the front seats of their cars wearing earphones; people on the streets walking toward bus stops, their lunch boxes oscillating as they paced up the pavement; a golgappa seller pushing his cart, his wide-brimmed brass water pot covered with a pink and powder blue Rajasthani dupatta, his oiled, mehendi-colored hair shinning.

We stopped at several traffic signals, and these intersections were great places for me to inspect humanity. As we stood lame at one such stop-signal I looked to the left and noticed a small expanse of trash-littered landscape tailed to the front wing of a high building. There was a low barrier, a cement wall of some sort, barricading this area from the blue-glass-fronted-building. A couple of women with their heads draped by the pallus of their disheveled sarees picked up empty soda bottles and milk packets from this trash-scape and gathered them in  wicker baskets. They had very small backs and one of them wore paste nathni and metallic hoop earrings.

Another sight that caught my attention was on my way back in the subway. There was a woman standing before me on the train back clasping two blackberries in her left hand. She was around thirty, neatly clothed in red and green salwar kameez, her hair tied up, a spectacle hanging down on her nose. She looked modest in every way. It was, however, the quirky nail-paint she sported—red paint dotted with bright green polish—that made me examine her closely. Her nails were very long, clean, but the paint somehow gave her an untidy air. Occasionally she talked on the phone in a corporate tone advising the receiver on the other side on business policies and ways to behave in an interview. She seemed knowledgeable and bright, but all my attention was drawn by her nail paint. I wished I could ask her the reason behind the choice. She did not look like one wanting to hide her age, the wrinkles around her mouth region were prominent; I could see some of her grey hairs too, then why? Alas there weren’t any answers from her side.

The final image that drapes my eyes right now and that which I think is the best image of all is of the spouse reading the newspaper with a genial resolution. The comfort in this motif is beyond belief. The peace that the drooling air condition machine generates at the epilogue of one long day erases old imageries and rejuvenates the vision. And thus, having finished my daily writing exercise, the contended me is ready to bid the liana of her daily sightings adieu in the hope of another fresh start tomorrow.
Good nightJ

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

  Back-to-School: Part 1
The journey begins

Experiences are probably the most precious fragments you assemble in life. Though I won’t go to the absurd length of calling them jewels or rubies you find by the Indian Ganges’ side, I would definitely call them intellectually fortifying and remarkably unique. It amazes me the amount of experiences we gather in one lifetime: good, bad, actual, intangible; it takes only a few years to fill the jorum, and then layer upon layer of add-on experiences sediment such that in one given time you feel almost stacked to the brim if you open the archives. Anyway, the point is that your perspective of a certain situation, a certain experience, is liable to change after you walk away from the scene and observe it objectively under the solid canopy of logic. The stripping off of emotions, intimidations and other attachments that may have blindfolded you when you experienced something greatly helps in analyzing the deposited data acritically.

For years my dream of being re-initiated after an educational hiatus to the vaulted tenements of some scholastic establishment has propelled my actions in life in no uncertain manner. This drive became an idee fixe with me such that for years I labored under the impression that life would cease to exist for me if I did not get back to school. And now that I am back to academia, officially, the feeling of accomplishment and mental peace that I thought I would be experiencing are conspicuous by their absence.  The initial ecstasy of winning a battle where I was both the protagonist and the adversary, where one side of me reflected truth and optimism while the other mocked and derided my ambition, is gone for good. May be the mind is maturing after all, taking in the banal and rather than idolizing it and poring over its hidden intricacies is accepting school-life the way it is: a routine. At least that was what I thought after my first two days in class. Today I will write about my impressions on the first day of class.

The first day of school began like the initial chapter of a novel: full of promises. The day preceding this inauguration started and ended in a flash; I could never recall another day which traveled so fast. It seemed as if I was caught up in some strange fast-paced reverie which none of my deliberate actions could slow down. Hence I allowed myself to be wafted and rested mechanically and finally found myself the following morning around nine am before a classroom with likeminded young scholars waiting with bated breath for the classes to commence. We stood outside a moderately sized climate controlled schoolroom to which we were directed by the security personnel. We exchanged pleasantries and wished each other good morning while the janitorial staff prepared the room for us. We waited in the corridor and watched the podium being cleaned and dusted with a grass-headed broom and then a trash of Parle-G biscuit packets and empty coffee cups swept with the same besom. We were dubious at the time, all six of the waiting souls who were admitted in the first counseling to this prided course of Masters in English and Communication. We felt uncertain as to how many students would be there in the class after all, how long the first day orientation would last and many more. We shared our speculations and doubts and felt more uncertain. 

The room finally cleaned, we were allowed to walk inside the compartment and park ourselves on the wooden benches. I cannot tell about the other girls, but the moment my derriere touched the wooden b, I felt my heart expanding with satisfaction. I realized at that specific moment that I was back-to-school, finally.The initial satisfaction was brief though since in a few moments our seniors, second and third semestrial students of the same course, walked in with ample gravitas and ishytle. They perched atop their desks in turns and laughed and talked while a handful of freshers’ observed them and chucoted among themselves. They knew we were inspecting them and directed their actions accordingly. All of them tried to look smart and confident. Finally, the teachers and the other first year students arrived, and the orientation officially began.

In the first stages of this orientation we were given an overview of the course by the professors. The professor who began the rigmarole was a mild, happy looking academic. Following her the other professors went to the podium and presented their statements. We were given the regular details and were strictly warned about the importance of daily attendance on final results. Such talks penetrated from me a genial smile since the presentiments sounded much like the ones I heard on the first day of my high school. I kept my merriment to myself though and decided to listen on.

Among this group of pedagogues one academic took it upon himself to warn us about the “torturous” ride that waited for us in near future. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that it ain’t a jolly ride. But by the time he had ventured to issue the caveat, we had somehow understood the truth by heart.

Following this professorial counseling session we were asked to come to the platform one by one and introduce ourselves. The freshers’ walked in silent trails to the dais and presented themselves. Some talked about their hobbies, some about their future plans, all talked about their academic backgrounds. The general lack or oratorical skill was evident. I wasn’t much impressive either in my speech, still, thanks to the BCL creative writing class, which required me to open my mouth in public; I managed to get on well.

The preliminary exercise continued for an hour or two before it ended with a couple of seniors embellishing our expectations of the course with adulating phrases. We were encouraged and motivated with talks of festivals and cultural programs and seminars and other academic packages that would be part of our two year service at the school. When the professors ultimately got up and informed us that the official orientation was over it was nearly one-thirty.

The finale of the grand opening was announced with the recitation of a lovely poem called The Soldier rendered by one of the kind-hearted instructors. It is a poem about a cavalry-person returning from some battle. 

It took me a solid one-hour thirty five minutes metro ride and a subsequent fifteen minutes rickshaw ride to reach home. As the rickshaw stopped at a traffic-light glowing red, I looked around and observed a man crouching in a fetal position and sleeping, his face was covered with a cloth that had once been white or some such monotone and now looked like a sticky blackened piece of fabric. His slightly heaving body and total unconcern to the bustle of the busy city somehow made me think of this soldier in the poem our professor read. I wondered would the soldier himself be aware of his destination; do we ever know where we are heading in life? We may lie unconcerned ignoring the reality by covering our faces, we may fool ourselves with wise presentiments, with pretenses of perfection and satisfaction, but the truth is we never know where we will be tomorrow; and no poet's warnings could prepare us for this voyage. Hence, to think that life’s endless episodic puzzles could have some decipherable equation that just needs a certain amount of skill to solve is tomfoolery in itself.

P.S. : Picture from internet.