It is not the first time people ask me, ‘why you are like this? Why can’t you do things that people generally approve of? What’s your problem in collaborating with people and getting things done?’ All these questions are career related and in their voice I could feel the tinge of care and the spice of irritation. Often my answer is a smile and some mumblings that even I find myself difficult to decipher. I ask the same questions myself and I find myself my mind a pyramid where undecipherable hieroglyphics of idealism written largely. I try to decode them, unpack the burden of my thinking and the result is always an inward turned smile to myself which looks more like a sun shadowed by foam like clouds of immensity. And I ask what idealism is that I claim to have or I cherish to follow or nourish to live with?
I do not know it at all. If you say that a strange helplessness that I always feel in the presence of those people who squat at the pavements with bundles that contain their accumulated ‘wealth’ of sorrow and agony of displacement, if you point out that the anger that lashes its waves like an ocean against the walls of my abstract conscience while seeing young artists waiting for some savior to redeem them from their plights of materialistic wants, if say that I am driven by a kind of empathy with all those people suffer without complaining, I would agree with all of these yet I would not be able to touch that particular point of my own self where I hold this crunching feeling to aspire for something that would provide everyone equal rights, opportunities and justice. I see everyone hurrying up towards something that would give them absolute joy in the materialistic world. I pull myself out of the crowd as if I trace out a human figure and remove it from the hoard of people around me. I try to see that vacuum in my own shape and see whether I could find any unseen dynamics operative. I fail and I fail miserably.
Even in this failure, it is my attempt to understand those reasons that goad me to be the odd one out. Newspapers and magazines today glamourize even worst kind of struggle and use all of them as the raw material for the idea of success. I read the stories of those people who have left their well-paid jobs to follow their dreams and becoming successful in their chosen paths. Some stars produce tear jerking serials on human issues only to be pepped up by astonishingly ironic advertisements that go absolutely against the grain of the issues that have been discussed. Eventually, if you go deeper into all these ‘stories’ that make you think and act, you realize one thing: if at all there is an ideal in today’s world that is the ideal of success, which is always translated into materialistic success. And there is nothing wrong in it because we all need tangible solutions not only for our worrying issues but even for the most joyful feelings. We need to express everything today through the medium of materials.
Materialism, this never ending race for expressing one’s happiness or success through visible, tangible, palpable and measureable manifestations is today’s mantra. Seen it from a different angle, this is what all artists do: expressing one’s self through tangible mediums. Then suddenly the idea of materialism becomes so artistic and aesthetically driven. You dress well and you feel confident, they say. You consume a particular brand your worth is increased, they say. And once the same thing is repeated, it becomes a norm and rule, and slowly a philosophy. Where you hang out and what you travel in and where you dine and what do you drink everything gets attached to a tag of generic acceptance and this acceptance comes via the idea of aesthetic refinement. Once the refinement of one’s own self and worth is measured by tactile/material products something deeper is muffled and killed. An inner voice is silenced and a rebel is killed. I look at all those people who wear head phones and listen to the chattering of Radio Jockeys and to the music they choose to play, and to innumerable product advertisements I feel that they all deny a chance to the inner voice to be heard out.
I am an anachronism in the contemporary world. May be I am absolutely wrong when I say that people do not listen to their inner selves. They must be constantly speaking to their own selves in order to find solutions for their respective problems. But the majority, it seems deny that they talk to themselves. They wish to be heard so they talk to others. They talk endlessly so that they could create their own selves in their own physical shape molded out of sounds. The world would have been much better if people were talking less and listening to the inner voice.
What is the point if you listen to your inner voice, you may ask? What’s the use, what’s the profit that you get out of it? What do you really achieve when you listen to your own self? Listening to one’s own self brings a lot of peace, a sense of equilibrium and a sense of harmony. People who live by the lessons of product advertisements do yoga, walk on tread mills, join laughter clubs, go for vacations, dine in the best restaurants, work out in air conditioned gyms and so on. I have observed most of them simultaneously engage in something else while they do the abovementioned things. They talk to a fellow walker, they listen to music or they talk over phones. In fact, these are all the ways to deny body, mind, heart and soul and their innate urge to speak to you. When you walk, if you talk or listen to music, your body gets dissociated from your mind and mind gets dissociated from your heart and heart from the soul.
There is a perfect equilibrium between what you do with your body and your soul via mind and heart. The moment you do multiple things at one time, you are severe the link between your body and soul. Have you ever tried to meditate? If you have tried to do that you have also asked whether you were really meditating while sitting quite. Masters tell you to bring your body and mind into one point and leave all thoughts aside. The moment you try to do that you start asking whether you have left all thoughts aside. The moment you ask this question there is a thought. I am not telling anything new here. It has been said by masters thousand times. What I am trying to say here is a very simple thing: you can think your thoughts, you can raise your questions and you can talk to yourself while you do something to listen to your inner voice. As you keep doing it slowly you forget you are on a treadmill, you are lifting weights or jogging and listening to music. You become an entity that functions on its own. That is the equilibrium of the universe to which your body and soul have been tuned to permanently but lost connection temporarily.
My idealism is that: harmonizing myself with the universe, leaving all thoughts aside and becoming a flowing river. You may ask whether I am preaching and trying to be a guru or something. I am not doing anything of that sort. This idealism is all about attaining that joy by doing anything that is required to be done in order to live a dignified life in this world. I do not think that I need to wear designer clothes to be different. But I do feel that even if you wear designer clothes that will not hold you back from becoming one with your own self. But the problem arises when you do all what you are required to do are directed towards attaining a status where you could afford and wear designer clothes. It is applicable to any consumer products in our lives. They are all there and are produced to be consumed. But the moment our life becomes an agency of consumption and all our activities are tuned in order to achieve this status of consumptions things change. All the woes of the world start from our activities to become a consumer.
Consumer is god, says the market. I would say consumer is a false god. Our world is filled with false gods created by religions. And today consumer products are new gods where we become devotees. At the shrine of the market place where we go to worship, they say that you are not just a devotee you are the god himself and you start believing in it. Market place is a short cut to spiritual satisfaction. Market is the religion where we pray to false gods of products. But seen against a series of religions that ask the people to kill each other for hegemony and power, even the false god of market is a welcoming change. This religion is more acceptable because the market do not ask the consumer to kill each other to become a member. But in the long run, when the false gods worship another set of false gods, it becomes a strange religion that eventually asks for the decimation of the fellow being.
My idealism stems from life practices. I do not take a holier than thou attitude here. May because of my upbringing I am more inclined to the common good than personal good. I think more about giving things ‘unto the last’ than obtaining it first for myself. And I understand the temporality and momentariness of events. Things take place, put people into prominence and pass. The next day in its place you see a different set of events, different people and that too pass. What remains is the person who undergoes all these. He/she too will pass but the memories inscribed or non-inscribed remain as history till they are found out and rearticulated. Some people say, having certain anachronistic idealism is a sort of irresponsible behavior. It is an escape route, they say. But for me, realizing one’s own self through greater focus and doing good and detached in certain ways is not an escape route. It demands responsibility.
The greatest lessons of my life are learnt on a day to day basis while I walk from a metro station to my work place and from another metro station to my home. I cross a border between two states (Delhi-Haryana) and it is exactly where I see people doing different things at different pace. There is a thriving market that sells eatables, snacks, fruits, clothes, liquor and so on. Poor people from villages come and squat there. All kinds of dealings take place in this stretch of a kilometer. Each night when I walk back and then get into a shared auto rickshaw, I see people and I feel it as the greatest pilgrimage I have ever done. I do not believe in the glitter and glamour of the profession that I am pursuing. But I believe in the people who work in this profession who are passionate about their land, people and their own lives. I believe in those artists who gain dignity for themselves and dignity for their fellow beings and their land. I don’t preach nationalism. But I do believe in a nation that has formed my thinking and my love for the world. Without this idealism I cannot function. I may be dubbed old, useless, dreamy, romantic, lazy, laid back, irresponsible, conventional, traditional, fundamental, retro-active and so on. But I am not worried because I am not the only one.