Inside a darkroom, where paintings, a treadmill, a huge bed, a television set, cupboards and so many other little vignettes of the owner’s memories take different forms and shapes and in my feverish vision I see them moving from one place to another. Now a painting starts talking to the mute blind television set which has never been switched on by me or anybody. It resists the advancing of the painting with its coldness. The treadmill start running around the room, increasing the pace and it pants itself to halt after a few minutes. The red dots on the digital screen flash ‘fatigue’. Books start murmuring to each other; why doesn’t he pick us up and fondle us with care and love? The laptop screen turns itself on and calls out for my attention. Bullets and blood shower from the ceiling. Small pocket cartoons, strip cartoons, edit page cartoons fall like dead birds on the floor of my room. I hold myself together. Anger, grievance and condolences flood in the screen and my snow white bed spread turns red. I send out a silent scream. Nobody is there in the room. Maupassant and Saadat Manto discuss innocence and violence. I want to run out of this room, from fever and from my skin. But where to? Nowhere to turn and nowhere to run. So I lie down and watch the speeches of Rajiv Dixit in Youtube. A man finally got killed himself for being terribly truthful and right.
(Saadat Hasan Manto 1912-1955)
If dying for a cause is martyrdom, then each human being is a martyr. They die silently each day standing up for a cause and eating bullets of arrogance. A lonely man is a martyr. A man in the crowd is also a martyr. Somebody sitting in a cosy room is a martyr; one who lives a luxurious life is a martyr. Nobody is spared. Bullets are waiting for you. It is just the question of time. Between the bullets of arrogance and your head or chest there is only a thin line of your opinion. Once that is made clear, be sure you are in the firing line. Each person in the street reflects the frightened faces in Goya’s painting, Third of May 1808. We have become so used to the scenes of soldiers carrying heavy arms and today we are used to the scenes of pirates and fundamentalists similarly armed and hooded. They represent the two ends of the same ideology; supremacy for ideological power. One works for the system and the other wants to disrupt it in order to establish a new system. Which system is good? Nobody knows. A woman in burqa blurts out: I feel naked when I lift the hijab off from my face. Is she right or the one who wears skimpy clothes and protests that men pass lewd comments? Both of them are led by two different ideologies and we should know both are right. If both are right how one right could be more right than the other? Why our god is better than your god?
(Wanderer Above the sea of Clouds- painting by Casper David Frederich)
That’s why I like lonely people; they are loners because they have accepted the rights and wrongs of others and they do not want to argue and establish the supremacy of his own thinking. His silence itself is a form of resistance from getting affected by the rights and wrongs of others. He has his rights and his wrongs but he does not want to impose it on others. So he remains aloof, letting others go ahead. If everyone could do this then this world would become very beautiful and worth living. You may argue that such a world will be very boring; a world without conflicts and full of boring lonely people. No, loneliness does not express boredom or antisocial behaviour. It is a form of solitude which is poetic. In these moments of aloneness one could imagine oneself as a dancer, singer, actor, scientist, artist and what not? One could perform one’s own talents before an imaginary audience that does not judge or mock. You do not even need applauses. You just need to show off, display and flaunt what you have; so fulfilling. Terrorism happens when we start judging others. In domestic front, in love affairs, in world affairs, this judgement has created terrorism. You argue to win and it is terrorism; persuasion is another form of terrorism. You can spill blood by making somebody blush, said Levinas.
(Take me where I belong- painting by Shibu Natesan)
That’s why I felt so much of happiness when I saw a young man doing his contemporary dance steps at a deserted railway platform. I was in a train heading towards south and he was waiting for a train going towards north. This was an empty station as it is located near the administrative blocks of the city. After seven o clock in the evening, hardly people come to this station to board trains. This boy was looking like an apparition with a sling bag on his shoulders and he was making his graceful steps as if he was holding a beautiful dame close to him and making dance movements together. Or was he enjoying his steps alone or was he anticipating the people in the other train in which I was standing and watching him to appreciate him? Or was he imagining some girls in our train and wanted to leave a mark in their minds? Was he imparting a sense of wonderment to us? May be or may be not. But a person like me still lives with that moment of his dance movements in a lonely station. There is no competition, there are no spot lights and there are no judges. Those are just a few steps that spill out from his limbs as he could not contain the happiness surging in him. There is no terror in a lonely dancer and there is no terrorism in creativity.
(One of the Delhi Metro trains)
I stand in another station in south and wait for a train to my destination. I see, to my surprise, a new train coming to my vision. The dull silver grey of the metro train has gone now it looks pure white and I see a lot of girls standing there, slightly larger than life. The windows, doors and the glass panes over them are not left. Everything is covered with one long envelope of white. It is an advertisement, I realize. But the train looks cute and I cannot stop smiling at the train. The train looks like a little creature who has got a new coat. The underground tunnels where the metro runs now turn into a wonderland where this happy new creature chugs around. There are small little things in our lives that bring smile on to our faces. We have seen trains of Indian Railway completely covered by some sort of weird painting. I look around for an explanation. One can understand that train could be covered with pictures either as a part of beautification or as part of revenue generation through advertisement. But this train looks really ugly. This looks like a politician has done some painting and that has been digitally multiplied and pasted all over the train. But then I could only look at that train with sympathy. It looks like a school child in ill fitting gaudy clothes amongst a host of kids wearing proper uniform. I need not go out and torch the train to right that wrong. May be many people are happy with it.
(Chilli plant - for representational purpose only)
A conflict free world could be generated if you are lonely and meditative. Loneliness and meditation do not have anything to do with recess, holidaying, spiritual retreat, going to hills, sea sides, visiting churches, temples, gurus, yoga teachers and so on. To be lonely and also in meditative mood, one need not do anything particularly. One could be in kitchen, one could be in classroom, one could be in a laboratory or one could be in a studio, one could be climbing rocks, one could be playing cricket, one could be toiling in mines or one could be making garlands, one could sweating out in a farm and one could be sweating it out in a gym; one could be pushing pen on files while one could be sitting and reading in library; whatever you do you just need to do that because that is your choice. But you could do one thing, a simple thing; you can just stop comparing and judging. The moment you start compare and judge the conflict starts. You are beautiful but the moment you want to be more beautiful, conflict starts. Your clothes are already good, but you want to dress up better than someone else, conflict starts. I am not advocating the idea of curtailing aspiration. Aspiration should be there but it should not be in comparison with the other. Your desire should be the desire to be best in you not in comparison with others or other things. The creator has created us differently. Ideology homogenises us. There is a compromise between the two and that is the survival in an all time evolving society. We make constant adjustments to survive but there too one could be absolutely comparison free. In the given context we could be less judgemental. Besides, we could change the context from within the closet contexts. Let me tell you, you cannot make a huge estate of vegetable plantation more productive unless you employ artificial modes of nurturing and tending. But you can keep your kitchen garden pesticide and fertilizer free because you could use your kitchen waste to make your own manure and pesticide. If not you could derive happiness from seeing the small little white, red and green chillies or tomatoes sprouting out of the plants that you have grown at your kitchen window sill. Do you want your tomatoes or chillies bigger than your neighbours?