To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Monday, May 26, 2014

Returned from Mangalore after a short trip. This time has been the longest time since I have been away from Mangalore—more than 4 yrs. I get or feel like I get some sort of withdrawal symptoms when I am away from Mangalore for too long. Probably the trips to Bangalore in between compensated in some portion for my longing of the air and earth and song of the language. Funnily, Mangalore itself has changed so very much that I didn’t see that much of a difference between the two cities—at least landscape wise. Gone were the long patches of greenery till the eye could see, gone were the kutcha roads winding down fields and rivers, gone were the Mangalore-tiled homes replaced with fancy terraced houses and flats, gone were simple lifestyles and fish/rice replaced with cars, ACs, dish TVs and Chinese takeaways, all of which made me realise life in Mangalore today is probably just a carbon copy of life in Bombay, at least in its aspirations if not in fulfilment.
Maybe as cities spread their borders, Mangalores are bound to disappear, replaced by mass towns dotted by the Big Bazaars and KFCs and other symbols of sameness. And who can blame the inhabitants? They have as much of a right to buy into these modern lives as we do. They do not owe it to us to let time pass them by so that we get to enjoy relics of an other past while not wanting to let go of our citified selves. It seems selfish to me to not let them have their choice. So, Mangalore has changed—maybe it’s time my expectations from it changed too…

The thing that being in Mangalore’s quiet sereneness, almost like a calm night sky, does to me is make me wonder if leading a hustle-bustle life like we do in Bombay with not a moment to stand and stare (and nothing worth staring at except naked posteriors doing their thing on the railway track in the early morning), but coming back to my point, it makes me wonder if this is a ‘good’ life? Now, of course, the word ‘good’ itself is problematic because it calls into question definitions and all that, as any good philosopher will tell you. What I simply mean is—would it make me look back in satisfaction when I am say 60 and say to myself, “there, that was a life well lived”. It’s like running a marathon all the time and at the finishing line, you may have acquired a lot of material stuff, maybe even intellectual satisfaction, but is the running all the time worth it? What about emotional fulfilment, spiritual growth…?  Wouldn’t that demand time to rebalance yourself, centre your energies, pause, make way …which you cannot do if you are running AND want to win…which most of us do?

Mangalore gives me no answers but it sure makes me ponder a lot of equations—especially the choice between stillness and speed. Makes me ask why speed, why not slow down, why not rest, why not watch the birds fly, leaves flutter, rain dance? …before I can find answers, I am back to running the marathon again, and where’s the time to think?

Talking about being still, notice how youngsters these days are almost afraid of being still or being in a quiet place? I remember our electricity going off in Bombay many months ago (very rare indeed this phenomenon here, which is like a daily bath back in Mangalore), yes, so when this electricity vanished and we were left in the dark with no television, no light, no sound, I found it a nice feeling. A little bit of quiet in a city like this is not an everyday relish. But I noticed many others found it very disturbing. They did not know what to do with themselves. They fiddled with the phone, complained about the heat, the lack of TV, the bad power company… even half hour of this quiet seemed to stifle them…and when the electricity was back, I could hear collective sighs of relief. When my cousins in Mangalore asked me if I’d like to watch TV, and I said no, they asked me what would I like to do then. They couldn’t very well decide what kind of a weirdo I was when I told them simply that I’d like to just sit and watch the lovely scenery outside. I notice this need for a continuous supply of superficial diversion among kids and young people both in Bombay and fact, I never cease to be surprised to see some people watching TV while playing a video game on their phones! Quietness, meaning, depth, reality… there is some sort of desire to lose our real selves and immerse into some sort of virtual world where there is excitement at every click of the button or remote. Even the camera to me sometimes seems like a diversion that people are more comfortable having around when faced with beauty. It’s like they don’t know or can’t grasp how to appreciate the living beauty with the senses, but the noise of click, upload, share, comment, and should I add, “show off”, now that’s familiar territory… everyday electricity.