Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A conversation with Hemi Rawat

Last night, I stayed up till four in the morning. By the time I returned to bed, my eyes were heavy and I felt sleep crawling back. It made a quiet, incipient entry through the rear. I felt like I had both lost and gained something crucial. Something I couldn’t quite define, but definitely something indispensable. Perhaps something on which a lot of my ways, my traits and thoughts are incumbent. It’s difficult to say clearly what it was that emerged from that conversation – but something indispensable certainly did. It felt like a conversation about several things, a brush-stroke encompassing all of the canvas available, bludgeoning all the little white spaces spared. It felt like it was about everything, in a way. Ultimately, now I can’t even recall it properly. There is a sudden amnesia that afflicts people who want to remember important details of conversations like these. They cannot do it, details get obfuscated in the larger canvas, and all the little white spaces overcrowd the surface in their absence.

What did he really mean? The conversation started with Zeitgiest, a movie I had asked him to see. I recall suggesting it to him. I have a way of suggesting things that I especially like to people, that tends to back-fire with alarming frequency. To him too, I perhaps overstretched my point. I launched into a long panegyric about the movie, and tried to clearly tell him all the details in a convincing manner, gesticulating now and again, using my hands once in a while. I kind of generalized a little bit, gave him the larger picture and shoved in forcefully the central details. I know I did it a bit too unequivocally, like I was entirely prepared to annihilate any other point of view. Why would I do that? I don’t know – I have a strange tendency to do these things without the slightly bit of shyness. The strangest thing is I don’t even know if I know for certain I can surely guarantee the veracity of some of the facts. I probably can’t. Something about a new idea, however, gets me really going – almost in a propagandist kind of way. I get garrulous when I know that other people aren’t familiar with the idea of some story. It gives me a sense of wanting of legitimize my own version of it, or at the very least my point of view on it. The same, although, less dramatically, applied to this case as well, and Zeitgiest I unflinchingly put before him.

Last night, he said, albeit a little hesitatingly and bashfully, that he wanted to say something about the movie to me later. I didn’t know what it would be about. I tend to assume the least. I like sticking to the most innocuous explanation and leaving things that way. It provides a little bit of assurance, mostly when such is needed, not in the daily interactions that you have, but in the bigger, perhaps professional problems you encounter. I thought he might have something to say about his own take on religion, a topic discussed speciously in the first part of the film. I don’t have a problem with specious information. I know it can be misleading, but I progress with as much alacrity, and later, it does not turn me into a mind-fucked midget, but someone simply with a larger compass of vision. After dinner, I left the thought at that and didn’t consider it again.

Back in his flat, the question came up again. I was eating some delicious fish and was too engrossed with the eating to notice any impending crisis-point. I would refrain from calling it a crisis. It was a conversation. I thought about other things all the while, tried in my mind to work out some of the things I needed to do the next day, some plans I needed to execute, some food I needed to buy, some timings I needed to settle – all things indispensable to planning. I thought them through and then turned to the conversation at hand. Perhaps I was listening only fleetingly earlier. I wanted to savour the fish. I can’t dissipate my concentration whilst eating. If I try and recall what sparked the discussion, I will be inaccurate. But it was something about journalism. About journalistic writing and the kind of effect it has on the world that reads it. I thought about that for a while, but soon, it veered to the movie again.

How gullible are we as human beings? Extremely gullible, a little gullible, not at all, perfectly intransigent? The movie discussed several things and frankly, when I watched it, I thought it admissible. Admissible is different from legitimate. That was the crucial gap in our points of view last night. It was the technical chasm that lay between the endorsement of something, which he presumed me to be responsible for, and the admission of something. I had only admitted the idea, but could not put it across then. In fact, as I write this, I am startled by the comparative clarity of the situation. Last night, I was babbling nonsense and I could not have been more unconvincing and incongruous. He said that a lot of the facts were misleading, a lot of the research not consistent. I did agree it was inconsistent. However, it is difficult for me to accuse anyone of inconsistency until I have accomplished something similar myself. But that in itself is not a consistent way of looking at the world. There is not enough time to prove everything yourself. He said that the movie packed in a lot of details that confused each other and thwarted each other and left a lot of the story vacillating between conviction and incomprehension. I didn’t agree with that – it was coherent – coherent when I watched it and even now that I try and recall it. He said that it packaged itself so irresistibly that it convinced everyone merely by means of its flashiness and its inarguable sharpness. That I could believe.

What is the truth? When you think about yourself and the universe that surrounds you, you know that you will have very little coherence in your interaction with, for instance, aliens if they do happen to drop by and demand some synoptic kind of de-briefing. What would you say? Firstly, you would be very disorientated by the sudden break down and demise of all your presumptions about life. You are not alone in the universe. Here are creatures come to meet you from somewhere incomprehensible to you. Would you tell them about the many phone calls you have made, the many poems you have read and written, the interminable conversations you have on facebook.com if they ask you what your life means to you? What would you say then? I know I would be lost. Lost in a stranglehold of many daily events and little meaning.

Is everything virtual reality? What if all that means anything to us is a virtual concoction of uplifting energies? What if all poetry is designed to take you into another world and leave you stranded? If not by design, what it all literature does it by default? Would you still be as comforted by your dependence on it? In the daily needs and rituals of your waking hours, all the little things that you do, all the little duties you perform and indulgences you have, you have entered into an enclosed reality lived virtually? It is a simple matter. Nothing extraordinary. Think of all the relationships you conduct on the telephone. All the closeness you have taken care to build with people, all the moments you have lived through phone calls and messages. To think that they are all simply simulations of actual presences, but not those presences themselves, is to know that they belong to the world of virtual realities. They are made of the stuff of imagined lives in imagined closeness.

The sun was out at four in the morning and we moved to the veranda. We stood there for a while and looked at the growing glow around us. The day was almost beginning. It was beautiful. The trees looked young and ready and the street-lights stood you starkly against a new-born day. The veranda caught some of the sports-complex behind it and it jutted out through the trees in the distance. I thought about the trees and I thought about the dashing blue in the sky, cloudless and unhesitant. It didn’t know about virtual realities. It just existed, blue and fresh and renewed each morning. I felt everything coming back to me. All the mornings I spent in class four, waiting up till five in the morning when the busses going home would be parked outside the WMH. I thought of all the nights I spent thinking about home in the breathtaking final hours before the holidays. All the nights I stayed awake, anticipating the next morning; the long, smelly and tiring journey back to the city. I remembered the overwhelming desire to see the sun first in the morning. I remember the little things we invented to doggedly not feel drowsy, all the little conversations some of us - Navid, Raghav, Debarghya, Pratik, Gautam and I - would start and prolong – all because we could not sleep, waiting to see the morning as it sprang up on our stationary buses, waiting to carry us home.

That morning on the verandah in his flat, it all came back to me.

But I could not tell anyone because it was my solitary past – a past I shared with long-gone people - people somewhere obscured in the little details of time, place and different life-courses. A secret past of waiting that only the trees behind Manas will recall.

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