Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Death of an idealist

The other day we went home to see one of our neighbours forlornly sitting outside waiting for her family to come back to let her inside the house.

I do not know much about her – just the occasional smile in the foyer or elevator. She always appears to me like the archetype for the old socialist-journalist-rebel-evangelists – replete with loose male checked shirts and baggy ill-fitting trousers - right upto spectacles strung around the neck (the sort they used to depict in old arty movies).

S had told me once that he thought she and her husband were separated- which might be the case. At any rate it seems a strange sort of marriage – months pass before we see her interspersed with periods where she resides perfectly amicably with the family- albeit like a guest. Her school going children always have this slightly woebegone expression which lonely people wear- suffice to say it’s not your ordinary Mr and Mrs Kulkarni next-door-neighbour.

Anyways coming back to what I was saying - I invited her in till such time her family returned – the first time I ever spoke to her. She came in – after the initial warm up period she opened up. Turned out to be an exceedingly garrulous and opinionated person with ideas and views on pretty much everything – from the state of the building, to the proper way of collecting money for festivals, to disaster management, to the fact that she was going abroad for a year to study and had brought a flat in the building for an obscene amount of money on for no reason but sentiment (because the old owner who she idolized had died). Underlying the whole conversation was a core of absolute utter idealism such as one sees but rarely in today’s cynical age. This accompanied by the complete myopia of idealism - so caught up in the ideas and the thoughts of a better world that practicalities completely pass them by.

She stayed for almost two hours – kept on getting up to leave and would suddenly launch on to another pet peeve and continue for the next twenty minutes (I have to admit that after a long day at work, it was exceedingly taxing for both of us to politely listen - when all we actually wanted to do was eat dinner and unwind). After she finally went, the impression she left us with was someone who was completely passionate about the causes ( and people) she supported, verging on being eccentric, with few regards for social niceties and with a strong (if unexpected streak) of social snobbery.

So that was that we thought. But the next day another neighbour dropped by in the morning for some building work. She also sat down to talk and in the middle of her conversation emphatically said that the other lady was stark staring insane. A discomfited S, who was the recipient of this disclosure called me up to say that he felt like someone had told him that he had met a ghost the previous night. We discussed it for a while and wrote off the other lady (who had made this remark) as probably being a spiteful, vindictive neighbour.

A couple of days later – S happened to be talking to the idealist’s husband – he ALSO referred to his wife and accompanied it by tapping his head indicating that there was indeed some problem. (Which in retrospect was completely unforgivable of him – you don’t mockingly refer to your wife like that in front of a passing acquaintance)

We don’t know whether she indeed has disassociated herself from reality – or whether tragically, we live in a society where anyone who is an idealist is written off as insane.

If one thinks about it, the social crusades to change the world, passionate commitment to an ideology, getting fired up in the name of something – I wonder why we don’t see that anymore. Social consciousness if it exists – appears to be a more tepid version. Popular culture, television – one sees mobs yes, but they don’t’ seem to be mobs who want to make the world a better place (the opposite of that if at all).

The people who don’t crave for money and its trappings, or fame or power – how easy it is to write them off at best as anachronisms, misfits in a consumerist world or even people who have lost touch with reality- like our neighbour.

I look at myself – ten years I could call myself an idealist. I did have dreams of a better world. I did have a strong social consciousness. I did not worry about how and where money came from and went to. And I look at the change in myself and wonder. And I look at the change in the people around me and wonder some more.

I wonder whether collective idealism has finally been beaten out of us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pomes of wanderlust!

Goonda and I were doing some intense discussion on poetry and philosophy the other afternoon and we realized one shocking fact.
While there were reams and reams of word gushing from male poets on wanderlust and travel. There has been not even a whisper from any femmes. We decided to remedy this with our very own humble submission. (Mr. Yeats please don’t spin in your grave)

I will arise now and go and make some tea
And a small breakfast built of eggs and bread made
Nine baked beans will I have there and a hive for honey for the toast
And eat all this in some cozy tree-shade

And I shall have some juice there
For juice comes dripping slow
Dropping from the juicer into the tall big glass
Dripping after whales of effort
To where the bai groans

I will arise and go now
For always night and dayI hear sounds of the dhobi, milkman, maid
Banging on the door,
Or moping with low sounds by the floor

(P.S. I don't know why we butchered one of my all time favorite poems. Sigh. Nothing is sacrosanct any more)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Continued from here - ( since rediff has given up on me!)

All of last week has been chaotic – eighteen and twenty hour days and one memorable all-nighter at the agency.

This agency is located bang opposite a crematorium and if the people are to be believed, there is a spectral presence which haunts the ladies restroom.
During the night we spent there, it didn’t show its presence except for the fact that the AC in the conference room used to mysteriously be turned off every time the room was empty. The conclusion we drew therefore, was that it was an economical-minded ghost or someone with a low tolerance to cold (considering the way the damn room freezes, I am inclined to think it was the latter).

Strangely enough, my office (where I have also been working late) also has its own apparition – also in the ladies. (Apparently, the plot on which the buildings were built was an old gypsy burial ground). This lady haunts the last stall and consequently the plumbing never works (or so goes the myth).

One night I thought I would investigate – but when I went there, the place was in pitch darkness. So though I claim I don’t believe in ghosts, – I am not quite fool enough to be disproved (especially when I am the only person left in office)

Quite a curious coincidence I thought. That both the ghosts chose to favour the ladies room. So I did on online search and apparently it’s quite a common phenomenon across the globe – I saw articles of sightings in Japan, US, France.

So the question is why do lady ghosts like the ladies room?

Is it because the famed female narcissism spills over to the after life?
She-ghost: “Darling, do you think I am looking too pale and washed out today?”
He-ghost: “”

Is it because that’s where the most interesting gossip is swapped?

Is it because it provides the ideal balance of solitude and company?

Is it because they like to clean themselves?