There are a bunch of objects I possess that I love dearly.
Many years ago, I bought a light spring/fall jacket from my local TJMaxx. It’s made of cotton, and it weighs a ton. The color is a faded olive green, and the fit is slim, perfect. Needless to say, I adore it. Wearing it is a bit of a workout but I love it too much to mind that. Then, there is a brass mortar and pestle I got from my mother-in-law. It’s a sturdy piece of art that I use daily to crush ginger for morning chai. And then there is a faded olive green linen shirt I bought years ago. And so on…
People who love to to hate Marie Kondo often accuse her of asking them to throw away the objects they love. They couldn’t have got it more wrong, really. In fact, I think Marie Kondo and I may have something in common. I imagine that both of us love our objects dearly!
I love almost everything I have, and the stuff that I don’t love doesn’t stay with me very long. Nothing mystical or mysterious about it; I simply give it away. But I have also lost things that I love. A few years ago, our home was broken into. All my jewelry was taken, even the little fake baubles. Wedding gold jewelry sets given by Pratik’s parents and my paternal aunt, chunky Kundan jewelry I wore for the wedding reception, a delicate pavizham (red coral) earring and necklace set, and then other little bits and bobs that I can’t recall. Oddly enough, I was unaffected by the loss. I was thankful that we weren’t home when the break-in occurred. The jewelry was gone… ahh, that’s what it is. The parting or separation or “breaking away” was painless and complete; no traces were left behind.
I sometimes wonder if loving something deeply and fully is the only way to be free of it… Loving without a sense of ownership, or fear of loss, or notions of duty or obligation or association or affiliation.
Recently I wondered, are we truly capable of experiencing what the senses bring our way?
Because it seems that when we encounter a sensation—pleasant, unpleasant, neutral—the mind faculty steps in to intercept the pure feel of the experience. It then relates the sensation to a past experience, or a future expectation. Or, a scene from a book or film. Or, the mind itself is transported to a past time and place. So, a plate of sev puri takes you back to Andheri railway station, eating street side chaat. A whiff of petrichor brings to mind Kerala, monsoons, loneliness… or perhaps “Rimjhim gire saavan,” featuring a tall, lanky Amitabh Bachchan and a petite, adorable Moushmi Chatterjee. Or you are drawn back to your own youthful romance conducted along the Marine Drive promenade, tetrapods and lashing waves for company.
It doesn’t really matter what images flash across your mind, or where you are transported. You are someplace else, no longer here and now. The taste/touch/scent/sound/sight sensation is not important any more because its sole purpose appears to have been to act as a connector to an ever-expanding trove of memories, ideas, hopes, expectations, fears. And it makes a real proper mess with our idea of time because we are no longer sure… Am I dreaming of the past? Did this event actually occur? Or maybe I am day dreaming? Is this from a film I loved? Or is this something I wished for but it never really happened?Ahh, it is a lovely mess.
This tendency of referring back from an immediate sensation to a story, an idea, a familiar concept is an old habit. These stories and ideas stand in for the actual sensory experience, and what we are feeding off are the stories, not that steel tumbler of filter coffee at MTR, or plate of rajma chaaval from Guru Da Dhaba, or a youthful Aamir Khan crooning “Papa kehte hain…”
(And this is a powerful habit… hence the inability to see that Andaaz Apna Apna is a silly, bad movie!)
And this is also why we sometimes continue to eat foods we don’t really enjoy, or watch films featuring our once-favorite actors, or wear clothes that don’t fit (literally and metaphorically). Why? Because of the compelling stories attached. (And we don’t even derive any actual pleasure from these activities.)
If these stories vaporized, we’d see the experience for what it is, and we could have a spontaneous response to it . “Oh, this sambar is too spicy for me.” “Sonu Nigam has a lovely voice.” “Why do I drink tea twice a day? I don’t really like it.” “I adore wearing my black skinny jeans, I just do!”
And we’d also be able to see that we are truly dynamic beings who can savor and draw pleasure from a variety of experiences… Unlike what the stories might have us believe.
If I liken my life to a movie, then it has two separate “tracks.” Visual: Girl is born in Mumbai, girl goes to school, girl joins college, girl meets boy, girl and boy go to the movies, girl and boy meet up at a beach, girl marries boy, girl boards flight to ATL, and so on. Then there is the inner soundtrack. A mind that is making sense of the visuals, questioning, wondering, sifting through what-if scenarios, analyzing. And I realized early on that these two tracks were nearly 100% independent of each other, seemingly together, yet miles apart.
If I liken my life to the Ganga who unfolds merrily at her will, heeding no advice, fearing no dams or boulders, simply dancing down the mountains… no amount of rationalizing or discussing ever stopped her from following an unknown direction. And I guess that’s why I never actively directed my life, one way or another. (I often remark that the “decisions” in my life weren’t even decisions.) There is a clear recognition that the inner soundtrack can speak, consider, weigh, etc. all for its own sake. Not that it has ever been able to change Ganga’s direction. So, even as I wondered briefly, “Have a child?,” things didn’t proceed that way. (I went to grad school.) Even as I thought, “Go to MBA school?,” I turned down the admission and scholarship.
Not to imply that Ganga’s path is all roses. She travels through mucky places, ferrying dead bodies and plastic trash, along with fragrant flowers and lit lamps. I think my wisest “decision” thus far has been to not question Ganga. She knows where she is headed. So, the inner soundtrack has mostly fallen silent. Sometimes questions arise, and so do answers. They linger on for a bit, then disappear. There isn’t any kind of resolution, though.