Staring at the ceiling

May 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

If I was one of those wild willed, feet running, ye-ywah-ywapadido sort of guy, I might be hungover right now. But as it stands, the fish named Fish, is surely having a better time of it. Calling a fish, a Fish is odd eh? But then, I’m sure nobody called the first fish, Bob, Marley, Dylan, Wolmer or for that matter Kartick.

The first fish, was surely a boring little thing, which did not have a name given it to by humans. And the reason why it didn’t have a fancy human name was,  there were no humans around to do so.  And for that matter, there wasn’t a he-who-must-not-be-named around as well. When the sun rose, there was light. When the big fish ate the smaller fish, when the smaller fish had already eaten the remains of another big fish, courtesy a bigger fish being a messy eater like a toddler, the cycle of life wasn’t manufactured by men with fat bellies and set to tunes. It was just generally how things happened, or at least must have happened.

One cannot be sure, you see. How do you know what actually happened? Through books, through others, through google? Or did someone post a Facebook meme about it?  If you had been there and done that, the proof of the event is the headache that follows. If you hadn’t been there, the proof of the volcano are those beautiful jaw dropping sunsets. But apart from such silly logical links that can be harried and wedded into a neat little, on the rocks, waves crashing long exposure, there isn’t much to tell something actually happened.

There’s plenty of scope to exploit this. A suggestive nod about how a truck might bump into you, or the fact that XYZ slept with ZYX, and ABC was very upset because ABC was something of XYZ and HIJ was something  to ZYX, gets us. If I had added names, you would read on, curiously, for hints, anything to tell you more about the morals which were summarily quartered and pickled after being left out to dry in the sun for a few days. But not using names, gives you nothing of it, because you don’t have a point of reference, something to link you to the plot. A clever story teller uses a few common names, if they want to be snappy or sets of characters who have something similar to you or people you know and then goes on to throw them on a bear skinned or tiger skinned carpet, and generally engaging in very interesting hanky-panky.

One  has (or since I have conveniently chosen to act like the all knowing whatsitsname here, you have)  no clue what’s happening or what happened or what will happen. In the world of finance, they call this uncertainty, which in the world of Noddy would just mean make way for Noddy because he’s bringing in Big Ears, to solve the whole hungama. The only reason you do know something is because there was a boy named something who told you that bad bad word, which all the adults used, but wouldn’t appreciate you using it.

Those words, that little knowledge of a few sounds strung together, puts a link to the whole adult world. The fact that you need to be an adult, makes it more special, because you do want to be an adult. Not a teenager, not a big kid, but an adult.

Why not all those big fat books, which we read to become doctors and scientists, why is it that they don’t tell us as much as that wonderful four letter word?  The only reason you remember how the heart functions is not because you had large beautiful diagrams but because someone explained it to you as a process. The only reason you remember mythology is because your grandpa told you those stories with a personalized narrative. It doesn’t matter if you believed in it or not, it was special, something told specially to you.

There are times when one reads, where we are lost for a voice, a point of reference. Take a moment and imagine a HUGE ocean, an endless ocean. Can you see your brain scanning for a reference point? Or do you see it throwing known imagines of an endless ocean acquired through films or NatGeo in there?

Well, let’s try that again; there was a fish, in a vast endless ocean. What do you see now? In a vast endless ocean, there was a fish. Did you zoom into our friendly fish with a single horn, on which a rope can be thrown? Now all you have is a vast endless ocean, where does the fish steer you? Not to the super market or Mcdonald’s for a burger, it steers you to safety, we are told. And safety is the lack of bodily harm and not a bowl of fries and a big glass of your favorite soft drink. No one thinks about the mental agony of having to watch water, water everywhere(unless you are held up by an Ancient Mariner.) Just think about how you felt the first time you heard the story of Matsya or Noah.

Not much of a connect is there, right? Because you never knew a vast endless ocean and neither did you know the variously bodily harms that the fish steered the world in a big boat away from. To you, safety was something else and not as generally defined by the world. You just didn’t get it. So over a period of time, you find your way through, are told various things and slowly being the wild-eyed super clever race we are, you get to know a lot of things.

Think of the tiniest thing you know. Now cut that into half. Cut that into half. Cut that into half, as well. You couldn’t do that right? Anyway, moving on, send those two things running around a tunnel of about 27 kms or so in diameter and then BANG! What did you see?

Not much? Now if I showed you a video of the big bang and how Earth and its life, miraculously was just there created by he-who-should-not-be-named, and then if I were to tell you that that happened after these two tinier than the tiniest of tiniest things crashed, whether you got it or not, you will construct an image out of it. A lovely movie, moving slowly, showing the tiniest things spinning, curling, like a baseball pitch or a cricket ball or a marble and then, bang! And suddenly, your brain zooms out and the whole big bang is there. And a second later, you on Earth with no more dodos. What if I someone told you the entire thing took a few billion years and there probably isn’t that he-who-should-not-be-named? It seems possible if you lived in a city where a pile of rubbish is removed after He-who-must-not-be-named-knows-how-long. What if I told you it happened in a matter of two thousand years?

Still possible, because you are in a world Buggati Veyrons and Little Boys. Who the hell is right?

Your accountant tells you to invest in a house or in certain funds or do such and such a thing and you do it. Your doctor tells you to take a few pills for something and you do. Your lawyer tells you to bring cash, you do it. The reason why you trust these people is because there is a basis, an understanding, a point of reference, created by a very complicated process. No one chooses a professional without a reference, if we can help it and when we haven’t chosen them, we don’t trust them entirely. The problem is that though every lawyer knows the law and has read the same thing, each one presupposes and has a very different understanding. The successful ones not only have the recipe, they also instinctively know when to add what.

What sets apart your  uncle who cracks jokes and  Douglas Adams is that Adams knew how to set out a point of reference and take it from there. To me, Adams is funnier than Wodehouse, because the idea of a street smart butler with common sense to go in tow is not as exciting as Bebblebrox or rats running the show. We all have our own little Babel fish, translating the world into whatever goes into our tiny heads. There is no need for a complex alien language, there is no need for detailed settings;  you will believe it, if something happens to something you already know.

Harry was a boy living under the cupboard and he receives a letter. Moon face lived close to the clouds. Above the clouds was topsy-turvy land. In each case, there was no need for you to know where the devil was the wall or who was Jon Snow. You jump into a world through the cupboard and you are a king.

Chick lit sells. Pulp fiction sells. They rake in more money and are more widely read than literary fiction or poetry. Literary fiction tend to be filled with details, emotions, what not, this and that, and not simple people who worry if XYZ is sleeping with ZYX. It doesn’t take much of an effort to relate to that sort of thing. You might not have a vocabulary as fancy and varied as Milton. But you do know, what’s the internet, what’s a television, what’s a watch and such everyday objects. Chick lit can be good too. If you are into that sort of thing. Like how mathematics is fun, if you knew the language.

Right, so we have established that the way you think and what you know is completely different from what Marvin the paranoid android knows and that married couples start looking like each other. If you have read the entire post till now, you know where this is going- two paras from now, a guy with a funny mustache shall  meet a man carrying a stick, who will tell him to peace out. A man with a big beard shall tell a boy with a stick in his hand about how he can kill the world’s biggest problem by uttering a few silly words.

Or should it go like that? Should every toast be buttered and jammed and for that matter be toasted?

A guy named James jumped high and slammed the ball into the basket and did not protect his son from the evil guy. A certain Maria did not run around borders teaching  music to kids, rather she whacked the ball with a big grunt and what followed was an applause, accolades and  titles, not a song of farewell.

When we can reconcile those facts, why is that we cannot put together a world of big bird and people or say, theists and atheists? To me, sitting in a city that is boiling hot, cold reason seems such a nice idea, while for the native speakers of this language, cold is everything that is wrong. Ice came to this city through ships from the U.S.  While that’s a fact which is not of any use to most people, (unless you are a history student or an avid quizzer) there are other things which do matter. As time moves on, we forget the history, the origin of all that. Partly because that isn’t real and/or relevant to you.

The stars were always there. And we know much more now than we did when that ray of light started, all those light years ago. In fact we didn’t exist when that light ray started from the quasars. But to someone who doesn’t know about quasars or hasn’t learnt about light years and space and milkyway, the sky is still fascinating in a different way. The narrative that follows from there is unique which is worth hearing as well. Like listening to music in a language you do not understand.

It is quite tempting to fall into traditional metaphors and say life is a mumbo-jumbo and say life’s all about cutting off your thumb for your teacher. But to pull out a certain sample from this great big melange and use it to summarize fiction and reality, culture and what not, is a coping mechanism. While that is fine in itself and much needed to get through drinking tea out of paper cups while staring at computer screens, there is a point where a conscious thought should be one where things just flow without a judgement. Maybe like how Murakami puts a moon next to the one that is already there. Maybe like how everything that’s happening over so many eras is just a Brahma day; but the need for concrete and taming, never allows it.

(Un)Fortunately we don’t live in Neverland and we act based on our needs and will. The complex webs we spin ourselves into is furious enough to keep us on your heels for many life times to come(if that’s what you prefer; more Monday mornings, anyone?) We try to wrap and to an extent do wrap a couple of rounds of the sticky stuff around everything that comes into our world. Every now and then some oil spills and a light shines through it, making our jaws drop, but most often than not, the sunrise just happened, and the concrete doesn’t breathe but just holds all those lives within.

Maybe it would be worth breaking the shackles of our conditioned world and staring right at all that which we ever refused to stare at. That way, the ceiling might move away leaving a whole wide world to stare at, a whole UNIVERSE.  


And As Shelley says,

“look upon ye mighty and despair.”


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