Saturday, November 11, 2006
Lorena is a research scholar in anthropology from New Zealand. For her doctoral thesis, she is looking at "hope" in the context of women in Calcutta's slums who are working for improvements.
In an exchange with her, I had written:
Basically, my exposure to the lives of the poor and my own experience - leaves me utterly devoid of hope. I know I shall not see any major improvement in my lifetime. In the very ugly, obscene reality I see around me, I have no desire to stay alive. However, that does not translate into wanting to take my life! There is however a constant urge to either detach completely from everything, like a reclusive hermit; or descend into vengeful violent actions ...
There's an (Urdu) poem by the great Urdu poet of Southasia, Faiz Ahmed Faiz called "See the city from here". The poet talks about the ugly underbelly of the city, of exploitation, suffering, injustice. He says that once you've seen that, all the charms and beauties of the city do not appear so charming and beautiful any more, instead they take on an ugly hue.
Something like that happened with me. Though I could perhaps be comfortable and gleeful with my own life circumstances, that simply isn't possible any more, its as if I'm infected by the reality, cursed ...
Concern for the poor, awareness regarding the poor etc - is one thing. That still presumes a distance and a difference, between oneself, and the other. But its another thing altogether to be afflicted, to suffer like the other! Then one is reduced to silence. Thankfully, the poor do not suffer as much as one might imagine. They are hardy, they are habituated to their circumstances.
I had written a poem some years ago, which included these lines:
"Oh, how insubstantial the despair
Of those who rise to great depths!"
"Sad indeed is the care-freedom
Of the life that is entirely deprived!"
Samuel Beckett had written:
"Where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."
(L'Innommable, or The Unnamable)
Whether one likes it or not, one is bound, to go on. And in this going on, small things give small satisfactions. One also occasionally reflects and sees that some things are in fact accomplished, howsoever invisible and subtle, an advance is made in a certain direction. Sometimes, though increasingly infrequently, one has an overwhelming, euphoric sense of the meaning of it all, and a contentment.
That makes one go on, regardless of the bleak harsh reality.