Monday, 16 May 2011

Dear you

“Don’t ever give up on your dreams because when you do I give up too”.

I can never forget these words. At times when I feel like giving up, and this is most of the times, I remember first the look you gave me when you said these words and secondly I reflect on these words. No words have had greater impact on my life; no person has ever been more influential in my life.

When I met you, and the day is clear and dear to me, I never for once thought that would be the day that defines my life. One morning, in Morningside “Waldorf” it begun, so much has changed in Morningside, much more has changed between us. Before you I was fleeting, impetuous and vain and after you, solid, determined and resourceful.

With you I experienced the worst of life and the best of life, in both, never once did you abandon me.

I would wake up in fits in the middle of the night, from a nightmare that scared me whole. You would first calm me down and then pray for me, in an instant the ghosts went away. I thought of you dearly in Oyster Bay, when the ghosts returned and by myself I coiled. Safe is he with a woman that prays.

I remember our long walks along “Narrow” street-right through to St Kathine’s dock, as you patiently heard every thought in my head. I was broad and rabid in all my ideas and how I formulated everything. You would indulge me, chide me and hold my hand (even though I resisted this gesture) and urge me to go on.

I read Bill and you read Hillary, we had our political argument at 3am before switching books and by breakfast we both agreed it was Hillary with the plan. I wrote on numerous treatises, and you faithfully edited my work. My thoughts then, were rumblings of a scattered head, but iron sharpens iron. Dearly, my treatises are sharper now.

We became “major”, our lives’ sound track always on repeat. Kanye and Nas spitting about the move from local to major. Each verse we revisited as if to convince each other that one day we would build our very own MOtown. You were my hommie, my buddy!

Remember our studio apartment, the match box we shared, on one side were a monastery and the other side Le bon Marche. Celestial versus decadence, and we were in the middle of all this. We could hardly afford this part of 6th, but you insisted we had to experience all that is Rue Babylon.

And Parisian you were, the first thing you bought was a pair of Jimmy Choo 6 inches. With all I had I bought you a chemise/blouse from your favourite shop for your birthday. Really, it was all the money I had but I knew how important the day meant to you- and of course the blouse. That day you lit up like a shooting star, giggled like a child and your hug said it all. In your eyes I was a Superstar!

In the same eyes, you cried tears that never ended. I would pain you deeply and all you could do was cry. I never want to open flood gates like that, ever again. I hurt you badly, betrayed your trust but even when we were apart the way you saw me never changed. I was still a Superstar. That, and only that drove me. I wanted to make you proud; it meant the world to me to see you proud of me, even though time had come for us to take different paths.

Years later, I still want to make you proud. I know you are far away from me, the furthest any two worlds can possibly be. And I wish you every bit of happiness, happiness I know is the running stream in your life. I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in me. Don’t ever stop believing in people. Only you, do it best. I really wish you were here to see what I have become. Will you be proud of me? I wonder........

You sowed the seed and watered the plant. Perhaps we met at such a season where only I was to gain and you were to pain. I wish now, I would pain and you to gain. But such is life, life I hold on to dearly now and hope I have the endowment to bring joy to another, to inspire and truly believe!

Thank you

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Confessions of a thirty-something year old

Once, as a child I fell into a pit and for a long time could not get out. It was pitiful. All along basketball was the only thing I was good at, I dithered in education, my syllables lacked the personality that language should have and I had no social sensibilities. Only in shooting hoops was I best. Until one day, playing with a rival school I was fouled out in the first two minutes. An inventive ploy to upstage my team, of course without me the team lost. In disgust, disgust shared all round, I protested and got into a fierce back and forth with the teacher from the rival school. Here, a little boy of not more than 10 argued vehemently and unearthed the ploy the adult had invented. To my dismay, my own teacher and coach took me away and gave me a spanking, right there in front of everyone.

 My crime was simple, I had disrespected an Adult. I cried, and with every tear the passion for basketball went. Like that I faded into a nobody, became a recluse and hated every teacher I came across. Not until years later during the penultimate year of high school did I enjoy my first lesson. Perhaps I had gotten tired of the self pity or indeed I had found a teacher who understood my troubled mind. I learnt, in careful observation the ways of my favourite head teacher, his wisdom interred in the nature of his tools. A chalk and a rod he made his plea to the class. In the chalk we gained, in the rod we scarred. 

In my teenage years, I was the perfect icon in a perfect fantasy, I was Batman. That is how I saw myself, a hero with a costume out to save Gotham. Teenagers are prone to such multi-personalities dabbling between the real and the ephemeral. Like Batman, I too had a side kick, my Robin was my best friend and high school was the playground. I too had an unattainable Rachel. I remember well she was the best looking creature I had ever seen. She was prone to and glad in every contest that paraded beauty. I called her dimples, on obvious account. We actually never dated but were totally enamoured with each other. We did write to each other, letters I still have all signed Dimples forever. Forever, a little over a decade later is married with kids.

In my twenties, I prickled the bubble-Batman was too much of a cartoon character perhaps apt for a teenage hero but certainly not for a young adult. Batman represents the oscillation that young boys have between the real world and the world they aspire to be in, the plays of dreams and the mundane. Unable to confront bullies, rivals and adults in their real life they create mendacious caricatures like the “Joker” whom they cannot confront but find the courage under the guise of a super human being. Only in their fantasies can they confront their fears.

The manly hero for a guy in his twenties has to perform heroic and gallant acts, must be a cross between a man’s man and a ladies’ man and a lot sterner in his cockiness than a dry martini. He must be able to save the world-indeed that is his mission, he must have a code name (nothing cooler), be accosted in fancy sophisticated gadgetry, and with no sidekicks; the answer is James Bond. My twenties were spent as James Bond, I travelled the world on the benevolence of a Boss (with all the grumpiness of M). Like James, I was good at what I did, like James I was not ready for commitment. I played the field and had dalliances with the old and young, the beautiful and bold, Caucasian, Nubian and those in-between. On occasions when I settled, I settled for the wrong ones or was blithely betrayed- just like the 007.

It is from this vantage point I see my existential childhood and decades later I try to make sense of my current existence. What is obvious about a man who is thirty-something? I turn to literature for inspiration. The ladies would like to believe it is Mr Darcy, the charming fellow from Pride and Prejudice. I wish to dissuade such minds, Darcy was only eight and twenty courting a one and twenty lass. Thus all things Darcy are twenty something- albeit with a mature hand. Ms Austen perhaps considered this age to be the age of romance and marriage, 200 years later this is very much apparent and prevalent. It is Charles Dickens who persuades profoundly in the tale of two cities; it is there we find the time capsule of a thirty something;

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope it was the winter of despair.

My teacher’s chalk and rod, and Dickens best and worst reveal my life as a thirty something. I lived in both cities, in Paris I gained all fashion and cultural sensibilities and in London I became all Libertarian. How ironic, during Dickens tale, Paris was the source of Libertarian ideals and London the bustling cultural hub.  As a Parisian my chiffon scarf laden with charms from Hérmes became my Je ne se qui as I fostered and permeated an aesthetics culture. Yet Paris’s hedonism, socialism and its entire ism’s were the epoch of my disbelief. In London I straddled the incredulity in the frontiers of finance, I watched as stock prices soured and then tumble to thud. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

The day one turns thirty is the day all randomness ends. Of course life was never random, but somehow one was easily swayed into such a belief. The clarion shouts of “whatever will be, will be” quietening to reflective slurs of “whatever shall become of me?”  

The evolution of man is such that with each decade the best is drawn out of him and at each stance in the music of life he faces his worst fears. As a teenager he is not confident enough to face his fears or strive for what is best, the mental and the will power lack, except in his dreams. A decade later perhaps through daring acts, or as a reward to schooling accomplishment he is recruited by the MAN. The Man makes him an agent, to what ends he does not question, he does another man’s bidding.

 A decade later he recognises that no matter what he does, the seasons of life are part of existence. He cannot run away from these, he must make the best of summer and prepare for the worst of winter. Therein, the difference between the magnificent from the insignificant!

But he is still a hero nonetheless, albeit with no super human powers. At least he has the potential. The difference is the realisation that to be a hero requires neither super natural abilities nor a licence to kill. Every man has in him the ability and wherewithal to cast wide his reach and achieve. One need not have a boss; a man is his own Boss.

I find Thomas crown, as played by Steve Macqueen (in the Thomas crown affair of 1968) as the quintessential gentleman of thirty something. Thomas crown is a multi-millionaire of a rip age of 36, divorced and lives in Boston, in a 3 storey, 150 year old house with an elevator and a man servant at his call.

Mr Crown is his own man in every sense, from his business, fashion sense, opinions and all manner of discretions. As a divorced thirty something, we reveal the scars of life but inert is still the thrill of life. He outwits his contemporaries and boredom ensnares him to plot a heist. Reminding us a man is not composed of sonnets and odes of the ecclesiastical goodness, he lives with an evil side as well.

I cannot but think about the head teacher with chalk and rod who impressed upon me Victorian treatise. That besides the brunt and pitfalls of a Victorian harsh hand, there was Victorian wisdom in Dickens, Hardy, Lawrence, Austen and Bronte. The chalk I have learnt, prolongs my summers and keeps me warm in winter, the rod I suppose reminds me when at times I forget to prepare for winter, innate are the years I experience the harshest and coldest winds. I have turned out to be a gentleman of sort, and if you do not like me, well that is just too sad.