The clock on the wall is on most days just a mute witness to the goings-on in my room. It does its job, its two hands moving quietly in the background, as I bang away on my laptop or sit in front of the laptop screen and stare at it or flit from one virtual window to another, biding my time before beginning to write. But, some days, the ticking seems louder, more audible, a constant reminder of time passing by. And you sit upright in your chair, straighten your spine, and begin to wonder whether the life you’ve lived has been worth the while.
I wish I could honestly say that there are no regrets the way people often proclaim in their interviews, but cannot. I am aware of the words I could have said or written differently, choices I could have made more prudently and hurts I could have avoided. One did the best one could in those circumstances. In retrospect, perhaps the best too was not good enough, but the bygone cannot be undone; one can only learn from every such experience and try to make amends.
So, what does one do with one’s life? Last evening, I read a Marathi essay by the same title: ‘या जीवनाचं काय करू?’, by social activist and researcher, Dr Abhay Bang, who, along with his wife Dr Rani Bang, has revolutionised healthcare for the poorest in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. It was a stinging eye-opener to the myriad possibilities that exist to reach out and make a difference, but which we fail to explore, because we don’t look beyond our own selfish needs or existence. While it’s understandable that not everyone has the wherewithal to be a social reformer, or to work selflessly and tirelessly at the grassroots level to effect a change, the fact is that there do exist spaces where, while living the life of our choice, it’s possible to contribute at least a wee bit to causes that require support, if only we took cognisance of them. I plead guilty here.
Dr Bang elaborates on how it entails not following the herd or participating in the rat race, and how it means bypassing the hedonistic to embrace the spartan or at least the temperate, to really look at the world with different eyes, and to step out of one’s comfort zone. It helped that Dr Bang spent his childhood in Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram at Wardha with Mahatma Gandhi’s foremost disciple Acharya Vinoba Bhave, and was exposed to Gandhian thought at an impressionable age. It shaped his character, and he could easily refuse the lucrative job offers that came his way to choose untrodden, tough terrain, and with no regrets whatsoever.
Exposure is a potent transformer. It adds several remarkable dimensions to one’s persona, whether one is an activist or a writer. In an interview in Storylines: Conversations with Writers, author Mangala Godbole avers that her outreach as a humorist would have been far more comprehensive if she would have had greater exposure. Unfortunately, she had to restrict her repertoire to the domestic. It’s another matter that the column which she wrote for almost a decade resonated with her readers, and accorded her the privilege of being among the very few female humorists in Marathi literature, perhaps the only notable one.
Hands-on exposure is obviously way more life-changing than say reading, though the latter too is a fairly effective metamorphic tool. It provides enough fodder for reflection when one is at crossroads or looking to make a far more meaningful contribution, if not through participation at ground zero, then at least through the tools at hand. Presently, writing holds that promise. One word. Then another. The possibilities are endless.
At the moment, several books lie scattered on my desk. There’s Bama’s interview in Storylines that I can’t wait to read. There is Dr Anil Awachat’s ‘जिवाभावाचे’, in which he writes about those who hold a special place in his heart. In one chapter, he talks of the conversations and meals (the dosas, the saboodana khichdi, the poha), he has enjoyed at authors Virupaksh and Uma Kulkarnis’ warm home. The couple is renowned for translating the works of eminent Kannada writers like Dr Shivram Karanth and S L Bhyrappa. It makes me yearn to visit their home, and be a part of the camaraderie. It makes me wonder about the companionship of writer couples, and partners working towards a common cause. What is a day in their life like? Where do they get their energy from? How do they unwind? Do they ever? That calls for an exploration of a different kind. Some day, I shall know.
For now, it’s a day filled with reading, writing and hope.
Climes: Today, it’s cooler than yesterday. The skies are grey, but the sun’s rays have found their way through the clouds. There is always a silver lining.
I agree: ‘When there is pain, there are no words. All pain is the same.’ – Toni Morrison
Menu: Got fresh springy green spinach at the local vendor’s. Small finds make great meals.