Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New year and all that.

It is the height of all that is cliched in the world to blog about the year gone by. Meandering and frankly useless ruminations about the constantly churning vile political turbine, about yet another Bachchan who merits the 'actor of the year' award, of another smug looking Aamir Khan basking in the triumph of another movie glorifying poverty and of millions of reality TV shows coming up with increasingly desperate attempts to win the TRP crown at midnight on 31st (I'm convinced that the day isn't far off when 'Sex on the beach' ceases to be a mere cocktail)- bombard us every year. All this in the vain hope that there is some family out there with a tired housewife, a broke father and two irritated kids spending their new year's eve in front of the idiot box, all with unfulfilled visions of a better, sexier new year's celebration.

It's all the pressure isn't it? The pressure of HAVING to enjoy oneself. Of making sure you've had a wilder, crazier New Year than anyone else. I feel it right now in fact writing this post- because I want it to be hilarious, poignant, touching, introspective, meaningful and deep all at once. Which obviously isn't going to happen. It'll be another new year blog post lost in the oblivion of thousands of bloggers- teenage girls with bursting hormones and cheating boyfriends, the Mark Zuckerberg wannabes of the world, some dark drunk failed author convincing himself that his time hasn't really passed, the lecherous pedophiles prowling cyberspace for another victim-

My blog post is going to be one among these fine specimens of humanity. Ah well.

But if you stop and look into the stillness and darkness of a whole year gone by, of another dendrochronological ring added to the trunk of our lives, you will find certain experiences that stand out leaving indelible impressions.

I am currently posted on official duty in Sabarimala- a place apparently as holy as-well- comparisons elude me for once. And I have probably not a grain of religion in my body, except from the interested curiosity one has when one looks at a vaguely interesting social pattern of behavior from a safe vantage point. Yet I deigned [;)] to ascend the hill amidst the filth and muck- make no mistake there's a lot of it- suppressing the skepticism to a minimal trickle instead of the usual downpour. It helped I was accompanied-nay, led by someone unquestioning, full of faith and probably infinitely better than me. The ascent itself wasn't hard, we did it quickly.

Right on the top where the shrine stands in its modest beauty, it is absolutely- words fail to describe the ABSOLUTE FILTH there. I remember walking barefoot using only my heel and the tip of my greater toes throughout, my face contorting in the agony of inquisition. And Praise the Lord and all that but with all due respect he sits in a golden altar with golden steps and beautiful clothes. With fair maiden waiting patiently for him a little distance away. Why the devotees need to wade through the foul to prove their piety is something I'll never get.

And yet, there was a moment when I stood, clad in Jeans and a T Shirt outside a run down house looking at it with all the curiosity of a tourist, that I looked around me. In one panoramic view, it was as if I saw the world- the run down buildings, jauntily lit shops, people struggling to see the deity, angry superior looking priests thwarting yet another determined devotee, a huge gathering of black clad devotees chanting loudly and out of tune, dozens of people hobbling past stewing in their own putrid sweat, fires lit outside the temple and a pool with a fountain. And it was here, amidst all this that there was a moment approaching epiphany. I'll dial it down. A moment of acceptance. That this is where I belong. That this country is with all its faults and muck and nonsense, mine. That although I'm dressed in branded clothes right down to my personals, I have no hesitation or embarrassment in claiming these people as my brethren. And if blind unquestioning and unwavering faith be their fault, if the supremely filthy be their calling card then so be it. I will never be one of them but they still figure in the larger set of us the (thankfully) affluent urbanites.

To not believe does not mean to not admire. For to really decide which is easier- unwavering faith or rational questioning- one needs the many gifts of Cicero or Socrates or Vyasa. Is it easier to quell all questioning, to suppress independent thought and put all one's hopes and belief into one person- (divinity being a matter of opinion)- or is it easier, say even lazier to constantly doubt and question- for otherwise there would have been no religion, no festivals, no quaint traditions, no moral fibre. There would have been science yes, the unbridled joy of reason, but no Hampi and no Benares.

Midnight on 31st will be a swirl of diverse complicated imagery. From brilliant blue bathroom tiles, sharks and turtles, a moment at Cochin airport, the first traumatic duty, an argument on the roadside, the date, the girl, two movies back to back, the ugly rash ridden mangy sickness-to Natalie Portman's supreme moment of realization, the birthdays, wine, wine and sugarless iced tea on Christmas Eve, hats and motorcycles, the stalling of a car at Edapally junction and the random yet unforgettable late nights with friends- all will coalesce in one gigantic eruption of midnight memory.

The huge dilemma on New Year's Eve- Who is hotter- Kate Winslet or Natalie Portman? Winslet's 'The dead are still dead' or Portman's 'You want their names??'. Earth shattering decisions these. I mean why worry about medicine or corruption or family or world peace- when I have to decide which of these women gains the honour of being my new favourite? And don't even get me started on who will dominate the 2011 tennis season.

2011- Federer or Nadal? Common sense says the latter but sport is like constantly changing bedfellows- each new year is the first time. So I'm going to start ratchetting up the non existent tension and hope for a Federer Nadal final in all 4 grand slams, with Federer winning all of them! Granted Roland Garros won't be easy- BUT ITS JUST A MATTER OF THE PERFECT SERVE, FOREHAND, BACKHAND, INCH PERFECT VOLLEYS, APPROACH AND PASSING SHOTS AND NO UNFORCED ERRORS. Who said tennis was difficult?

People make life what it is and this past year I've met people I never thought I would. Or could. Three in particular- C, S and A have affected me like few others. C for his absolute friendship come rain or shine. The discovery of a kindred spirit is a rare occurrence but as I've mentioned before, C isn't even 'like family' or 'like a brother' or any of those oft used, oft sullied terms. He just is. Family/brother. And yes blood is thicker than water and all that but sometimes you find blood outside your home. And then there's no difference.

As for S, he's the Fool to my Lear- endearing, entertaining, entirely lovable- and occasionally, although I hate to admit it and will probably never live it down, capable of thought that approaches wisdom.

And the joy of A is in the being. 'Nuff said.

The first time I saw a woman naked was when I was 12. (Reference- Titanic. Kate. Necklace. Voila!) And my Grandma was with me. And she said- Kartik, that is what a woman looks like. Family is one thing. You have to love them and care and go through those motions but the difference with a grandmother, and a cool grandmother is that you really cant do without all those things. And cut the sentimental crap she would say, her scotch swirling in her glass. Have a drink and be happy!

Family is as always brilliant. The Mother. The Father. The Sister. The Grandmother. The Grandfather. The Dog. All without whom I'd be lost. The merry flags on the arctic wilderness of my calendar.

About politics, who's less corrupt than whom, who has murdered less people, who slept with whom, who won what award and who the so called 'Indian of the Year' is- I couldn't- actually, won't give a damn. They aren't worth it.

The others are.