These questions led to some more (I think a scan of my brain at the moment would look like the image above).
I pass a river on my way to work everyday. When was the last time I stopped to look at the waves? Or the swans? Or the mossy green river bank that has some strangely pretty shrubs? Did anyone plant them there? Did a bird drop a seed? Where did the swans come from? Where do they go at sunset? Are these questions too irrelevant or insignificant? True, answers to none of these will help me earn my next pay check or help me with my deadline, or solve my issues with my teammate, or pave my way for a promotion, or a hike. But am I so busy trying to make a living that I have stopped living?
Have we been programmed to ‘like’ things only when we are expected to ‘like’ them? Has appreciating the beauty of art, music, literature, food or nature become a ‘social status’ thing? Do we ‘like’ in order to be accepted? Do we ‘like’ in order to be perceived as intellectuals? Have we stopped ‘liking’ for our own pleasure? Do we like to ‘like’ things only when we are paying a big price for it?
Q: Food at a plush restaurant that is the latest talk of the town?
Q: A little ‘kasundi’ with the good old spinach cooked the Bengali way?
A: Kasundi? What’s that? I like oregano on my pasta, basil in my rice and thyme in my soup.
Q: An exotic cocktail that has a tongue twister of a name, at an award-winning pub?
Q: Nimbu paani at home?
A: Who has the time for squeezing lemons? (I thought if you could make it to the pub, you could squeeze a lemon once in a while)
Q: A Bryan Adams concert?
Q: Bryan Adams from an old cassette (that you had complied while at school, and written down the names of the songs yourself, in childish handwriting, on the cassette cover) at home?
A: Don’t you at least have a CD? Or a CD Player? Are you stingy? Are you the boring ‘stay-at-home’ kinds?
In fact, are we ashamed to admit that we ‘like’ certain things in a certain way because we are afraid that we will be judged? Is it so difficult to own up to our little ‘favourites’? Why do we then talk about ‘accepting others for who they are…and not what they can become’? I have come across that line a zillion times…in Self-Help books on the shelves of bookstores, in philosophical chain emails that are supposed to make me feel good in the morning. If we can’t accept ourselves for who we are and what we like, who are we kidding by talking about ‘accepting others’?
How much has society…or our upbringing contributed to this strangely depressing phenomenon? Does it sprout from our same obsession with taking the traditionally safe paths? If you are not a Doctor or an Engineer, or at least a Lawyer or a Chartered Accountant, you can invest in some good quality cyanide. If you haven’t listened to Bach or can’t quote from Tagore, you can tattoo ‘I am an idiot’ on your forehead.
What if I have read enough ‘Chacha Chowdhury’ to win gold at the ‘Annual Pran Quiz’ organised by the boys of the local club during Ganesh Chaturthi? Am I not chic enough for you? What if I have never held a golf stick…but could beat you any day at kabaddi? Won’t you smile at me at the shopping centre any more?
What if I have never heard of Dostoyevsky but can name all the Govinda movies that were released or got shelved halfway through (because of the producer’s connections with some underworld don)? Am I a social shame? Most importantly, am I a shame to myself?