Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Those Stranger than Fiction Moments

“Salander assessed the situation and saw that it was anything but under control. Her brain was working at high speed . Click, click, click. She still held the crowbar in her hand but she knew that it was a feeble weapon against a man who could not feel pain. She was locked inside an area of about a thousand square meters with a murderous robot from hell.”

My heart skipped multiple beats at once but then the car braked and I realized , I was in my car and , unfortunately, about to enter the office building . Life is tough if you are reading a crime thriller and happen to have never ending work at office. 24 hours seem too less for a day. For next 10 hours my eyes followed the usual office sights, my brain mechanically responded to others but my mind was with Lizbeth Salander- facing a life threat in a remote place. That brings me to the question, I intend to ask here.

Have you ever seen a murder? Or a suicide? A really bad accident, an attack or may be a narrow escape from death …an armed revolution, a terrorist attack or a  war? Come to think of it ,how often we go through such dramatic moments . Not very frequent ..isn’t it? But we love to read about them, love to watch them on TV/cinema screens .It is a sort of simulated kind of pleasure. A sensation of things going terribly bad combined with the relief that its only fiction . Probably that is why we love watching horror movies too. Of course we knew there are no evil spirits or Hannibal the Cannibal at loose, while watching the movies at night - but the sleep was disturbed anyways . Have you ever thought how you’d have reacted if such incidents actually happen to you. I was thinking about it since last few days for no particular reason .

We all have some stories that remain glued in one corner of our mind for ages. Stories that haunt us in contemplative moments, stories that come back to us unexpectedly ….stories for which we yearn for a different ending (or may be not). There is a good genre of fiction which weaves stories with completely unexpected endings. I can think of reading O’Henry and Roald Dahl. They wrote stories that make me jump with the sudden turn of events . Sometimes a subtle unveiling of facts turning the happenings upside down and at others , a tale coming to a dramatic climax just to turn back in the last sentence . I do not generally read racy thrillers or pulp fiction so I am not really use to increasing heartbeat with the turning of pages. But recently, I made an exception . I was reading millennium trilogy by Steig Larson . I would confess that I read these books mainly because I was fascinated by a very unusual heroine –Lisbeth Salander , a hacker with tattooed body and almost anti social attitude . Surprisingly, the books made me realize (once again) the need for drama in life . If not real, at least virtual.

Hitchcock once said that –“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” To paraphrase : Life is drama with a bad editing and unwritten climax . Of course we love it that way. Mostly, we rue the fact that the ending is not for us to decide , but we love it nonetheless. A life without a dash of conflict and colour will not be a complete one. Indians specially love the drama in life. Look at our takes on very minor issues of day to day life- drivers yelling in traffic jams, women bargaining with vegetable sellers , children throwing tantrums, colleagues gossiping with full concentration, housewives watching tearjerkers and politicians giving speeches. Its not hard to find drama in real life . But that seems to be insufficient for us. We search for heavier doses of it in fiction and gossip.

Interestingly, its often the tragic tales that stick to mind most unknowingly . I remembered a story that haunts me for years. It was a short story by Tagore where an eccentric old man wanted to hide his wealth for his long lost grandson and decided to bury a child with the money, to guard it as yaksha . He found an orphan on street and decided to sacrifice him for this work. In the end this orphan turned out to be his own grandson . I cannot imagine the plight of that old man. I can’t help thinking “what if…”. Then I thought of a Prakash Jha movie titled Parinati. Something similar to Tagore’s story – here an innkeeper and his wife were convinced by a merchant to give away their son . They did it so that the son will get education, they can’t afford , but could not help missing him badly. The merchant had promised to send the son back after he is settled in life. The couple started mugging and killing the travelers staying in the inn so that one day they can pass on wealth to their long lost son. One day a charming young man comes from the city and they kill him too. Only to realize that it was their son who wanted to surprise them. The story never died in my mind. I have no explanation why. I have not witnessed such drama in my life, neither do I really yearn for it, but I wonder how people survive such incidents. A crime committed on you may be still easy to forget than the guilt of doing something terribly wrong. Losing a loved one accidentally or by your own mistake must be horrible to live with. Yes, it is great fun to watch murders and mysteries in the movies but I am very sure it would be devastating to live through any such real life drama . One of my university professor lost his son, daughter , son in law and nephew in a car accident. It happened just a day after the daughter’s marriage when the brother was driving the newlyweds to their new home. I shudder to think of the family that lived this tragedy ever since .

It is funny that when I am trying to recall the stranger than fiction moments of life, I cannot think of anything happy. Is it because we take our blessing for granted and fail to see the magic in it ? Why is it that life’s drama is most visible in fights and deaths…in struggle and defeats and not the other way round . Many of us will remember the TV  images of twin towers burning or the attack in Mumbai but would not remember the face of an Olympic winner .  

Why should drama be always tragic- the Greeks believed in the power of tragedies in a major way. The Asian theatre traditions- be it Sanskrit plays or the Japanese Noh plays disagreed. In Indian classical plays – essentially woven in a background of love and mistaken identities, the stories always ended happily. The good triumphed over the evil . So why do our mind carries tragedies for longer than it should. Why can’t in life too we can choose the genre of the drama around us . I have no answer to that question. But if it comes to choose- I know my choice would definitely be a Rom Com for life around me .


MARCH said...

ज़िन्दगी कैसी है पहेली हाए....
That’s the reason they invented the terms God and Luck.
If your life takes an unexpected turn, blame it on God. If you can’t digest the success of your laborious competitor, give its credit to his luck. This gives immense relief.
Your professor’s family must have been very strong. Some cannot stand this pain and ruin their own lives as well as of their near and dear ones.

Have you read ‘One’ by Richard Bach? If not, then certainly go for it. I know you will love it.

“Indians specially love the drama in life” true and a paradox too if you want to call this as a land of भगवद्गीता। I have read one interpretation of this and am going through another interpretation these days. Its all about life and teaches तितीक्षा (To tolerate all sorrows without wailing and without ill will towards any is called तितिक्षा) It says in one of its shlokas: The one who is not moved by the experiences of happiness or sorrow, the one who does not loose patience in tragedy, is the one who can conquer death. Even Dinkar says : वीर को नहीं विजय का गर्व, वीर को नहीं हार का खेद।

There are people in this world for whom, this life itself is a tragedy. They cannot help but face it. Very few of them require the help of someone like Mother Teresa. Life of most of them can be bettered by a little guidance and help from enlightened and educated souls like ours. Don’t miss an opportunity if you get one to do so.

ये जीवन है, इस जीवन का यही है....रंग रूप ....

Atoorva said...

yes, I have read One...and you are right, I loved it.