Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the still of the night

Sometimes it really pisses me off that I'm a person whose defining characteristics include a tendency to vacillate supremely. Every decision seems to be taken impulsively and then overthrown by second thoughts. Certainty is something that can be very elusive.

I realised I am more afraid of success than I am of failure. Failure is more comfortable because it will maintain status quo. It will be an excuse to try again. Try again to do something which would have been easily achieved the first time around if it was not for a weakness of resolve.

I have done this many times before and each time, I've managed to rationalise and intellectualise it till it didn't feel like an internal defect any more. Till I had convinced myself it was a matter of bad luck and unfavourable circumstances. Clearly, I am responsible for this, atleast in part, mostly in whole.

It is not a lack of ambition, it is clearly a trepidation of walking the difficult path ambition urges one to follow.

It will not do to hope to reach the light at the end of the tunnel while secretly wishing it's an oncoming train.

I wonder if accusing oneself of self-sabotage is just another way to sabotage oneself. But I think maybe recognising the problem is the first step towards fixing it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

And the grass won't pay no mind!

Note to self: If you like the poetry, buy the book. Try not to fall in love with the poet.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dancing with Myself

I can't shake the feeling of slight disorientation when I try to take into account how much we've actually grown up. K. was telling me tonight that she was likely to become engaged to her boyfriend of three years in July. The fact that K. used the word 'affianced' to indicate the engagement was an even stronger sign that we weren't the teenage schoolgirls who thought up lists of songs to dance to at our respective weddings.

She sounded appropriately excited and delighted that I didn't want to interrupt her with my "I've got an exam next week" shtick. "You're always studying for exams!" is what she would say, I was certain.

Surprisingly, she wanted to know my opinion on the subject of marriage for some reason. I told her that I quite frankly didn't feel equipped to discuss the topic.

Truthfully, in my head I'm not really a twenty-three year old "woman", I think I'm still stuck being a little kid mostly. I still live at home with mum and dad, I can cook but only barely, my experience of romantic love is not very extensive to put it mildly and I really, really don't think I'm even capable of managing an entire household as a wife and later, mother.

Maybe this is just a lack of maturity on my part, or maybe it's a manufacturing defect. My friends insist I'll always stay baby-faced and child-like my whole life but then they also insist that's actually a good thing so I'm not sure if I can believe them.

M. was telling me that that's maybe just because I'm a late bloomer or probably because of my rather pampered cloistered upbringing.

I really don't know anything for certain apart from the fact that the very idea of being married to someone for the rest of my life, or even for a short time (you never know these days) fills me with a sort of alarm and a vague sense of panic.

Piyu thinks I'm a commitment-phobe. I don't "follow through" on these things, supposedly. I agree. Also I'm pretty sure I'm not a very maternal, or even a very feminine type of girl/woman. But I had hope that I could make up for that by being extra-warm or extra-generous.

I don't think anyone except my mum can really tell me these things with any authority. So I asked her. Her simple reply was that she wasn't a born mother-figure either, she was kinda thrown in at the deep-end after her reasonably late wedding and when she had kids to bring up without an experienced elder in the house, she simply made it up as she went along.

"You can't read a book about how to be a mother," she said, "Your kids teach you all about it." I am guessing acquiring a husband is also the only way to learn to be a wife.

And since, I'm not likely to do either any time soon, since being a medical student mostly takes care of my life priorities up until my early thirties atleast, I think I should tell K. that I'll get back to her on that question in about a decade's time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beyond the Fog of Time

My new year's weekend was rather uneventful in a sense. I've never been much of a party person really, nor do I know anyone who is a party person or rather someone who is one and would actually invite me to a party. So I did the old-fashioned dinner and a movie thing, once with family and once with friends.

The odd thing was the two movies I saw could not have been more different from each other. Saturday night was earmarked for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, followed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on Sunday afternoon. In fact, after I was done watching the latter movie I couldn't help thinking they were calling the wrong movie A Game of Shadows.

What was even odder, however, is that two days later, I'm starting to see some similarities. And I'm not talking about the obviously British setting, in fact, both movies also travel half-way across Europe.

Most importantly, both exist in a world now swallowed by the past and astonishingly both evoke that lost world with such delicate and adroit detail, so much so that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is continuously suffused with a sense of nostalgia and intense yearning.

What they both have in common is also the intrigue, the game of cat-and-mouse, the outwitting of an ideological enemy coupled with a sense of respect, even awe for that enemy's abilities.

While the character embodied by Robert Downey, Jr. is a far cry from the original man with the violin, tobacco pipe, deerstalker and steel-trap mind, there is in parts a trace of the science of deduction that Holmes applied with such finesse. However, I must say I preferred the actor who played Moriarty with such a perfect cold sneer behind an erudite veneer.

On the other hand, Gary Oldman's unsmiling George Smiley is a tired and semi-retired spy turned detective, hunting down a mole planted by his 'arch-enemy', the enigmatic Soviet spymaster Karla.

In a sense, both men are more-or-less singlehandedly trying to stall the outbreak of a world war, though the anachronistic bomb explosions in the Sherlock movie are nowhere near as scary as the leaky cauldron of secrets that is the British intelligence agency in the face of the Cold War.

And while Holmes has his loyal companion and best friend in Dr. Watson played by a genuinely funny Jude Law reluctantly tagging along 'one last time', the banter between the two characters and the chemistry between the two actors accounting for most of the entertainment the film provides, Smiley has his dependably sharp and intrepid young protege, Peter Guillam portrayed with a callow vulnerability by the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch who I'm justifiably beginning to have a major crush on.

I also spent a lot of time admiring the languorous beauty of the Victorian world that Holmes and Watson traipse around in. This smoky, overcast, almost dingy vision of London is so beautifully and painstakingly rendered that I can't help but determine that this is to be the exact setting for the stories in my mind when I next read them.

Sadly, the movie is only a fraction of what it could have been. I sat through it the whole time thinking what it would have been like without the naughty innuendo and the grating slow motion fisticuffs and well, the surprising lack of suspense.

At the diametrically opposite end of the spectrum lay Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Now, this film builds up suspense like no spy thriller you've ever seen. Unlike other stylised spy movies, this one has effectively three gunshots and one made me flinch as the blood splattered the grubby wall covered with flowery wallpaper while another underlined who loved whom and who betrayed whom.

It's a film you watch with your body and mind on high alert. This is a world of secrets and lies, illusions and half-truths, misplaced loyalties and unexpected betrayals. Here spies aren't flashy like James Bond or Ethan Hunt, but deceptively quiet watchers and whisperers, their espionage involving coded telegrams and tapped telephones rather than car-chases and hand-to-hand combat.

I can almost imagine Holmes nodding his head in approval of the inobtrusively stolid and cerebral mystery-solving Smiley, an infinitely better successor to Holmes than the brawling wisecracking ruffian that Downey plays. I have absolutely no doubt which movie Holmes himself would choose to watch.

After coming out of the cinema hall on Sunday afternoon, stepping into the cheerful winter sunlight, I shivered a little certainly not from the cold weather, mostly thankful that I wasn't around in the days of the Cold War.

While the idea that history repeats itself lies at the muddled core of the Sherlockian adventure, a lesson that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy chillingly imparts inspite of its gentle nostalgia is that the past really is a foreign country, and one should explore it carefully.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Voices at the door

Not much evokes the passage of time as effectively as a birthday or a new year's day. For me, like for most other people, time is an odd thing to deal with, it lingers at times, it flees at others. It dilates and contracts to suit our states of mind.

For me, the last year was a truly good one. It showed me the due importance of having a purpose in life, the knowledge of being on the right path in life, the indescribable joy of having found the right sort of people to love, the strength of friendships forged in times of duress, and the kindness of strangers.

I wonder what this one has in store. I wonder which way this crossroads of mixed directions has in mind for me. At this point, the best I can do is wonder.

Exams are drawing inexorably close. I can't decide if I have given them more importance than they deserve or less and which is worse.

Every year's end for almost twelve years now, Ishatai sends me a letter - a real letter in an envelope delivered by the postman and she ends it with a resolution from a proverb or a quote.

I like the one she sent this year and maybe I can borrow it as my resolution, too and if I am very lucky maybe I can keep it.

"To the dreams of thy youth, stay true." - Schiller

Happy New Year, folks!