I am contemptible.
I am one of those contentedly under-informed, compulsively apolitical,
despicably ignorant individuals who forgets to read the daily
newspaper; who, just when the television news comes on with
its self-important music, switches to the Discovery or History
channel; and who uses the silky pages of news magazines to line
her crockery shelves and wrap her evening shoes.
all the news leaks through. People around me seem to have nothing
better to do than read, listen to, watch, discuss, analyse and
regurgitate the affairs of the world… as if their opinions,
views and rehashing of the news made a difference, nationally
or internationally! Who was it that said: "Those who can,
do; the rest merely read, write and discuss issues"? Oh!
That must have been moi!
if I wanted to remain blissfully un-informed about the developments
of the political soap operas and worldly melodramas of our times,
both national and global, complete with distant wars and local
hartals; the promises, betrayals and lies; the murders, suicides,
stabbings (metaphoric ones on the back and actual ones on writers);
revelations, conspiracies and power-plays; the joys and follies;
and the blood, sweat, tears and petrol of public affairs, I
would yet be unable to escape the radio-active contamination
any extra effort on my part I get to know about the doings and
dealings of the world at large. But I wish I were left alone
to pursue my non-involvement in the worldly-political aspects
of life. I am listening quietly on my walkman to Ted Hughes
recite Donne, when someone unplugs me to say "Did you hear
the news...?" I am busy finishing Jhumpa Lahiri's first
novel 'Namesake', when the newspaper is thrust at me. "Just
read this item. It will make your blood boil." I flick
the paper away, to watch the life and times of writer Steinbeck
on the Biography channel, when the remote is snatched away because
the 'THE WORLD TODAY' is coming on in thirty seconds.
today calls out to me and I creep away quietly to my terrace
with my laptop to write about this peaceful moment in time,
more real, alive and relevant to me, which nourishes my spirit,
saturating it with serenity, so that nothing makes my blood
boil, and so I can be compassionate towards the people whose
lives actually touch mine, though I cannot stop the bloodbaths
and chaos elsewhere. I extract the poetry from my limited surroundings
and pour it into my prosaic day and make of it a column to hold
up the edifice of my small but palpable and palpitating humanity.
my piece and am ready to send it off, when a well meaning friend
drops by and remarks that he would like to see me write more
of the analytical op-ed pieces I once used to write. He would
like my pen to pour forth articles on socio-cultural issues,
or about the political climate of Europe and Italy, or the conditions
of the immigrant Bangalis in Rome-- in other words, (though
not his words), something more 'serious' than the foibles and
fables from my day to day life. I smile my contemptibly contented
smile. Can anything be more serious than an individual's life?
Can anything be more newsworthy, or reader-worthy?
I also ask
this: don't newspaper readers in Dhaka get enough of the dense,
op-ed type analytical commentaries? Would another voice in the
chorus improve the melody of the spheres? Should writing for
a magazine have to be didactic, dry, full of facts and figures,
with topics that are consciously improving, to be considered
I know my
own life and my world better than I know the world at large,
specially the political one. Whatever I say about my personal
world is authentic, and every observation is not only original,
but even if it isn't consciously serious, is deeply felt. In
life as in literature, there is nothing new under the heavens
except each human being's version of his experience, his unique
journey. And each version is valid and valuable, and being individual,
is fresh and new. And isn't that what deems something newsworthy---
that which brings newness to the old, makes it 'news'?
as politics is to some, so is the claim of everyday life. As
long as the language has beauty, style and originality, a wedge
of everyday life is a work of artistry. Let such writings flower
like exotic blooms within the jungle of write-ups and comments
about the gloomy world of political animals. Birth, love, death;
relationships and alienations; coping, laughing, crying and
being, these are the palettes of the most evocative paintings,
the nuances of the deepest poetry. This is the harvest of humanity.
In the absence of book reading, let writers bring their sensibilities
and imaginative flourishes, their linguistic elegance and wit
to the world of magazine writing. Everything need not be about
politics and current affairs. Everything need not be current
and newsworthy; one must also make time for the timeless by
reading literary pieces which have no specific agenda except
to give pleasure and build your reading muscles.
be summarized by anyone for you, but no one can summarize a
book, a poem, a piece of music or a work of art. You have to
experience it yourself. For that, you have to develop the habit
and discipline to read--not newspapers and magazines but BOOKS,
and not magazine reviews ABOUT the books but the books themselves.
So if you cannot be in the political or social arena changing
the way the world operates then don't waste more than an hour
a day to keep abreast of the news, then forget the World Today,
and enter the world of the past, the world of the future, and
the world within that you can shape.
shut this magazine (going through this column does not really
count for reading) and pick up a book. Read Jhumpa Lahiri's
'Namesake' instead of waiting to read about it in the review
of it which I will do soon! And that in turn does not mean I'm
turning all 'serious'. I maintain that it is better to write
with joy about nothing in particular than pontificate at length
about grand issues. If that's news to you, I am vindicated and
no longer contemptible.