Nothing: Part 6

Sorry folks (I’m imagining “folks”), but I am still not ready to give you a post that is about something. I am just marking time, like they used to make us do in the school marching band. Never knew what purpose was served by the Barrow House, Rangers House, Gidney House and Khanna House squads marching in place, without moving…not that marching around the school field served any purpose either…

Anyway, so now I am marking time, dreaming about some day being able to write something that makes sense to me and to the world. Dreaming of a time when the “folks” will not be imagined, a mental fabrication, but a real crowd of avid readers. But time is short and that road is steep. I have a long way to go before I can come up with anything to offer to a future group of avid readers.

Someone, who used to be a friend, once said that one can’t write if one lacks real life experiences. A puzzler, because one can’t lead an inexperienced life! Is it possible to live one’s life untouched by experience? Like an empty slate, like pure, driven snow?

I remember these words that seem trite, in retrospect, but were meaningful at the time that a favorite teacher (Ms Krishnamoorthy) wrote them in my yearbook:

“Dear Pragya,
Your future lies before you
Like a field of driven snow,
Be careful how you tread it,
For every mark will show.”

I didn’t think of the words as trite then. For all I know, she probably wrote that for all her students. I suppose it is a favorite quote for people addressing graduation ceremonies. What did I know, I was only 16. I liked the words, maybe more so because I liked the teacher.

So how is it possible to lead an inexperienced life when every mark does show?

But perhaps there’s a certain skill I lack when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff. One needs to pick and choose which moments to highlight when one is making an impassioned effort at the creation of a story, which moments to carefully disguise as pure fiction and which ones to dress up in the multi-hued garbs of the “message”; the lesson learnt or the existential philosophy acquired.

Ultimately one also needs to let go of concerns about how what one writes will change the perceptions of people who see one in a certain light. What will the world say? What will they think? I will probably be able to write something when I stop caring.

It isn’t that hard to stop caring after all. Growing up and watching the years fold over themselves in your rearview mirror, you learn not to care about some things. For instance, I remember being ambitious once, about my career, my goals. I was a combination of severe self-doubt and some degree of confidence. It was strange but true.

Whenever I slid into despair about my inability to make something happen I would just have to talk to my ever-the-optimist Mom, who said “You can do it! Of course it’s possible!” And I was always surprised about how right she always was about that. One needs someone to shine the torch on the part of you that has some degree of self assurance and confidence, letting the dark negativity shrivel up and die.

But back then, there were things I wanted, things I was willing to go after – an upwardly mobile career, a home, some measure of prosperity, an MBA degree from a highly ranked institution. Rather concrete elements on a checklist, checked off as acquired. I even fought for things like promotions and raises. So much so that I heard about a recruiter being told not to hire me because someone who wasn’t a well-wisher told her that I had a tendency to be “belligerent”. I can’t imagine anyone I know well ever tagging me with that adjective, but I suppose something I did, conveyed such an image to this person who didn’t wish me well.

But it has been so many years since I cared to that extent, where I could even project imagined belligerence or aggression.

The breaking point might even have been September 11, 2001. I had a hand on my belly, feeling the baby, that was to be Anoushka, kicking. She was still several weeks away. I was at my desk, engrossed in trying to come up with an intelligent MS Excel IF_THEN formula that would magically resolve my work problem of the moment and then someone said that the first plane had struck one of the towers. Someone in the office asked if it was an accident and I said, “Either that or it was bin Laden”.

Within seconds all the little numbers in the little MS Excel boxes lost any meaning they had ever had. The concern about getting my eight months pregnant self back home safely and the immense sense of disaster and loss, at such a grand scale, concern for my co-worker whose husband was an NYC fire fighter, the images of people jumping off the windows, of soot covered people. It was something that touched me tangentially (from a distance of 50 Manhattan blocks) and deeper than anything ever had, all at the same time.

Some of the things I used to go after have acquired extreme meaninglessness since then. The point is reinforced everytime I am approaching the New York city line from New Jersey and there’s a giant nothingness where the towers used to be. I was at a holiday party at the Windows to the World restaurant on top of the WTC, that restaurant, that tower no longer exist. Going after things acquired some pointlessness then.

But at the same time, a feeling of pointlessness results in stagnation and stagnation is not a good place to be. The stagnant plateau must always face a point where the crossroads are not obscured by conditions of limited visibility. Alice sees the fork in the road but the Cheshire Cat tells her it doesn’t matter which road she takes if she doesn’t know where she’s going. I need to figure out where I am going and I need to do it before it’s too late.

So a conversation with my Mom today showed that she still thinks I’ll get there. She told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll get there”. I wish I knew where “there” was.

Some of you do end up reading these rambling words on Facebook. if you have reacted favorably, with some kind words or even a thumbs up that says “Like”, then I thank you.

You see, long ago, in the early days of Facebook, I ended up selecting a setting that enabled my blog posts to simultaneously appear as a note in Facebook. I guess my narcissism knew fewer bounds then than it does now. So now it probably ends up in your newsfeeds. I could hunt and peck my way through “Settings” and stop this from happening. But I am not going to. I just don’t feel like it. So if these posts are in your feeds and you would rather not see them, then please click on the box that says “Hide”. I swear I won’t mind it if you “Hide” me. Your move will be transparent enough that it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

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