Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Budget and Other Snacks

I woke up this morning feeling a shade depressed and wondering why. I don’t often feel that way but yes, some mornings it’s as if the gray smog outside my window in Bombay fills up not only my lungs and eyes but seeps into my mind as well.

When I reached the breakfast table I found the budget report splashed across the front page of the morning papers. Then I knew it. The reason I felt depressed was the budget. I couldn’t understand it. Over the next few days some would say it was good, some would say it was bad and I would sit here scratching my head.

Scanning the papers I discovered that the budget was not the only thing I didn’t understand. There was stuff about Baghdad and Egypt and the CIA in Europe. I realized that in general I didn’t understand politics and economics and never had. It is depressing to find out that there is apparently something that makes the world of human beings go round and you can’t understand it. It robs you of your self importance.

There was a time in my early twenties though when I pretended to understand all these things, and managed to con not only myself but a number of other people into believing I did, through having mastered what had earlier seemed like totally incomprehensible themes. I started devouring newspaper editorials and books on political theory and began to bone up on international affairs and modern Indian politics and before long found myself using a lot of very important sounding words and phrases which I would give anything to remember now so as to reproduce them here and make you believe me. People began to look at me with new respect and the more admiration I got the more determined I became to plow through even more chunky tomes and articles to back up my impressive “grasp” of politics.

But then you see, the reason I got started on the road to politics was not because politics or economics interested me per se but because a handful of individuals I’d got to know at the time and whom I was trying desperately to befriend, were themselves deep into Marx and Mao or things like the Balfour Declaration (wow, I’m patting myself on the back for remembering that one!) and all kinds of really intellectually meaty stuff which provided us with so many hours of rich conversation over beer and kebabs in the evening.

So what went wrong? Did the beer lose its appeal? Was I waylaid by other interests? No. I think what happened was this. I realized one day in the midst of one of my really wise sounding statements on the future of Chinese agricultural reforms or something similar, that I was walking on thin ice. Although we seemed to be making a lot of sense to each other, I hadn’t a clue as to what I was saying. I had just become very (really very!) good at putting words and concepts and some basic information together on topics which my friends wanted to discuss, without knowing what I meant. I panicked to think that at any moment I might be found out. I felt a little like Frank Abagnale Jr . (Catch Me If You Can) attempting to pass himself off as the various people he really wasn’t.

Then I thought to myself, if I don’t know what I’m talking about, do the others? I couldn’t be that sure. I felt my entire world of ideas collapse about me. And to this day I am not convinced that people who spout clever sounding theories which remain inaccessible to the common man, really know what they are saying. I ask myself whether they are not being clever out of a deep rooted need to command the world’s attention the way I found myself doing years ago, rather than from a genuine concern for mankind. Because let’s face it, with such a large pool of intellectual talent at the world’s disposal and so many knowledgeable individuals in positions of power wherever you look, you would expect a lot more to happen in the way of peace, and economic justice than what you see happening.

So at the end of the day I am left with the feeling that real change comes from a source other than politics or the kind of economics that we are familiar with today. It comes from how we feel about each other, and - maybe it sounds naïve to say this - but it has to do with how much we really care about each other and the world we live in. It doesn’t have to do with theories, it doesn’t have to do with weighty explanations about how the system works. The trouble with that is, it means you and me having to look at ourselves and at the changes possible for us to make as individuals, instead of constantly discussing the lives and pronouncements of other people threadbare.

I guess that’s why we prefer to bury our heads in the sands of abstractions which are meaningful only to an exclusive club of intellectuals and not to the ordinary people who make up the world. Oh well. Now you’re going to tell me that I shouldn’t be so judgmental and that all those debates and arguments and sermons do have their place in life. I know, I know. I agree with you totally, they do. Sigh. They go really well with beer and kebabs in the evenings.

1 comment:

suresh said...

Warning: what you are about to read might offend you, but please read it with a relaxed mind and an open heart.

Hi Uma,
I try hard to post a comment to your recent article at your personal blog and I find that the comments page just wouldn't open up! And since I have this notion that -everything in the world is related to everything else- I wonder if it has less to do with my computer, and more to do with the hard shield that you wear which I often find difficult to break through.

I say this, not out of any feeling of animosity against you, no. Infact I feel strongly that this has been my experience in the 1 year of therapy and two years of being in touch with you through our individual blogs and the mails between us.

I always felt as if you lived in some hard bubble, which I just couldn’t penetrate. And whenever I got anywhere close to pointing a sharp pin through,(by the way, I was that pest Joshua at the BasicIndia blog) you got either angry or strongly defensive.

So whenever I said that you were not very forthcoming when it came to understanding me as my therapist, and that you should try to search your heart for affection for me in order to start relating to me, you chose to whack me with a rebuke, “ I am not your mother” or something to that effect.

And in your views that I read at your blog, I see you getting more and more secluded in that very bubble, angry at the way people do not “care enough for others”, as you put it. Now before you rubbish my statement with heavy words like “reflection” or whatever the word you had used (I myself have a hard time scratching my head with your labels).

I wonder what makes you feel so strongly about people not being caring enough. Is it your own disability you are angry at? Or is it that you grew up with the notion that people who don’t know you generally don’t care for you? For eg. the layman on the street who “gawks” at you constantly. (I remember Dwight having showed you how “gawking” works in India, as you explained in your autobiography) and which I have tried to explain in my recent article on 'the Education system' at my blog in a positive light, which you feel is a real menace.

For as the days pass, and I keep reading you, it seems to me that there is this one central theme in all your writings, like as if you want to stand on the rooftop and shout to people, “Wait there, why doesn’t anyone care for others anymore?”

Whatever the answer or veracity of that question, I wonder what does that question speak about you?

Is it something to do with your own personal experiences? And if the answer is yes, you should be looking more intensely into your own self for answers. Because there was a time I told you that you don’t care enough for me, remember? And you said you are not my mother! Whack! Why?

My article called Hello Miss.Therapist which you have put on BasicIndia, was meant for you, not to be just showcased on the blog, you know.

Because as Osho says, there is nothing to lose but your own Mind ! All the puns etc. intended when I say that.

So to be quite honest, before you lose it, better look what bothers you deep inside and how it has to do with something within yourself. It will do you a great deal of good, and give us some fresh perspective from yourself to read.

Love
Suresh