I was told that ancient Hindus allowed time for everything. In life one was expected to experience all the emotions – joy, sadness, anger, fear, hope, betrayal – and that, they believed, was the key to self-realisation. As an apparent counterpoint to this, they also believed in the now-famous concept of Maya: simply put, it’s a code to enable a person to rise above one’s circumstances by introducing multiple perspectives in the way one sees and feels.
These are world-views that I value. Not only because I grew up within the Hindu discourse, but because I have found them to be immensely helpful in life. Especially after my troubled brush with the fashionable rhetoric of the Existentialists. I’m still not sure if it was the French connection or my despair with stilted Victorian literature amongst other things that led me to flirt with nihilism. Be that as it may, I expended valuable time and energy in reading, discussing, and thinking about the futility of life.
Of course that changed when I realised the wimpishness of the entire activity. I was a college kid, living off my parents’ hard-earned money and instead of jumping into the Ganges, I sat at old, colonial-style coffee houses with like-minded people, smoked, appreciated the coffee and balked at life.
When I realised this, I decided to change my way of life. I am no believer in god; so there way no ally in heaven telling me what to do. I thought about all that I could do with my life – all that the futility experts never wrote about. Of course a lot of those ideas were impractical, but I was determined to try. And so I looked for and got a job.
My plan was to achieve something that I had given up thinking it impossible or probably never tried. Identifying that was a big task, because I soon realised that it was much easier to get lost in the incredible lure of shopping malls and binge parties than to introspect and build a life around a specific goal.
I kept reminding myself that life was about wanting something badly enough to make one work one’s ass off to get it. And that the work bit was more important than the achievement. I do that still now, so I’m in no position to evaluate its wisdom.
However, with years of practice, I am, I think, a fanatically focussed workaholic now. I have seen dizzy highs and terrible lows in my work and personal life, and despite my sometimes-volatility, I find myself compartmentalising my life to manage its various fronts. Not that I can survive otherwise.
I would perhaps been very pleased with myself had I not been faced with a string of unfortunate incidents in the recent past. Most notable among them being my estrangement with my friends and the loss of my cat. As always, loss puts everything to test. With the passing of each day, I keep adding to my list of self-discoveries.
I realise now that my preoccupation with work leaves me with little time to soak in the colours and feelings of life. When I feel wretched, I cry; and then, as if to not waste my time crying, I get busy with something else. And when I’m overwhelmed with sorrow, despair or anger, I also always remember that it is just a matter of time before life gets back to normal.
I sometimes think about what I can do to make things right, and I know, that apart from being productive, I’m also indulging in a highly personalised brand of evasion. Work is my bulwark against grief. Because work keeps me going; empty hours, like empty arms, kill me.
I know I’m not rising above my circumstances; I’m merely circumventing them through cunning. And in all these mind-games, I find myself as a hollow escapist, ill-equipped to deal with life. I neither have the time, nor the mettle to go through grief.