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Soul searching requires chillum, Sartre or brandy

columns Updated: Mar 14, 2015 22:42 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times


Mail Online, February 23: the Gandhi scion will be away for “three or four weeks” on a “finding- himself journey”

After weeks of intensive searching, what did Rahul Gandhi see in the depths of his soul? Did he find himself? If he did, how did the self react to being found? Did it jump in joy? Or did it take a long, pitying look at Mr Gandhi, turn its back on him and mumble, ‘Thanks for taking the trouble, but I’d like to continue being lost, if I may,’ before going back to playing mah-jongg with the other lost selves?

I’m all agog to know the answers.

I too have been on a finding-myself journey throughout my life. In school, before the Algebra exam, I used to be seized with an urge to get away from it all to the Himalayas, where I could find my algebra-freeself.

But alas, I never screwed up the courage to confide in my maths teacher, a profoundly unsympathetic man, immune to spiritual needs.

It was so much easier in ancient India. A shishya in a gurukul, asked to appear for an exam on Sanskrit gerunds and infinitives, would go up to his guru and say, ‘Master, I love Sanskrit grammar, but unfortunately I have to go to the Himalayas to find my soul.’ To which the Master would reply, ‘Tat TvamAsi, son. Forget grammar. Here’s a chillum and some hash, you’ll need it.’

That broad-minded attitude is sorely missing these days. I have also felt a deep, spiritual sort of craving throughout my life around noon.

Does Rahul too have this mystical urge and does his gnawing feeling, like mine, go away after lunch?

I didn’t do much finding-myself in college, because there were more interesting female selves to discover. Nevertheless, girls in my time did have a soft spot for soul-searchers, particularly those who read fat books.

The gold standard for such books was ‘Being and Nothingness’ by a chap called Sartre, from whom I learnt ‘The For-itself, in fact, is nothing but the pure nihilation of the In-itself; it is like a hole of being at the heart of Being’.

In short, being is much like a doughnut and Sartre was probably a pastry chef.

When I started working, of course, I had to dispense with the ancient exhortation to ‘Know Thyself’ in favour of the more pressing one to ‘Know Thy Boss’.

Rahul doesn’t have that problem.

But I would love to know what aids to soul-searching Rahul used, apart from Google.

I used to go to the mountains of Sikkim for a cheap brandy called Gold Star, which had no quality control whatsoever. You could be plastered on one peg one day and knock off a bottle the next without any effect. It was of immense help in understanding life.

But my chief worry is what if the self I finally find doesn’t like pork vindaloo or rum? I would then have to try and forget myself in even more booze. Or worse, could it be that, when Rahul dived into the depths of his soul, he found it to be, horror of horrors, utterly empty?

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal