Of Past Dawns and Future Noons
In this beautifully-written tome, Shonar Joshi tries to decipher what it mean for us to be Indian.books Updated: Nov 26, 2005 12:44 IST
Of Past Dawns and Future Noons
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‘The whole aim of a great culture is to lift man up to something which at first he is not, to lead him to knowledge though he starts from an unfathomable ignorance, to teach him to live by his reason, though actually he lives much more by his unreason, by the law of good and unity, though he is now full of evil and discord, by a law of beauty and harmony though his actual life is a repulsive muddle of ugliness and jarring barbarisms, by some high law of his spirit, though at present he is egoistic, material, unspiritual, engrossed by the needs and desires of his physical being.’
The following extract has been taken from the first chapter “Notes Along the Way”
‘Because this is our country, with a fabulous history that defines us in more ways than we can even begin to imagine. And when we call ourselves Indian, there just has to be something more to it than belonging to a patch of land between the Himalayas and Kanyakumari.’
From “Notes Along the Way”
‘Three decades into my life and I feel invincible.
This is a spirit that gets me up in the morning and through the day. ‘I am invincible’ says my heart and my mind.
But is this unique to me alone? It is a brashness, a boldness, a highhandedness that throws all cares to the wind that I see in my peers and the same I find reflected in myself as well. It is a trademark of being young, of living the high life of the 21st century, replete with gizmos and funky fads shoving for the space of a moment. This is a fabulous time of our lives where things are simply doled out by the minute – one just has to be there at the right time, in the right place to reap the harvest. There is practically nothing lacking and to grow up as part of modern India’s bandwagon is enough to charge the air with a challenge. Living on the edge is but natural for a child today; I am only one such child amongst many.
One day, out of the blue I decided to see the rest of the country that gave me birth. It’s beautiful. I’ve traveled to all corners and seen all that lies in-between. Not just plush resorts but hard floors of shanty dharamshalas. Slept under stars next to freezing lakes, ridden camels under the blazing sun, played with multi-coloured fish in clear waters, stood with mountain dogs on the Line of Control, bathed under waterfalls everywhere.
That’s when I realized that modern India has little to do with my sense of invincibility. There had to be something more – something to do with the soil I stand on. I know, because when I hear Vande Matram being sung I just clamp up with tears stuck in my throat; when thousands of strangers come together to bathe in a river on a special day and let me jump the line for no reason…. When a stranger puts his two children one on top of another so that I can have three more inches to sit on in a crowded bus… or when a porter who walks for over a hundred kilometers with me for company asks for my address even though he doesn’t know how to write… when these things happen, I know.
I know that these are what give me my bearings. I know that these are the little things that make my life more sensible, tangible and reasonable than chasing the latest trend. Here is where I find my true level of comfort. Here is where I diffuse into a page of history with millions of others, mod or not mod, hip or not hip, all merging in between the lines. When this arrogance of “youth’ passes through the winds of time, then it is what “I Know” that will save me from feeling all burnt out like many of my predecessors.
The latest and the newest, there are but momentary. They will come today and be gone tomorrow and nothing will remain of them except the overcramped closets. One need swipe and the present gets deleted into the next moment. But that which is eternal is what makes one invincible. If you catch onto its essence then it will forever pulsate in your blood, turning it into a darker shade of love. It wasn’t my mind and my heart that felt invincible – it was my spirit. And that spirit is nothing but the connection one has with the millenniums of dust under one’s feet.
But I still belong to modern India and indulge in part, if not whole, to her temptations. They say this age is one of experimentation and we too are gunning for something lasting, something visionary. This is the point when in waltzes a new experiment called Resurgent India and out waltzes the “I”.
Because we all make India what it is. And our grandparents made India what it was. And our grandchildren will make it what it will be. It is not about isolated individuals – it is about a nation. It is about what makes a nation and so, it as much a book about you and me, as much as a book written by you and me, as much a book written for you and me.
To say “I” is to imply a past, present and future that belongs to me alone. Which is simply absurd, impossible. You are what makes me. I am what makes the next man. Together, we make the nation. Together we make history. Together we draw plans for posterity. Together we make the Indian. One link goes amiss and the chain that runs through this land will break. And India will have to begin scratch once again.
We may not all think and act alike, but in our differences lie the lessons to be learnt. That’s how we pick our cues from the other and weave them into our souls just as India herself has always done through the endless stream of humanity that has stepped on her warm soil. If we can teach each other, then there is no reason why one age cannot teach another. That’s our experiment. A mixing of two potent thoughts, one belonging to the present, the other steeped in the past. Shake it up, what have we got – a new thought.
Will it blow up on our faces? Will it give us immortality? Who knows? Each one has to try it out for himself. But if you live in one and not the other, then safe you’ll be no doubt but stagnant, inconspicuous, ordinary.
Past with Present – that’s our secret concoction for the Future.
First Published: Nov 26, 2005 11:45 IST