Monday, December 03, 2007

Lofty Dreams and Little Ones

Dreams are either lofty or little ones. Some people think big and actually pursue their dreams. That separates them from the aam admi, the hoi polloi. Others are happy with their little dreams. Manjari Shukla, a classmate at the university, called up and asked me what I am doing with my life. Working for a corporate university. And why? Because I have a son to raise. So what's your dream? I don't have one. Why don't you write?

Yes, I've heard that from another Manjari (Manjari Rathi), my best buddy colleague ever. She is the most apolitical person I've ever met. Everybody in the office is a mini politician otherwise. The Bongs stick to the Bongs but backstab them, the Mallus are always going on and on in Malayalam. The Punjoos are always talking about Mrs Chopra's new sofa and Mr Chaddha's tax evasion strategies and the Gujjus about how tasty vegetarian food can be and how one makes better dhoklas than the other. Manjari isn't into any of this. Her ethnicity is hardly discernible because she comes across primarily as an Indian, which is such a welcome change. She is nice. She wants me to write too.

So does Christine. "You must write your memoirs," she wrote once. Christine was my boss earlier and I guess we connected for a brief period once. She feels I should write my memoirs. About how the urban Indian woman has changed from being absolutely inaccessible thirty years ago to someone who would sleep with you tonight and forget about you the next morning. How they have triumphantly crossed the virtual limits put around them by the misogynistic society of this subcontinent. How, despite facing a lot of discrimination at the workplace and otherwise, they are breaking all the barriers and coming out. This is nothing short of a revolution, only we haven't been able to accept it as one. We are afraid to accept that the girl student outscores and outshines the male counterpart by a few miles. And one such emancipated young girl walking to her apartment last evening spied three little children playing some weird games. She removed her ipod earplugs, went near them and realized they were playing "sex sex" with each other. Two girls and one boy, probably around seven or eight years old. Every new generation is shocking the earlier one out of their wits. Christine wants me to write about that because she thinks I am a new-age feminist. Because I was particularly polite with her, perhaps? I liked the compliment though. Who doesn't like compliments?

And like them, there are plenty of others who keep asking me to write. Only they forget that I am a person with little dreams. My lofty dreams of being a writer, a rally driver/rider, an actor, a blues harp player are just dreams. I love to live with my immediate, little dreams. What is the difference between the lofty and the little ones? If the lofty one is to be able to write fiction, the little one is to be able to express your immediate angst in a blog. Manini Chatterjee, the editor of The Telegraph (a Kolkata newspaper), once told me why she is not really happy. She has published a couple of books; she has won the Rabindra Puroshkar for her book Do and Die; has a son studying Philosophy and History at St Stephen's, New Delhi; has built a nice retreat up in the hills of Kumaon (remember Jim Corbett, anybody?), but is still not happy. She is content, but not happy. "You know why you and I feel we still have something more to do? That is because we haven't written fiction so far. Our lives will be unfulfilled if we don't get recognition as writers." It was very polite of her to include me in parentheses, but she is a writer and she will be able to write fiction some day. I cannot. Because my dreams are still little and I am talking to you here.

If the lofty one is to be able to beat Moudgil in the Raid de Himalayas next year, the little one is to be able to take my Royal Enfield out every weekend for a 300 km ride. How can you participate in a rally when you have to keep aside money for your son's school fees, your tax-saving investments, your mortgage payments, and other day-to-day expenses? You cannot. You can just buy a copy of the Bike magazine and read about Sachin Chavan, Moudgil, Prashant, Easha, riding up there and living their dreams. I have accepted that I cannot live up to those dreams so I want to live my little dreams of touring. The next little one is to ride all around India, leaving aside the extreme corners of course, alone. Achievable.

Aparna Sen will never know about me, but I feel I am so versatile. I lack any definite topography of face and can pass off as anything from a Korean to a Puerto Rican. I feel I can act. But can I? I can never find out, so that lofty dream has to take a backseat as I sit in my living room and watch Easy Rider, Motorcycle Diaries, Riding Solo to the Top of the World, Amelie, and think about my wrinkles. No little dreams here either. Maybe someday to strap a handycam to the gas tank and ride off, preaching salvation through a surfeit of something you desire for. A time comes when you don't want it that bad.

And my dreams are coming to an end now. The last one is to be a blues harp player. I think of visiting Peter Isaac one day and finding out from him how to think blues. You have to think blues but all I can think while playing is of John Denver, easy John Lennon, and Kishore Kumar. You have to learn to think the blues. That dream is strong, and will probably be the first one I will actually wake up and run after.

But for now, the little one is to be able to sit alone in the attic and hear the echo make my rendition of Chalte Chalte more soulful.