Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
It is that time of the year again. The time when over a million hopes are dashed, a few fortunate dreams realized and some not-so-fortunate, like yours truly, dumped where we belong. Right in the middle. We are good. But not good enough. And hence, we need to choose. Factor in everything, from familial expectations to placement scenarios to where we want to go in life. As if we have a clue. I remember making that choice, rushing back from “Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania” to withdraw a seat. This time of the year serves as an annual reminder of that decision. If not the offsprings of the Mehtas/Kapoors/Sharmas, there’s always a junior whom you knew in school, maybe even mentored, who outdoes you. Or worse, matches your performance and chooses differently. Chooses conventionally.
Keeping up with my reignited ebullience for reading, I recently finished Beatrice and Virgil. To the unacquainted, it is one of Yann Martel’s works. Yeah, Yann Martel of Life of Pi fame. It is basically a conversation between a donkey called Beatrice and a monkey called Virgil. Simple enough. And yet, it had me hooked. Much more so, than Life of Pi. No, I liked the tale of Piscine Patel and his bromance with Richard Parker. Even the movie, despite Irrfan’s noticeable change of accents. But the thing is, I came across LOP way after I’d read one of the gems of modern Indian literature by India’s most celebrated author. One Night at the Call Centre, by Chetan Bhagat. So, while I was enchanted by Pi’s journey and adventures, the entire dilemma over “Does God exist?” and the alternative versions of their stories that the protagonist eventually ends up offering, had already been spoilt for me. Hell, they even had a movie adaptation made, with Bhai going zip-zap-zoom with his moves. Which are still better than Bhagat’s trauma-inducing steps on Nach Baliye 7. Why anyone would ask a non-dancer who could give all the non-dancers a run for their money to judge a dance show is beyond my comprehension. Basically, as far as contrived setups go, Star Plus even beat the remarkable levels that Game of Thrones’ writing has been setting, of late.
Anyway, so Bhagat’s ‘novel’ begins with him in a train compartment where, surprise-surprise, he meets a beautiful girl who tells him a story. Not one train compartment that I’ve ever been in, has featured a non-male under 30. Writer’s luck, maybe. This whole train and the pretty lady part is oddly reminiscent of a Ruskin Bond story that we studied in 8th. ICSE, I tell you. That, and the ending being eerily similar to LOP, makes me wonder if all Bhagat did was read two books in a train. And watch a movie, for the rest of the plot. You can always count on him to deliver “the scene” though. I’ve never been near a Qualis’s back seat ever since.
On my latest train journey from the holy city to the City of Dreams, I had a Bhagat moment. Minus the pretty lady, of course. Squeezed into a corner, separated from my companions, with sleep refusing to show up, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of the landscape with my preferences in all walks of life. Monotonous and undulating, with a hill shooting up, here and there. My unwillingness to look beyond Chinese cuisine when on an outing is just the tip of the iceberg. I remember a senior asking me what my five favourite movies were, almost two years ago. Apart from the Dark Knight trilogy, I could only muster Rush and Moneyball.
Rush showed me that racing movies were not always as shitty as Ta-ra-rum-pum. Or maybe, I am just a sucker for rivalries and comebacks. And Natalie Dormer. On a side note, it might well be the end of the road for one of the most celebrated rivalries in sports, with Nadal withdrawing from Wimbledon. That is downright sad. I’ll intern for a hundred more days, if I’m assured that I’d get to see a Federer-Nadal final again. Neither of those things look likely, at this point.
Which brings me to Moneyball. Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Billy Beane is right up there with his act as Tyler Durden, in the movie that shall not be named. Pitt should have won an Oscar, but then again, I thought that Leo deserved the Oscar for the Wolf of Wall Street, only to watch Dallas Buyers’ Club and being made to eat my words. Anyway, Billy walking out to watch the Oakland A’s going for the record, fighting his fear of jinxing it, is on par with Hunt driving his ass off in the championship deciding race and Jordan confronting his demons in Rockstar. Yes, I happen to be one of the two people who actually liked the movie, the other being Kaushik.
I find myself on another train today, with my surroundings having changed for the better. Neglecting the fact that I’m going back where I don’t want to. Yet, I miss the solitude that the crowded train had to offer. A typical case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence coupled with the homebound rush of happiness, I guess. Nashik to Mumbai is a journey to be experienced, not because there are any visual delights on offer, but for how life changes in a span of three hours. On that day, suspended in the middle of these two worlds, I couldn’t help but reflect upon my month in the holy city. The lack of road dividers, traffic signals and variety in the day-to-day life aside, there’s a quaintness to life here, some unhindered hours of peace and an entailed realization that even though the heart wants what it wants, the mind can be taught to f0rget what it can’t get. Or as my friend Saini likes to call it – what it doesn’t deserve.
Beatrice: What should we do?
Virgil: Is there anything we can do?
Beatrice: We could move on.
Virgil: We have been down that road before and it didn’t get us anywhere.
Beatrice: Maybe this time it will.