Thursday, 12 February 2009

Rewind... Fast forward

I've been rather desperate to get down with writing some movie reviews for the past two weeks, given that my diet of cinematographic pieces, old and new, has been rather steady-- at least, one a day, and on some, two-- for the same period. Whenever I watch a film that I really like and have something to say about (which isn't always: some I love, but don't have anything to add in the form of appraisal or criticism), my temper gets a bit itchy unless I get down to the job. Given this nugget of a fact-- it's not without considerable restraint on my part that I've kept my promise of not writing a movie review after three straight ones preceding this current post! But, also, keeping in mind my record and inherent ability to be simultaneously dual, and possibly treading on what the great Siddhartha called the Middle Path-- this actually is a movie review, and a book review, and something more. Not with much of a disguise, I suppose. My aim is not to write the great mystery novel anyway. Enough of this bullshit beating about the bush and let's get down to the heart of the thing, if that's the phrase I was really looking for (if more-or-less avid readers find a shade of Wodehouse-ian humour in this introductory paragraph, it's not completely unfounded, let me assure you!)-- children.

Now, of course, children are cuddled by almost everyone-- as they indeed should be, till it doesn't start getting on their nerves-- but it's no small wonder when you start realising that the adjectives that qualify a little child are not just "sweet" and "cute". If anything, their ability to detect the true essence of almost anything that really matters is nothing short of uncanny-- I've met lots of kids who can make out good people from bad, though they can't of course articulate what it exactly is that makes a man good or bad in the first place. It is intuition that guides them in making choices like these, and funnily enough, they have little in the form of experience that helps them form an intuition. Isn't that a mystery then, how they know the very basics of moral judgement (be it in a rudimentary stage) without any external influence of any sort! To me, it is. That it is without any external influence is actually a great thing if you ask me-- the child's conscience still retains the pristine purity of something untouched by artificiality or evil, of any form. The sad thing is that in one of every thousand cases or so (or maybe an even smaller fraction-- I don't know what!) as the child grows up, his intuition is shaped by external factors, and shaped in a bad way. Which, of course, is mostly due to a grave mistake on the part of parents. Instead of clearly telling the child what is right and wrong, most parents try to shield children completely away from all wrong-- knowing well in their hearts that evil is sure to creep into the untrampled consciousness of the little one sooner or later. 'Creep' is the word, because it catches the child unaware, slowly tempting him into falsehood and untruth, all along quiet and imperceptible. Wouldn't it have been better just to show evil for what it is, maybe in a suitable and subtle manner, and give the child a fair idea of what he must resist as he starts absorbing the 'practical' ways of the world? That's just one of the several complaints about parenting I have, but digress I must not (maybe, if time and my whim destines so, I'll post a long essay on the subject-- something which has been drafted and saved permanently into my memory).

So where was I? Intuition. Which brings me to another I-word: intellect. The intellect of the child far outshines that of the grown-up. Be it the willingness to listen to the yarns from old grandpa or grandma, the instinctive questions that prop up as he starts learning the basics of science, and in my personal opinion (one that is thankfully shared by many great philosophers of the day and yore), some of the deepest questions in philosophy-- where did we come from, where did he come from, and where do we go; why is it that the Earth has been chosen for human existence of all heavenly bodies that we do know of, and what exactly is it that we are living for... Too many questions, and not without surprise, too few answers. Or maybe, too few people capable of understanding the questions to even start thinking about the answers! Predictably, a lot of these questions are dismissed as random banter-- but of course, that couldn't be far from the truth. It isn't hard to see why the gurukul system admitted mostly little children (at least, that's what I know!)-- the guru knew well enough that the most thoughtful and intelligent questions would come from the little toddlers barely capable of speaking clearly, and that these little children would be both the most attentive and intelligent audience he could wish for!

Another I-word for the record: imagination. That a child has in plentiful! There is no bound to his imagination-- and even the most unnoticed and silent of objects lying about in the melee of our day-to-day life can fire up his own wishful world of seeing what adults can't. Uh, adults can see little anyway-- they spend all their lives chasing nothing, nothing of real value anyway, and die unhappy. Well, most of them do. They are interested in what they call the real world, and tax their brains on stock markets, success, fame, money, power and what not. They sometimes have loads of that, and still they want more. And still more. They do not see that happiness eludes them, that peace leaves them sooner than they could have imagined. Oh, I forgot, adults can't imagine! They scorn the child for his ability, and ask him to prepare themselves for the fruitless endless chase of whatever practical mumbo-jumbo it is that they pursue. Not for once do they see that reality extends beyond what meets the eye. Reality is, in essence, abstract; well, real reality is, anyway! You create your own reality, and what is real to one may not be to others. Isn't it wise to practise and learn the art of creating reality than seeing what every other average Joe can-- a reality that has been met with common consensus (which naturally, following the example of the highest common factor, stands as the thing of least worth)?? The grown-up does not realise this, but he is scorned by children far more than he scorns their apparent childishness. When a child imagines a thing that is beyond the realm of 'practicality' (in my opinion, one of the several catchphrases which most adults use without pondering over or even knowing it's meaning!), he silently taunts and challenges the grown-up. Some of the greatest innovations and discoveries have in fact been extensive evaluations of little observations that children noticed. Recall: James Watt was a little child when he noticed the kettle singing, and his mind suddenly wondered why was it so. Was there a ghost somewhere inside that made the kettle hum so, and rattle its lid about? From that grew possibly the greatest invention of the industrial revolution: the steam engine! Think of our little Ishan, the protagonist of Taare Zameen Par, who imagined a great lot and painted his imagination in bold colours!

The child's ability to feel and express emotions far extends that of his elders. Whether it be a sudden unprecedented smile, or the look of wonder at having discovered a little something that has a natural charm of it's own, the quiet serene look of having all that he needs in the world, the playful cackle that precedes a small act of mischief, the hung-down face on the brink of bursting into tears... It all identifies the capricious child, and sets him apart. None of it is plastic, there because it has to be there, made-up or silly! He encompasses the whole world in his own little expressions of joy and sorrow. He is the antidote to the cynic's bitterness, a little reason to live on between the madness of this world that is both unthinkably cruel and randomly kind. The child feels for his dear ones without knowing why he must. He has guilt and conscience, and when he has done a little something wrong, his face expresses it better than words can!

When the wise sage called children the messengers of God, he wasn't joking at all. If there is hope for mankind, it is in following the way of the children. In deciding what is truly necessary to be happy and contented, in simple little ways much like toddlers, and what is lumber and can be easily laid down for good! If there is one thing that you can start doing today, respect little ones. A little less respect to elders would do no harm, believe me. As for me, in the footsteps of countless philosophers, thinkers, artists and my dearest friend, I vow never to grow up! :)

In case you're wondering what made me write this post, there are a few people I'd like to mention, without taking their names. My most baby-like dear friend, of course, and a little niece who adores me, and another very sensitive little child I know. And some people who have years behind them but are still child-like in many an aspect. Among other inspirations: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, parts of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and Majid Majidi's Bacheha-Ye Aseman (Children of Heaven). All lovely pieces about the delightful world of children. Makes me want to become a leedle kid yet again!

P.S.-- Now some childish banter on my part. I was expecting a wee bit of extra response to my previous post on Ikiru, ah but anyway... Now, I suppose, I can get back to movie reviews yet again.


Anonymous said...

My dearest friend,

I'm sure you must be mighty surprised to find a comment from your unpredictable (and, I must say, an irresponsible co-blogger) friend after so long. (Well, I myself am!) Not writing a really commentful comment this time, so to speak, but I simply couldn't keep my smiles and an adorable awe all to myself!

Knowing you for a long time (and so closely at that), I'm just so accustomed to The Kid in you, that the one thought that kept occurring to me through and through while reading your post was, 'this is just so full of you'!!:) Your unadulterated ways and views; your very own style of expressions and the very individualistic approach towards life; your method of questioning from the fundamentals, from the very ABC of everything – the simple, yet important, questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’ – well, in all of this, the kid is alive and vibrant in you, making you the beautiful and endearing person that you are. The incongruity between your sensitive inner self and the blunt outer world (with which you have to frequently step in) often makes the film that you’re capturing with such a passionate care, from the very depths of your insightful self, a difficult web of complex knots… It’s like the sudden severing of rhythm in an otherwise breathtaking musical performance!

The few people whom you’ve talked about in the last paragraph also suffer from these knots, friend. People before our time have also gone through these same knots. And, since neither are you the first one nor are you alone, there is hope that the film will be made – yes, it will be made, capturing all the ecstasies of the universe, just the way you want, dear.:)

Sudipto Basu said...

Dear Sayantani,
Ah! Never mind. When I'm myself quite guilty of having ignored my blog (for whatever reasons), how can you be blamed?

Reading your comment, all I do is smile widely-- I wish I could be so child-like after all. There's just so much that I, and we, need to learn from the little ones. But I thank myself that at least I can see that there's something to be learnt: that makes about all the difference regarding this matter!

Like you laughed and told me yesterday, I'm sure many would lose you with this talk of a film. Pity then-- that reminds me how Antoine de Saint-Exupery almost felt sorry for those who couldn't see the Little Prince's sheep in the box! Surely yes, the film will be made-- metaphorically, and by God's grace, realistically too! :) Thank you, my little assistant-director.

Kaushik Chatterjee said...

There is a little bit of that child caged in the confines of the adult. He sleeps or is made to, more often than not, much like the Shundi Raja of the Goopy Gyne story. The adult, relieved at having put to sleep the little one in him, all-knowing, stalks triumphantly, on the stage, facing the big, bad world- confident that his astute sense, his hard-groomed habit of looking through, would always make him get the better of the bad one, eventually.

He prides in his uncanny ability to view the little bit of everything crowding his mind and attention, in their right perspective, distilling their profound nuances in the light of hard-earned experiences. At times he just cannot help admiring himself silently and at times, self- ingratiatingly, at his remarkable insight, his sagacity, in making a ball-park estimate of well, almost everything, he comes across and gets to skim through even casually and his ability to draw instant inferences so ‘unerringly’!!

He can well, easily almost, read through the eyes of the office peon, call the bluff of some Mr X from his suppressed snigger, see through the machinations of his office boss, his business partner , the real intentions of his importunate wife, the petulant child, the feigning beggar, the over-helpful garage assistant, the unduly solicitous LIC agent hell-bent on selling proposals and ultimately call the shots, as always, anyway.

He, as a doubting Thomas, reserves a dismissive banter, a sanctimonious ‘I-told-you-so’, one-liner for the gullible neighbour, the credulous relation whom he has to fend off almost invariably, eventually! He is well, er… almost the Mr Perfect, trying to extract the best deal out of the business, of life, his intuitions and the canny art of knowing people inside out, helping him negotiate through the labyrinthine lanes of life, giving the know-it-all- friendly advices to people around him; he knows when to see through, look the other way, wink at people, pull his might, dodge and duck, and come unfazed mostly and at other times, yes, with a few bruises, as rewards for life’s still unlearnt lessons !

And then suddenly, something, somewhere goes amiss and the tautly webbed yarn, intricately woven over so many warps and folds, snaps so unexpectedly! The cookie crumbles, the armour cracks and a deafening silence, a hellish yell, lets the little one locked in him, come out, prancing and laughing and singing and squinting, all the way: in the guises of little Alice from her wonderland, Dashu from his mad world, Apu, sprinting all alone, mid-fields, in the vanishing trails of the smoke of the steam engine, Dakghar’s Amal, with his wondrous eyes talking about his travails in “Crouncha dweep’, the Little Prince with his boa constrictor, Tom Sawyer, fresh from his adventures, Ruku, dream-riding on the lion of Africa and Piku, lost in his thoughts of the precise colour he should use to paint his white lotuses.

Love and Regards, Sudipto. Keep it up

Sudipto Basu said...

That is a such a poignant comment, Kaushik-da. This realisation of a void somewhere-- of the absence of untrammeled innocence and wishful fascination, of natural intuition corrupted with years of 'growing up' and a lot more that can't be put squarely in words...

Just like the expression of the 'another little child' I mentioned, which is what directly egged me to write this post. There was that look of a quiet peace mixed, I perceive, with a shade of sorrow for what I-don't-know, and an almost saintly resignation. However hard I try, that particular expression can't be expressed complete... not by me, anyway! It was deeply moving, and I still can't clearly articulate why. Maybe, that is why children should be respected-- there's a simple subtlety of emotion that they can understand, but grown-ups like me can't.

Kaushik Chatterjee said...

I understand or should I say I’m trying to ? If only we could have a little more of such grown-ups like you, Sudipto.

Should a person having a child like simplicity, an earthy curiosity borne out of a genuine and passionate attachment to this world, has to be necessarily naïve, wishy-washy, superficial in his judgments? Is it true that such simple-minded folks, with trusting eyes and caring minds, do not quite understand the intricacies of complex assignments and eventually make a fool of themselves, earning such epithets as “ he is so good that he is good-for-nothing”?

Then, why should such persons be routinely derided by us, grown-ups, with such one-liners as “Come on, man ! Grow up! The world’s not a child’s play!” Should the loss of innocence necessarily have to be traded with the gain of experience, exposure et al (a quid-pro-quo that has to follow any adult transactions!) and in the ultimate analysis, how effective, ‘valuable’ is this trade-off ?

Remember the psychological trauma that Philip underwent as so evocatively captured in Graham Green’s “The Basement Room” ? the dilemmas, the lost world of innocence, unhappily married with the practicalities of the big bad world of the ‘adult child’, as poignantly brought forth in Philip's anxious queries, “Who is she ? Who is she ? “

And Tagore’s paradigm of 'untrammeled innocence' when he wistfully exhorts :

“Ja Peyechhi prothom dine shei jeno pai sheshe
Du hat diye bishwere chnui shishur moton heshe”

My love and regards to the eternal child in you, Sudipto.