I have had to answer one of the toughest questions I’ve faced in a long time. I was asked this question by OkCupid.
The question was, “If you could take only one of the following on a road trip, which would it be?”
I used to be quite a regular road-tripper. Saturdays and Sundays, and if I could swing it, other days, were for riding out and finding a temple or town I could discover the history of. And later I had to road-trip for education, for work. So it wasn’t the question as much as the choices, that made it hard to answer. You see, the choices were, a map; a camera; a companion; a journal to write in.
Which one would I, should I, could I choose? What will my choice tell of me? Why are those, particularly just those, the choices? And then there were the unasked, but implied questions within the question. How long a road trip? Do I know where I begin and where I end? How am I travelling? Where, in terms of country or region, am I travelling?
But those apart, the choices gave me pause.
Let’s take the map.
What kind of maps? Road maps, with distances to, from marked, petrol pumps clearly signposted, hotels advertised? Simple hand drawn directions? Electronic, with GPS and big brother showing you your place in the world? Paper affairs that never fold back the way they were?
I love the idea of a map. I love that human beings have been able to transverse distances, compress and flatten the landscape on to a sheet of paper or cloth and make it be able to tell others what goes where. Maps are at once history and geography; historical and geographical. They are picture stories. Maps are instructions to follow or to discard, depending on how you want to look at them.
So I love maps. But what’s a road trip worth if you are merely following lines other people have drawn? My best road trips are ones where I thought I was going somewhere, but ended up going to a completely different place, and a completely different era, and the decision to do that was organic and not inspired by any map.
Maps are, for me, what you consult after a road trip, to see where you’ve been and how you’ve been to wherever you’ve just been to. So no. I wasn’t going to take a map with me on a road trip.
The next choice I contemplated was that of taking along a companion. Who will I take? Why did I choose that person? What do I want from that person, on that trip? And what will happen to our relationship – friendship – after the road trip? Will it be stronger? Weaker? Carry on as before? What purpose, then, the road trip?
I am also sufficiently comfortable with silence.
A road trip for me is about facing my internal dialogue. Confront my fears, insecurities, doubts, and face the silence. The sound of the engine, the white noise of the air rushing past, helps me quieten some of the aforesaid f., i., and doubts. Would someone near me help or hinder the silence? Will I be comfortable with their silence? Will they be okay with my speech?
So no. I wasn’t going to take along someone if I could avoid it.
The journal, then? Will this be a new journal, specific to that trip? Or a continuation of one I’ve been writing? Have I been writing a journal? If not, why start now? For a writer, a journal makes absolute sense, but what can I write that’s not already said, and said better by others? Will I publish what I’ve written? To what end, if not, did I write those things? How specific or narrative will be what I do write? Or will they merely be notes?
Ultimately, given that as a writer I am a bit narcissistic, a journal that I may not publish and may not be clever or insightful enough if I do publish, does not appeal to me. So no, I will not take a journal with me.
So that leaves the choice of a camera.
We live in a world that is overly visual. We are saturated by images – of the beautiful and pedantic, of the immediate and the lasting. We see images that shock us, jade us, move us, and push us into uncaring, indifferent empathy.
One reason I stopped taking photos, going on photowalks, or even meeting other photographers, is that there is now such a glut of the everyday photo it fills me with dread, fills me with fear of mediocrity and boredom.
And then there are those travellers who are image makers. They tell of such beautiful places with their camera, as do others of their tribe. So many photos, so many images, they become wall paper. They become just the absolute whitest of noise in the background of our civilisation.
Could I take a photo that stands out? Could I be the punctum in all this studium?
I don’t think I could, but at least I can try. If nothing, for the sheer imperfection of, inferiority of my images and my skill in making these images. And more importantly, I do not attach any deep significance or property to the images I make. I am okay about taking photos, and okay when I don’t.
So yes, I will carry a camera along. Nothing might come out of it, but I am comfortable with that eventuality.
Yeah. Thought I might as well give it a go. Seeing how this is 2015, which we have already established is the new 2005, I thought I might get out the old blog, brush all the dust and cobwebs away and turn out a few odd posts.
And then I thought, why bother.
Then I thought, why not.
So here it is.
Which is all I could muster the enthusiasm for writing, this week. I shall go lurk on twitter and question received wisdom again. Good bye.
I was doing a bit of tinkering around this blog today. Mainly to add a link to the awesome, super cool, friendly, occasionally sardonic, web magazine Silver Screen.in (go here, folks: http://www.silverscreen.in)
If you don’t know Silver Screen, shame on you. Also, now you know. If any site could say, come for the glorious, high res, beautifully shot pictures; stay for the well written, mildly sarcastic, still star-struck in a good way stories, SilverScreen could.
Anyway. I was putting in a link to SS on my blogroll (hello there stranger, welcome back to 2005) and I spent a bit of time going through the rest of the links.
Where are all the good people gone?
Where, oh dear people, are all the good writers, the bad writers, the so-so writers gone? My blogroll leads to husks, the grain long gone. My blogrolls links to people who’ve long gone off to that strange, dark, mysterious place called the Real World, never to be heard from again. My blogroll is, if I may employ the metaphor, a graveyard of silent coffins and the occasional visitor paying respects.
Fare thee well, bloggers of 2005. And 2006. May your name carry on in 140 characters or fewer.–
So that was depressing. Sorry. Here’s one way to Cheer up.
Just a thought. This is the bloody future and it is not what I was told it would be.
Inexorably we march, and I would rather just sit this dance out, while mixing metaphors.
I had an argument with a relative of mine: What is goodness? What does it mean to be a good person?
For her, a good person is kind, generous and forgiving. I don’t blame her. We are brought up on a staple diet of maryada puroshattam Ram who is the epitome of everything good and nice. We are taught to give to the poor, to do charity and to forgive everyone who has wronged you. And that ladies and gentlemen, makes a good human being. Being a good human is the goal of your life and that is what you should strive for.
It doesn’t matter how you earned that money to get so rich to afford charity. It doesn’t matter that you don’t ask why there are so many poor people in the first place. It doesn’t matter that you keep getting wronged, you just have to forgive. DON’T ASK WHY!
For me, goodness is respecting yourself. Forgive only those who ask for your forgiveness. Stand up for yourself, stand up for others. Don’t do charity (I, personally, hate the word). How is it generosity when you give away Rs. 1000 and earn Rs. 10000000? Is this your sense of justice?
When I said this, I was questioned of why I work for the rights of survivors of violence? The answer is simple. When I respect my space, I respect the space of someone else. I understand that a woman or a child (or a man), just any human being has a right to just BE without violence. I believe the same for animals. (And hence, Pet Santa).
Goodness is being able to sleep at night knowing you did the best you could and yet feeling that tinge of guilt wishing you could have done more.
Am I selfish? Yes, maybe. I am fine with that. For me, the world doesn’t end at me. I am not self-centered yet I fight for what is mine. I will fight to restore balance as much as I can. I never not intervene thinking it isn’t my place.
Best thing about me is that I am pompous, unabashedly so and yet, will defend your right to say whatever you want.
What do you guys think?
(And yay, my first post on this blog. Thank you, C for letting me do this)
Has this happened to you? You take a decision, when you’re younger, and followed a certain path thinking it would take you to a goal you held to be absolute. And then, the path is no longer, it is not even circuitous. It becomes your prison and your habitat, much like the enclosures in a zoo.
I knew such was my case. I had known it for a while. This year, I leave that. This year, I will change. This year, I admit I was wrong, that the goal is true but my means aren’t.