6 March 2016

The Three Foreigners and the Calcuttan

Sometimes in life, we need to take a leap of faith and not hold back. Weighing the pros and cons and plotting out the plan of action can only take us that far, in fact further away from the serendipitous moments of bliss from our lives. 

Yesterday was one such day. I was offered to come be a part of an experimental theatre group’s 14th anniversary, not just as an audience but also as a performer (I won’t be using names here because this is not meant to be a publicity piece, I’m writing down my memories and experiences here). But the fun part which I later discovered was that, the line between the audience and the performers would become thin and after a point completely break to form a harmonious synchronisation between the act, and life itself.

Now I was fairly sceptical of going ahead and joining the said event, because of various personal blocks and issues with other preoccupations. But somehow I managed to take the leap, put everything aside and go for it. And boy, I’m so happy I did.  Before the ‘performance’ there was a talk. Now, this talk, my goodness, this talk breathed in more passion into my bones than the past three years of college. The man had arrived from Germany with his lovely lady companion and they were here, spreading the virtues of living a life away from the traps of the modern day materialistic and capitalistic society that is slowly engulfing us. They called it, Free Spaces.


Now at the beginning he asked us all what we feel defines our personal free space. The handful of people that were there, sitting in a circle surrounding a montage of pictures lying on the ground from all over the world, all got busy defining their own free space. The old lady from Italy told us how she believes that the choices that we have in life must be utilised and we must go out and live in harmony; the Bengali woman in her mid-twenties spoke of how she considers her time with nature to be her absolute free space, when she can truly feel each and every part of herself tingling with life; the girl from Germany spoke about her own idea of free space where she envisions people living as a community with their own produce, so on and so forth. I could feel each of them vibrating with such raw energy and enthusiasm even though they were talking about this for the first time.
And it was my turn, and I said what I have always felt. That free space for me would be when we start understanding the poetry of life. There’s music in the universe. Hold your hands against your ears, close them and you will hear the silence, which slowly transcends to the music of the universe. The thrive in that music is our free space. To love without the confines of possession is our free space.

To speak without the constant fear of persecution is our free space.

A Representational image from the recent JNU fiasco
I couldn’t help but bring up the dire condition our country is in. How we don’t bat an eye lid before attacking people, how easy it is to divide ourselves into Us and Them, how easy it is to blindly shove down half-baked philosophies down our throats without questioning or being curious about anything at all. Because it is easy to just be. Because as long as we are getting our latest iPhones, drinking at the swanky new bar and updating our social profiles, everything else is just a matter of vague consideration, mild pondering and adept sweeping under the rug. Because nobody wants to get their hands dirty. And why must they? The government won’t pay for their manicures or branded clothes for that matter.

Navamita Chandra with Wolfgang Sterneck

But I digress. So this man, who later tells me how his name literally means the wolf’s path, sits down and tells us how he believes that humans should increasingly opt for living alternative lifestyles. He shows us these glorious pictures he clicked from all over the world where people are just living as a community in abandoned houses, which are nothing but a waste of space, painting the walls, forming their own libraries, growing their own vegetables and everyone is just helping one another out without the prospect of any monetary returns. The pictures are bright and beautiful and it doesn’t take long before my mind starts drifting somewhere far off.

It is true, as he said, everywhere we go we are being bombarded with advertisements, creating needs which were previously non-existent, telling us that we have to have a certain thing or somehow we aren’t really living. WELL THEY ARE ALL LIES. What we really need is seldom found within the glass walls of an upscale mall!

As always, my mind switched on the duality game. One part of me was perfectly convinced and the other part of me kept thinking, well it’s not very practical, our society has indeed grown in ways which has made us dependent on things we can’t do without, how living in small community clusters seems all happy and fun but what about the legal issues, the inevitable material needs, and blah and blah and blah. But what I realised was, there will always be a list of cons for everything we do. What we really have to focus on is the list of pros. And when that list outdoes all the other lists you know that there’s no two ways about it.

I had a lot to think about but time doesn’t run around in a whimsy like my thoughts (or does it?) and it was time for the performance. And I am choosing to not go into the explicit details of it because one needs to experience it and not read about it. The room full of candles, the handful of ‘audience’, the darkness, the silences nuanced by the strains of two half-forgotten guitars and the chimes from the anklet I had to wear, the captivating yet mellow wafts of incense, the ritualistic nature of the whole event, something about it all made me exceptionally heady and high. Poetry came to me out of nowhere, and it danced off my tongue, waltzing through my teeth, strangely befitting the show going on ahead of me. A foreign song, sung from the foreign throat of the lovey woman, and nothing else had ever felt so familiar to me. Lights on, in touch with reality once again, we all felt pretty vulnerable. Post lunch, I had turned on the tour guide in me and decided to take the three foreign souls, so enchanted yet scared of this lovely city of ours, to sit at the Lake, see the lights show and drink some "cha."

Auto, metro and then loads of walking and there we were. I can be without a doubt given the trophy for the worst tour guide ever because I had to ask for directions more times than them, but hey I have embarrassingly low spatial intelligence so deal with it. But once we got to the lake, everything was just as it was supposed to be. The lights were there, the cha came exactly when we yearned for it, the lights were there and the bats added just the right amount of eeriness. Before leaving he came to me and told me, ‘You know you can ask me whatever you wish to over facebook. I’ll answer it all. But for now, just know that money comes and go but following your heart will take you places." After a few hugs he left with his lady companion, who is equally invigorating and enigmatic. The other girl, in whom I seemed to have found such a soulful companion, stayed back for a while and talked more about a tonne of things that we had in common even after living half a world away from one another.

That night I came back home still high from the day’s events. I guess it was all that positive energy that I had come in contact with, that made me vibrate louder than ever in a long while. After a long long time, I faced no problems sleeping at night. It gave me immense comfort knowing that people like them are out there, making the world a better place, a simpler place, away from all the nonsense that we have been programmed to follow. Yes, it’s an utopia we are far away from, but an utopia we shall work to achieve nonetheless. It’s a dream many of us have slept through, but may be, it’s time to wake up to it.

A world where people don’t constantly try to pull each other down, a world where we all live hand in hand, singing the song of a home we’re destroying, the only home we can ever hope to have.
A world where humans realise that we are not living in the universe, we ARE the universe.

                 “Ami gaai, ghorey ferar gaan
                       uthola keno ey praan..”


Navamita Chandra is a student of Psychology from Loreto college, Kolkata. This passionate day-dreamer, vintage music maniac and devoted writer is also a reputed theatrician from The Dramatically Correct! 


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