Sunday, November 4, 2012

Of Hanuman, Anthony Gonsalves, and Crossed Streets

It is my favorite part: the jungle chirps in joyous excitment. We feel the static in the air as the entire cosmos awaits the monkey, with bated breath, breath that hitches every time this story is told, on street corners when the year begins to die, on TV screens, echoing down the millenia, from the tree shade where the telling was probably born. The story I speak of is the Ramayana, and the character, after whose arrival in the story nothing is ever the same, is, of course, Hanuman. I cannot have enough of this story, in spite of all the annoying, jingoistic propaganda that inevitably accompanies it.

I have referred to this tale at various times in this space and it is one of my guiding metaphors. Ever since the house fire, this tale has resonated with me on a deeper level, helping me articulate questions about where I belong (if anywhere), if such belonging comes with any rights and prices, even questions about what makes me human, and the age old exploration about the nature of the divine. It fascinates me that in this epic, the apotheosis is realised by Hanuman, not the human hero, Rama, who throughout his story insists upon and defines himself solely in terms of his humanity, and who, indeed, is admired for being human more than he is for his divinity.

I am getting used to living in this house that is yet to become wholly mine. The bright colors, familiar books, the furniture that comes well-lived from my good friends' and well-wishers' lives, and the remembered spaces, of course, are helping me own it. It is almost Diwali again and I have some new designs for the Rangoli sand art that I always decorate my thresholds with, hoping to woo the goddess of prosperity. I also have some votive lights (LED; flameless, of course) but as I sit here looking around the bright walls, it feels as though someone has switched on an internal light and night never need fall in my house ever again.

The cats have found their spots and they seem as comfortable here as though they have always been here. Maybe I should look to the Ramayana for my answers: the questioning is what separates the human from animals. Hanuman never questions his place, nor is he ever confused about his apotheosis or what the right thing would be and who'd decide that. Perhaps I should stop the endless questions, stop looking for guiding lights and close my eyes to let my instincts lead. It is these questions that lead me to fear the brightness of these walls, fear that the brightness comes from hidden flames, not sunshine.

So tonight, I shall try to quiet all questions and ignore the wondering. The Ramalila is done for tonight and I shall concentrate on one of my favorite fictional characters, Anthony Gonsalves (from Amar Akbar Anthony, a movie I try to  never miss, which, thankfully is being aired today). This character's uncomplicated joy of being himself, complete lack of self-doubt, and ease with himself often reminds me of Hanuman.

I stand at the West threshold of my not-burnt home, looking to the house that was never mine, where I spent my months of displacement. I remain unbelieving that the street has finally been crossed, that the lights in this kitchen do not beckon any longer but attest to my belonging to it.

The year has changed again and even though the darkness marched in before evening was done, night is taking a long time in falling. The cats sit around me, studying the grass behind our house and I wish for their non-wondering, their acceptance of shortened days, an acceptance that does not flow from the comfort and reassurance of old and new stories.

I remain acutely aware of my humanity, my helpless reliance on the tales. For me, turning of these seasons is never an easy thing and I shall need many stories to brighten these darknesses, even as I remain here, sick with relief that the light across the street has nothing to do with me. 

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