Ayn Rand & Me

We first met when my friend handed me the iconic book ‘The Fountainhead’. I wasn’t a literature person then; this friend was my only medium to peep into what I now call ‘Anatomy of thoughts’. Friends are people through whom you get a glimpse of the abandoned aspects of life. They introduce you to the world of a ‘Strick No No’. So, whether I talk about watching the late night semi pornographic videos on YouTube, humming ‘Sutta Song’ or reading the classic ‘Fountain Head’, I owe it all to her.

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Source : Youtube

 

She completed all the 753 pages in 2 days in the pretext of reading textbooks and when she started drooling over the personality of Howard Roark (the protagonist), I knew, I had to read it in all possibilities. And yes, her drooling was infectious. I was bitten by the snake of individuality. I met the inner thoughts of Ayn Rand in my teen ages and it affected my way of thinking profoundly. I was immediately enamored by her writing.

Imagine a kid who is trying to find her right place in the world – whether she should be friendlier and laugh at jokes she doesn’t find funny or should hang out with cool people and be more fashion conscious. Maybe trying to understand why are people rude, weird, awesome, deceitful- and how to cope up with them.

And then, Bam! Rand comes in and tells you to show a finger to anyone who doesn’t like you the way you are. And why is this? Because, you are an individual and have the right to live in this world the way it makes you happy, without any expectations from others. There is no point hating and wasting energy on things outside of our control.

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Source : pinterest

She described the nuances of architecture and I deciphered her lines confining areas as rules liberating life. I started valuing freedom of expression at the cost of being ostracized from society. I thought it was okay to disregard the materialistic world and following the simple rule of doing good work without expecting anything in return. The introvert in me received an extra backbone to lean on. I didn’t only shake hands with Rand’s philosophy; I let it enter my veins too.

Although with time & tide, my views of me kept changing – a subtle part of me still believes that it is not okay to be pretentious. But the rest is quite chaotic in mind – now, I seek acknowledgement, I indulge in worldly pleasures and most importantly, unlike Dominique (the female protagonist) I don’t want to keep something away from the world just because I think that the world would not understand the worth. And her philosophy related to smoking that makes it royal and elite has never excited me to handle fire with passion.

There are many different interpretations of her work. Her attitude about ‘Being Right’ rather than convincing is often a questionable take, examples like destroying an entire building because you don’t are not satisfied with the output, or the infamous sex (rape?) scene of The Fountainhead – Rand has her fair share of opponents.

Here is a need to understand that her stories are in extremes, each character representing a totalitarian view of an ideology. The characters are not supposed to be realistic – they are simplified and their personality traits are exaggerated. Her novels are not meant to be a series of events, but a mindful journey committed to the philosophy of life. Roark (or Galt) is her ideal man upholding the values of individualism while Keating is the anti-hero who has no sense of what he stands for as an individual, he is only concerned with what others think of him.We need to decide an ideology in our lives and try to live up to it.

Her ideas always created tremors in my mind, however realistic or not- one cannot estimate the degree of accuracy, but it is worth thinking over. People have opted for architecture and have decided to marry another Ayn Rand lover; just because they were influenced by her philosophy. In any case, Rand’s work provides for interesting discussion material and you can discover a lot about a person based on her philosophical views.

And same favorite books make for long lasting love!

Women & Art

Women wear an artful camouflage – the signature curves, the smooth pastel strokes of luster on the skin and the coquetry behavior make them the muse for many. What goes unnoticed is the spiritual and intellectual inclination that has subdued itself over centuries of dictatorial patriarchy.The world famous artistic paintings have used women bodies as a consumer of passion & love, as a possession of the lover, as a portrayal of chained emotion. Hardly, if ever, we come across such work where men are depicted submissive!

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Courtesy :pratanacoffeetalk

One of the most expensive paintings in the world – Nude, Green, Leaves & Bust by Picasso, the painter’s mistress and muse Marie Therese can be observed in full obedience to Picasso, whereas he is guarding and enveloping his love, also branding her with his own initials PP for Pablo Picasso, a way to make her tied up to him in all forms. The artist always believed, ‘there are only two types of women- goddesses and doormats’, so he depicted Therese as a fertility goddess and positioned her in a submissive way to portray her as a doormat too.

Alternatively, there are artists who have questioned this submissive behavior by women through their work – If we keenly observe the work of Indian artists then many have questioned the taboo surrounding women’s body – Amrita Shergill’s each painting depicted a unique reincarnation for women. Gogi Sarojpal emphasized on the animal instincts of a woman. She perceived woman as KaamDhenu. It was important in the medieval period that women showed animal instincts in her behavioral pattern.

Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ analyses the many layers of prohibition because of which we didn’t have great women in art & literature in the Shakespearean era. She imagined a scenario where Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith.

She goes on to describe –

“She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers.”

With the given facts of that time, she came up with the most probable outcome –

“She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh”

In Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical book ‘Persepolis’, she explains the effect religious restrictions have on women’s intellect and identity:

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Courtesy :fanpop

“The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself:

Are my trousers long enough? Is my veil in place? Can my make-up be seen? Are they going to whip me?

 No longer asks herself:

Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom of speech? My life, is it livable? What’s going on in the political prisons?”

The constant war against women’s intellect had severely damaged the thought process, where the nerves of emancipation have become numb. Even if societies have become so called liberal, these issues have not become archaic but are contemporary in ever form.

On the other hand there is literature like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘Twilight’ which is not supposed to be taken as serious reading but still goes on to form the culturaltone of the society. These works ultimately state that women have a chance at a happy marriage and fulfilling life only if they choose to forgo their identity or have no identity of their own to begin with!

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie points out in her essay and a TED talk by the same name, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”

 As varied the descriptions of women in the arena of art and culture might be, whether it is holding a mirror to society or dreaming a big dream of an equal world, we definitely have a long way to make our women free in their wilderness.

Featured Image Courtesy : The Atlantic

Love Letter To Gulzar Saab

I vividly remember the Sunday when I was jumping and singing

“Jangal jangal baat chali hai pata chala hai

Chhaddi pehen ke phool khila hai phool khila hai”

And my parents thought that I was just making up the second line, they didn’t believe me, till they actually heard the song on television. I think that was my first encounter with you and your magical words, I innocently fell in love with the way you so subtly and simply juxtapose the words in your sentences. If you happen to be with me that time, I would have happily shared my ‘Kiss Me’ bar with you that I used to get from my grandfather, after his long walks. I never missed Mogli and I made sure that I never miss the title track too.

An average student from a middle class family, I wasn’t surrounded with any unique literary element, and I was never introduced to the world of literature other than what I read in my course books, not that I had any encounter with the “Dead Poet’s Society”, but as I  was growing up, your songs started marking my mind innately. Each and every word of yours felt like mild susurrations, whispers, or a blow of fresh air. I started craving and searching for more.

Those days I wasn’t well equipped with internet, so during long classes I would ask my friend to write down your songs for me.  I still have the dairy where I dared to steal your words to preserve them in ink; I could wait for a life time for those words to come out from the well wrapped pages of the diary and flow rhythmically around me. And If I happen to cross you then I would intentionally let my diary fall –

“Kitabe maangne, girne uthane ke bahane rishte bante the”

I was surprised that there could be so many beautiful ways of saying the same thing. I was naive and ignorant, but you brought sensibility, love, anger, sorrow and every other possible emotion to my life. And I want to grow old with these feelings; I want the lines on my wrinkled face to reflect a life that was full of emotions.

“Dil to Bachcha hai Ji, Thoda Kachhaha iji”

Discussing your songs with my friends became my favorite topic of discussion. Your poetry appears fascinating to a layman like me and to critics who look to decipher the depth of it. Your words capture all my emotions and induce a beauty in them. It gives me sense of fullness, inertia and a battery backup for emergencies.

College days will forever be – “Copy ke panno jaise, jahan din palatte honge”,

Missing someone is “Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi to nahi”,

The sorrow that’s incurable is “Dil agar hai to dard bhi hoga, iska koi nahi ha hal shayad”,

Blissfulness of daily life is “Ek hi khwab kai baar dekha hai maine”

And what fun is praising a sexy woman by simply calling her hot; it has to be “Doodh ka ubaal hai”.

Proposing someone is “Takiye chaadar mehke rehtein hai, jo tum gaye, tumhari khusboo soongha karenge hum”

 And I cannot possibly feel the pain but it gives me goose bumps, every time I listen to “Yaad hai Barisho Ke Din Pancham”.

 Through one of the discussions when I came to know that your song, Satrangi Re is based on the seven stages of love, I felt enlightened and spirited as if it was the key to open the box of wisdom. And I was equally amazed when I found out that you used Gulmohar to signify love and blood both, in the song from ‘Omkara’:“Jag Ja ree Gudiya …………..tera bichauna, bhar bhar ke  daaru, gulmohar ka tokra”

I would have never imagined ‘Chand’ in so many forms, if it wasn’t because of your songs. As Saba Bashir has explicitly written in her book I swallowed the Moon’ that you perceive moon differently every time – “if it is a fifty-paisa coin, it is a bundle of clothes as well”. And moon was never the same for me either, it was the symbol of beauty (Chand ki bindi wali ratiyan), it was waiting (kuch chand ke rath to guzre the, par chand se koi utra nahi), it was the symbol of dreams (kabhi kabhi aas paas chand rehta hai) and it was love itself (Kya chand aur zameen me bhi koi khichaav hai!).

I so wish I could hold your hand and take a walk on a moonlit night where you can tell me about the different forms and I could just listen to you without even a blink. I so wish to become an invisible soul who can just observe you, when you write, sitting calmly, in your white shimmering kurta. I so wish to go for an astral projection when I shut my eyes and start listening to your recitations. I so wish to go through your personal notes that you pen down in Urdu. And once in my life, I so wish to go through your collection of books.

I wanted to be like Maya from your film ‘Ijazzat’, that you so perfectly sketched, I don’t even think she was human but poetry in motion .She was the beautiful crazy spirit who balanced the abnormal society. And if I were Maya, then I wouldn’t be writing you a letter but only poems. If I were Maya I would ask you to buy me some moments of belongingness, if I were Maya I would draw your sketch with your words and send it to you. But Alas! I am not- and I still don’t have the courage to become bohemian but deep inside I know that my heart belongs to everywhere I can go.

I would say that I love you only for your written word, but there is so much more. That voice which induces music to most mundane of utterings. Once I hear anything in your voice, I cannot read it or think of it in any other voice. Be it “Kitaabein   jhhankti  hai band almariyon ke sheeshon se” or “Wo bheeg rahi hai baarish me aur aag logi hai paani me” or “kisi mausam ka jhonka tha jo iss deewar par latki huyi tasveer tirchhi kar gaya hai”

Then is your sensibility towards the issues like patriotism, war, religion and riots (Lakeerein hain, to rehne do, Kisi ne rooth kar gusse mein shaayad khainch di thi..inhiko ab banao paala, aur aao, kabbadi khelte hain). Rarely has there been a more mature and sensible approach towards the topic and this increased my respect towards you manifolds.

Gulzaar Saab – I can go on writing about all the revelations, I came across because of you, your efforts to translate legends like Amrita Pritam and Tagore, the biography of Ghalib, your work on the despair of partition, your poems on Women Empowerment “Kitni Tarah Mai Jakdi Gayi”

but just one thing that I specifically want to confess –

“Mukhtsar Si Baat Hai, Tumse Pyaar Hai”