India Nest, 17.03.07
When was the last time you ever looked at the sky and took a deep breath of fresh air, cleansing your mind of all thoughts? For starters, fresh air is non-existent in the concrete boulevards of modern cities. And what’s the big deal about that empty blue mass hanging over us anyway? What I realised the other day walking down Narborough Road in Leicester that I had not looked up at the sky for many months.
I remember 2001 in Kolkata. After every gruelling porikkha, we used to play 3 hours of cricket every day. No inhibitions, no worries, no restrictions- those were the days. Lying covered in mud in the playing field, looking up at the sky- hours used to fly by like this. When I went back home last year, the field had been replaced by a construction site. I suppose children could look up at the sky from the tiny windows of the multi-storeyed flats.
What’s the whole fixation with the sky all about?
In the higledy pigledy world of modern urban existance, there is no respite, no space and no freedom. Looking at the sky- at the millions of stars sprinkled around the moon at night- represents appreciating the finer things in life. It doesn’t have to be the sky. When was the last time you took a flower and smelled it? Or looked at a puppy playing with its mum and smiled?
Oh the interruptions! By the time I’ve typed about 4 lines, 3 calls have come from work. And I am at home on a Friday evening!
Now where was I?
Ah yes- Where’s the time? Mortgages have to be paid, cars have to be bought, utility bills are piling up, the taxman is knocking on the door- modern man has no time for nature. Whatever time he gets “off work” is spent in the small room brimming with others, surrounded by darkness and loud noise and his lungs being pummelled by the smoke in the air. In other words, down the pub “socialising”. How on earth can you socialise when you can’t even see or hear the person next to you? Perhaps it just means to talk about yourself, women, money and fancy consumer electronics items.
The globalised economy takes us far away from where we were born. Identity refuses to shift smoothly though. Sometimes I see Indians wearing metal locks and chains as ornaments (yes, that is fashion too, apparently), and trying to emulate 50 Cent or P Diddy (both African American rappers) in their speech. They prefer calling themselves Bob, when their birth certificates say Harjit. And then I see an old woman trying to get directions in fluent Punjabi from a bewildered policeman. When I tried to help, I discovered that she’d been living in Britain for 40 years. Going back home, I cannot find a waiter who will speak Bengali or Hindi in an upmarket Kolkata restaurant.
What’s the point of all this anyway? Not that it matters to anyone apart from people who are after the simple life. And no, I am not talking about a reality television show starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.