A random chain of thoughts

Tick tock goes the clock. That is the only sound I hear as I sit in my living room staring at the fish tank in front of me, desperately trying to write something. I have hidden behind writers block for too long now, I told myself. So I just picked up the laptop and started typing words, completely clueless of where this was going. It is funny how used to I am to this feeling of not knowing what I am writing. What makes it worse is that I don’t get along very well with the unknown. I like being in the know, I like to be aware of what I feel and want. Considering how detached I am, most people find it difficult to believe that I am aware of what I feel. That is what perceptions do. They restrict us from having our own identities. And before you know it, you might just be trying to live up to a perception that you didn’t even agree with in the first place. Am I ranting? Yes I think I am ranting.

Now the clock’s ticking seems to have been overpowered by the high pitched singing of the alcoholic who stays in the apartment above mine. He does that a lot. The signing is still fine. What is bothering sometimes is the noise of vessels being thrown around in his house while he is having a drunk argument with his wife. No one knows if he is just throwing these vessels or is he aiming at his wife. She seems to be a pretty normal lady when I see her, usually on Sundays as she walks back home from Church. But can you really be normal if you are married to an alcoholic? I wonder. The singing has stopped now. Luckily for me, they didn’t fight today.

By now I am no longer thinking about this couple that should definitely get a divorce. I am now contemplating my existence. Not in a bad way. In a good way. In a “I love myself” way. Because I do love myself, a lot actually. I am thinking of the things I like, the people in my life. The ones I love, the ones I like and  the ones I absolutely hate.  And then there is this mysterious category of people who don’t fall in any of the above categories.  They just exist. They are  not making any valuable contribution to my life, but for some reason they are still there.

And I start thinking of everything and anything in my life.  How back in school me and my best friend used to sit on the old wooden desks with our lunch boxes and conveniently ignore the rest of the class and be asocial together. The times me and my sister went crazy over a Bollywood movie. The stories that my mother told me every night. The time my father taught me how to ride a bike. The amusing conversations I have had with my housemate this year. Just to give you an idea, they go something like this-   ” Are you sure that I can’t kill him?” ” You can, but he might not die, so blow up his house instead.” The ‘him’ here is , well.. a lot of people actually, so never mind.

But in a nutshell, I thought everything that has led to this moment. This moment where I am not really doing anything revolutionary, just staring into my mirthless fish tank and trying to think of something to write. Which brings me to my point ( and yes I do have a point ) that you don’t need much to thrive. You already have everything you need to survive within you. So the drunk guy will keep singing, the fish in my tank will keep dying, the people around me will continue to exist despite what I feel about them and my life will basically go on.  But the problem  is-   thoughts.  This overflowing sea of thoughts that brings in anxiety, nerves and complications just seconds after I tell myself I don’t need much to thrive. They take me right back to where I started and I no longer think that I have a point. And I kind of agree with what Silvya Path once said-” If I didn’t think, I’d be much happier.”

PS-  After this very random post, another random confession- while reading what I had written, I read it in Meredith Grey’s voice for some reason;)

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Sorrow is Overrated.

A few hours after I have finished reading ‘The Illicit happiness of other people,’ here I am, trying to pen down what I think. I know the book has changed something in me. I could definitely feel the trigger, now it is just a matter of finding out where the impact truly lies. My mind is still partially a part of the melancholy that lies in the Chacko house in the muddy Balaji Lane in the heart of  Madras. In the real world, I am still trying to figure out what I want to write. I start wondering if  it is even important to pen down what I think? I don’t know. Maybe.

I was introduced to an excerpt of this book about a month ago at an event that I attended. As I was hearing the woman on the stage read out the excerpt, I knew that I was going to end up reading this book, it was just a matter of when. Honestly speaking, how long can you resist a book that is titled ‘The Illicit Happiness of Others’ and that opens with this unforgettable line-

“Ousep Chacko, according to Mariamma Chacko is the kind of man who has to be killed at the end of every story.”

Even with the little knowledge that I had about the book, there was something  about it that reminded me of ‘The God of Small Things.’ I could not place my finger on what exactly it was, but I would know soon enough.  The most obvious connection that one can make of course is  the name of the character. Or maybe the fact that both books talk about a Malayalee Christian family. But, none of these answers felt right. There was some hidden feature that instantly reminded me of the former book.  It took me quite a while to realise that this aspect was far from hidden. It was the simple honesty that lies in every word of the book. Having established this similarity, let me say that the two books are very different in terms of the story, the characters and the writing style. The only similarity lies in its raw portrayal of a setting.

The Honesty of the book, like I said intrigued me. Fiction, I have told myself a thousand times is my escape from the sometimes crude  reality. It is meant to distract myself. But even in fiction, why do I thrive for an honest depiction? Honesty and truth are harsh most of the times, we all know that.  Yet,why am I lying on the bed and reading a book about the mirthless  life of the Chacko family  rather than being enamoured by a Harry Potter? As you might have guessed, I myself don’t have the answers to these questions.

Maybe we read such books because their candour spiritually cleans us. For me, this book felt like stumbling upon something small and sparkling in a wreckage. By the end of it we know the horrors that have come to the characters, but why do we still chose to hold on to the vision of happiness? The answer is very simple. Sorrow is highly overrated. In a world where the wise men tell us that sorrow is a part and parcel of life, the truth is something else. In the words of Unni Chacko,

In this world, it is very hard to escape happiness”

We are never as sad as we think we are. Happiness is not a pursuit, but a state of being.  That was the trigger, that is what I learnt. There is more than one  tragedy at the heart of this story, but it still gives you a bit of joy. That is the inevitability of happiness, the persistence of happiness, the inescapable fate of happiness.

It is genuinely tough to be unhappy after reading this book. It is the kind of book that makes you believe that you know the family. It is the kind of book where you have to pick sides. It is very easy to love Mariamma Chacko, an economics postgraduate whose degree is as useless as decaffeinated coffee in the Chacko house.  At times it is easier to hate Ousep Chacko, who is a journalist  by day and a drunk menace for the neighbourhood at night. Sometimes you have an uncontrollable sympathy for Thoma Chacko, a teenager who is afraid of nearly everything. Unni Chacko on the other hand is the one who is tough to describe. As I am trying to describe him, I start agreeing with the displeasure he has for language.

“Language was created by nature to guard its secrets, not reveal them. We are trapped in language. Even thought has become language. That is what nature wants. It has given us language because it has hidden the truth somewhere else.”

-Unni Chacko, The Illicit Happiness of Other People.

In this dark gloomy setting, Manu Joseph with his witty writing manages to create a space filled with dark humour and sprinkled aphoristic wisdom like-

” A Scooter in Madras  is a man’s promise that he won’t return home drunk.” 

“The most foolish description of the young is that they are rebellious, the truth is that they are a fellowship of cowards.”

With such powerful witty statements, lot of humour, tragedy and honesty, the book leaves you with a strange kind of happiness. A happiness that almost feels, should I say Illicit?