Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Invisibles

Yesterday, I caught up with a colleague who had started his work stint under me four years ago. Since then, I have moved to Gurgaon, and he’s jumped two ships. Along with him came a silent colleague who, incidentally, was my replacement in the team I left in Bangalore.
We chatted over dinner for a couple of hours and then headed for a CCD at 11. After half an hour there, the silent colleague finally spoke something. My friend then stepped in and told me that the guy was very well read in spiritual texts, especially Osho. A few questions revealed a man not very materialistic, high work ethics and a philosophical bent.

I empathize with the man. Much of what I have done and read in the past five years are outside the domain of the mainstream discussions. If I follow a famous rape case, see a popular movie, or the exploits of a tycoon – I am immediately in currency. Not so if I am reading about dead civilizations a couple of millennia ago, the theory of absurdism, impressionism, and offbeat literary fiction. The five years have taken a severe toll in my social confidence and only a thing line separates me from a recluse – perhaps it’s been crossed. A month ago, I was sitting at a colleague’s place and he mentioned the date of his marriage anniversary in a gathering, and I mentioned that the date was the very date of a very seminal event in human history and that I’ll never forget it. Immediately, there was an outburst of laughter and shaking of heads. In other times, I would have grinned sheepishly. But inexplicably I felt a surge of anger, even disgust, and only my closeness with the gang kept me seated and silent.

My team in Bangalore had contained four people – one of the guys was a silent sort too and considered a little “weird”. In an offsite, we happened to be sharing a room and while games like Queen of Sheba were being played, we retreated to the room to read. I discovered that this guy was very well read, far beyond me, and had a deep understanding of Urdu literature also.

There is no resolution to the post here. Just points.
The mainstream brings people together in shared tastes and passions, but at the very same time, excludes those whose tastes differ. Some of those, who can afford it, turn snooty and are rightfully called elitists. Elitism is often a disguise for snobbery and I have met very few elitists who actually have substance. But on the other hand, anyone who has a word against the mass taste is unfairly termed an elitist. This is the field of mainstream contemporaneousness with the actors as men. Now in the field of politics, this becomes a fascist tendency to converge in a same identity, a forced syncretism, and the elitists become the worst stereotype/minority sects of the excluded population – jehadis, jews, Up/Biharis.
You might feel that this is an exaggeration but, if you have the wherewithal, think again. Our tendencies and character remains the same in many fields. How I express myself in work has a very strong correlation to my other fields – family, personal space, etc.

A muslim friend once said to me that no matter how much I empathize, I cannot really understand what being a minority meant. True. In the same manner there is an intellectual minority also. By this I do not mean that they are intellectually superior, but just different. Mainstream commercialism, whose mechanism is to fill all the space in search of quantity and use marketing as propaganda to align all tastes to a single consumable commoditized whole, leads to latent ostracization in the same way one of the worst mental punishments in school was when the teacher asked all the other classmates to ignore you.

I always feel a little sad when I meet someone young quite and gauche because what he has to say has mostly no currency in public space. Because there is always a strain of tragedy in their silent dignity.


Tangled up in blue... said...

Its really quite ironic that the more some people learn about things other people consider 'esoteric' perhaps, the more those people settle down into a strange quietness. They dont say much becoz apparently what they think and want to say wont be as meaningful or significant to others. They know so much about some things now that they can only remain silent about them.

I havent met too many such people, but I have met a few and when I tried to talk to them about what most holds their interest, they begin very cautiously but when they get comfortable enuff, there is almost a hunger in them, for more. Its as if they'd forgotten about how to have conversations, and now that they're getting reacquainted, they really like it.

I didnt really expect to read thoughts like yours in a post anywhere and so I was pleasantly surprised to read this. Becoz while many people may sense that 'strain of tragedy in their silent dignity', they dont really manage to articulate what it is that they are sensing.

I dont know if I have competently expressed what I really want to say, but then, I hope you know what I mean.

And offbeat literary fiction? That is very intriguing! :)

Bland Spice said...

you have expressed it very well. the reaction in your second para is very well described.

japinder said...

Hi Bland Spice :)

This is my first time on your blog. I had written a post on Individuality upon which Pankaj referred me to this post of yours.

I realized that what I had to say about it was more than a comment and wrote a blog post instead.

You can read it here: