Sunday, September 5, 2010

I Exist. I Float.

I don't know whether its Alzheimer’s. But it happens with me. There are parts of my life that I forget. Even if its quite recent. I am sure (almost) that this happens with most of us. (Atleast I hope so!)

I dont know when it started or whether I always had it. There have been times when I have failed to introduce my classmates to people. Or I have met people on the road and spoken at length but could not remember their names for the life of me or could not recollect how exactly I know her. Then there are things that I don’t remember at one point and remember that later on when I am least expecting them.

Also “forgetting things” I feel is a part of our internal survival strategy. We forget bad memories much faster.

I have a job that makes me travel extensively. But hardly have I had distinct memory about any one trip. People and incidents from some of those trips keep popping up very spontaneously making me find new gems of life, unfolding new mysteries and making me see different colours of this life.

I have forgotten most things about most of my love affairs. I generally lose the chronology first and memories soon form a kind of blur. But what remains is a sense. A sense of floatation…as if I am lying on a plank and I am floating in a huge huge ocean. I rise and fall with the waves, and I lie there enjoying the dance and sound of the waves. There is no fear of drowning and there is a feeling of an endless journey.

I remember one such trip made to Santiniketan (it was not strictly an official trip though). This visit was made on one of those Poush Mela days. This festival attracts a lot of tourists. And there is another kind of people who also flock in groups during this festival. The Bauls. My knowledge about this sect is very limited. But inspite of that I have a special inclination for Baul music.

This festival makes it impossible to do a last minute hotel booking. Thankfully one of my colleagues had a relative who had a house in Santiniketan. We reached quite late for the fair and hence missed out most of the day’s program. By the time we could reach the huge fair ground the crowd was thinning down. The Baul programs were all over. But I really wanted to listen to “live” Baul. I kept repeating that.

We had angels as our hosts ( and some other day I will definitely come back to tell you about the abode they have built there). Our host (Parthada) just said that he would try. He started walking with is long strides (he is a “tall” man). We followed. We walked for almost a mile across the mela compound. And then we reached a semi-lit place where I could see a silhouette of a very big tent.

“This is the Baul tent. Wait here. I will request one of them to sing for us”. Ofcourse our host and all of us were welcomed to the tent. There was hardly any space to walk through the sleeping Bauls. But somehow (led by Parthada) we managed to reach this old man. This old man used to be a very famous Baul singer in his own time. But now he does not sing anymore. So it was one of his “disciple” (or son I don’t remember) who started singing.

I had been to few of these “Baul parties” organised by some posh elite city clubs. I have also heard group of Bauls sing in house parties. But sitting there in a Baul tent, with the other Bauls and listening to Baul songs makes it a different experience altogether. I looked around to see the other Bauls. All cramped up in the freezing cold (it was December), on the unclean grass, under extremely dirty quilts, mostly stoned due to high consumption of marijuana. But this poverty does not reduce the passion in their song. I kept wondering. And then quite unconsciously my mind trailed away. The Baul singer, the rhythmic pull of the ektara string, the smell of smoke, marijuana and wet grass, everything made me close my eyes. And again I had this feeling of floatation. As if there is eternal peace. As if I am a part of a whole. As if my existence is like a drop in a ocean.

Ofcourse that Baul session could not last long as it was quite late already…past midnight. But that dream state lasted for some time. While walking back I could still hear the iktara playing. That night lying on the bed I thought about all those Bauls. Did all of them actually “live” in a state where real and virtual merge? In that state often “virtuality” overrides the realities of life. That is why probably it hardly matters whether they are sleeping on grass or on a bed.

Next day Parthada (our host) told me about that old Baul. Its believed that he is now on the verge of insanity. I remembered his eyes…they were lost somewhere…probably in that ocean which promises eternal journey no matter how old you get. You can probably sail in that ocean whenever there is this urge to escape the real world. And then someday you might never return. No matter how mad you might seem to others, you will be happy forever.