Beauty as a Basic Need

Yesterday, the discussion that meandered through censorship, cultural policies, art and society left my mind racing through out the night. My mind was working through the ideas expressed in the forum, sifting through, scrutinizing, recalling statements, evaluating…maybe like my family feels, I am just plain mad. Or I am just one of ‘them’. So who are ‘they’?

I would like to call ‘them’ as people whose basic needs are slightly different, or more than the others. I really have no idea, if the people whom I meet day in day out, people who seem to have everything, and people who don’t seem to have anything, have anything in common with me. Do they really want the things I want. Have they got them? Are they happy?

Do people feel beauty is a basic need? When I say beauty, i don’t mean the way some men are hung up on some fantasy woman with 32-28-32 figure Naomi Campbell types, or women dreaming of some male equivalent,(whatever their measurements are…) I mean do people want beauty as expressed in nature, in art, in the diversity of our smiles? Do we search for it, the way we search for truth, freedom, justice, identity?

Some of my colleagues expressed that in our community, spaces for social communion and sharing have been erased. Our families are emotionally sterile grounds, a simple site where a struggle is for survival alone. I wonder if it is merely the economics of it, why someone wouldn’t really consider watching a movie every now and then, a need? Or going to a play? At least some of these movies, plays, books, poems,paintings and music fulfill in me a sort of a hunger; they ease my pain a bit; make me reflect; give my mad meandering mind a meaning to hold on to. Why do people around me not want these, the way they want food, clothes, jobs, sex or religion? Or is this only normal, and it is again myself, slightly eccentric in my needs, slightly complicated, doomed for a bit of mad meandering?

Great thinkers have already said that basic needs goes beyond the requisites of basic survival. Maxneef says its well being, freedom, identity, love etc. But why is it only Maxneef and the like, a minority, and not the whole lot of us? Is there no common human element in us six billion?

Sunil says it’s a very Sinhalese-Buddhist disease, this negation of complex needs, as you find in Sri Lanka. I can call it Capitalist-Nationalist disease. I mean, Cancer or Aids; whichever, right?

After the forum, on my way home, I chat up the cab driver. He’s a shaken chap. Locked up in his small car, pushing into middle age. He’s no Maxneef. But his mind has started questioning. He says he hasn’t seen a movie or held the hand of a girl in a long time. he says he feels like living dead. Hacked. Tired. Hopeless. Lost. Lonely.

And I meet so many people like that day in day out. Tired, hopeless, lost, lonely people. It’s like we carry a tiny glass capsule around ourselves, and trapped inside we all feel the same.

And I really don’t know…when I get this feeling, which is not even loneliness, I go watch a film or read a book and it temporarily gives me the beauty I lack in myself, in my life. So, I recommend the same pill to the cabby, ‘there’s Akasa Kusum, go watch it…and about a girl, i don’t know really the way around that one, but i wish you luck!’

Ha ha ha! (Just a way of finishing the whole thing, in wanting better words…)

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Politics is Just a Joke

I am rather silent these days. I keep my opinions to myself. In my previous blog I had declared ‘in the past few years, in which I have grown from a school girl to a woman, I learned to reserve my political opinions; instead I write poetry.’

In this blog I have meandered off and on. And some of the opinions have been put forth, quite directly. In a way, it is a useless process I am involved in; adding my opinions to an opinionated world, which couldn’t care less. On the other hand, people around me seem to have no opinion of their own at all. My family, for instance, is slowly realising the parochial media gimmicks, and are bewildered on what to believe. In the kind of life they lead, they do not read Garcia Marques or Galtung. They do not watch movies like The Edge of Heaven. They do not hang out with the think-different crowd. My family belongs to the common, urban, middle class. They do not want to search; they need truths to be given to them on a platter to believe in. Even when they realise that the ‘truth’ is the fabrication of someone in power wishing to  hold on to power, they would rather believe what makes life easier for them that moment.

I try to give simple answers when I am asked for my opinion on the current politics these days. I am worried that I will become another cynic or a useless idealist that the world around me doesn’t need anymore. Thank god, my grandfather, simply because he’s lived so long, probably has started seeing through the dark mere. But with the rest, it is difficult to talk without getting into arguments. So, I wish I could revert to my old stance:  Only small individual creative acts can make sense to me, personally, in this madness.

So, despite my mentor’s comment ‘we really don’t have the option of remaining silent now’ which I think  is absolutely right, I find myself attracted to silence.

The other day, I found myself, yet again in a delicate situation. Taking a bus ride with a new admirer, trying not to break his heart, holding his hand gently and explaining why I feel like the way I do, among a crowd of paranoid passengers, we are told again that a bomb has gone off in Mt Lavinia. Here we are: Kilinochchi’s won. Elephant Pass taken. And a handsome, new star monk tells us how important it is to be grateful to our heroes; to take care of them. And the News First tell us the next moment how they were attacked and that a bomb just went off in the route that we are taking. There I was, holding someone’s hand in a crowded bus, telling him we shouldn’t, because I don’t want to hurt again and hurt him too in the process.

He closes his eyes for a moment and says, “this is madness, isn’t it…this life, this country, with all these things happening around us? And here we are trying to find love…trying to find happiness…and it is absolute madness.”

That moment I wish that all the social barriers between us disappear; and my painful memories of recent loves and losses disappear and I am free again, and brave again, to accept this little bit of love that is offered to me.

So, when he asks me ‘what if a bomb goes off in this bus?’ I tell him, just so to return the kindness, ‘I would be the happiest dead-girl in the world’. He does not want to die young. But agrees that life is suffering.

Sometimes, it is more painful to be loved and not be able to return that love.

So after everything is said, all our political opinions are discussed, the recent movies and books exchanged, we sit in silence in the noisy traffic. And everything seem so meaningless and sad. Suddenly I realise, things have been this way as long as I can remember; but our inability to love, brings it across sharper.

We got to love each other, says Don Mclean, cos politics is just a joke.

And listening to this song he wants me to hear, I wish so too. And I couldn’t have put it any better than Don Mclean, in this video, AND I LOVE YOU SO.

How young we are, and how bitter…just like this island so beautiful and so sad.

Sojourn

 

 

There’s comfort in walking
walking consciously
walking to remember and forget
without looking back

Behind you, your footsteps
sunk into the wet sands
are frisked away by playful waves,
in the froth of childhood innocence

Rising from the vortex
we walk onto the land
looking for what we have lost
in the currents of our times

Dressed in white of froth and foam
a woman walks onto the land
as always, searching
for someone she had loved and lost
in the currents of her times

As always, wandering
why she – of all – survived.

Morning Blues

I’m reading a book called Inner Feng Shui and it tells me that I should think positive in the morning. So I woke up this morning and thanked God for the beautiful day; thanks the bounty of the universe for the fact that I am alive and happy and lucky today. I have a loving brother who drives me to work every morning. He faithfully drops me on top of the road, so that I can walk ten steps to the office just so I get some exercise. As I walk in to Siripa Lane, I meet the madman again. He is diggin’ in to the garbage bin next to Sea Lord restaurant and collecting some food for the day. The air becomes pungent with the smell of foul food. I have seen this guy on and off, haunting the area. Yesterday I stood for a moment watching it. Today I choose to walk past, ignoring the annoyed faces of the tuk tuk drivers, who seem to tolerate this daily foul-up of morning air as an obligation to their traditionally Buddhist upbringing that force them to compassion.

I am angry now. How come the world is so cruel to so many people? I know this madman is not the only unfortunate I saw for the week. So I know its not about one individual not doing well in life. Its the system that makes some people overly fortunate and the others deprived! So even if I give this guy money to buy a lunch packet today, it makes no sense. There are so many days more for him to survive and so many others like  him. Very much like when we vote one corrupt leader out of power another will come in who will be even worse. We got rid of President Premadasa, but today many say he’s better than what we’ve had after him.

My collegue and dramatist Rajitha Dissanayaka was in conversation with Dharmasiri Bandaranayake recently. I rememeber watching Dharmasiri’s play ‘Yakshayagamanaya’ as a kid. Its a translation of a Brechtian play – Driving Out the Devil, maybe – I’m not sure. The end of that play is the elimination of the dictator, but it adds: “Don’t rejoice that he is gone. The womb that bore him will bear many more”  

So I guess that what we are suppose to do is to change ‘the womb’; The Evil System. And Gudrun Kramer says, the System has its own inbuilt mechanisms that will protect it from change.

It’s still 7.40 am. It’s too early to be angry. It’s too early to be confused.

Simple

 
 
The next five days
will begin like this:
I will be the first to come
And open all the windows
at office; to feel like I
let the sun shine in.
The daily signing of in and out
7 am. 8 pm.
like a promise renewed and kept
I am faithful to you, my love.
 
A deep solitary breath, before the rush begins.
And I plunge into the day
as into a crystal pool in the high mountains
knowing, these next five days will end
in sentimental sunsets; the soft shades
I notice over coffee with a friend.
 
Routine sits on me; a boiled egg
on my naval – perfect
and I think I know the symmetry of my future.
 
I couldn’t imagine, at one point
that I’d be so happy
to let that gypsy go.