Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I wonder

Emirates Parent Plus. September 2010.

Dread is a notoriously lucrative career. Open any literary anthology, the tales will most usually be spun around depravity of thought or futility of body. The spirit, the free spirit within, remains imprisoned not only in real life but also in those masterful webs of words that win awards upon awards, inspiring more in that line, winding its way across media, slithering, hissing and spitting its juices incessantly iterating the same things variously. And we call this entertainment. Spare a thought!

What is it about despair, doom and disillusionment that they always find abundant audience? They manage even the smallest part in the drama we live out every day, and yet they enthuse insatiable appetites for more! After the morning newspapers and more on television and the internet, are people not tired of their own share of these realities that they will go out and spend money to delve into the same of someone else – even when it is a mere product of imagination, expertly crafted?

After the trials of two sleepless nights and dazed days in between, with a feverish child unhappy and cranky to be home and ill and yet unfit to last two hours at school, when I seek to uplift my mood slightly so as to be ready for the next bout of waking, I see a familiar jacket in tantalising print, beckoning from the shelf at my bed side. Eyes twinkling, I turn page upon page, and get drawn deeper and deeper into the travails of another hassled being. What?! Hooked, though I am, I want out!

I turn on the television and my favourite advertisement again tries to seduce me into buying the high-end car, now at an even better price. I dream of the colour that would best suit my tastes and suddenly, a well-toned youngster walks out of a wall exposing the most sinister manipulation yet! Stranger psychosis follows a lame attempt at slapstick and I am all but renouncing hope. Click click click... what can go wrong here? It is the fabulously produced singing reality show with my pet singer delivering a faultless rendition. Faultless, to a fault, that is. Disaster strikes and inexplicable audience votes boot out the week’s most worthy contender.

Switch channel again! Respite, whither art thou?! Ha! Frasier Crane ... has left the building ... next ... House will not be housed ... it is not always Glee ... 271 for 5 wickets – good score! ... Jack Black ... hmmm ... Adam Sandler simply won’t grow up and Steve Martin’s dozen won’t let him. Choices! Finally! Happy choices. Time to relax, I put my feet up, lean back. After an eternity. This is what it is all about. This is why we invest in the meanest LED technology and the coolest La-Z-Boy.

This is the purpose of entertainment. It takes you away from the downturn of daily ramble and seats you in a place that serves only to make you smile or positively introspect. At least it makes you forget, for however short a while.

My mother gives the strangest reaction to any misery on telly or even any dreariness that dares expression in print. She looks to mass media for an escape. When she takes a break from the day, she looks to be truly entertained; to be able to leave then, in a more pleasant state of mind. Any other offering attracts scorn. I now tend to agree with her.

On the subject of attraction, there are also those who can, with unanimous approval, carry the title, ‘entertainment’. Like this friend, who is the ultimate comedy magnet. When he begins to tell you a story, expect a hernia at the end of it. When he goes into details, the most improbable and the most unthinkable will be the fact. The plausible and expected, may or may not hold truth. This is no exaggeration and neither are his impossible anecdotes. He is the prescription for the forlorn.

But like for all good things, here is the catch. When I imagine his laugh riots as a complete book of x number of pages, for instance, I tire. And I realise funny has a shelf life. Funny is funny because it is not the norm, it comes as respite. That is why we enjoy it and might even crave it in its absence. But like any overstaying guest, too much funny, beyond a point, is not funny anymore. Worse, it can also become offensive and border on insensitive. Funny is no funny business.

Presenting, the third reality – the one that sustains us. This reality that we are so rarely aware of, lies between fleeting phantasmagoria and melancholia. It is this part of reality that keeps us rooted in the dips and dales of emotion, the truth and deceits of virtue and the paradox of relationship. It is the pivot of existence.

Yet, it is this reality that is most difficult to relate. Too close to see clearly. Too ‘us’ to want to tell. Too uninteresting to want to know.

So again, in my bid to look for a change, when I tear my sides laughing to the wisecrack in an auditorium or skim the paperbacks lining my shelf, I see stories from my own reality and those close to me, retold over and over, differently, so that when I do partake of them, I see another’s tale, taking shape in another’s world, in another’s time. But while I might get tired of laughing or crying, it is the intensity of plot, the conflict of intention, the disappointment with perception, and the resonance of each of these aspects to my own experiences, strung in those artistic words and projected from those reels and discs, that reach deep within and stay in longer than the numerous humorous tales retold numerously. Until, of course, I laugh even that off.

Is it just human nature, then, to cherish something like laughter that will come and go and holds its value because it needs that little nudge? Is it our lot to ponder and dwell upon despondency, that we identify with most – that, which will not leave anyway? The evidence seems to suggest so.