Monday Musings - 117 - Of another world
In a wonderful article in the Sunday Express, Shombit Sengupta, who is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management, wrote about the stimuli in his transformational journey from a refugee colony in West Bengal to the creative streets of Paris. He talks about the primacy of the stimuli that he drew from the world of art, particularly mentioning about one Subhinoy Kaku, a poor artist, who inspired his affair with art. I liked the central theme of his writing, the premise that our lives are shaped by the stimuli we are lucky to be enriched with, however insignificant or even painful they might appear at that time. I look at my own stimuli.
Jhinkpani, the hamlet that i was born and where i spent the first 15 years of my life, in the tribal mining districts of todays Jharkhand, is my most defining stimuli. It is only in retrospect, and the complete corruption by the comforts of my current sitiuation, that i realise that that life was tough. Hopping on the shoulders of an elder cousin to cross over a rope bridge on my way to school, swaying dangerously over a river was exciting then. Crossing overflowing paddy fields during rains with shoes in one hand and the school bag in another, only to wear them once you reached school was fun. The soot of the kerosene lamp, called deebri or playing with the molten wax of the candle, smashing the moths that came along with, for the entire duration of school education owing to lack of electicity was normal. Eating out meant 10 paise worth of muree (rice flaks) and dried or soaked gram. Summer holidays was flying kite or killing chameleons - the later a truly ingenuous sport where we used to keep a count of how many we killed with the perfect sling shot or a direct hit with a small stone. Holi meant a day long excursion into the forest to cut trees for the wood bonfire a night before.
Tribal societies offer tremendous opportunities for alternative worldviews. I remember the village oracle who would through his magical powers, would heal, cure and tell the location of the lost cattle and do black magic cure for just about problem. I remember his cure for an eye sore for me once - rub the eye with 7 leaves of berry and let them dry - as the leaves dry, so would the sore. It is only now in hindsight and armed with the so called rational education that i can question that worldview - but i cannot ignore that the first 15 years of my life i not only lived that life, i actually believed it. The day long football tournament would have a goat for the winner and a sheep for the runners up team. There was the annual çock-fight where ferocious cocks would lunge at each other for the coveted prize.
I know that i might be susceptible to a romanticised account of that part of my life - but all said and done i cannot erase or wish away that stimuli. If man is a product of his stimuli, then of all the ones i was fortunate to have had, that phase characterised by a brilliant confluence of Sikh, Bihari and Traibal ethos, shaped by the sheer resourcelessness, and very authentic- low cost-original pursuits of pleasure, stand out in my mind as the most defining one. What is your stimuli?