In a previous post (‘The minimalist’) had referred to a poem by Amiya Chakraborti, one of the finest poets in Bengali literature. This poem written around the middle of the last century talks about a list of things made up by an imaginary clerk or a subordinate staff in some office (probably a governmental one) – things he feels his superior officer would never be able to demand and take away from him, unlike the files he works on or his allegiance. At the first sight the things that the man secretly values and cares for are likely to be quite inconsequential to most people, including the bosses of all kinds, even then and certainly in today’s materialistic world.
Recently reprising reading of this poem I was trying to make up a partial list of items he felt relieved as being out of bound for the bosses (if my lame attempt at transliteration of Amiya Chakraborti’s poem can be forgiven):
primarily, my existence in this world, which includes my self-awareness (individual identity – not in any narrow sense), for instance, being able, as long as I live, to look at and admire the morning sky and when the wind rises touch it with my face, feel the cold water of the well, sense music, comprehend crafted and spoken words and the sudden downpour of accumulated rain to end the hot summer afternoon;
to be able to love the loved ones, and yearn to come back to my Bengali home laden with memories;
to effortlessly conjure and connect to those archetypal images of my native place – the light and shadow under the canopy of foliage of the giant peepul tree, the small sacred bed of Tulsi (Basil) plant in the courtyard of the homestead, the tumbled down decrepit temple by the river bed, charm of hearing the mother tongue, the vignets of a Bengali village slipping through the window frame of the moving train, like a sudden banana tree, stillness of a pond, grassy back alley to the homestead, peasants busy in the fields harvesting rice grains, clouds in the sky reflected on the surface of the shallow water bodies by the side of the track, small rivulets with tree shaded banks;
and of course my citizenship of this world as a big village of common humanity … that makes you feel the life is after all worth living;
Of course it is a matter of taste, sensibility, belonging that defines one’s private priorities, yours or mine. But I daresay such a red line does exist for most people. May be one is not always fully conscious of it, what it circumscribes, what are non-negotiable and what, even in stressful times, one would like to think one has not surrendered, if only because these are after all such minimal requirements of our being, the defining elements of our self image.