Sunday, March 22, 2009

moving around in circles

It was in the 1980s that some popular Hollywood movies began offering consolation, by way of jingoism, for America’s losses during the Vietnam War. It’s hard to imagine Rambo and Uncommon Valor being made between ’64 and ’74. In the late 60s and early 70s, the public mood was more of snowballing rebellion against a war that didn’t stand up for anything that the American people valued. There were Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.

Was there any one point when the public realized that the war had gone wrong? The answer, in all probability, is no. The war continued for more than 6 years after the My Lai massacre in 1968. In fact, Nixon started a new war—by ordering an invasion into Cambodia—in 1970. The so-called Christmas bombings happened in 1972. The war moved around in circles.

The US won every battle, yet as the majority believes it lost the war. Or did it? Either way, it’s hard not to be a cynic. The US entered the war to contain communism. It was the height of the Cold War. Maybe US involvement was justified. Yet, if you trace back steps, you find giant Pandora’s boxes strewn along the way. These boxes lock ugly, enervating truths that make you echo Tommy Lee Jones’ words in No Country for Old Men: “I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.” That’s the overriding feeling I have.

Sometimes, it pays to be a spectator. There’s more room for solace. Ignorance, while probably not being bliss, is definitely a good sedative.


I visited my friend’s dad in INHS Asvini, a reputed naval hospital, this weekend. Asvini is located in Navy Nagar in Colaba, south Bombay. Not often you see a yawning ocean through hospital windows. The place doesn’t quite exude sickly gloom, or maybe it’s just me imagining things. Uncle has been an eccentric man all his life. I was wrong-footed by his second question—a deep backhand volley when I was at the net, exchanging pleasantries: “So how is life? How much do you earn? 25,000?”

I burst out laughing. It hit me that he hadn’t really changed. Don’t know why I had assumed that he would have mellowed. He pulled me closer to him and held my hand for a long time. Very unlike him. Later, I realized why. Diabetes has eaten his retina. It has also fucked his kidneys and weakened his heart. We had a regular conversation. I didn’t ask him anything about his health, how he felt, etc. He asked me if I had visited Siddhivinayak, Haji Ali, or the Mahalakshmi Temple. And then chided me for being a nastik (atheist). I said I was too scared to visit Siddhivinayak because a friend—a deeply religious guy—had had his pocket picked there. He looked at me and then we both burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the answer. He showed how swollen his legs had become, pressed the skin near his ankles to show the depressions that would form. When we were about to leave, he asked my friend to level the bed. It was one of those beds with a handle you can use to lift the bed. As he raised his head, I saw tufts of hair on the pillow, like a puppy had slept on it. I felt the saddest then, don’t know why.

Old age is not inevitable, not depressing. If you were to ask him, he would shout back at you, “It’s just ridiculous.” He’s that kind of a man.


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im surprised despite the inflation n devaluation the reference amount stays the same...ya its weird how people "do not change", like some old coffee shop or play ground you would still look for when you visit your home town say after 50 years, and its not the cluttered cobweb of shops, drains and bylanes you rutted across but a thriving metropolis, and bet you would still crave the coffee shop more over a ccd...something similar in life, while the present situation may seem awkward, ordinary, or even hilarious, you know, over the time, this is the only speck of interaction that would be etched strongest in your memory; could i sense you thinking why you would remember something you did not perhaps think meant much to may not have meant...but spite of that u felt something for the man...even if it was sadness. and i dont think its just blindness that made ur friend's dad hold your hand.
p:s: old age should be a serious exertion between maintainance of health and competing with grand kids, and going back, mostly going back to where you came from. but these r my ideas. and in any case i think i would pick ridiculousness over depression or inevitability any day should such a situation ever befall me. though i feel fondness for it in second person n may not like the picture in first person.