Thursday, March 8

Atticus - II

Spoken word, written word - why is it so powerful? The visual word - have the moviemakers not come yet, or is it that the shape becomes more definite, the playground of imagination becomes bounded, and instead of the simple story told beautifully, it becomes a story of cutting, layering, framing, pre- and post-production, the sound, the make-up, the tricks and the cheats, a science in short instead of a story. I still remember Johnny Belinda, as if I have seen it yesterday - and it's many years. A simple story, beautifully told, simply told - not much wit, not much action, just the silent sighing of the trees and vast American expanses.
But in the written/spoken word, does the honest effort always work, if it is not garnished anywhere? Judging from the success of Robinson Crusoe and Scarlet Letter, maybe yes. But, then, Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, The Brothers Karamazov, or Great Expectations are not less powerful for their rich tapestries - they bring different flavours, they have varied my day, my life, my afternoons.
From that hot, sultry afternoon when Dantes incites Caderousse's greed with the diamond, to the golden, soft one when Hans and Gretel are skating, to the ones when so many of Dickens' boys are trudging to London, all grimy, weary, innocent, and ready to be influenced. The afternoon, a bit cold in the cell, in the monastery, and yet warm with the tension simmering all underneath, when Zosima touches Mitya's feet, to the one where white men are scouring the countryside for a black man whom they can impose their collective guilt upon. And the afternoons become magical. In school, it used to be the kites flying outside, with their shrill cries, looking for peace. The rustling of trees outside in the strong air. The sense of leisure and power, magically combined, that I feel, and yet an energy to do anything in this world. The bonds, that we benchmates, share as children, as the ones who trust implicitly, who revel in things unheard of by those who became old all too soon, who dread the math tables and love a good story. In college, it was the sense of harnessing all that invisible power - magnetic flux lines making work something, all the things? Who would have thought of that you simply have to cut the flux lines, and viola! The vast labs, and high ceilings, suddenly from the outside heat to the dry coldness inside which only a well-ventilated, well-sunlighted, high-ceilinged vast hall can have; the joy of starting up the motors by the three-point starter and the bonding of working in a team - and a team for what? One for just holding up the tachometer to the motor, the other feeling the king with the stopwatch in his hand, the couple of girls getting all high and mighty and thinking they are getting the cream of the job by noting the ammeter and voltmeter readings, and some fringe player, roped in for biting off the insulation with his teeth, making sure of all the loose connections, and still getting the worst of teacher's attention even after such thankless jobs. By the way, I used to love sliding the rheostats, especially the four-barrelled ones, and also adjusting the variable load resistor, or the VLR. And then, the travels. The red soil and the palms shaming even the sunset sky on a very narrow shortcut from Tiruchendur to Kanyakumari (which most people don't know of), to the bleachingly hot afternoons at the Crocodile Bank near Chennai. The afternoons, which never looked so, and by the time they did, the sun had set behind the trees, and a couple of idli hawkers would have set up their fledgling business, with a red tomato chutney, in the center of the small market square of, yes you guessed it right, Munnar. The afternoons which somehow make the Ganga look more sublime at Haridwar - it somehow becomes a pedestal for the pacy, vast river, and even the floating oil lamps in leaves and flowers all over the Ganga at night are nothing against that quiet, breezy, serene, and ingraspable afternoon.
Will continue.



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