In my memory — I just turned 49 — no year was as eagerly awaited as 2019. Elections come every five years and those five years usually pass in a blink, but the 2019 elections were crucial: will Narendra Modi stay or go?
Modi hasn’t gone, but 2019 is going. Passage of time is the most powerful force on earth; no government or ideology can stop it — not even God. The boulder rolls on and eventually snuffs out everything — egos, ideologies, thoughts, greatness — before new life sprouts on the flattened land, only to be revisited by the rolling boulder decades later.
In other words, nothing lasts. What exists today, won’t be there tomorrow. You never know when you are going to come in the path of the boulder. So make the most of today. Be happy. Be happy with — and grateful for — whatever little you have. These aren’t my thoughts; they are borrowed — from Banaras.
2019, for me, was synonymous with Banaras. About seven of the 12 months were spent writing Aimless in Banaras; the remaining five waiting for it to come in the market. Now that I have a copy sitting on my desk, I can say that 2019 is ending on a satisfactory note. My first book, Chai, Chai, came out in 2009: that makes it five books in 10 years. Not bad.
It is a different matter that the five books haven’t made much difference to my life, though it is extremely gratifying when some reader or the other writes to say that my work has made a difference to his or hers. My life remains pretty ordinary. Only this afternoon I had to walk all the way to the ATM to pay the chap redoing my mother-in-law’s mattress. The ordinariness is difficult to gauge from pictures on Facebook.
Not that I am complaining. 2019 has been enriching in ways other than monetary. I made whimsical but memorable purchases, such as acquiring a Mont Blanc 149 and a Pelikan M1000. I acquired good friends. I developed a new-found interest in plants. I developed a new fetish for leather — pen sleeves, pen holders, rucksacks. I did up my study — decorated with plants and pictures — and finally have a space of my own, which I share with no one except Dude, the cat. All my life, until I moved to Calcutta in August 2018, I’ve never had a proper desk because I was more comfortable writing lying on my stomach on the bed or a mattress. My mind didn’t work unless I was reclining. Now my mind doesn’t work unless I am at my desk, sitting erect.
That way, yes, someone visiting me after a gap of 10 years would tend to believe that I’ve arrived. The truth is far from that. Personal tastes may have changed — as they sometimes do, with increasing age and exposure — but the struggle remains. And the struggle is essential — equivalent of the water and sunlight that a plant needs to grow. Going by Banarasi wisdom, struggle too is Shiva. So the five books are mere milestones, not arrival.
Only one prayer I have for myself as I step into 2020: that I become a practising Banarasi. Life becomes a lot easier when lived the Banaras way. If you want to know what I mean by that, read Aimless in Banaras.