Friday, August 01, 2008

The danger of melancholy

I was hearing this song in youtube:

After a long time, I felt tears in my eyes. After a long time because I have been avoiding the experience of melancholy for some time now, consciously.

Here is the tragedy of human expression - in music, in literature and in movies, the best experience is the saddest.
When I was in 6th Std, I read "Sivagamiyin Sabatham", Kalki's historic novel about the tragic romance between a Pallava Prince and a dancer woman. When I finished I vowed that I would never read that book again in my life. Since then that novel has been published multiple times in Kalki magazine - and I have sneaked around and read a few lines; but I cannot bring myself to read it through, particularly the last chapter. There is this song that she dances to in the end "Munnam Avanudaya Naamam Kettaal" - I can still picture that song in my mind.

Aftre I had finished college, I had a brief break before I joined work. I was supposed to join August 1st, 1995. A week before that I had a nasty viral fever. While recovering, I borrowed the novel "Gone With The Wind" from a neighbor and finished it in three days. I would wake up every morning and start reading; continued till the night. On the fourth day, I was to go to work. I started for work, went upto the train station and then came back home. My mother was shocked. (She complained that I would retire without ever working). I sat in my room and brooded about Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler for two days.
If "Gone with the Wind" had a different ending, with Scarlett and Rhett walking off into the sunset, my response would have been very different. But, again, I vowed that I would never read that book again - after 13 years, the effect of that book still stays with me.

After marriage, and a career shaping up, I have been consciously avoiding reading books in which tragedy lurks - no Thomas Hardy style books. I seek P.G.Wodehouse or Dave Barry. I watch Vadivel comedies every night. I do not ever watch movies to completion at home - I prefer Sarath Kumar or Arjun beating a hundred people. I watch and read movies and books that I KNOW cannot cause me to experience melancholy again.
The problem is this - I do want to read better literature. I can understand subtlety. An year back I bought Jeyamohan's Tamil novel "Vishnupuram". The writing delighted me and I zipped through it, until half way through, a child passes away. I closed the book and never read it again.
Thus, I am prevented - purely from the point of self-preservation - to enjoy the best out there. If I ever went through "Gone with the Wind" or "The Mayor of Castorbridge" again, I know that it is bye-bye to work. I would be sitting and crying in a room.

The same effect happened to me while listening to Ali Abbas or Amanat Ali's singing in the music talent shows. There is a different kind of Pakistani infiltration happening now into India - those damn good singers with their Sufi style rendering. Listen to the video below and tell me how you can go face stupid programming bugs next day:

So, I keep running away from the music talent shows on TV; turn my face away from the literature section in book stores. I have stored Vishnupuram and other such books in the house in a store room so I do not have to look at them and be reminded of fictional people's tragedies. I watch Spiderman and Shrek and Arasu and Marudamalai, thinking that I can wipe away an yearning for something of substance.

A few days ago my wife successfully got me to watch an Iranian movie called "Children of the Heaven". It is about two kids who have a problem with getting a new shoe. That is it - sounded harmless. I watched the whole movie riveted. Guess what - it seemed full of lurking tragedies (although nothing happened) and I was shaking with concern for the children by the end of it.
I will never watch that movie again. In fact, Iraninan movies - you are dead to me. You are too realistic. If you can make buying a shoe so tragic, I don't care to think of your war movies.
I am planning to compensate by watching back to back shows of "Arasaangam" and "Walter Vetrivel".


Pedda said...

Dude that singer from Pakistan was amazing. It brought down the house to tears. I had no idea what he was singing but was really touched.

Porkodi (பொற்கொடி) said...

resonates totally! :))))