Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring Chasing

We  often travel from our homes to another city or country for a specific purpose, be it work or a hobby or to find something. On the way we tend to indulge in myriad of things & experiences; the food, the shops, the sights and the people. We eat, talk, buy, think, wonder, observe, sleep, jump, smile, laugh, cry, love, hate, yell and whisper.  We entertain and bemuse ourselves. That which leads the way is often forgotten amidst the hustle bustle of the way, the chirping birds, the cool breeze and the rough yet satisfying feeling of the way itself.

In many of those moments on the way we are not necessarily thinking of where it is that we were headed to. We might at times wonder of what our destination city would be like or what would the weather there be like; but a lot of times on the way we tend to think of things other than our specific purpose, our work or hobby or the thing that we want to find. If the journey is really long, the chances of getting caught up, in the many wonderful, nice, pleasant, scary, distasteful, bad or amazing experiences on the way, increase in ways that we cannot imagine. If the journey is as long, eventful and treacherous as our lives…

When I was a little boy, it was easier to always harp on what my dream was. You could start the day with telling your mother that you wanted to be a “fighter pilot”. Ramble it through the day, crashing books, spoons and sometimes your bare hands into tables, vases and walls. Make strange noises to feel the reality of the dream. “Whoosh”, “Boom”… you could believe in your dreams without questioning their feasibility, without attempting to ascertain the returns on your investments and without evaluating whether they were sustainable. You could finish dinner and yet be talking of the same thing. And utter those same words in sleepy murmurs. “Mai bada hokar airforce pilot banunga” (“I will be a fighter pilot one day”). The distance between dreams and tomorrow appeared negligible. Or perhaps it appeared to be too huge to worry about.

Along the way, those dreams metamorphosed into completely different dreams. That perhaps is understandable, after all the pursuits of life tend to change as we tend to discover the world and ourselves a little more every day. After all, very few of us would remember where they were headed to and for what purpose, when they started this journey of life. After all, we were so young back then. We have probably forgotten. It is perhaps that purpose, that original dream that I have been trying to remember all of these days. So that I can get on with the actual journey, reach my destination and be done with my purpose.

With every new day, new facts are uncovered. New things are learned, new habits acquired, new skills developed and new friends made. New possibilities emerge every summer, winter, spring and autumn. And every day I feel that perhaps I know my original dream better than the previous day. And that “new dream” slowly replaces the older dream and comes to the top of the list. So it is perhaps even understandable that somehow my dream of becoming a “fighter pilot” eventually metamorphosed into my dream of becoming a “software engineer” by the time I was 15.

It was not a simple caterpillar – cocoon – butterfly thing. It went through many distinct steps of the metamorphosis. “Army captain”, “Race car driver”, briefly “basketball player”, even briefly “musician” and when I was 15 “software engineer”. That was meant to stay for a few years. And yes I had my doubts about the universe, the cosmos actually wanting me to be a “software engineer” or for that matter even a “fighter pilot” but I came to believe somehow that it was what the universe wanted. Days went by and obviously a clearer picture emerged by the time I was in college. “Software engineer” was what I saw from far off but on closer examination it was actually a “tech entrepreneur”. “Software engineer” was probably just a train on way to reaching “tech entrepreneur”. And the pursuit continued since then with finer pieces of the puzzle coming forth from under the carpet. So I quit my plush job at the “world’s largest software company” and took a plunge. After all the “software engineer” train had to drop me off at this station. So all that is very understandable that somehow the dream became clear by the time I was 25, to be a “tech entrepreneur”.

What is not understandable is how our intensity to believe in our dreams, our capability, to be thinking of just them all the time, from waking up through lunch, dinner, till we hit the bed and even beyond, diminishes as we grow up. Everything can be doubted! After all there have been so many changes, so many new things have been learned and now that we have grown up with our maturity and what not, we certainly know that our current dream may also be just another phase in this large complex process of dream metamorphosis. What if our current bearing is not to the destination but just to another railway station? Such questions are no longer rarity when you start reaching 30. Some days, you start the day with “I am sure I want to do this” and end it with “What the hell am I doing?” You tend to ramble less about your dream and more about the feasibility of things that can be done. How much will I make? What will I get out of it? Does it even make sense? Thinking of it, it is not very different from haggling over the price of a leather belt at an airport shop (Yes it can be done!) – You get so caught up in that moment of potential gain that you forget where you are headed to. At times you might even change tickets on the way! You now know that can be done. It’s not like you are new to all this travelling and you will just sit quietly in a corner, thinking about getting there and getting your thing done.

Turning 30, I seemed to have hit some kind of a disastrously amusing and amazingly disturbing jackpot of creepy revelations. “This entire dream thing has no real meaning, this is just a big farce and actually we are here to make money, have fun, travel, eat good food, take photographs and post them on Facebook”. And you tend to think that you’ve been such a fool all of these nearly eleven thousand days of your life trying to figure the dream, trying to pursue the mini-dreams, all of that. The feeling seemed to continue for several weeks if not more. “Really? You really thought there was this big dream that was meant to be?”

Fortunately, I happened to find a cheat sheet towards the end of those few weeks after I turned 30. Like most profound insights in my life it did not come to me nicely packed in a single envelope. It came in pieces; of different sizes, at different times, through different posts and a few of them even in emails for that matter. It seems believable because some of the pieces have come from people far more intelligent, far more learned, far older and far more insightful than I can be. One of the final pieces was from Ang Lee (well in the form of an old essay that he wrote in 2006 after winning the Oscar for Brokeback Mountain). The summary of the cheat sheet is that your 30th birthday is like the 1st April of your life. And a lot of years before that the world conspires to pull off a big joke on you on that day. That cruel joke comes in the form of a number of insights, learning, suggestions, advise, realizations and creepy revelations. It tries to make you believe something that you have been made so gullible to believe over the past few years. It tries to make you believe something like - “This entire dream thing has no real meaning, this is just a big farce and actually we are here to make money, have fun, travel, eat good food, take photographs and post them on Facebook”. The trick is to know at the right time that it is not a revelation but just a cosmic sleight of hand.

The dream thing, you see, is for real. The metamorphosis is meant to continue till you discover your own personal original dream. You keep finding it and once you find it you pursue it. You are meant to hunt it down with zeal, with fervor. You are meant to ramble about it all day. You are meant to murmur it in your sleep. You are meant to think of it while you eat, talk, buy, think, wonder, observe, sleep, jump, smile, laugh, cry, love, hate, yell and whisper.  You are meant to think of it while you entertain and bemuse yourself. Life after all is meant to be a never ending dream!

The final piece of the puzzle which helped me finish this essay – the translation of the essay by Ang Lee can be found here -