Friday, October 12, 2007

Shantaram: Writings and Beyond

Just finished reading Shantaram. In case you know me or have stumbled upon my blog from somewhere on the net, I’ll let you know that I love reading, to the point of being crazy about it. But very few books have so brilliantly, subtly and mysteriously intrigued me to the point that I am writing this at 3 am in the night. I don’t want to review the book or tell you about its plot, which you can anyways find here. What I felt like writing about are the beautiful quotes in the book. Reading them I felt as if he has packed his life's experiences, his pain, his love, his musings and most importantly his learning’s in so few words. The insight shown in these quotes is not something one can pick up so easily; it probably requires one to go through a lot of things which we don’t like or through events which unexpectedly define the course of our life. We all ultimately want to think that we are the river, cutting across different terrains and making its own way, its own path and probably its own destination. But we ultimately end up being nothing more than a cascade, natural yet governed , important yet short lived, beautiful yet perishable, the contrast only too natural to see; yet never so visible to us, though its dancing stark naked, shouting at the top of its voice trying to be as conspicuous as possible. The most obvious things in the world are the ones most often missed. We fail to see things in retrospect, forgetting the value of experience, or again, perhaps not wanting to look back, for what we see in our past, are failures and sorrows. This brings me to a point where I feel I need to share with you some lines from this masterpiece of a book.

Nothing in any life, no matter how well or poorly lived, is wiser than failure or clearer than sorrow. And in the tiny precious wisdom they give to us, even those dreaded and hated enemies, suffering and failure, have their reason and their right to be.

Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that's all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that's all we have - to hold on tight until the dawn

Come to think of it, whatever we achieve and whatever we don’t are actually equally important to us. The victory is a kind of hope that good things happen, not by a twist of fate, but by conscious effort. The defeats are things which we ought to learn from, the wise, harsh teacher. Hope and wisdom are like unidentical twins; the pedigree being the same, yet a mutated gene is all that makes them different. Wisdom brings about hope, and hope allows us to stay foolish, and its this foolishness that keeps us going. Under the surface, if one scratches a little, one can find the connection too evident to see.

Sorrow is something I believe that everyman should face. We only count our blessings when all is lost, and it’s only possible for the cruelest of emotions to force man to think about his blessings. Only in the most depressing times, when one lays low and feels a churning in his stomach so strong that the feeling of being even something evades you totally, we just thank our stars for having people who love us, around us. We are essentially a thankless species. Period.

If fate doesn't make you laugh, you just don't get the joke

Fate’s way of beating us in a fair fight is to give us warnings that we hear, but never heed.

Fate always gives you two choices, the one you should take, and the one you do.

Every human heartbeat is a universe of possibilities. And it seemed to me that I finally understood exactly what he’d meant. He’d been trying to tell me that every human will has the power to transform its fate. I’d always thought that fate was something unchangeable: fixed for every one of us at birth, and as constant as the circuit of stars. But I suddenly realized that life is stranger and more beautiful than that. The truth is that no matter what kind of game you find yourself in, no matter now good or bad the luck, you can change your life completely with a single thought or a single act of love

I don’t want to spoil these words by giving you any interpretations. Just think about major turning points in your life and you will get the brutal and honest meanings of these lines. I just feel that accept some things as they are and try to change your fate. We sometimes adopt a to defeatist attitude towards life. Some things are not meant to be. Some things are meant to be only if we have the courage and the conviction to pursue them. The only difference between the two is the effort one puts in.

Personality and person identity are in some ways like co-ordinates on the street map drawn by intersecting relationships. We know who we are and we define what we are by references to the people we love and our reasons for loving them.

Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we’ve loved them, left them, or fought them.

This is how important people are in our lives. There is not one word in these lines that I will not give my right arm for. I truly believe that I exist because of the people around me.

And for people who take life too seriously

The real trick in life is to want nothing, and succeed in getting it.

Truth is a bully we all pretend to like

The fully mature man or woman has about two seconds left to live.

If you make your heart into a weapon, you always end up using it on yourself.

And to understand what Mumbai or in general India is, the best of them all

I’m a Jew, French, criminal and gay; Bombay is the only city in the world that allows me to be all four at once - Dider Levy (A character in the book)

To top it all

The facts of life are very simple. In the beginning we feared everything - animals, the weather, the trees, the night sky - everything except each other. Now we fear each other and almost nothing else. No one knows why anyone does anything. no one tells the truth. No one is happy. No one is safe. In the face of all that is so wrong with the world, the very worst thing you could do is survive. And yet you must survive. It is the dilemma that makes us believe and cling to the lie that we have a soul, and that there is a god who cares about its fate.