The monk who found his Caravan

I wanted to settle. I wanted to compromise. I wanted life to be made simpler, easier. I wanted to operate in my small little world which was never supposed to change.

It has been almost one year and six months, or 18 months, since I had written anything in this website. For second consecutive year, I made a payment for my hosting services while questioning the rationale of maintaining this blog (or website as I call it, just because it has a .com prefix to it). But doing away with ramyuva always felt like the ultimate act of self destruction, a button that signifies my frustrations with the world (my world) has finally boiled over and that I had accepted defeat in my quest to express my art and my works to the larger public. 

That gradual sense of defeat that came with adulthood was documented so well in the archives here. I used to share serialised versions of my short stories here when I first started out, I used to write meandering poems (I would never quality myself as a poet) when I felt I had a punchline to deliver. 

Slowly, that process was dumbed down to analysis of movies, before eventually morphing into its most simplistic form- movie reviews. But the moment I walked out of the cinema after watching Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai last year, that urge to write suddenly died. There had been good movies that I enjoyed watching in the past 18 months, and my delectable taste in movies had never changed. There had been a bloom of talented young filmmakers in the interceding period as well, but none of that got me to write. 

Facing a reality in which I was stuck in a job that was so far removed from the film world, in a country that has very little appreciation for the arts; I somehow succumbed to the possibility that I would never become the person I thought I could be. I had to accept the new me, and that person is someone who relies on the likes of Mani Ratnam and Imtiaz Ali to appease the intellectual neuroses.

However, in the past year, every film that I had great expectations for failed to deliver the inspiration I was seeking. Sure, Jab Harry met Sejal meandered rather pointlessly at times, but I took these disappointments so personally because I had placed all my creative burdens on these men who I had never met; they will bring the piece of me that I always aimed to bring to a story with moving images. They are supposed to. But they didn’t. I thought Imtiaz understood me so well- I am that Ved, becoming an adventurer for brief periods before conforming to a life that is so monotonous simply because I am bound by circumstances. And because he understood me so well, my stories will be there in films made by him and his peers. But that hasn’t been the case. 

That’s because no one tells your stories better than you do. You can’t pass the creative burden of telling your story to others- especially when you are the storyteller. My 20s had taught me only one major yet seemingly simplistic lesson about life- there are only two types of people in this world (and no, I am not saying that in Amitabh or Shahrukh’s voices)- those who can live with compromises, and those who can’t.

This isn’t about ambition or passion.  There are a group of humans who are so restless, and so defined by what they believe they are and can be, that they can’t live their life any other way. There isn’t a halfway point- it is essentially a zero sum game- you got to be who you feel you are. It took me 14 years to realise I am part of that grouping, because I tried, and secretly long, to be in the other category- those who are fine with making compromises. 

I am Malaysian Indian, brought up with such conservative pragmatism that being middle class with small pleasures and huge doses of compromises is always seen as a good thing. So while I dreamed, all my physical efforts were concentrated in securing the conventional safety nets- good job with a good pay, a comfortable home, a car that screams middle class, a moderate partner whom I was sure of marrying. If all this worked out according to plan, like it had for so many people I know, I would probably be sleeping peacefully at night, content in being an unpaid movie critic. But life is chaotic, and none of these supposed safety nets worked. Friends didn’t stay, partners didn’t stay, the material possessions did not provide the kind of satisfaction I thought they were supposed to provide. 

I wanted to settle. I wanted to compromise. I wanted life to be made simpler, easier. I wanted to operate in my small little world which was never supposed to change. But unfortunately, the world is restless even if the people in it don’t want to be. And a creative mind is the pinnacle of that restlessness. Things that were supposed to calm me down when I thought I was settling didn’t. I started losing sleep, literally. Inertia drove me crazy. 

I always said that I was lucky to have known what my gift was when I was 16 years old- it was writing, filmmaking, storytelling. I narrated stories to schoolmates while sat outside our house porch. I spent most of my time at Indian CD stores, hoping to connect with a random like-minded connoisseur. I rewrote movie plots as short stories for my school essays. I recreated a movie plot device to simply connect with a girl. 

But knowing what you have and knowing who you are is not a parallel process. I spent my 20s somewhat abusing this talent and gift in a reductive way- the speed and accuracy of my writing was well appreciated in the world of journalism. While the physical effort involved in getting stories was no small matter, I was so detached from the simplistic forms I was writing in. And writing is just one element of the storytelling gift that I feel everyday. 

It wasn’t luxury that made me take a decision to leave this world behind me and venture into a new one, or, basically, to rebuild my world. It was a sense of responsibility. If I don’t tell my stories, who will?

I had done plenty of introspection in the past one year- leaving and starting over would mean that I am accepting my 20s as a failure in the larger scheme of things. But then again, I had never truly subscribed to society’s pigeonhole definitions of success and failure. This wasn’t a success or a failure- it was simply my story. My gift enabled to write and curate so many stories of so many other people when I was in my teens and twenties. But it wasn’t until now that I realised the value of my own story. 

The best story in the life of a creator will probably never be filmed, acted or be documented anywhere. He or she would have lived it. That is the real masterpiece, and that story doesn’t conclude until you have breathed your last. 

And now, here I am, writing again after 18 months. The last time I went on a hiatus and returned, I credited the return to Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani. I will do no such thing now. No new film inspired me to return to this lair of mine. I am only returning because I acknowledge that no one inspires you better than your own strength. 

Knowing I was a storyteller at the age of 16 was a gift. But preserving the gift and the ability over the following 14 years was a test of character. I had remained a storyteller despite my circumstances, not because of it. 

That signifies strength.

This is me coming out of the closet- I have dreams. I will write books. I will make films. I will recite a poem, and then on a stage someday, I will tell you how the monk found his caravan.

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