From cousins to friends, everyone around seems to be focused on one question only, “So dude, what’s next? Job or higher studies?” Suddenly life seems to be pin-pointed towards goals, ambitions and, “where exactly you see yourself in the next 5 years”.
What if, if I don’t see myself in the near future, in a place like yours? What if, my goals and ambitions are not conventional? What if, I simply want to chase my dreams, till the last breath of my life?
To these thoughts, and my bohemian aspirations, this piece.
During the early 1990s, the Bengali music industry was tangled miserably in a complex knot of monotonous melodies and the new generation-totally demoralised by the raging issues of the time like unemployment- could not relate to the songs out there. Then, a young man from Kolkata packed his powerful and socially relevant lyrics with hummable tunes and released his first album “Ei Besh Bhalo Achi” in 1993. He was Nachiketa Chakraborty, and in the years to come, he became an icon of modern Bengali music, and a whole lot of next-generation singers walked ahead on the path shown by him.
During that time, my father was an upcoming doctor in the city of Guwahati. He had a wife, also a doctor, and small kid-two years old-me. When I was a little grown up to understand songs and their meanings, I remember my father holding the steering wheel of our first Maruti 800 in one hand and a cigarette in the other, driving me to school between his hectic schedule, while Nachiketa played on the car’s audio system.
In 1994, Nachiketa released his second album, and in it, there was song called Ambition. The title of this article comes from this song and it translates to “This is what my ambition is!” I remember hearing it a number of times- then in the car’s music player and now on my laptop. Times change, but feelings don’t. In his fresh and bold voice, he sang that though everyone wants to become either a doctor or engineer, he wants to follow the wanderlust in him. He questions, in the song, that most professionals in today’s world have lost their ethics and morality, and rather than achieving success within a corrupted system, it is better that he becomes an idiot, or a Baul singer or a globe trotter. That’s what his ambition is.
For me, on one side were these kind of songs, on the other, my parents’ awfully busy life beautifully choreographed with the pattern of a so-called social life; on one side was my strict Catholic missionary school which taught nothing better than ‘not talking in the class’, ‘speaking in English’ and ‘obeying your teachers’, and on the other was my repulsion from all kinds of rules, compulsions and conventional paths of life. May be, from then itself, ambition in life has had a strange effect on my life.
I used to pass pathetically boring days at school stained by rebukes and partiality meted out proficiently by teachers, but then curling up in the bed with a paperback in hand for the entire afternoon made the day for me. At whatever I was persuaded to do, without my liking, I flunked. First my mother brought an old (little deaf too) Indian classical musician to teach me the Hawaiian guitar- I lost all interest in the instrument by two years. Side by side, she had taken me to a table-tennis coaching academy run by a family friend- I played a tournament or two after my two years of coaching then left, with no deep impression of the game, whatsoever. She took all efforts to make her son a polished, intelligent and sophisticated guy, yet her son always craved for that which tickled his nerves, for that which gave him the high. From such experiences since childhood, I have learnt that, it’s very difficult to live your life on implanted dreams. I can’t make being an MBA my ambition- it had never been on the cards, neither had civil engineering been. It’s impossible for me to suddenly evolve myself according to the patterns set for people in my shoes, and completely forget about what gives me, as a human being, pleasure.
I want to dream, and then chase each and every one of them. I want to recline on an easy chair and write fiction, and not manage some obscure data sitting in front of my laptop in an air-conditioned office. I want to document riots, scams, and political and social issues as a journalist rather than measuring the percentage of cement in a certain concrete mix.
I want to roam the world and take pictures-of men and women and their struggles in life, of lions and giraffes in the African grasslands-of their hunts and grazing, of nature- at its serene best, may be in some secluded English countryside, and of the crisis in Darfur and Palestine. I want to call back my wife, back at home, may be after clicking a memorable picture of an African lion roaring into my camera or after my novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker, rather than after striking a business deal in a conference room, pungent with the smell of alcohol. And when I get old, I want to show my grand-daughter the picture of a girl of her age, clicked by me, who had lost her limbs in an earthquake in a poor country.
I want to sit in a monastery and hear Buddhist monks recite their prayers, I want to sit with my partner on a beach and watch it drizzle on the sea, and someday, I even want to just vanish with her from the society and land up in an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, where there is no one else, hopefully.
I want to read. I want to write. I want to take pictures. I want to make films. And, I want to give a damn to the conventions, moralities and patterns of the average middle-class life.