Getting Lost

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Que voy a ser, je ne sais pas

I was first introduced to the French/Spanish singer Manu Chao in 2003. Or early 2004, I’m not sure. 2003-2005 were two years for me where time was measured more in feelings than in linear experiences. The Argentines and the Mexicans at my school decided that Indians should know what real music sounds like. So without being too offended, we gladly went along with them. And that night I heard one of Manu Chao’s most popular – and I didn’t know it yet but most profound – songs, Me Gustas Tu“. Yes, it was catchy, it had a beat, it made us 16 and 17 year olds sway to the beat of a Mediterranean reggae that hadn’t made its way over to the Indian subcontinent and felt strangely out of place on a hill in the middle of a valley under a midnight blue tent of a sky with holes pierced through by the stars. It was so out of place that it actually fit right in. And – this is the embarrassing part to admit – in my naiveté, until I actually got much better at my Spanish a few years later, I didn’t realize that his coro was Que voy hacer (what should I do). I kept hearing it as Que voy a ser (what will I be). So you see then why the chorus as per my interpretation really struck a chord with me – 
Que voy a ser / What will I be
Je ne sais pas / I don’t know
Que voy a ser / What will I be
Je ne sais plus / I don’t know anymore
Que voy a ser / What will I be
Je suis perdu / I’m lost
After I learnt the real lyrics, I decided to just go along with my interpretation because by that time, I’d been through a series of moments related to figuring out my identity, my place in this world, these cultures and I held on to these words like a security blanket. It was okay for me to not know who or what I would be, because how could I? After having begun Solnit’s book though, I found myself thinking increasingly about the last line – Je suis perdu. When I think about it as part of the song, there’s no sadness associated with the idea of being lost. The beat, the voice, the melody – they’re in complete contrast to the lyrics. I’d never heard of anyone so cheerful – for lack of a better word – singing about being lost. 
(Sidenote – it’s stuck with me so much that this bastardized phrase of mine is currently at the top of a very short list of what I’d like to get as my second tattoo.)
I talk about the song because I’m halfway through the chapter Abandon and it talks about a musician friend of Solnit’s, her journey and the various stops along the way, some of which may seem like the wanderings of a lost soul, but in reality are very much conscious choices. It’s interesting to try and really pick at the subtle differences between loss and being lost. In the way that they are used in speech and in language, loss almost ends up as something passive, something that happens to you, whereas being lost is an intentional act, a choice to loose certain elements, certain aspects of one’s life. Whether we do it consciously or subconsciously, I think we all discriminate a little bit against certain lifestyles and life choices that imply an intentional loss. 
I bring up this point to link back to the train of thought Solnit weaves through the latter half of the previous chapter, The Blue of Distance, when she talks about culture and boundaries and the repercussions of natives kidnapping many of the Puritan children and their resultant choices to stay with their captors/new communities. When I read that, i actually dug through my inbox to find an email thread dating back to August 2011 – a fervent online discussion with a few friends about reflections from working in the international development sector, and empathising with The Other, figuring out how to transition back to the world we came from. I think it was there that I first started playing with the imagery of boundaries and fences and imagined/defined borders for spaces that we inhabit, or look to enter, or have invariably found ourselves a part of without even realizing when or from where we entered. The more I think about it, the more I’ve reflected this imagery subconsciously during crucial moments in my life. I went to an international high school for two years, and remember always recollecting that experience in conversation or on paper as both a blessing and a curse – it was almost like i had been broken into a million little pieces during those two years there, and when I stopped to pick up the pieces and reassemble myself, I found that I was no longer myself but an amalgamation of everyone else around me. Pieces of them were deeply embedded in me, and have been ever since, and pieces of myself now live in other people. What did I lose/gain in the process? Can I really say that I’ve been the same person since then? What I didn’t realize is that the process of reassembling yourself and carrying on actually is almost an art. Not to sound presumptuous but many a person has broken down at the idea of losing the sense of comfort, of knowing who you are, what you think, what you want and where you’re going. Solnit rightly says that “the real difficulties, the real arts of survival seem to lie in more subtle realms. There, what’s called for is a kind of resilience of the psyche, a readiness to deal with what comes next.” I found another quote from The Pedagogy of Self, that I began reading when I was thinking about boundaries and fences and this situation of knowing the Other and consequently one’s own self better, that puts a very visual interpretation in front of me of what it is actually like to be that hybrid, that in-between who is crossing cultures, losing and finding oneself multiple times to the extent that loss and discovery are rarely distinguishable from each other….sometimes the presumed sadness of loss actually manifests itself on discovery of oneself or one’s purpose because that is where the journey supposedly ends, doesn’t it? The quote reads: 
The hard edges of the boundary between self and other become fuzzy. Where we end and the environment begins becomes a shared space. It is not so much that we become fuzzy as we become aware, through heightened self-awareness, that we already exist in a state of shared being with all of life: It’s less a change in reality than a change in perspective
I really can’t find a coherent way to end this because, as usual, I get lost in what I’m writing. But I’m leaving pondering about the curious nature of the universe, in making things make sense. With the song, with my tattoo, with these emails from two years ago and everything tying in to Solnit’s treatise on being lost. I guess that’s a commentary in itself, isn’t it? Have we ever lost something, or are we ever lost, or merely just waiting to find again?
 
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Bombay blues

The blue of longing in Bombay is in its waters. In the vast Arabian Sea to the west that meets the city at its southernmost point, Marine Drive. It is my escape. It is my horizon. It is my yonder. It is my edge of the world, and the start of another. I sat there last night talking to N, a friend in another city while waiting to meet R, who was ten minutes away from me, and was struck by two thoughts that Solnit talks about – desire and longing.

We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space between with the blue of longing”.

It is my blue of longing.

Last night R and I started discussing connection, or the lack of it, that made people engage in one-way interactions seemingly disguised as “conversations” through instant messaging, fleeting interactions and mostly just a desire to be heard above the rest. I am honestly annoyed by people having long conversations over impersonal mediums without bothering to make the time for the same in person. We were both frustrated with how people confuse connectivity with connection and I began thinking about the spaces between us. Virtual spaces are slowly encroaching upon my emotional and physical boundaries to such an extent that I’m made to feel almost wrong for wanting them both simultaneously. Are we so scared to address our desire to connect and sit with that desire and accept it, so much that we make a connection – however fleeting – and then move on as if the desire has been addressed? I leave so many dinners and outings here recently feeling unfulfilled, mostly because they’ve ended up feeling cursory and a lame attempt at a checklist of how interactions should be, and I wish I knew how to change the nature of my interactions with people to a point where every one of them allowed me to lose myself in the other person. I want to not be afraid of depth, and of the unknown and release myself from the shackles of having to arrive somewhere with every interaction. It makes me think of purpose and how purpose is sometimes in conflict with desire. The two sometimes get confused for meaning one and the same thing, but I’m starting to think more about the chicken-and-the-egg with these two concepts. I’d like to believe that the desire to connect is what shapes the purpose of my longing but at times I feel as if the purpose is almost transactional. This then reduces my desire, my longing, to a destination where  – once I’ve arrived – I must renounce it. And I’m not okay with that.

I’m not okay with defining the depth of desire to connect. I’m not okay with defining desire in terms of distance or even as something linear or unidirectional. I look back out onto the slate blue sea during the late afternoons or the midnight blue waters as heaven and earth merge into one by the time the rest of the city is asleep and I want that. I want desire and longing that has no beginning or end, which flows around me and pushes me where the wind blows. I want my spaces to be filled with depth that can hold both the destination and the journey.

Look across the distance without wanting to close it up.

Own your own longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue, that can never be possessed.

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