Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Quarter-life crisis

Since childhood I have been a 'man' who has an explanation for almost everything he does.However it does not imply that I have not done anything impulsive or that I am always level headed.Its just that I am good at presenting my case. During my high school days I had the habit of constantly punching at the walls of our house with my fist.The purpose offcourse was to harden my knuckles , but i dont recollect whether it was an inspiration from Van Damme or I really had a tiff with the classroom bully.So when my mom , evidently worried about my health as well as the health of our dilapidated government quarter , asked for an explanation to this strange behaviour I was ready with it.I showed her articles on adolescent behaviour , culled from various sources ( sadly no internet at that time) and gave her a lengthy discourse on how such rebellious behaviour is commonplace among teenagers around the world and punching at the walls is an universal phenomenom arising out of our teenage existential angst. I doubt if she bought my theory , but it did manage to calm down the situation to a great extent.
However in recent times , having gone gone through frequent bouts of depression , i just could not find any neat and intellectual-sounding scientific or pop-psychology term which could explain
my behaviour. Whenever I am confronted with such question as " You have a secure job , you are young ( at times you have a girlfriend too) whatelse do you want , huh? look at the number of unemployed people around you and count your blessings" , I desperately feel the need to say " I am unhappy because i have so and so syndrome".How I wish I could say something like " I have midlife crisis" or " I have pre-menstrual stress", but since I could say neither I have to take resort to a lengthy monologue on how much I hated my job , the food at the office canteen and so on.So at times like i fall back to the only place which can explain everything - 'Wikipedia'.After some searching , i finally discovered the perfect term that could describe my situation. Its called the " Quarter-life crisis".I guess the term had existed since ages but somehow I have not stumbled across it..Wiki says that " Quarter-life crisis " can have any of the following characteristics:

1.Feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level
2.Frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
confusion of identity
3.Insecurity regarding the near future
4.Insecurity regarding present accomplishments
5.Re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
6.Disappointment with one's job
7.Nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
8.Tendency to hold stronger opinions
9.Boredom with social interactions
10.Financially-rooted stress
12.Desire to have children
13.A sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

Thanks to the psychologists , I can claim to be a victim of a trully global phenemenom , something I believve is more dangerous than global warming.Except the desire to have children , I have traces of all the other symptoms in varying degrees.Now how to overcome it? So far I have just one solution to " Quarter-life crisis" - get a quarter of red rum , it will do the trick.
P.S - " Why do you drink so much , huh?? Do you ever think of people back home??"
Ans : " I have quarter-life crisis"

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The magician from Tokyo

Japan is one country which has captured my imagination since I was a child.I guess it started after watching the series "Oshin" on Doordarshan.That was a time when Ekta Kapoor was yet to unleash her Saans-Bahu never-ending sagas on the Indian households and people still believed that entertainment should also provide some food for thought.My japanese fixation grew with time , especially after watching Kurosawa and reading Kazuo Ishiguro and Haruki Murakami.
I have just started on my 3rd Haruki Murakami novel and its called " The wind up bird chronicle".Now ,I have this peculiar habit-if I like a book I become an unpaid publicity agent for that writer.I would not only recommend it to everyone but harrass the person non-stop till he reaches the last page.So now I would proceed to do the same.
For those not familiar with Mr.Murakami's works , I have decided to put together a definiton like those high and mighty literary critics do.It goes like this " Mr. Murakami's work can be defined as bizarre characters meeting other equally bizarre characters under extraordinarily bizarre circumstances".The one I am reading right now revolves around a man in search of his cat which is very dear to his wife.In the course of his seach and a span of just 40 pages he has already met a woman looking for telephone sex , a bored teenage girl who lives alone and watches cats in her neighbourhood and a lady who believes in controlling the elements.As this happens to be my 3rd Murakami novel after " Norwegian woods " and " Hard-boiled wonderland and end of the universe" I am finding myself in a slightly familar terrain.For beginners I must warn that this man can take your mind out , put it a mixer-grinder and churn the contents of your head till you feel that you have lost you mind forever.The problem I had at first with this Japanese gentleman was that for some reasons I was searching for reason in his plots and characters.On deeper introspection I know the problem is that I have grown up on a staple diet of Hindi movies.So the idea of loose ends in a story and unexplained characters is totally alien to me.In a hindi movie if the hero has a sister you can rest assured she would be raped by the villain in due course of time, else the hero won't have a sister.So with that frame of mind I started reading my first Murakami novel , only to realise that very soon that I am missing out on a joyride.Murakami takes you on a roller coaster ride , where characters would come and dissapear for no reason , where your protagonist will sleep with women you never expected to , where people for no reaon will start talking of Beatles and Bob Dylan , where cats will start talking and somehow even in this wild circus you will find a cleverly woven plot unfolding before your eyes in a manner that is both weird and entertaining at the same time.
Rich in symbolism and metaphors ,Murakami is among the writers whose books are to be chewed slowly rather than devoured as a whole.If you read one sentence too quickly , you might miss a piece of dark humour or an unusual oxymoron or just a bizarre similie that very few writers could even dream of.The second most important thing to remember is that don't expext anything and don't ask why.Go with the flow of his narrative.Strange things will happen to the characters.Moreover you will feel at times the narrator is a junkie who had an overdose of cocaine.For example , Murakami might devote 3 paragraphs for the colour of a particular character's lipstick or nail-polish.Dont expect it be of som great significance to the plot.He just mentioned it because he felt like it.

I have spend sometime wondering where Muarakami's appeal lie.I believe his cult status has something more to it than its bizarre plots and his high " coolness qoutient" for referring to rockstars and hollywood movies in every 3rd page.Its essentially lies in his abilty to split open and dissect the working of the urban mind , it's innate sense of alienation and its deepest fears and insecurities.His characters are universal , they might well belong to Mumbai instead of Tokyo. His appeal , I believe , lies in his knack of touching the mind of the reader at a very subliminal level .I remember one of his characters , who said she was a fan of Bob Dylan because its reminds her of a child gazing out of his window when its raining outside.Rain ,child and Bob Dylan..where is the connection? Apparently there is no connection, but if I ever have to think of Bob Dylan's music as an image nothing fits better than the one mentioned above.There exactly lies Murakami's genius ,his constantly ability to go hammer and tongs at your head and make you wonder " Oh fuck! that's so true but I never thought of it this way!".
Murakami himself has said that his work is taken more seriously than he would like them to do.Like Pink Floyd's songs, critics would endlessly dissect his work for hidden symbolisms.Such people are bound to be dissapointed.The way to read Murakami is simple.Just enjoy the ride, cause he will take you to places where you have never gone before.
Bon voyage!