There’s a tendency in children I’ve always found inspiring – they are inexorably pulled to everything absurd, to things without meaning. When I was myself a school kid, I had a peculiar, one might say, heartless habit. I would threaten my friends that when they grew up and had children, I’d confuse the living daylights out of the critters. I’d point to a table and say, “What a lovely ball that is.” Or I’d request, ‘May I please have that book,’ while looking at a ball-point pen. Or I’d say, ‘Look at that lovely watch;’ only it would be an umbrella. My friends would beg me not to play this cruel game, they’d have a hard time making their kids unlearn the incorrect meanings. I never promised them anything.
Two decades ago, an evening I held my sister’s new born baby – she’d left him with me so she could catch up on some sleep, is a moment I recall with crystal clarity. I was hanging in her house, nothing to attend to really, and suddenly there was this tiny thing in my arms, so utterly dependent on my dexterity and carefulness, without an idea about who I was and not bothered either. I wouldn’t have for all the money or love in the world, taught him wrong words for things. I wouldn’t have ever confused him. Rather, I found myself wishing for the unequivocal removal of confusion and pain in his life, being led astray or the hard knocks.
This I knew to be an impossibility.
To be or not to be
Since one is spared none of the damn anguish, I ask you this (meekly, I admit): is confusion really so terrible? A bad, bad thing to be shunned? Why does certainty sit on a throne like some goddess we can contemplate only on our knees, why does a person radiating it have that dewy flush on their face, that peachy bounce in their walk? Because, (this, I ask less meekly): is certainty ever really there? Is it?
We spend all our energy trying to outrun ambiguity, we ache and strive to eliminate vagueness and yet, achievement upon achievement later, we merely walk to the next uncertainty, the next, perplexing disappointment. We aren’t ever free of insecurity, no matter the mountains of knowledge we acquire, so how come we never give confusion a chance? We don’t sit with doubt, we never let it thrive, we are petrified of it. “Don’t be afraid to be confused,” wrote the seminal
American writer, George Saunders, “try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open, it hurts,” – is this not splendid advice? We hide our bewilderment and perform an assuredness because that’s attractive, that has a charge. We are drawn to people who know what the hell they want, who don’t dither. The dull ones on the other hand (may a very gusty wind carry them far away from us) we avoid as if that was the only way to retain the scraps of confidence inside our own anxiously knocking hearts.
Need of the hour
But now we find ourselves at a profound loss of words, don’t we, folks.
We’ve been thrown against life’s burning coals, stunned into the abject humility only a global crisis and untold suffering of the marginalised can manage to do, left reeling in an unparalleled confinement from within, which we can only gaze outward at bluer skies with one sure knowledge – that we know nothing.
Wouldn’t it just make infinite sense to stop resisting the truth? To accept a childlike gibberish of the soul, to go ahead and pack our little suitcases of obscurities and pitch tents on the shores of the river of incomprehensibility, near the mountain ranges of chaos – I for one, would fall back into my portable, easy recliner of confusion and sink my weary backside into its folds, and once thoroughly perplexed, I’d be forced to see that there’s just one thing to speak up for, one all-important struggle for which to take greater risks and free falls, the only fight for which we must summon all the courage in the world – the one for equality.
Tanuja is an author as well as a filmmaker. She is known for movies like Dushman, Sur, Sangharsh and the Irrfan Khan-starrer Qarib Qarib Singlle.