Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Would you agree with me that Eliot is extremely quotable? Somehow, I have always noticed that 'scholars' usually throw Eliot at you and hold their breath expectantly. When they see that particular light of vague recollection in your eyes they start talking to you in their language. If they see blankness in your eye, you can bet they will start their patronising act and if you beat them at it with "oh, not old Eliot again" they will promptly recognise you as one of their kind.

I started with Eliot, at the risk of being labelled a 'scholar', as I remember lines only from Eliot; the exceptions being "...dances with the daffodils" and parts of "The Second Coming". So:

"There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;"

(By the way, I googled that to save myself from pedantic friends who will insist on correcting it to the coma in a comment for this post)

Now, why am I talking about faces and preparing faces? I am surrounded by faces, prepared ones. And I watch them go about their act for that one moment when that face slips or is undermined by a gesture. That one moment when Aishwaraya Rai tripped on her evening gown and went on to become Miss World rather than Miss Universe.
Where do they come from? These people? I often wonder. And how can they go about replacing one face for another seamlessly till they their bedroom lights are switched off I imagine. Would you call this an art or a skill? Whichever it is I am rather awed by it. Having not acquired here in all these years and having given up the hope to acquire it.

So, I go about collecting all those little moments when these faces fail. And I do not mean catacylsmic or even dramatic moments. Completely insignificant ones where a very tall, stern and thoroughly professional manager of a section of a multi-national company casually brushes his hand against a silly piece of office-decoration and a glamorous scholar tastes a new flavour of ice cream and can only utter a shocked "where do they make this?" and a scholastic friend crunches dry leaves under his cycle-tires while seriously discussing Matthew Arnold. These little moments remain in my mind. As I feel a little closer to these people then. That little slip where the face shifts enough to see a less grown-up face gladdens me.


Arun said...

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to English Literature. Not many people are interested in the older literature anymore or the question is aren't they? I feel some of these authors have become so much part of the English culture and language that people quote without realising what they are quoting. I reckon thats the true success of literature if it can permeate every aspect of daily life. It should not be the preserve of the educated elite and should be accessible to everybody. In England there is the culture of open air theatres, which I suppose started to bring literature to the masses. England despite its reputation is a pretty egalitarian society. You can see this in the literature over the years. Irreverance and ridicule are pretty much part of daily life/culture. That is fun but also has a serious side to it as this allowed true democracy to fluorish and prevented bloody revolutions. In India, people have taken on this quite a bit. However, there is the cult of sycophancy fostered by certain political parties which has caused problems of nepotism and corruption in society. So the question I would like to ask is - Are irreverance and disrespect bad for society? My answer is no as both traits foster creativity and free thought.

Rakesh said...

While I will not go as far as to say that was me, the least i can do is admit (a tad bashfully) that there is something in what you say. Having said that, Eliot rocks okay, so BACK OFF!!! And, like you proved later in the piece, he maketh (madeth and still maketh?)sense.

But a really nice write-up. 'Enjoyed reading it.