A “THOUGHTFUL” AUTOBIOGRAPHY
(Literature, life and me)
“You don’t always like to be the taker. Sometimes you want to give something in return”, said the professor. This was not the first time that Niralee thought that what was being done in class had a great correspondence with her personal life. But today, after this statement, she was forced to think from where it all started? Her twentieth birthday, she figured out!
This year, along with her dearest buddies Niki, Renu, Mon and Henna, she was celebrating it with some of her newly made friends, Rajiv, Ruby, Satish and Alpana. Little did she know, that this new year and these new contacts were going to bring a completely new perspective to her life.
Niralee was already through with a week in her new job in a school and was thoroughly excited about this dual role of teacher and student that she was going to play. Although a fan of Indian literature, English literature had always scared her a bit. But she had a great fascination for French literature. Actually, what she did not know at this point was that Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Hamidou Kane were not going to be as passive as Molière and Beaumarchais!
Niralee loved chatting with Rajiv. At first, she thought of him as an ABCD: American Born Confused Desi. But it took only a couple of discussions with him to realize that he was anything but confused! Are Indians patriotic? : The first discussion that almost touched the point where it could be called an argument. After that, there were plenty that followed. Every now and then he would very easily throw her in a situation where she would desperately try to prove her point but ultimately end up believing that even if her point was not completely wrong; his was definitely more valid than hers! She started enjoying these discussions that stimulated her to think beyond the point she had always restricted herself to.
In class, Simone de Beauvoir was putting forth hundreds of existentialist questions at her and making her head spin! “On ne nait pas femme, on le devient!” Now how does one explain that? Isn’t one a biologically a woman at all? What percentage of her was a result of her upbringing? Was it alright to live alone, unmarried in a country like hers which was in some ways still more backward than 20th century France? Was India, her India, that she loved so much, really so backward? If yes, what was SHE doing for its betterment? Wasn’t she, in a way, doing harm to her country by breeding a whole new generation who had chosen French over Sanskrit? Or was she preparing the new generation with a tool to overcome communication barriers in a new age world? Did one, directly or indirectly, really become less Indian by learning a foreign language? Had she become any less of it?
In prof. Sirdeshpande’s class, they were studying Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s “l’Aventure Ambiguë”. “L’Aventure Ambiguë”- what an intriguing title! So was the book! It was the story of this young boy Samba Diallo who leaves his motherland Africa and goes to France for pursuing a career in Philosophy and about how he suffers a gradual loss of identity. Comes a point where he feels so alienated from himself, that he chooses death over the life of a hybrid being. As a writer, Kane does a brilliant job by describing a step-by-step, systematic change in the thinking of Samba Diallo. At every point, the reader is forced to hold himself back for a second and think if he is sailing in the same boat as Samba? If what he has taken from the other cultures was worth what he loses in the process? If he knows the way back home when he is on this ambiguous adventure that today’s world of globalization is in itself? This book was a major subject to reflect upon. Sirdeshpande Ma’am would add her own experiences to make it crystal clear to the students. Niralee was planning to apply for an Assistanat in France to teach English. The book rang the warning bell for her! It was a book she wanted to hold on to and go back to from time to time. Were her values a strong anchor that would prevent her from being another Samba? But was it so bad to adapt to the new culture? How much could one change in a new country like France? How much could one afford to open up? Is the other culture always so perfect that so many people happily let them get carried away by it? Are they always right in what they do? Does that mean we have been doin everything the wrong way till now? “Il faut savoir vaincre sans avoir raison”. Is it possible to win over someone without being right? Do we know to win without being right? Is it possible to just accept change as it comes without thinking if our stand is right? “You don’t always like to be the taker. Sometimes you want to give something in return”. What is essential thus is to make ourselves capable of thinking and being able to firmly believe in what we do and say before trying to win over someone with one’s ideas. Let’s hope Niralee finds her way to do this! What did Niralee think about this? She was worried for sometime, but then gently smiled and told herself, “Whatever it is, it’s going to be a worthwhile experience! Let’s enjoy it!”