Thursday, August 5, 2010

On the pleasures of stealing Proust

"For a long time, I went to bed early. Sometimes my candle scarcely out, my eyes would close so quickly that I did not have time to say to myself: 'I'm falling asleep.' And, half an hour later, the thought that it was time to try to sleep would wake me."

If anybody knew me well enough, and also knew Marcel Proust well enough, there is admittedly a slim possibility of them being able to envisage the enormity of this moment in my life. Superlatives are cliched, especially at my slippery hands, so I'll refrain from them. (The woven patterns on the texture of the cushions of the chair next to me seem awfully psychedelic, a giant orderly army of immovable triangles getting restless by the moment.)

It unravels me, literature. From all that I am, from the inhuman realities of space and time. But most of those are simpler pleasures, really, compared to the connection I feel to Proust. My fascination with memory, its webby associations, its precise construction and the pleasures of its starry eyed remembrance have evolved independently of his influence, and that's what makes the connection what it is. If anybody knew us both well enough, they might even be tempted to call him my literary soulmate. (Though I probably wouldn't, the objections being semantic, not to mention an avowed love for a certain Argentine and a certain Russian. The whole multiplicity of soulmates debate, let's save that for another day.)

I have never read Proust, at least not the bits of him that matter to me. (Years ago, I did read his first ever published work Pleasures & Regrets, but that's not what Proust is to me, though the promise of his later self did shine through that young work.) And I wasn't supposed to either. For I knew what he was, what he would come to mean to me once we met. He was my greatest artist, one so great I deemed him too good to be wasted by acquaintance with my youth, somebody so important to me that I couldn't take any chances at not making the most out of. (Ever loved something so beautiful that you felt compelled to distance yourself from it, afraid you would tarnish it with your bare simplicity?) In Search of Lost Time was my retirement bonus, a pleasure ostensibly stashed away for my future, that dangling carrot on the ceiling luring me and guiding me through the vagaries of life and age.

So when I bought the first volume about a month and a half ago, or to be precise, felt like buying it, I was pleasantly surprised. But I went ahead with it. (After all, your instincts are way smarter than you if only you let them be). And there it was everyday, on my desk, staring back at me every moment, yet keeping its distance, never luring me in. I still didn't feel like reading it. (even though I did rifle through the introduction to enquire about the translation. I'm very picky about those.)

And this morning, I woke up seeking it. I guess I should've seen it coming, this moment, but then I've never really cared much for foresight (it takes the sheen off the instincts, you see). I got out of bed, took it off my desk, and went straight to the first page of the text. And as I so well knew I would, I felt it, what it was like to feel those words being written into my mind. Like a little boy feeling for the first time the pristine texture of an ice cream on the tip of his tongue. The secrets of all of life unraveled to the senses, in an instant.

And a stolen ice cream, it was. Because I knew I was stealing this pleasure from my future self, spoiling the plan I so carefully, not to mention patiently, drew up. I read only the first paragraph and was so overwhelmed I couldn't go on anymore without expressing my own emotion. As I write this, I do not know if I'll go back and continue reading it or if I'll just stash it away for my future with a twinge of guilt and an apology note to my future self, but who cares about tomorrow anyway. What this moment is about, is what this moment is about.

Memories are independent of time, without a past or a future, without reason or consequence, they are mere bubbles floating aimlessly in space, carefully preserving the tender waves of a bubbling emotion. And that is what this shall remain, this early august morning I, battling the trivial annoyances of disheveled hair and a painful left wrist, woke up to a stench of dusty corners and a patter of raindrops on my balcony, and stole a tiny piece of my own future.


Dwiti R said...

I don't know if it is Proust's impact on you... or just your writing after so long...
Awesome...Especially how you ended the piece...

Subtle... yet says it all...

Anonymous said... of ur best