Stand & Wait

“जाने तेरे शहर का, क्या इरादा है;  आसमान कम, परिंदे ज़्यादा हैं ” sang Vipin Anneja in Jazbaa

John Milton believed (like most of us??) that he was born for a great purpose!!

miltonWhen struck by blindness, in the middle of his life, his anguish poured into the sonnet that began “When I consider how my life is spent…” Like many of us who are waiting for something, and get upset and angry when it does not happen within our time line, Milton too fought with his Maker in the Sonnet. Still, in the last/14th line of the poem, Milton reconciles & gives us that oft quoted epithet, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

I, for one, often take umbrage to this “stand and wait” model of problem resolution. I feel it is escapism and fooling oneself, when you say that you are serving some purpose when you stand and wait. This is best exemplified  in the fast paced game of basketball, when the Coach  asks for player substitution and gets an active player out of the court, and sends another player instead to continue the game. This also happens in Kabbadi, Volleyball, Hockey, or Football. Think for a moment, the mindset of the player, who suddenly finds himself in the dugout, out of the match, becoming a spectator rather than a player of the game!!

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The Hall of Fame baseball commentator Vin Scully, made this Miltonesque quote famous by referring to the player not in the game, as “they who serve by standing and waiting out the game”. Would that player think he is serving? Or feel miserable that he is out of action, for now. The Navy Wives Club of America has their motto as “They also serve who stay and wait”. Really? what are they serving so far away from the war theater ??and how long do they wait?? Is it not better then, to take action & move on?

During my college days, a play become very famous & shaped our thinking. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was iconic in impact. Originally written in French, Beckett himself translated this into English and described it as a “tragi-comedy”. It premiered in English in 1955 ( the year that I was born…it that significant I wonder?). The entire play revolves around the discussions & dialogue between Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) as they wait for the arrival of Godot in the middle of a road to nowhere!! Godot never arrives till the end of the play!

This play was a jewel in the crown of absurd drama. The British Royal National Theatre in 1990, voted it as the “most significant English language play of the 20th century”. In a way, it typifies the modern man’s life: meaningless existence; we all stuck on a desolate path; with a companion who is equally confused; all the time waiting for Godot; who never arrives!! There are no answers in the play, & even the tree on that road is bare:  bereft of any greenery & new life. Where are we going? What are we waiting for? Who will make our journey a trifle less senseless? Questions that dog you, me, everybody, daily, regularly.

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I was fortunate to see this challenging play enacted at Chabildas School, Dadar by one-time superstars of the English theater Nasiruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani;  and the quest and angst of Didi and Gogo have never left me since! Along with them, and a host of other unsatisfied souls,  I have been Waiting for Godot since then!! All of us who are hungry, are missing something, want more, await a direction, await the messiah, await deliverance, await the promised land, want a better future…. we stand and await Godot. And true to form….Godot never arrives! The search never ends! Our eyes continue to pine. Our hearts remain empty. Our waiting for Godot begs the question….Is there a Godot at all? Will someone answer my call? Will there be a resolution? Will I be delivered? Do solutions exist? Will the Messiah finally take pity on me & reveal himself? Questions sans answers. The human condition is to wait, wait and … wait for Godot!!

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We have heard often that “the mills of God grind slowly, but grind well.”  So a waiting period is visualized as an inseparable part of our desires.  And the process to achieve them!! If we get what we want very easily, there is a tendency to undervalue it. Moreover, it is in our nature that whenever we achieve the goal we have set for ourselves, no sooner the goal comes near fulfillment, our desires change and we then are hungering after something else, something more, bigger, better, grander. When you do that, the waiting time elongates. Every minute feels like an hour, every hour feels like a day, and every day feels like forever. Depending on what you are waiting for and how keenly you desire it, sometimes you are ready to wait forever and a day!

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It is rightly said by Mary Gordon:  Waiting is the great vocation of the dispossessed. And curiously, we all are dispossessed as we always want more, something better, something faster, something more sleek. This desire keeps spiralling even when we get what we wanted, as there are always new things to wait for! So often-times I think I am waiting, for something that will never happen, since it is a moving target anyways, a chimera that I chase.

In the beginning, I  quoted the song “Jaane tere shehar ka kya iraada hai” from Jazbaa.

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Irrfan Khan plays a down & out corrupt police inspector in a one-sided love affair with Aishwarya. She comes to his bachelor’s pad where naturally everything is in a mess. – इस मेस में कैसे रहते हो?  she asks. And Irrfan’s answer is iconic and memorable  – “मैं कहाँ रहता हूँ  यहाँ ? यहां इंतज़ार रहता है.”

Words which apply to each and every one of us and our lives – मैं कहाँ रहता हूँ यहाँ ? यहां इंतज़ार रहता है. When we will grasp this truth?

Are we stuck in this absurd drama then? Is our human condition just to wait? Will the wait ever end? Is there hope? Remember what AA Milne tells us: Rivers know this, there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

I end with another fantastic line spoken by Irrfan in Jazbaa when Aishwarya comes to visit him. His assistant: ” कस्टमर आया है”…he replies: आज उम्मीद आई है …  When she bids good-bye, and his assistant asks – क्या सर, जाने दिया आपने? – He says : .   अबे मोहब्बत है इसी लिए तो जाने दिया, ज़िद्द होती तोह बाहों में होती.

I see a great parallel between what we are discussing and Irrfan’s advice. Irrfan too was waiting for Godot…the unrealisable Aishwarya. And when she does not stay, his response is …..keep the faith……Love life…. उम्मीद रख…..do not try to imprison life and its solutions…ज़िद्द न कर……..Trust the process…..मोहब्बत है इसी लिए जाने दे…..Indeed they also serve, who stand and wait!!!

Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet said Aristotle long ago.                                     So let us stand & wait and enjoy sweet fruit says vikas today.

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18 Replies to “Stand & Wait”

  1. ‘They also serve , who stand and wait” , said Himalaya to Ganga . Ganga ran furiously to disapprove this idea. Ran and ran. Met the ocean. ” They also serve , who stand and wait” , roared the ocean. Soon , Ganga learnt , it is Himalaya meeting the ocean. ” They also deserve , who stand and wait”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful Dear Sanjay..hum me se har ek alag alag anjaam dhoondhte hai. And indeed it is great to feel fulfilled and complete when you reach your chosen destination.
      Keep writing in, I feel motivated and encouraged.

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  2. After reading your blog I was reminded of a story written by D H Lawrence titled The Fox. A beautiful description of a coal minor’s wife waiting for her husband to come home after hearing the accident siren. There the wait is related to suspense. The more the wait, the more the suspense. I remember how the wives of the pilots would be awake the whole night during the 71 war waiting for them to return after the bombing operations. They would count the planes taking off by their sound in the evening and wait to count them again on their return in the early morning. The discrepancy in number increased their heartbeats and the wait made them more miserable. On the positive side we all wait for our dreams to come true.

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    1. SDS Brilliant example of the pilot’s wives awaiting the drone of the landing planes. Can well imagine what each one of them must be going through as they count and await the safe return of their own one.

      Have not read that story of DHL: must catch that. I love the earthiness of DHL’s prose and poetry….at one time his collection of poems Look we have come through! which chronicled his escapades and challenges when he left his wife and went along with Freida Lawrence motivated and inspired me no end. Gave me solace that I too can come through if I keep the faith.

      always felt D H Lawrence was an underrated writer. Thanks for bringing him to top of mind

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  3. Dear Sir, Brilliant as always. It is true that wait is endless as desires are endless. Full filling desires are like dousing fire with ghee. It actually increases further. But waiting has no virtue and we should neither expect or reject any thing. An attitude of waiting then may change to living in present. Tough but probably only way for people who are not deep into Bhakti Yoga. Also wherever we look we see what we are looking for.

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    1. HCP
      thanks for your comments. Yes the fire always burns bright and new desires keep raising the heat and the flames. For us non believers who do not have the luxury of Bhakti Yoga it can become very threatening and difficult. But I guess the joy of living is in its struggle. And our constant effort for finding solutions, when many times the best you is stand and wait….easier said than done.

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  4. Don’t just stand and wait for another day
    Seize the moment and catch the golden ray

    Don’t just stand and wait for Godot by the tree
    Life’s not eternity, for that promised चायवाला tea

    Don’t just stand and wait for an elusive rainbow
    Serve your people well even if economy is slow

    Don’t just stand and wait for ghost of Sheila Dixit
    Delhi wants बिजली-सड़क-पानी, Arvind’s out to fix it

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    1. MSP
      you are revealing yet another new dimension….the poet in MSP
      Beautifully penned
      I cannot compete with such intelligence
      am too much of a bumpkin to match your wit

      but thanks for your examples and your impromptu ditty

      As I read Nikhil Buch ( another ex-colleague, but from Atul) and your comments and examples I realised that I have missed an important aspect of waiting.
      An expectant mother must await the whole 9 months to see the face of her child!
      Parents who desperately wait for the news about whereabouts or return of their missing child!
      Terminally ill patients waiting for death. Families of such patients ( just yesterday met an old friend who nursed his mother who was bedridden for 3 plus years)
      They all wait, but have no way to do anything concrete about this situation
      So waiting can and must be seen as an integral and indivisible part of life.
      Our attitude and mindset will determine whether how we face the waiting.

      I truly missed this aspect and comments of you all brought this dimension to light for me

      Thanks as always

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  5. Vikas, from where do you pull these fascinating ideas and aphormisms?

    “Let’s wait and watch” is an oft repeated phrase when one is confronted with confusing/uncertain choices.

    While the concept of wait is clear I suspect a strong undercurrent of “wait” in the “watch” as well.

    Wait seems to be an admission of an infirmity – that of being unable to deal with a situation effectively.

    It is certainly based on the ambition of acquiring the proverbial pot of gold when ones reaches the end of the rainbow… even if every one knows that these do not exist.

    There are circumstances , when nothing can be done… in the interim I would tend to relax.. perhaps read a book or focus on a hobby…. waiting sucks and causes stress.

    In the restaurant of life, one is at times the diner who comes in prepared to get what he wants or to be a wait er who stands on the side lines to “serve”.

    Would be interested in getting feedback on whether aptitude and attitude will determine which role will remain the dominant role in such cases.

    Thanks again for an excellent read!

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    1. Nikhil bhai love your turn of phrase.
      The beautiful simile of the restaurant of life is something I loved. Many a times we forget we are in an “rest”taurant….our hurry and hustle shows through and we cannot relax and enjoy the wait.
      Your saying wait is an admission of infirmity took me down another path which I did not explore at all in my blog and I think the blog is poorer for it.
      My mother suffered from intestinal cancer….the drs told us given her 80+ age we can do nothing except contain her pain, we had to daily watch her die…whether we accepted it or not, the wait and the watch fused together and we were reduced to mere bystanders who could do nothing. Fortunately she did not struggle long, in 3/4 months it was all over. But then my father who was for 60 years married to her….a love marriage of those days, a college romance of the 1940s….inherited the wait. Every day a hundred times he asked us “Pramila mala sodun ka geli? me ekta padlo?” Obviously we had no answers, and in less than 3 months my father willed himself to death. He was jsut waiting for his death. Drs found no pathology at all. But his systems gave up, and our family Dr advised us…let him go….Pramila is waiting for him and he wants to be reunited with her.
      Sorry for the maudlin and morbid memories, but truly we are all waiting for Godot

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