“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!!
When 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!!
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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.