A Personal Note: Revisiting My Priorities

The late autumn heatwave in London, which means temperatures of 29 degrees and a clear sky, is having the most unintended effect on me: Melancholy. The sky looks exactly like the autumn sky in Kolkata, and the weather, too warm for a pull-over, exactly the kind people will complain about sitting in Puja Pandals next week. This brings out the sense of disconnection, of loneliness and of things lost, of moments that could have been and priorities that could be reversed.

This is seeing past as a possibility of future, which is always the starting point of melancholy. It is at moments like this, one becomes conscious that life is, unlike what it seems to be, full of choices, and the narrative of the past looks like one written by ourselves, rather than just being enacted by us. What could have been is a pointless discussion in our jet-set lives, but one must reach points like this, as real and full of possibilities as any other moment in life, to know what could have been as potent as what has been. This is because, as I think now of all those goals not pursued, friendships lost, places left behind, promises unconsummated, books not read and words not said, nothing is ever lost, and all those come back to construct the possibilities for future: A journey of yet more choices to be made and of the life to be lived.

Indeed, you may simply say that I am having a mid-life crisis, but I brought it upon myself. For me, such crisis is the core of a sentient existence. This melancholia, in short, is not about the life lost, but a discovery of the inherent limitations that life must be lived with. Like, I came to England seven years back to see the world and learn: But I gave up in return things I dearly loved: Enjoyment, in workless bliss, of the wintry mornings in my family home in Kolkata, or the quietness of vast grounds that surrounded our house in Bolpur, a small university town a hundred mile away, where we would sometimes go for weekend breaks. Indeed, I have previously derided the tendencies of people to remain in their zones of comfort, but I am not sure, having left mine, that one choice necessarily turned out to be better than the other.

So, as I return to look at the future as a blank slate, I know what I wish to do: Return. The return is, again as I have written before, as much a journey as leaving home was, and demanded somewhat greater courage as this would require reversing most of what I am about now. I am fully aware that life-after-return is unlikely to be as idyllic as I visualize now: Nostalgia always gloss over unpleasant bits of the past and remind only the sunny bits. However, the idea of return is, in a way, part of a never-ending journey that a traveler must undertake, and a promise which remains unfulfilled most often, yet remains the keystone of a meaningful life if one has to be lived.

My journey has given me a lot: I have discovered a purpose of life. I now know that I wish to build an educational institution where the learners learn to live with our new, global, world, explore its technological and human possibilities, and know more than mere numbers and try to make it a better place. I know such education can only be achieved through learning and traveling, as I somewhat did, and I wish to open similar opportunities to people everywhere around the world. My plans to set up a global education company, therefore, remains fully reconciled to my idea of return: I wanted to set up an office in India in any case. I have become, irreversibly, a global citizen: It is time to go see the world one more time.


Anonymous said…
A whole lot of chords struck at the same time was what this post did for me. The air and sky of Hyderabad has been terribly clean with the Telengana protests cutting all but essential traffic out. The long ride to hear the visceral sound of dhakis at the nearest Pujo pandal makes me, for the first time in many, many years, miss Kolkata. Perhaps this new nostalgia has to do with the rearrangement of my goals and priorities. In all these years of material pursuit, I have never felt disconnected. I didn't have time to.
As I spend each day renewing my determination to create value through my being, not just for myself and my loved ones, but for the marginalized and disempowered, the value of being rooted, being connected, being one, but an essential one among the many is becoming more obvious, more in focus.

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