Sunday, October 23, 2005

Just thinking.

I am listening to one of my favourite pieces today after a long time, Tchaikovsky’s last symphony, the sixth symphony, the symphony pathetique. I don’t play this very often despite the first movement being one of the things I love to hear best among every single bit of music I own. This version is by the Philadelphia orchestra, with Eugene Ormandy setting a kind of expansive mood to the whole of the first movement. Music is probably one of the hardest things to describe, and the sixth symphony is particularly difficult.

If one can bring together an imminent sense of doom along with an urgent rushing towards it, towards, not away, that’s the first movement to me. Before the orchestra bears in with the grand theme, the movement begins on a low brooding note, double bass I think, setting the tone for what is to come. From there on, it is alternate flashes of fatalistic acceptance in a kind of melancholy way, and an urgent thunderous striving against it. Sometimes however the darkness is so overpowering that I feel as though Tchaikovsky is really moving towards the abyss, almost as if he wants to get there and be overpowered by it, not get away.

Which brings me to the subject of grief, and how it can sometimes be so absorbing that it is difficult to get oneself to move away from it. When a loved one is ill, and all one can do is stand by and watch the suffering, without really being able to do anything. When heartbreak occurs, and you want to just close those window shades and lie down with your eyes closed. Never have to wake up again.The intensity of grief can be such that it is difficult to break the chains and take even a tentative step towards the light.

At such times, light itself can seem cruel, and anyone who asks us to try and leave the darkness behind, seems cruel and insensitive. What does he know of my pain, I feel, and hug my pain to myself, warming myself with its familiarity and afraid to leave it behind. I am afraid to leave it behind, first of all, because the wounds are too fresh, and secondly because, I am afraid, that to leave behind, is to forget. The pain helps me remember the times that were, the good and the bad, the parts of me that existed once in another time. If I leave behind that pain, I run the risk of forgetting you, and with that, forgetting the me who belonged to you.

With time ofcourse, the pain recedes into the background, as the business of day to day living takes over. But once in a while, it comes into the forefront, rearing its head at the most unexpected moments. An old letter that my grandfather wrote to me when I was young. A sari that belonged to your grandmother in another era of puff sleeved blouses. The soulmate who let you down dearly now has her name up on batchmates. Someone on the street looks just like friend A who left us so early. On such days, the past threatens to overwhelm the present and overcome its tenous normalcy. The hardy soul tries to take these in its stride and move on.

Move on. That most overused of words. Move on, move on, everyone says. Don’t brood over it. There is sorrow enough though, in each of our lives for every single person to sit on that ledge and cry forever. It is tempting to go back there and cry all over again, reopen every page of my life, examine all the writing, assign cause and effect, blame and reward. Which is why I don’t play the last symphony as often as I would like to. A great piece it undoubtedly is, but it encourages me to cry when I should be working, bringing up old hurts that ought to lie buried. Turning over scraps of memories that are better left alone.

Memories, go take your places in the albums and the poems of our youth, fly to us when called, entertain us for a little while, and then quietly, slink away to your homes, waiting, until you are called in another day.


Aran said...

Wonderfully put. Can't help but add that another reason why pain isn't left behind is because, to leave the comfort of it is to get vulnerable once again. So many times, it's more of a shield and an indulgence you feel compelled to give yourself the right to.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...


apu said...

aran, sf...thanks. aran, you're right though...sometimes, when badly hurt, it is actually scary to let it go.

Anjali said...

Apu, that was lovely. I found my way to your blog accidentally today, and enjoyed your writing. Will be back :)

apu said...

Welcome, Anjali!