Tag Archives: Death

If a body catch a body in the rye…

If you’ve read the ‘I believe’ column on the left-side bar of my blog page, you would know that I love the Beatles. I am even listening to them right now because this post is remotely about them. If you don’t like the Beatles, I suggest you still stick around and read this post or another one like this or this one on Walter Kitty’s diary.

Ha! Now that I am done with the day’s bit of good deed and self-promotion, I shall get to the point.

So over the last two days I read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. You might say that I am reading it too late but I admit that I was a lousy English literature student.  For those of you who haven’t read it, here is a short synopsis.  The book is about Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old boy who is deeply disturbed by the phoniness he perceives in people around him. He is wary of almost everyone and is afraid to accept change.  The book is Holden’s own narrative in the form of a cynical chatter coupled with wry humour, that reminded me much of Woody Allen’s films. Perhaps it had something to do with the 1950’s New York slang, but the nervous tone and tangential streams that Holden’s mind goes in, are reminiscent of Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall.  Holden talks about the time when he gets kicked out of his third Prep school and the ensuing weekend in New York. This is a bildungsroman novel (a “coming-of-age” novel), and the reader engages with this adolescent boy’s  personality and emotions through his thoughts and actions.

the catcher in the rye – JD Salinger

With the themes and motifs in The Catcher in the Rye, one understands that Holden perceives adulthood to be a world full of phonies and admires the innocence in his little sister Phoebe. He says that the best job for him to protect children from falling off the cliff while they are running around and playing in a rye field. He would be the catcher in the rye. The fall over the cliff is, for Holden, the plunge into adulthood, that he himself is unable to grapple with. He can’t fathom emotional and physical relationships, despises all kinds of pretense (though readers and even Holden realize that he himself is phony in some ways), is quite fickle-minded, unable to find a path and doesn’t even see any point in “finding a path” for the sake of a phony moronic herd of sheep called society. (Phony was among the top used words in the book. Don’t blame me bro.)

I suppose that for the inner-conflict that Salinger explores, a lot of readers might be able to relate to Holden’s character in The Catcher in the Rye. Written in 1951, this character is often called the original ‘angry young man’ and resonates a tension that bumps off into the reader too.  The compulsion to categorize people’s personalities as either black or white , does not allow Holden to perceive people as just being different hues of grey.

However, for me, this very attribute of perceiving everything as a shade of grey, disallows me from having any definite unshakable belief in anything. My mind is my own devil’s advocate. My facebook political view says that I have a ‘socialist heart with a capitalist brain’. Do you see? It’s not as if I am sitter-on-the-fence all the time, but I do believe that everything must be analyzed on a case to case basis.

So if a guy like Holden who is a black-and-white sorta guy, can’t hold it together and neither can a grey-vision girl like me, then what the hell is going to work?! Oh darn, this book must have gotten me really depressed. Depressed, that was another favourite word in the book.

Hey but I was telling about the Beatles and this book , right? Thing is, Old John Lennon, was assassinated by one Mark David Chapman in 1980. Lennon was shot dead outside the building he was staying at. After shooting him, Chapman hung around waiting for the police to arrive. While waiting, he read a book. He had signed it from Holden Caulfield and wrote ‘This is my statement’. He carried this book to his court trials and also quoted from this for testimony. The book was The Catcher in the Rye.  Chapman repeatedly said that this book triggered and inspired him to kill John Lennon. One explanation (also the most likely)is that Chapman thought that if Lennon talked about love and peace, then how could he have millions. He thought Lennon to be a big time phony guy and decided that he had to die. In a later interview,  Chapman said that he killed Lennon “to acquire his fame”.  Lennon was a grey man, and Chapman couldn’t take that.  So another music died.

the day another music died.

The Catcher in the Rye has often been called a hate manifesto because of a few other assassins also fancying the book along with having a flair to kill famous people. But meh, I don’t think it was that at all. The ambiguous ending in the book allows the disenchanted whites, blacks and greys of the world to just suck it up and go ahead any way.  I liked some of the images he Salinger shines into our mind. It just made me glad that the book hasn’t been made into a movie yet. You know, sometimes you don’t want your imagination of something to be spoilt with a movie image.

Lastly, but NOT the least, I also learnt from the book about what fishes and ducks do when the lakes and ponds freeze during winter. Holden is always pondering over this in the book. The book doesn’t give the answer. But I ‘googled’ it. oh yea!

 

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Filed under Literature, novel, Stuff I like, Why?

how to pay condolences

My boss at the place where I am interned recently lost his father and so I had a few days off too. When he got back, I realized that I am supposed to be an adult now and am responsible for paying my own condolences. I asked my parents what I should say, looked up youtube for ‘how to pay condolences’ and even rehearsed. And yet , I screwed up. 😐

Youtube has nothing noteworthy on this subject, btw. There were just news reels about famous people going to pay condolences on the death of other famous people or fans of musicians crying their lungs out.

I don’t know whats wrong with me. Usually I never tend to be able to grasp the gravity of death and mostly I guess, even deny it. I’ve never had anyone super close to me pass away, just my maternal grandfather.  I was about 15 then. I did like him a lot but don’t think I cried about it at all.  My friend Vidya lost her dad not too long back, and since she was my own age and had known her for many years, I knew how to console her and allow her to accept teh situation and grieve at the same time. But this was my boss. I’ve barely known him a month.  So I was talking to another colleague and was already smiling when my boss came up front for the first time since his father’s death.

Me: (smiling)Hello Sir, how are you?

Boss : (pleasant and grim) I’m good.

Me: (still smiling :O :O) I heard about your father. Im so sorry for your loss.

Boss nods.

Me: (controlling my smile) Was he unwell?

Boss: Yea, he had been hospiatlized.

Me: (trying to look serious) and you got back…? [I din’t even know if he had gone to home country or nt or where his father had been. Hence, the trailing off of the question.]

You see? It was bloody awkward and I had actually smiled! and that was inspite of the rehearsal at home. I think its a defense mechanism of some sort where I try to allay the sadness of death with a smile and pretend like it does not exist.

So I end up having a pathetic expression thast somewhere between laughing and looking serious.

Like this –

Confused laughing + crying expression

Do you guys know what I can do about this ? How do you guys pay condolences\ to your friend or boss? What are the right things to say?

I have been saved the grief so far, but there is an age after which I suppose one finds oneself in such situations more often. So I’d better be ready, eh?

 

 

 

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When I can’t make “When I grow up..” statements

Whenever I call or text someone to wish them on their birthday, I find myself running out of creative ways to wish them and birthday related stuff to talk about. I mean, apart from the usual ‘what are your plans for the day?’, ‘hope you have fun’, ‘where is the party?’, et al what does one ask anyway.

But I think the conversation is easier when its someone’s 18th birthday, atleast in India. There are these list of things you are legal to do – like voting, get married, donate blood, have sex, get a license. So when you wish someone, you can tell how fun life ahead is going to be with all these extra activities they can do legally.

‘You are an adult now. There are so many things you can DO now!’

But what really is Being an Adult? Obviously just arriving at 18 doesn’t make us any more adult than we were a day before. Adulthood comes with certain events in our lives that have nothing to do with birthdays.This may come to you earlier than at 18 years, or if you are lucky, much later.

Something I saw today made me realize that these events are changes that actually hurl you into adulthood and most of the time, its without your permission.

My friend of 11 years and classmate from school lost her father yesterday. Like me, she is just 20 years old and in that confused phase of life when you are done with college and have to decide where you want to take your life. But the events of the last 40 odd days when Uncle got hospitalised and admitted in the ICU and yesterday when he breathed his last, seem to have suddenly moulded her into a woman. Today, when I and a few others spent the day with her to help out with anything and just talk to her, we witnessed how boldly she was taking it in her stride. She did cry occasionally a little and may be she will cry to sleep and cry in the solitude of the bathroom, but her maturity was apparent when he held her wailing mother with a look of strength and calmness and an embrace that seemed to ward off all grief. May be it is today, more than ever before, that she would start living and feeling like a” responsible adult”.  Having said that I still don’t know if that is a real defined term.

But perhaps I got a sense of it today too. Before heading to her place, I was waiting for another friend Busty below her building and saw some kids playing hopscotch. Thats when I realized how it was not very many years back that we went out to play with our friends. When there was a death, it was our parents who had to deal with it and think about what are the correct things to say.  And suddenly now, we had to deal with it and think about what are the right things to say to console someone. Does one smile? When is one supposed to leave? Is there a particular colour of clothing for this occasion? Regardless of these immaterial things, what can you do to make your friend feel ok?

It is said that we should always embrace change and not resent it. But when this change is something out of your control, and something you didn’t even choose, what do you do? May be there is no choice but to accept and embrace it.

But how long is it before you are at peace with it?

It was great when as kids we could play outside till dinner time, watch cartoons, remain untainted and innocent and rarely ever wonder about worldly problems. Though adulthood might be bereft of these things, I have always liked to believe that life, even in its adult version, is going to be awesome despite its ups and downs. But I just wish the transition was smooth for us all.

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Filed under Don't want to talk about it, La vie, Me, People, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?