Growing up with cousins who were huge Bollywood fans, I was bombarded with Bollywood movies, songs and dialogues. I watched Shah Rukh Khan make the promise of love to several actresses in different movies, I watched Salman Khan try to dance with all his leading ladies and I watched the cliched concept of love overpowering all else being eternalised on screen. It was then, I suppose, that I conditioned myself to believe that love and power were the two main driving forces behind the universe, with love overpowering the latter all the time. As I grew up, this belief started to give way when I realised that love wasn’t enough to buy lunch or new clothes. Money was a necessity and whosoever possessed it, possessed an incredible amount of power that could, at times, buy love as well.
This constant chase for love and power puzzled me, but I decided that power always gave you the upper hand. I focused academically, solely for this purpose. Every time I excelled, I would be rewarded with money that I would save up. I did, momentarily, feel powerful and extremely important, but I wasn’t happy. Something just didn’t make sense. One day, I was going through my e-mail inbox, when I came across something a friend had forwarded. There were pictures of the solar system, comparing the earth to other planets and stars. In the vast entirety of the universe and all its galaxies, the Earth was nothing more than a mere pixel on a large digital canvas. To an uninformed 15-year-old, this information didn’t mean much. Back then, all the middle school drama, dealing with people I assumed were friends and keeping up my grades were the issues I believed mattered. It wasn’t until much later, when the sun had set on insignificant things like grades and keeping up with appearances, that I fully grasped the essence of that e-mail.
The human race, in all its glory, amounts to nothing. In the grand scheme of things, the planet we live on does not amount to the size of an ant compared to a human. How is it, then, that we consider ourselves the epitome of all things important and assume that the sun, in all its magnificence and splendour, revolves around us? Numerous writers have penned their thoughts on this matter, highlighting human insignificance, the fragility of our narcissistic minds and our eventual fate. How many times have we been told that we will take absolutely nothing with us to our graves? It is an oft-repeated and oft-ignored phrase because we consider ourselves invincible in our journey to find power and materialistic control.
Perspectives that talk about living an immaterial life and renouncing the chase for power and love are often dismissed as being impractical or naive. We are socialised to chase power and love, the lines between which have become incredibly fine, making it hard to distinguish one from another. Everything translates to power, be it success, fame or solace. We believe that possessing all that we wish is what true happiness and peace is. Thus, we blindly set out on our respective journeys to find power, be it in any form, without truly finding ourselves and our niche in our small worlds.
The fact is that the people behind these dramatic Bollywood stories have pockets and stomachs that have been satiated with years of power in the form they desired. It is easy to create a story, but it is unimaginably hard to live it. When screenplays choose to scribble ‘three months later’ after the character comes face to face with a tragedy, they choose to ignore the depiction of inextinguishable pain, making the journey seem a lot easier than it really is. The immensity of that pain, the failure of its depiction, the people embarking on that journey — all are, as a friend of mine once put it, “mere electrons compared to vastness of the world”.
My perspective could, of course, be completely off the mark. Perhaps, a lot of us will read this and disagree altogether. We are our own priorities — be it due to narcissism or self-love. Perhaps, that is our role in this universe — to create, to destroy, to seek power in all its might. After all, it is that thirst for power that helped us discover the colossal, undiscovered bits of faraway galaxies. Perhaps, if we keep looking, we might find the answer to our purpose and actual significance as well. Are we forever doomed to live self-involved lives with selfish motives and an imminent desire to have our name on neon signboards, or are we here for some greater purpose, such as that served by the incredulous might of the stars and galaxies around us?
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2015.
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