Saturday, May 16, 2009

A little drop of delirium

Morns and eves are when time plays cruel jokes with souls in solitude. On their journey to earth, the rays of dawn also drag me down from the clouds where I am merrily sojourned. And after hours of being occupied with work, as night approaches, the dark corner of my room brings me back to reality. Enough to drive me mad.

My revolting mind critiques my own actions. Sometimes my actions resemble those who are certified mad. Yet at other times, when I am teaching, window shopping..., my thoughts and actions are cohesive and consistent. Does this make me a mad person? Don't we all act inconsistently in some way or the other? Can I be both a rational and a lunatic? What about the drastic optimistic view ... everyone is out of their minds but me? Questions of life ... the answer maybe 42 yet our ignorance can worst a toddler. My actions make perfect sense to me, and not an iota is without a reason yet I feel I am rowing the oars of insanity to cross this stream of rationality. Could it be that the logic inherent in human heart, the one that we are born with, is different than the one we invented where 2+2 is mechanically always 4.

One evening several months ago, I exchanged a $10-bill for a student rush ticket to a Tennesse Williams' play Cat on a hot tin roof. I was looking forward to a temporary relief from solitariety. Peace remained elusive but I was hooked to the play nonetheless. So much that the next day I watched its movie version and during the next few months, watched all the famous Tennesse Williams' movies. Reading the plays would have been better but I was in a haste to seek answers to certain questions about how our mental state morphs when stressed. In his own life, the master playwriter himself and his dear ones underwent abnormal mental condition. He seemed to possess an unmatched insight to human mind in this regard and I desperately wanted a share of his wisdom.

Maggie (played by Elizabeth Taylor) in Cat on a hot tin roof" was obsessive and impulsive. She was desperately trying to win the struggle of life with a remarkable resistance against surrender. There is life in the character; her gait, her flamboyant statements, her persistence ... she had an halo around her enough to charm Big Daddy and me alike. She was at times almost hysteric, frightened by insecurity, of loneliness, of being "old without money". So she directed all her energy in living, as simple as that. She could be misthought as fragile but to me, she is the strongest among everyone in this play.

On the other side of the bed, Brick her husband, presented a contrasting character. After his best friend died, he developed a complex in himself which was partly fueled by Maggie's constant endeavour to grab his attention. His agonized self countered bereavement and depression by drenching his mind and soul in alcohol till he heard "the click!" in his head which he claimed was followed by eternal silence and peace.

In A streetcar names desire, Blanche (played by Vivian Leigh) unfortunately ended up isolated from the world and was desperate to reach out to people, to any bosom that welcomed her. She came to find a shelter at her sister's place. It was interesting to watch the rawness of her sister's husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando), trying to uncover a very deceitful Blanche. Out of fear of seclusion, she was permanently in a mixed state of illusion and reality. Not really hallucinating, but still it is hard to blame her for the "virtual memories" she created for herself. She gave us a sneak peek of what goes on in her mind "I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And it that's sinful, then let me be damned for it!"

Katherine Hepburn was stunning as the aged mother Amanda Wingfield whose mystic world consisted only herself and her two children in The glass menagerie . They were both adult yet her obsession for their happiness made her turn a blind eye to pragmatism. Her daughter Laura at first seemed mentally under-developed - always in her own fantasies, playing with glass toys and skipping typing lessons to walk in a park. But as the movie unfolded, her actions seemed perfectly normal to me. Amanda's obsessions, for her son's well being and her daughter's marriage and future, was due to failed aspirations of her own life. She saw her life go from riches to shambles, more spiritually than in a monetary sense, and was terrified of a similarly abject future for Laura. Williams created a magnificent character in her, who wanted to "create truth" the way she though it would be the best. Bravo!

Suddenly, Last Summer calls for a separate ovation because of its dual heroine - Katherine Hepburn (Violet) and Elizabeth Taylor (Catherine). But that aside, this is indeed a strange play about "power and passion" involving characters with, for the lack of better words, a strange view of life. Extremely rich widow Violet created a separate world for herself and her son, Sebastian. An actually separate world, where People didn't speak of Sebastian and his mother or Mrs. Venable and her son, they said 'Sebastian and Violet, Violet and Sebastian are staying at the Lido...'. What an audacity towards loneliness. Sebastian died on a trip where for only once, he took his cousin Catherine instead of his mother. Catherine saw his death, which was dreadful enough to make her "mad" and Violet, out of agony, despair and shy shadow of jealousy, planned out a risky brain surgery for Catherine to erase her memory of Sebastian. The story ended with Violet became insane, probably medically. Earlier in the play Catherine tried to ward-off the visiting doctor by listing the gruesome things she could do to him since she was mad; a fantastic enactment of the classical catch-22 situation involving mad people ... Does a mad person realise he is mad?

The Rose Tattoo is probably the only one with a happy ending. Serafina loved her husband more than probably she could bear; after his death she began living on his memories - rarely leaving the house or dressing appropriately. Call it devotion, call it passion, call it stupidity, call it whatever you like, Tennessee Williams used extremism to his credit to show how some people breast agony. She wanted to protect his memories like her own child and at times, it was not clear whom she is more protective of, her feelings or her daughter Rosa, whom she loved very dearly too. The Sicilian household where the play is set at, has a punctilious air of sentiment, very unlike the traditional western family usually portrayed in literature and movies.

All the "abnormal", if you pardon my usage, women were as much justified in their actions as a dying man in banging on my door at high noon of the night. Their idiosyncrasies were desperate measures for their survival, be it physically or emotionally. Yet, they would not conform to the rules of social behaviour that we have set for ourselves. Rules are general principles, and hence they fail miserably in confronting specific cases. One can choose to abide by the laws or be brave to be branded a madman. The latter group would not be the first to be accused of heresy; they will certainly feel proud to find Galileo Gallili among them.

It is sometimes natural to want to lose our mind. Sometimes nothing makes sense and the world seems mechanical. And if world refuses to grant us the dose of delirium, the only options left are what Brick said in the Cat on a hot tin roof

Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out an'death's the other.

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