No pain, no gain. Fine. But no guilt no pleasure?

In the last three months, I was technically not supposed to blog. By that, I mean there was a self-imposed moratorium on writing for pleasure. I had to complete a series of writing assignments, and I had told myself that I shouldn’t, er, dilute my creative energies by writing posts. But that resolution was treated with as much determination as a late night show host who vows not to make another Cheney joke.

Last week end, I finally completed my assignments. I’d looked forward to this day for the last 6 months, perhaps even longer. In my dreams, life stretched out, utterly beautiful and completely essay-free in every aspect. I’d made plans for a zillion different activities, whose only common trait was that none of them involved my sitting in front of a computer, forcing myself to be simultaneously creative and credible.

Early Sunday morning, I celebrated – by watching 15 Park Avenue at 3:30 AM (I’d just finished my last assignment, and wanted to celebrate right away!). Not a good choice. Make no mistake, it is a great movie. Konkana Sen gives a darn good performance as a schizophrenic, as does Shabana Azmi as her long-suffering step sister and care-giver. Just as Madhavan & Arvind Swamy blossom in Mani Ratnam movies, so did Rahul Bose with Aparna Sen (Rahul Bose is always good, you say? I submit as evidence ‘Mumbai Matinee’. And rest my case). Even Kanwaljeet Singh is nice, and I can’t remember the last time that that happened. But as you will find out if you watch the movie, it’s hardly the movie you want to watch if your goal is to celebrate anything.

During the last 12 weeks, life was full of illicit pleasures – several of them worth writing about. There were movies to be watched, books to lose sleep over and which once watched or read, begged to be written about. There were crazy incidents involving friends and colleagues. There were any numbers of items in the news I was itching to write about, any numbers of friends I have stead-fastly ignored… Now that I have all the time in the world for guilt-free hedonism, suddenly pleasure seems to be playing a tough game of hide and seek with me.

I tried calling up long-ignored friends. I called one friend well past midnight because she’d mentioned long ago that she’s usually up till 1:00 AM. After I woke her up and profusely apologized for it, we agreed to catch up later. I doubt that I’ll hear from her again. Another friend cried off because he said he had to wake up early the next day (which was a Sunday – can’t people come up with make decent excuses any more? Perhaps this ability wanes after 1:00 AM…). Determined to have a conversation, and beat the silly objections over lateness of the hour, I called up Mom & Dad, who being in a different time zone shouldn’t have objected. But, they’d just returned from a trip, and were too tired to make idle chit chat, even with their one and only, and even if they haven’t set eyes on this dearly beloved in almost 2 years. It was one of those “We’re OK. Tired, but OK. Are you OK? Good. Anything else?” conversations.

I’ve tried reading. I read the Sunday Times, caught up with old unread issues of the New Yorker & the Economist, Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Colleen McCollough’s Julius Caesar1, Vikram Seth’s Two Lives, Annie Prloux’s Shipping News, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway – just lost interest after about 5 pages in each novel. I’ve tried watching movies, was even lucky enough to catch a couple of good ones (Aparna Sen’s movie, and Kanda Naal Mudhal). But you can only watch so many movies in a week end2

The problem lies not with the book or movie, but in me. Take guilt away, and apparently, you lose the pleasure, too. This wasn’t always the case. The problem is that with age, my ability to keep pleasure at bay has waned. When I was in 10th grade, for example, I didn’t read novels or watch movies when I had “exams” to study for. I admit that the presence of my mom might have had something to do with that. But since I moved out of home, I don’t let pressing matters like exams or deadlines keep me away from reading. If anything, I read more – convincing myself that my over-taxed brain needs a break… Sure, I feel guilty afterwards. But when I look at my pathetic attempts to “unwind” after 10+ weeks of some very hard work (OK, that’s not entirely true, but there most certainly were pockets of moderately hard work dispersed over 10+ weeks), I worry that guilt appears to have gotten all enmeshed with pleasure.

What lies ahead? A heedless hunt for deadlines, hated assignments, or any other gun to my head so that I can enjoy guilty pleasures again?

In the meantime, I was finally reduced to cleaning my room and doing the laundry. And I didn’t even get the halo I usually get after performing such selfless acts of courage. Today, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing long emails to friends in India I haven’t mailed since moving to the US, and calling up assorted aunts, uncles and cousins.

[1] This sudden loss of interest is particularly hurtful because I’m about a third into the novel, and had found it fascinating till this week end.
[2] Only so many movies in a week end? Egad! What alien force has taken over my body and mind?


3 comments so far

  1. inlivenout on

    LOL.I guess you saw an implementation of the simplest of all rules(really?!)in life – ‘D’ is responsible.But ‘D’ wants someone to take the blame.Of course,no one takes it.After all,A is A,aint it? 😉

  2. Falstaff on

    The mistake you made was cleaning your room and doing laundry. Nothing like a pile of unwashed clothes and a floor badly in need of vacuuming to make you feel like a martyr to the cause of reading. You need to learn to channel the smaller, everyday guilts of life, and leave the really big ones alone.

  3. DoZ on

    Inlivenout: I didn’t really get your comment… But thank you, I think…
    Falstaff: I agree. Cleaning in any context is ALWAYS a mistake 🙂

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