Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I had a great big fall!

The latest bug that has bitten me is that of dancing. Yes, I do  dance once in a while and am also trained in the classical version to some extent. It all started when a group of us were discussing those 'irrelevant things' which, as if by some stroke of chance, suddenly mutate into possibilities of expressing hitherto hidden talents. [Especially when you have nothing else worthwhile to discuss]

In case you have not understood the previous line, some of us decided to dance. The suggestion was put forth by an adventurer and was promptly accepted. Can you picture the six of us crammed in a room, music at full blast, stomping away to glory, with occasional pretensions to being professionals? Of course, we had taken care of the coffee part.

We were indeed an interesting group - called ourselves The Electric Girls - 3 serious dancers, 2 wannabe dancers and 1 adventurer. We yelled, screamed and laughed at our own mistakes. Making the wannabe dancers and the adventurer understand and develop a sense of rhythm and beat proved to be a daunting task.

But oh, when did the great fall happen? We were rehearsing live before an audience and some of us in the 'interesting group' were in a hyperactive state. One hyperactive girl challenged me to a classical dance posture which had been child's play to me earlier. In retrospect, I was an idiot to accept that challenge. I had been out of practice for quite some time now. However, the general consensus was that I should attempt at it, and not be a coward. As that girl held on to me for support, I attempted the impossible-bending backwards and touching the floor with my head (a classical pose pertaining to the snake dance. And yes, in my younger days, I could achieve that!) I miscalculated and instead of a smooth progress towards my destination, I landed with a thud. Nevertheless, my instincts made me reach out for the hand of a surprised onlooker and finally, the three of us, tumbled on each other - a sorry mess right in the middle of the stage. The entire amphitheatre's attention was drawn to the three dazed souls.

All that we could do at this defining moment was to give a gracious smile and nonchalantly pretend as if this was all a part of the act. [The accusations could be hurled later.]

As for dancing, we did put on our act, with a medley of songs from Madonna, Westlife, popular dance numbers from Hindi and Telugu and yes, the act was widely appreciated. Three cheers to the spirit of adventure! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Queen's observations on an oft read book - The Fountainhead

The questions that The Fountainhead raises are bound to jolt to reader out of his normal mundane existence.Does advancement and progress mean stifling of creativity? Who is a true creator? How can he/his creations stand the test of time, not only the future but the present as well? Most importantly, is it possible for an individual to be a creator and still stick on to his convictions in a world of second handers?

The problem exists. Man has always been improvising upon things handed down by his ancestors, and this process as we know has not been a continuous and a documented one. Very convenient for second handers of today, who just wait for a chance, just like a hunter waiting for a catch. The million-dollar question - Can any individual afford to be himself in this world of second-handers?

As Ayn Rand examines this question we see characters like Wynand - the man who desperately wants to be himself but cannot afford to, Dominique - the woman who knows that she is different and is comfortable with that knowledge, Ellsworth Toohey - the self proclaimed critic who knows knows that the best way to rule the world was to rule the minds of people, Peter Keating - the perfect second hander [if we were to go by Ayn Rand's definition of a one] and finally a person whom I would call original - Howard Roark. The only man who remains true to what he thinks and feels. Even Dominique has to make some kind of a compromise. But Roark remains steadfast to the end.

An interesting story line - an architect who doesn't mind going against the established principles and precedents of architecture to chart his own journey of creation. A case of individualism versus collectivism. Along the way he does pay the price, but surges forward. As we go on this journey along with Roark, we see almost first-hand as to how people can choose to remain uninfluenced. Collectivism, with all its altruistic motives can be used to make the worthless sound worthy, but the price is stifling of creative individualism. Everybody seems to be breaking under the pressure but Roark remains steadfast.

A question that nagged me was how can world even look up to people like Ellsworth Toohey. Did not have to go far to search for an answer. In a world of second-handers, snobs, people with half-knowledge, people like Toohey will reign supreme. And then it was not very difficult to find this element of Toohey in many. Who wouldn't love authority and control, especially over people?

What was the effect of the book on me? Let me tell you one thing. The first time I read it, I was left disturbed. You tend to become unsure of your position in the larger context of a world dictated by fads and uniformity. But all that disturbance is to strike at the fountain-head of the individual. So in some of the worst moments of my life, I have always returned to the story of Howard Roark, and I feel reassured that I do not have to follow the motley crowd.