Thursday, September 01, 2005

Travels within travels

After a long time, I travelled to town. Upon returning to an old familiar place, we might find that the occasion is not entirely in our control. We may go there, sure, but the smells, sights and sounds guide us gently to other places. Travels within travels. And so it was today.

Often it is not the new, but the missing old that I see. The new will have enough time to settle in. It is the old that did not have enough time to reside in memory properly. The glowing torch of the kebab-waala by the NCPA. The Chinese place with its plastic chairs scattered opposite the theater. The watchmen whose names I never found out. A familiar parking spot taken by another car, though I had no use for it. Nothing to grieve about but it is a kind of loss. An irrational loss. How do you quantify that?

But it wasn't all sour. I finally watched Goodbye Lenin! at the NCPA with a friend. I feared it would sink, as well-regarded things annoyingly tend to do. But it got better and better and better until you could take no more because you were filled with so much pleasure at the protagonist's audacity that all that pleasure had to go somewhere and you wanted to laugh and laugh and laugh but you couldn't laugh because this was the NCPA and people don't laugh here. (Perhaps the crowd at the NCPA is matter for a different article.) The protagonist took his invalid mother on a journey of his choosing, fearing that reality would be too much for her to handle after she came out of a coma. So he obsessively created a world that pandered to her taste, showing that her beloved USSR still existed. How did he do it? Watch it sometime. It's worth it.

It was about manipulation, desperation, making a better life, but also very much about loss and finding the missing in a different form. The loss of a father. The dread at losing a mother. Concealing the loss of her adorable Soviet Union. I suppose we find what we look for; I found loss. Travels within travels again.

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