Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Sometime last year I won a badminton tournament at work. Even before it unfolded, I realized that there was something fundamentally different between this and other competitions that I have taken part in.

I have problems competing. I don't see the point in it. No, not that I find competing obscene or vulgar but just that competitions amuse me. Because I can never want anything that badly, and it amuses me to see people act desperate. Again, not out of superciliousness or condescension but out of, as Camus would say, "a gentle indifference" to everything that has to do with existence. That said, I'm more of a golfer than a wrestler (or a fencer) -- the conquest of the absolute interests me more than temporary subjugation. The course, defeat the course. Not the opponent.

Anyway, back to the badminton tournament. The idea came around because we have a court in the garden where we thrash around in the evenings and thought a tournament would help build camaraderie in the team. So, the draw was fixed and notifications sent to opponents. But then I was already deep into my everything-is-futile mode, overwhelmed with "existential angst" and I didn't want to take part. That was also the period when I was contemplating, and sounding out, Absurdity as a philosophy to live life by. And the tournament seemed like a perfect place to try it out.

Basically the reasoning behind my taking part went like this - the fundamental choice was to take part or not, with each of the choices intrinsically not being superior to the other. This is where I've had most of my problems -- the justification of a choice. Not taking part, while going with the natural inertia of my habits, did not excite me and implied a continuation of ennui. Taking part however intrigued me. Not for the challenge of winning and the temptation of the prize, but to see if I could confront futility, acknowledge the meaninglessness of action and still engage in positive activity leading upto accomplishment, thereby pushing further out certain personal boundaries. That, to me, sums up everything -- to know something is pointless and still engage oneself with it. It is not a compromise; a compromise is a barter, but with the absurd there is no gain. It's not giving in, it's not weakness. Rather, it is the greatest of challenges calling for a greater mental and physical endurance. And probably the only one left if one ignores suicide.

In the end, I won both the singles and the doubles. Not without pain or labour ... I spent the next three days -- including a weekend -- in bed, wheezing and recuperating from a marathon doubles final played in the most gruelling of conditions. And I didn't feel anything about winning. The victory didn't mean anything -- the trophies lie abandoned in my room now. The games don't mean anything. The scores, the arguments, the pain in the knees ... nothing means anything. All that matters is confronting the absurd and choosing to live in spite of it. It is easy to dismiss oneself as being dead for feeling nothing, but to me, this is when living begins, when the faculty of feeling is heightened, when life is stripped free of the kitsch that everyday emotion is, when one is able to have a greater appreciation for things despite being aware of their inherent meaninglessness.

That then is where I stand. At the precarious precipice separating life and suicide, vacillating between action and inaction, choosing stimulation over boredom. This then is how life is going to be, to quote Camus again (I know! I know! But how can one not feel respect?), "To work and create 'for nothing', to sculpt in clay, to know that one's creation has no future, to see one's work destroyed in a day, while being aware that fundamentally, this has no more importance than building for centuries - this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Untitled - 4

Dead skin and instant coffee
that grows quietly cold.
Bare branches and undried clothes
with traces of mould.
Winter's fingerprints linger,
her crimes untold.

Sour cynicism; a discoloured soul
that grows
quickly cold.
Charred dreams; a shrivelled sensitivity
now layered with mould.
Love's fingerprints linger,
her crimes untold.