‘I was waiting for him outside his office. But it looked like he would take long, so I crossed the corridor to stand at the balustrade. From the first floor of the school building (my friend’s an administrator there), I could oversee the football field just in front, the basketball court just beyond, and school-kids hard at play on both the two surfaces as well as around them. The view was covered just a bit by a big, solid tree on the left that rose to the height of the building.
‘In the shaded interiors of the tree, my attention went to a small bird descending from its flight onto a slender branch. As it landed and perched, a leaf, responding to the visitor’s weight, was rendered loose and then started making its own descent to the bottom of the tree, now swaying to the left, now to the right, now left, now right… I followed its journey, although brief, right to the ground.’
“Yeah…” my friend smiled. “Even the first time you narrated this to me, it felt good in some way.”
That, to me, is humanism. Attention to the smaller things in life. And the small joys derived from them.
No doubt, my favourite humanist these days (and perhaps for eternity), Guru Dutt, felt the same way. Which is perhaps why he came up to the future and borrowed my vignette. His most satisfying and appreciated film (and mine too), Pyaasa, begins with GD’s character, the poet Vijay, lying in a field. As the opening titles end, you hear a verse floating, somewhat like that leaf. The verse gets suspended next, for Vijay turns and lies on his stomach, his hands folded beneath this chin. He glances around, with all the time in the world. A bumblebee flits to a flower, then descends to the grass. Vijay follows its intoxicated path. The next moment, Vijay’s face is crushed: a hastily arriving foot crushes the bee beneath, the bee perhaps having been too somnolent to stir. He is shaken from his mid-day reverie, gets up, and hastens out of this fragile paradise.
When a movie begins like this, you are no doubt pyaasa (thirsty) for more. By the end, as Vijay walks away into the sunset with his companion, the streetwalker Gulaab, you are left feeling very, very poorna (fulfilled).
Ok, not entirely. You wish GD could have done this in real life too.