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Time's gifts

Even those of us who laugh that age is just a number and dismiss calendars as man-made, feel a bittersweet quietness this time of the year.¬†Spending time with old friends, we sheepishly talk of how the sharp edges of our sight and hearing are becoming every so slightly blunt. We laugh at how we thought we’d never get old. We are relieved to be older -- allowed now to be bossy as we like, dress up or down un-self-consciously. But anxious, because the time in hand is less than the wishes in our hearts.

One friend tells me, every night before he sleeps, his age flashes through his mind. “I feel like time zipped by, and gypped me.” Many of us must feel this. The past is always lost to us, a source of nostalgia or its other face, regret. If we push ourselves, reflection.


Illustration/ Amit Bandre

At the end of this year, I generally clean out my closet. I give away some things I’ve enjoyed, hoping they’ll bring pleasure to others and some favourite clothes which I accept I won’t ever fit into! Perhaps this minor ritual gives me a way to embrace my successes and my failures -- let go of both to momentarily at least, accept, that it is I who reside in time, not time that resides in me. Without remembering this it would be difficult to move on with hope. There is both relief and speed in remembering our humble unimportance. The ego of responsibility to shape the times becomes, for a bit, the freedom to do your bit and hope it will add up to something.

Twenty-five years ago, as a student, I wrote a script for a class assignment. Good hearted but ignorant, it was about an imagined social life of gay men. It wasn’t something I knew about first hand but maybe, it was a way for me to articulate my own sense of being strange, ungainly, a misfit and for all my brashness, invisible and lonely, uncertain if the battle to be myself could even unfold, leave alone be won.

I remember now the shock of the blue-eyed girl of our class asking how I could write about “an abnormal thing like homosexuality with a positive tone.” And a crusading journalist whom I then idolised indulgently saying, “Come now, sexuality is not really a political issue.” Today I very much doubt either person would say these things.

Here we are, hopefully close to a reading down of Article 377 and more importantly with a lively mainstream conversation about the politics of sexuality. This was impossible to imagine 25 years ago. As it seemed impossible to imagine that many unlikely things I dreamed -- to make documentary films, to have a place of my own, to have a family of friends -would happen.

And yet so much else has not come to pass. We discuss middle-class sexual violence but not caste-driven sexual violence; we make Binayak Sen a symbol, but we forget Soni Sori. We are intrigued by the success of the AAP but barely register what’s happening to Muzaffarnagar riot victims dying of cold and hunger in camps.

Taking stock, do I cancel what has passed with what hasn’t? If I celebrate a seeming victory, am I insensitive to other injustices? Being better selves and making a better world will always defy this neatness. Time’s sly gift is only to move us forward -- it gives us a new year but takes away an old one. Our only choice is to journey on, believing in our path, but not too blindly.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.¬†

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