Pearls of Wisdom

Shashi Deshpande

I recently read A Matter of Time by Shashi Deshpande and was left mesmerized with her realistic portrayal of women. I had earlier read Small Remedies and some short stories by her, and was familiar with her poignant style.

But, the Sahitya Academy Award winner has outdone herself in the present novel. An engaging story coupled with fantastic characters bowled me over. To add icing to cake, the novel abounds in Pearls of Wisdom. Almost every other line caught my attention. Savour a few:

1. The house is called Vishwas, named, not as one would imagine for the abstract quality of trust, but after an ancestor, the man who came down South with the Peshwa’s invading army and established the family there.

2. They are trapped into inactivity by that greatest fear of all- the fear of losing face.

3. There was a time when a man could have walked out of his home and the seamless whole of the joint family would have enclosed his wife and children, covered his absence.

4. English is a practical language, it has no words for the impossible. Sa-hriday in the sense of oneness is an impossible concept.

5. Destiny is just us.

6. Men don’t die easily.

7. Emptiness is always waiting for us. The nightmare we most dread, of waking up among total strangers, is one we can never escape. And, so it is a lie, it means nothing, it’s just deceiving ourselves when we say we are not alone.

8. It is the desperation of a drowning person that makes us cling to other humans.

9. All human ties are only a masquerade. Some day, some time, pretence fails us and we have to face the truth.

10. Only the creator is free, only the creator can be free because he is out of it all.

11. It is through our bodies that we find our first connections to this world.

12. A man is always an outsider…for a woman, from the time she is pregnant, there is an overriding reason for living, a justification for life that is loudly and emphatically true. A man has to search for it, always and forever.

13. I believe and therefore it exists. Stop believing and it is over in the blinking of an eyelid.

14. The body shrinks from annihilation – Camus is right when he says this.

15. Marriage is not for everyone. The demand it makes – a lifetime of commitment – is not possible for all of us.

16. Even this needlepoint of a moment, this now, is receding from you as you speak of it, it is becoming the past.

17. Human history is fired by human desire.

18. To be ignorant of your history is to be deprived of it.

19. Life must be lived forwatds, but it can only be understood backwards.

20. Historians, even the most brilliant of them, especially the most brilliant of them, are like magicians. With flamboyance, they draw your attention to what they want you to see, take it away from what they want to conceal.

21. We prepare carefully edited versions of our lives to present to the world. For ourselves too. Except that we know they are there, the alterations, the deletions; but we ignore them, these squggles, these jottings in the margin, we pretend they are not there, we tell ourselves that we have changed nothing.

22. People have right to their own history; they need their myths as much as the facts, perhaps even more.

23. The past comes to us filtered through our memories.

24. Time was something to be calculated, divided and charted on paper. That it could work on humans, that it had made his daughter a ‘woman’ came to him as a total surprise.

25. Perhaps you can make a lie the truth by acting on it for years.

26. Babies are Nature’s trap,the fly paper to catch women and pin them down to the nurturing role Nature needs them to take on for her purposes.

27. No woman would fall into the trap of honouring one’s word, of giving a post dated cheque.

28. Things change with time, people change, circumstances change; nothing is constant. And, therefore, you can never make a promise for the future.

29. When one goes to sleep, he takes along the material of this all-containing world, himself tears it apart, himself builds it up and dreams by his own brightness, by his own light. Then this person becomes self illuminated… For he is a creator.

30. To dream is to cross the boundaries of the physical world, to enter the regions of pure light, to be illuminated, and to illuminate then, the world for others.

31. Mortality- that’s a terminal disease we all suffer from.

32. People speak of the law of jungle; but that’s some kind of law too. It’s lawlessness that’s destructive and leads to chaos.

33. To accuse a man of cowardice is to chip away at the base of the pedestal of his manhood. If, after this, a man is still standing, you have to respect him.

34. Every revolution carries within it the seed of its own destruction. One oppression only replaces another.

35. We need to know our beginnings. Without that we are forever exiles, forever homeless.

36. Whether our lives are long or short, we leave our marks on the world. Like the war memorial to the Vietnam war, our names are inscribed on it, visible to those who look for them. Nothing is lost, each moment remains, encapsulated in time.

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