It is a difficult task to pick any one literary character among the numerous who swim around my head; signify some part of my life or the other.
It is akin to deciding whom you love best among a dozen of your offspring. How can a mother desert one and prefer the other? It is a difficult task to pick any one character among the numerous who swim around my head; signify some part of my life or the other.
All my favourite characters form a component of my life; in some milieu or the other I have identified myself with them… I think we all do that.
We see ourselves in so many characters, in some nuance of their approach or conduct. There are as many characters I have encountered in my life, as there are people.
In a way, they have a life of their own, blending their cheerfulness with my own when I am in high spirits and bringing about the camaraderie of obscurity when I am down and out. The truth is, I really do not have a particular literary character that I favour more than the rest.
But I do have my favourites!
Pinocchio is a spirit I grew up with. My childhood memory of his story is vivid even to this day. I remember each time I told a lie, the image of Pinocchio and his growing nose would come up and I’d look at my nose with disdain.
I have a particularly sharp nose and I used to imagine it growing even longer. The thought used to give me shudders. That should have actually made me dislike Pinocchio more.
On the contrary, I identified with his childish pranks, his waywardness, his truancy, his contrition and his subsequent acknowledgement of doing everything with conscious thought.
As I grew a little older and transited to the period of a teenager, my heroine was Josephine of Little Women, fondly and popularly known as Jo. She reflected my life, my struggle as a teenager who grew ahead of her years. Not all of Jo was there in me, or, perhaps there still is, like Pinocchio, but we were alike in our independence.
I wanted to work and even landed my first job as a part-time teacher in a school when I was thirteen. It made me think that she was a silent companion to me.
Of course, as we grow older, our reading habits take a stable turn. Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead simply took my breath away. His logic and rationale of thought processes, his clarity of vision, confidence in what he wanted out of life… raring to go in today’s world, he swept me off my feet. I remember thinking about his character for weeks after I had finished the book.
Along came Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Donald Shimoda, the characters from Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions, respectively. Each time I have been dissuaded from doing something I think of the grit of this seagull and find strength to go on. I find that I can achieve so much more.
There are also those times when our belief in ourselves is wavering. Donald Shimoda gives me faith to believe that there are all kinds of possibilities in this world; only, we have to dare to believe in ourselves and dream on impossible things to achieve.
These two characters have made me believe that there is a lot that lies beyond immediate vision, a whole new world of possibilities that needs a little bit of daring, a tiny dose of foresight, ounces of courage to turn them into distinct realities.
As I grow older, I look ahead to a self-made life and I see possibilities of other characters who will worm their way into my life at appropriate moments, to be the tiny guiding light that shines in the darkness… to lead me to horizons beyond my reach today.
This article was first published in Meghdutam Plus newsletter between 1998 – 2003
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