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The solitude has been bringing out the best in us
- Dr S.D. Desai

April 11, 2020

I am grateful to Dr. Parul Shah (Vadodara) to have forwarded the image to me. A lady pulled her car over and offered biscuits and bottles of water to the family with four kids. Santushti, the woman in the family, smiled and said, Hai (We have). Good Time, the man behind, smiled too and said: Kafi hai, didi, kisi aur ko de dena (We have, sister, please give to someone else). Surprising. The two seemed to have all their belongings on their heads - and their kids by their side. Both and the eldest kid wore smiles of contentedness.

Good Time & Santushti

Neither Santushti nor Good Time had read the Upanishad that teaches the value of what we call renunciation - tena tyakten bhunjitah. They however know the satisfaction tyaaga brings. They have not even heard the names of Buddha and Gandhi, the icons of the civilized world. They have however karunaa even for the unknown - a genuine concern for others like them. Overcome we shall if these basic human qualities don't forsake us even in 'troubled' times.

The solitude we got, difficult to get otherwise, has been bringing out the best in us, at least in some of us. Its impact reminds me of two of Shakespeare's major characters. When stripped of his royalty and pomp and physical strength, and flung about in the storm, Lear is reminded of the 'poor naked wretches, without shelter and food.' It is when you discard the superfluous and return to what makes you humane that you realize you 'have taken too little care of them'. We have seen this happening in our history. In early 'twenties, so as to be one in the masses that Gandhi decided to discard his rather full attire and spend the whole of his life in a simple loincloth. Attenborough has given a touching dramatic touch to this decision.

We related for a change to the outside world with empathy. And we turned to the world within us with sensitivity. 'I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space,' Hamlet says in Act II, Scene ii of the play. I had set off for a writing project I had for long been thinking of when I started receiving every morning from a young musician having exceptional literary sensibility, Gujarati poems set in his own original interpretative compositions and rendered by him and/or another singer, sometimes recited by the poet himself initially. He quoted lines of other poets on the subject and explained the process of composing with hints on some of the nuances. This proved irresistible.

In a poem a noted contemporary poet, for example says,
There never was an opportunity in life to have a dialogue with self,
This has been the time to understand the worth of self;
Love the time you have to remain confined to your home.

Joan Baez

Overcome we shall the unprecedented crisis. Rather than being arrogant about that triumph when it comes, let us take this as an opportunity to understand in all humility our place in the scheme of Nature. In a two-minute Conservation International film, as Mother Nature, Julia Roberts says, 'I don't really need people, but people need me.' A friend forwarded Joan Baez's 1965 song "We shall Overcome..."

Dr. S.D. Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti, Nartanam and Attendance. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.

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