Nandita Das

Time to ‘be’

  • July 1, 2009

Whenever I have picked up the pen, figuratively speaking, it has been a response to something that has troubled or anguished me. Even writing Firaaq, my directorial debut feature was cathartic, an expression of the turmoil I was going through in dealing with the impact of violence on our lives. With this piece I begin a journey of writing every month, to continue giving voice to all that evokes a response. This makes me a writer by default and the writings end up being stream of consciousness pieces. Now that you know what to look forward to or simply avoid!

Last two years seemed like a non-stop roller coaster ride with Firaaq. And during that time everything else took a back seat. Once the release and its heartburns were over, the desire to get away from the chaos of city life and all those enslaving gadgets became strong. I wanted to take a complete break. No emails, phone calls, not even friendly-chats. While there were many things on my mind, what intrigued me the most was how our responses are shaped. It is amazing how little control we exercise on our responses even though that is the one choice that we can always make. We are such creatures of habit and conditioning that we often think of other’s perspective as prejudice and our own as a point of view. To bring focus to my internal dilemma I decided to reflect on this one mystery in particular. Of course everything else I had felt and experienced – good, bad and ugly – also found its way into this exploration.

I decided to take a two-week break in a quiet, beautiful yoga center in the South. It wasn’t easy to shut the world out, but I gradually started to spread the word around to get less calls and smss, put emails on auto reply, and resolved to not be the compulsive responder that I am. I wanted to learn a bit of yoga, pranayam, meditation, go for walks, sit in silence, get healthy, reflect about life, go deeper into my consciousness and all that in just two weeks! I had also fortified myself with books to read, laptop to start work on my next script, and a long list of things-to-do-when –I-have-time. So I had a packed schedule, although all I wanted to do, was to just ‘be’!

The harder I tried, the lesser it happened. At first it wasn’t easy to stop the voice in the head that loves to analyse, interpret, opine, judge people, situations and even oneself. Slowly, after a few days of silence, gadget free life, meditation, the new routine of sleeping early and getting up early, eating satvik food, walking in the forest, watching the rain and probably just being…I began to observe my own responses. Most often conflict, fear, aggression – a whole lot of negativism is born out of the desire to judge. But just as the letting go had begun happening, the other voice of reason got ready with its arguments. “Does that mean, you should not take a stand, not speak up for one’s beliefs, be spineless?” I struggled with it but concluded that if only I could first allow myself to be a true observer, see things with honest fresh pair of eyes, I would see clearly and the perspectives that would emerge would be more informed, compassionate and empathetic. Sometimes the simplest insight feels like a eureka moment!

I am not trying to be Gurumai Nandita! There is nothing new I say, but experiencing this for me, was new. I felt like a big knot had loosened. There were many small eureka moments that happened and while the opportunity to see one’s shadows more clearly was great, it was also a scary proposition. But the solace was in what Rumi said, “ If you don’t have shadows, you must be standing in the dark”! Now I am back to the chaos, but that little shift inside is already helping me. I have realized the need to take out reflective time every now and then and not wait for a complete break. I will try to give voice to experiences that are inspiring and reflective, choices that are instinctive and analytical and stories that I feel need to be told and heard. All this would be more than cathartic for me. It would become part of my journey, which to me is the destination. For now, I am wandering again. But hopefully it doesn’t mean that I am lost!

Virata Parvam


Director: Udugula Venu

Language: Telugu

Character Name: Shakuntala

Key Cast: Kundan Alexzed, Chakrapani Ananda, Banerjee

Feastivals and Awards: NA

Film Stills: 9

BTS: 11