Nandita Das

Echoes from within

  • May 1, 2014

I am often clueless about what I am going to write till I start typing. But as the first word comes out, I know I am veering towards things that disturb me, and at times those that inspire. Either way, it ends up being a serious piece, though I keep hoping to write something in a lighter vein. But sitting atop a hill, surrounded by tall trees and lush coffee bushes… in the midst of nature-the one manifestation I have seen of divinity-is for sure more conducive to deeper reflections. Away from the ironies and clutter of city life, here thoughts take a back seat and one is able to hear the inner voice more clearly.

I have always been a seeker and desired an inward journey, but for the longest time, it was only subconscious. Invariably there was never time for things that didn’t seem urgent. Also, like some, I felt that maybe all this was a bit indulgent, especially when the world outside could do with so much more work. After all, every day begins with despairing news of women being abused, sectarian violence breaking out, children dying of malnutrition or wrong medicine… an endless list of miseries. 

And, in the last couple of months, the election drama took over even these realities, as if nothing else mattered. In such a scenario, easily an inquiry into the self can be confused with self-obsession or absorption. But they are as different from each other, as they can be.

Less than 10 years ago, I started being more mindful of this inward journey and the need for it. I began seeing the profound connection between my engagement with the world outside and the anchoring needed within. But I had no idea how to start the search and what its depth was. This journey has been way too personal and long – winding for me to share. 

Today, while I continue to feel the passion and commitment to engage with the world, I am driven far less by its noise than by my quiet inner voice. And the world relentlessly presents its many provocations. Therefore, the big challenge is to be aware of one’s responses, judgments, everyday thoughts and actions. While one does slip into knee-jerk reactions, I try to be aware of them, reflect on them.

The emphasis philosophers and psychoanalysts put on the self is not a surprise. I am convinced that if we want to understand the world, we have to understand our own selves. Though in our daily life we are constantly reacting to the world outside and giving it all the credit and blame for how we feel within. Whereas the mirror theory is just the reverse-it is in fact our inner being that is reflected outwards. We see what we think. Not that it stops me from asking, if everything is a reflection, then what is the objective truth, the fact beyond perception? If my truth is so different from yours, then are all beliefs futile? I still have many unanswered questions, and I know the understanding is insufficient, but I am just happy that I may at least be on the right path.

Knowledge is never the problem! It is the internalisation, the ability to keep one’s inner calm. This centring allows us to hear and watch oneself, to accept the self with all its shadows and thereby develop the ability to hear, see and accept others for who they are. Strange that such insights seem clearer in this setting, where there is time to pause, although it should be possible even when one is drowned in noise. Maybe, it is the struggle with the many voices that has propelled me to make sense of it. 

Today, I am only speaking aloud, thoughts and feeling all jumbled up, in the hope that in sharing this chaos, within and outside, I will hear myself more clearly. Rumi guides when he says, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

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