I’ve been reading a lot lately. After months of re-reading Terry Pratchett, I’ve let some new authors into my life. And the effect, it must be said, has been like jumping into a cold pool after hours of lazing under a comfortable quilt.
The book I’m about to finish is Iravati Karve’s Yugaant. I’d picked up the book ages ago, but somehow it had disappeared into the depths of my bookcase and I’d never gotten around to finishing it. Now, thanks to a copy I’ve borrowed from Rook, I’m close to reaching the end of this incredibly interesting dissection of the Mahabharata.
Towards the end of the book, Karve says something I found significant. “The Being is afraid of the Non-Being”. I take it to mean that everything that exists is afraid of not existing. The fear of death, from which all our survival traits emerge, seems to be a direct manifestation of this. And while subconsciously we KNOW we’re going to pop it one day, there’s a part of us that really, really wishes that wasn’t the case. For a lot of us, this fear of death is superseded by the fear of oblivion. ‘I was here, I lived’ is something we want people to know.
The book was playing on my mind over the Ganesh Chaturthi weekend, when I visited my ancestral house in the village. And that’s where I realised something – not everybody creates great works of art, literature or whatever, to live on forever. For the vast majority, the simplest way to be remembered is through their descendants. Take me, for instance. I’ve never met either of my grandfathers, they both passed away before I was born. But I know what they were like, through the memories of my relatives. I know the names and deeds of their fathers and grandfathers, through the house in the village. There is no question that they lived. And they didn’t have to write War and Peace for someone three generations down to know that.
What will I be remembered as? A thought-provoking writer? Someone who wrote about their life on the internet? A Hitlerian matriarch? A sarcastic little know-it-all? As the big three-zero approaches, it’s a question that’s becoming increasingly important to ask and equally impossible to answer.