This is a special anniversary.
Half of my life I spent in India. And then, half more I spent in the U.S. Today is that special anniversary.
Now, what is half life? And what does it have to do today, whatever anniversary I may have? — Some might ask.
Scientific definition is half life is the time taken for the radioactivity of a chemical element to fall to half its original value. The second definition is half life is the time required for any property to decrease by half.
The day I left India was the day when my life was cut in half. Today, after being in America for the second half of my life, I still feel like fate cut my life in half. Life was cut in two pieces — never to be meant to fuse together — ever again.
Now, some friends keep reminding me that I lament the loss too much. They say that I blow it out of proportion. Some even call me a hypocrite: they say I complain too much about India and her problems while sitting cushy in the “best country in the world.” And my intellectual achievements, and my earned respect as an activist and a teacher and a writer. Whatever little I’ve done in one life, starting humble, and starting from scratch. What’s the use of talking about the loss all the time? — They say.
They advise me that if I felt so strongly about India, then I should return and live there. Otherwise, they say, I have no right to talk about India’s problems — however horrendous and prehistoric they are.
Of course, some of my American friends say exactly the same thing, but only in a different, subtle way. They ask me why I complain about America’s problems when compared to India, it’s a much more luxurious situation for me? They say, can’t you find anything positive about USA? Do you only have to talk about America’s wars and income disparity and media lies and private prison and police brutality and 24/7 gun violence and myriad of hidden secrets, and write about them in Indian publications and on your measly blog?
They say, I mean, if you’re so unhappy to be in America, go back.
So, thus goes my half life — half here, and half there. Tormented. Splintered. Just like an eccentric chemical element absolutely erratic on its orbit.
In simple English, a crazy man.
Poet Tagore wrote:
“This bank of river sighs: the other side are all the highs.”
My Indian and American friends keep reminding me that my lament about my half life is nothing more than this stupid frustration. They remind me that there are always some people who can’t be happy anywhere: they are lifelong complainers. Basically, they say, they are losers.
So goes my half life: half here, and half there — complaining, and losing. According to popular definition, that is.
I sometimes felt that I have had some radioactive property in me. Radioactivity in my mind that illuminates and charges. Radioactivity that can create a lot of energy — to do a lot of incredibly charged things in life.
But I also sometimes felt that I never found that Marie Curie who would take the time to research on me, explore the possibilities, and finally harness the energy into real-life action. So that I could feel happy in this life, even when cut in two halves.
I have waited for Madam Curie to take charge of my life. I have waited for Godot to show.
But that did not happen. Godot didn’t show.
Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I lost my half full life. A full half life — on two sides of the globe.
That radium that was supposed to glow — never came to glow.
Lamenting, reminiscing, expressing — in all sincerest honesty,
Brooklyn, New York
This is a special anniversary.