Life is Elsewhere



“Lyrical poetry is a realm in which any statement immediately becomes truth. Yesterday the poet said life is a vale of tears; today he said life is a land of smiles; and he was right both times. There is no inconsistency. The lyrical poet does not have to prove anything. The only proof is the intensity of his own emotion.”  –Life is Elsewhere, Milan Kundera  

I read “Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera” a long time ago during a hot summer day, started and could not stop reading it, and finished it in a Jiffy. Atticus introduced us to MIlen Kundera, his library, the sky blue book shelf with golden handles, which had treasures of knowledge and literature which we discovered as children. The golden childhood Atticus gave us with those books is dreamy. We lived his teenage self and youth through those books, all over again. He had a story about every book that was there in the shelf. Some book gifted by his friends when he met them which brought warm memories, some from his brother who is another avid reader and his hero, some from Amma his lady love, some he bought when he went to places and many many more. It was only when we started earning that we could gift books to Atticus, but till then we relished every bit of his collection and little bits of the emotions locked up in those books. 

The library had a record book which had the list of all the books numbered and told you which shelf you need to look for to find the book. And also when someone borrowed a book, Atticus made sure there was an entry in the record book. It was almost like we had a working library in the house and I loved the whole process and beamed with pride whenever my friends visited whilst I showed them the treasure we had, in our home. Atticus and Amma were my friends favorites too because they were like two young people who gelled well with all my friends. They were open and liberal and was never judgmental and treated us as little adults than kids. Many of our friends still keep in touch with them and visit them more often than they do with us. 

When I was in Prague I was thinking about the Milan Kundera a lot, the streets he would have walked on and protested as a staunch socialist, the communist comrade, a political dissident writer, who later was thrown out of the party for dissenting against the brutality of the totalitarian communist regime in his country. The Velvet revolution indeed happen but till then the writer wrote vehemently to reform the communism in his country. Lot of his books were even banned. But his pen was his tool to dissent and kept writing. 

Life is Elsewhere is beautifully written, it tells you about how humans pretend what they are not, to make their mark, and yearn for praises and loose their soul in that journey. How they judge and conform and second guess everything around them and forget to live. How they see things the way they want and have high ego caging them within themselves to believe that the world revolves around them. Milan Kundera in his very own sarcastic way shows how flawed humans are and how normal it is to be vulnerable and pretending to be something beyond your own self and values is futile and depressing.

I wandered through the streets of Prague, the city was oozing in silence the nostalgic past of the region, once annexed to soviet union, about wars and poets and literature, about Kafka and Kundera and what not, the city whispered about in my ears. Laughable Loves, another Kundera book, I remember gifting to Minnu when she left Bangalore. I remembered her warmly and how all our lives have changed and where life has brought us now and how unpredictable life altogether have been. Prague, you gave me all and nothing when I met you. It was special, with poets, nostalgic memories of my dear ones who loved literature which I liked and beyond all the silence of the city walls and bridges which spoke about dissent, progress, oppression, art and life. Life is elsewhere, life is everywhere, life is never static.

“You think that just because it’s already happened, the past is finished and unchangeable? Oh no, the past is cloaked in multicolored taffeta and every time we look at it we see a different hue.” ― Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere

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