Photo Credit: Sarnath Banerjee via Facebook
Three years back, in the month of June, we moved from a staid and bourgeois neighbourhood in west Berlin to the more colourful and mixed Kreuzberg. I was excited to be within walking-distance from my friends, many of whom live in Neukoln/Kreuzberg. Soon after moving, I texted my friend Disco, asking her to meet me at one of the numerous, eccentrically-run local bars in the hood. I thought Disco, who is unemployed like me and other residents of Neukoln, would spontaneously put on her shoes, wrap a light cashmere shawl, jump on her bike and come. Wrong. I got a text saying, “How about July 24th, between 15:45 and 19:30 or if you prefer August 6th, between 13:00 and 15:00″ as if I wanted to meet an under-secretary at Nirman Bhavan. I was so shocked that to this date I haven’t had the courage to text her back.
Over the years, my stance towards planomaniacs have softened. I have grown more tolerant to the idea that a full planner is reassuring to some – months of activities ahead of you, list of goals to achieve, places to go, people to meet. Institutions in Europe plan five to ten years in advance. That is still okay, but I am somewhat nervous when individuals turn into schedule-monsters. I often wonder how sanguine they must feel about the future. What makes them so certain, is it some kind of first-world confidence? How does one know for sure that a planned walk with a friend will come to fruition two months from now? Do people plan ahead in Kabul? It is preposterous to think that folks in Gaza do not plan, of course they do. But at the back of their minds, are they not aware of the possibility that the cafe they have agreed to meet at next Thursday might be bombed out of the face of earth?
I am superstitious about planning as I am superstitious about wish-lists. Earlier, it was easier. Just material things: new toaster, running shoes, ukelele, objects that promise healthy breakfast and self improvement. But with age, material things are replaced by more intangible wishes: fame, security, love, respect.
There is something sad about wish-lists. It carries with it the mild melancholia of un-fulfilment. I have trained wishes out of my system, most of them, but the wish is a resilient beast. I have just one enduring wish that refuses to go, the wish to sing like Shailendra Singh.