Rehnuma

Rehnuma (noun):
1. (from Urdu) A guide or leader.

I came across this word while reading a book on Indian history. It immediately struck a chord and I decided to look it up. I wasn’t really enthralled by the rather ordinary English equivalent of the word. The word is so poetic in its original urdu rendering, it softly tickles your throat to evoke a muffled hiss before finally rolling off your tongue in a sensual half kiss. Merely saying ‘leader’ or ‘guide’ simply does not do justice to this beautiful word.

There are so many words that resonate with the beauty of this word. Sample these:

Savior
Redeemer
Champion
Captain

I feel that these words better reflect the true meaning of this word. Yet, people don’t want to be romantic and go with the most boring of words to go with it. I would personally suggest the use of ‘Captain’ as in ‘O Captain! My captain!’ by Walt Whitman, but nobody’s listening.

Language has become so bloody practical! Efficiency has killed romance. Haste, hurry and laziness has reduced our expressions to sentences consisting of four truncated words that take twice as much time to decipher. Involvement has given way to brevity. Who would want to write love letters to woo the object of their desire when smileys, electronic winks and kisses made of asterisks can do the job.

In such a world, someone like me is an anachronism. I know there are many like me. They live their lives surrounded by things that remind them of the ordinariness of their existence and subdue their creative instincts. Tim Leary exhorts me to find the others, but when I look around, I find that I have been condemned to lead a dull life among people who struggle to accommodate me, often finding me too much to bear, too forceful, too dominant. When I finally manage to wriggle out, disappointed at my failure to find solace in their company, I find that the outer circle of ‘the others’ was just an illusion.

Am I just one of ‘them’ whom Tim Leary talks about? Am I the ordinary guy struggling to live up to my expectations and not being able to reconcile with the fact that I am just ordinary? If I am ordinary, why can’t I enjoy ordinary pleasures? Why do I seek out things that are beyond my reach? Why do I yearn for the impossible?

In this age of ordinary life bereft of any notable achievements or even failures of Humanity, has extra-ordinariness become so commonplace that it loses its meaning?

Whatever may be the case, one thing is certain: I am disillusioned with how things are and I feel that I don’t belong. I need to find my place in this world. I need a friend, philosopher and guide to point me towards it. I need a rehnuma.

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23 comments

  1. Good post dude – I can so totally relate to it! I think you are right in many ways, that finding people of a similar intellectual and literary bent of mind is difficult in these days of short attention spans and ubiquitous social networking, messaging and communication services. Even I feel the same way that despite being aware of my “uniqueness” in intellectual/analytic terms, I perhaps am ordinary after all, and yet as you said, I do seek and yearn for all the extraordinary things I might be capable of doing. And like you said, it’s a heck of a difficult task to find like-minded people as consistent partners in your activities/interests.

    The other thing is of course the democratization of every goddamn thing through the Internet/Communication Technologies. This has created a whole new brand of “Internet/YouTube/FB/Twitter celebrities” (who are more correctly “Internet/YouTube/FB/Twitter Flamboyant Personalities”), and people seem to gravitate and revel in the frivolity, fun, banter and brevity of watching Vlogs (Video Blogs) or reading a 160 character hyper-compressed, super-acronym-dense Tweet or a small FB status, rather than a nuanced literary discussion of any ideas.

    But the same democratization has allowed people like you and me, (or Sameen, Siddiqui, TameSheWolf, etc.) to write our hearts out and express our minds. So it’s a catch-22 yin yang kind of a situation I guess. On the one hand, people like us have been beautifully enabled to carve out our niche, but on the other hand we find that this niche we carved out is rather small, and is completely overtaken and dominated by people doing all kinds of concise/attention-grabbing stuff – including “make-believe”, “happy-go-lucky”, “silly-Youtube-video”, “Flashy-Dumb-Babes-Showcasing-Their-Bodies”, “Wisecracking-in-160-characters”, “Satire-As-FB-Status”, etc.

    Finally with regards to the evolution of language (or more correctly it’s devolution as you pointed out), I guess that’s also again a function of the shape that social and cultural norms and sentiments take at any given point of time. So it’s natural for an entire generation of people suffering from general ADHD with shorter and shorter attention spans to express their life motto as YOLO, or to express even mild amusement as LOL, or to indicate derision as FAIL, etc. It’s both funny and sad at the same time. On a related note, you might enjoy this video … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rexKqvgPVuA

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    1. As an afterthought, “Democratization of Technology – The Pitfalls” could be a good idea for a blog post (at least for me)! :P

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      1. Do write! Just to see how verbose you are, I checked the word count on your comment. It stands at a staggering 392 words! The original post has 483 words, so that is quite a feat! You might as well put up your comment as a post :)

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      2. Rajiv, you should definitely use the pingback feature of WordPress. That way, you have documented your thoughts and reactions in your blog, while also linking (and replying to) the blog that triggered the thought-rush! :P

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        1. Touche! Will keep that in mind, although I doubt my thought rush can ever be tamed into patience and/or cohesive organization.

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    2. Wow! I am blown away. You got so much from my incoherent ramblings? Thank you, kind sir.

      I don’t grudge the success or the democratization of technology. I just don’t understand why people like us don’t form long associations and why we tend to gravitate towards the other crowd too. This is not an ‘us vs them’ thing, I am honestly surprised by how shallow our interactions with each other have become.

      I don’t like that even in the small niche that we have been pushed into, we find that there are invasions of the greater trend.

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  2. amarllyis · · Reply

    “If I am ordinary, why can’t I enjoy ordinary pleasures? Why do I seek out things that are beyond my reach? Why do I yearn for the impossible?”

    I think all of us feel this way. I feel out of sync too; a lot of times lately. Is it something I’m doing wrong, or what? But then what is life if you don’t “seek out things beyond” or “yearn for impossible”?

    Call me an incorrigible romantic, but I think that’s what all of us do everyday. We hope, dream, try, sometimes get tired, wait for our loved ones to pick us up, get bruised, deflated, and then hope, dream…repeat.

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    1. Of course. But I am feeling more of a disconnect these days, especially with the people in Kochi. All those whom I considered friends have forsaken me. I can’t make any new friends because everyone is already in a group and the groups are hard to get into (not that I want to be in most of these groups). When I do make some friends, they only talk to me to amuse themselves with odd behavior. I am a wonder to them. An alien wonder who is very interesting to watch, not to befriend.

      Maybe it is the language barrier. Sigh..

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      1. Hang in there brother! Feeling alienated and yearning for that sparking connection based on that inexplicable sense of chemistry/bonding with another person if you ask me is perhaps the most human of all traits. It all boils down to the fact that we can’t hear/feel/sense the intricacies of another’s thoughts, and we are alone in our cacophonous advanced ramblings of our own minds. I blame Behavioral Modernity and Symbolic Complexity – sometimes I feel I wanna go back and club our ancient ancestors (50000 years back) in the head a few times – with the intent of suppressing advanced consciousness, and behavioral complexity and symbolic/abstract thought! :P

        That said, we are where we are, and we are who we are. I am sure with some time and efforts, you will find a good set of people to hang around. And you always have your blogger friends and internet acquaintances to bounce off ideas with.

        Reference:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_modernity
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstraction#Abstraction_used_in_philosophy
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstraction#Abstraction_in_psychology

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        1. Thanks man! Have you seen ‘Midnight in Paris’? I feel like Owen Wilson from that movie. That music by Stéphane Wrembel really takes me to Paris yaar! Must watch for someone like you!

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      2. Just a suggestion – Increase your indentation limit on comments from 3-levels to 5-levels or more. Some discussions are bound to get involved with a fair amount of back-and-forth replies! :)

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        1. Sure. I will do that :)

          And thanks!

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  3. amarllyis · · Reply

    I’ve seen it. Wonderful movie. :) But I must say I liked Paris better in Hugo. :D

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    1. I didn’t like Hugo much. It reminded me too much of Saawariya (the cinematography, I mean).

      There was too much going on everywhere and everything felt artificial. Maybe because I didn’t watch in 3D.

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      1. amarllyis · · Reply

        I saw it in 2D and it was astounding. Too bad you didn’t appreciate it.

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        1. I feel bad now. :(

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        2. By “Hugo”, I am guessing this is the Animated Martin Scorcese Masterpiece you are referring to – in which case three big hollers/cheers! I remember seeing it in 3D in a theater somewhere in/around NY, and it blew me away at the time. Terrific film, heart-wrenching at times, soaring at other times, and some sublime animation! I am sure it was good in 2D as well, but the 3D experience was just fantastic.

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  4. ->Of language:

    English is a transactional language which we’ve all propagated as more important than the others in some way or the other.

    Some languages are essentially romantic, and translation spoils it. Like how Jerry Pinto (Indian poet who came to my college) said, “It’s like kissing a bride through her veil”
    But my literature teacher strongly argues against this.
    Only recently, I realized why.

    Because if we argue against translation losing meaning.. we’re also saying that other cultures don’t need to know/learn about us or even peek into our culture. (Yeah, it becomes political.) Also, why see it as “true meaning lost” when we can see it as “new meaning found.”

    I love languages, in general. I get that what is lost is only the emotional, cultural meaning. So if your really really understand the word, you should be thankful about being born in a rich culture.

    Having said all that, I also feel the need to protect English too! Can you believe that? Like you mentioned, efficient short forms are killing it.
    But then if Oxford can add some new words, in all it’s authoritative sanctity, I can definitely forgive or look past the un-punctuated nonsense that my friends write.

    ->Of finding others:

    What I have learnt is: Don’t try to find people like you in the wrong places.
    Finding them in a diverse place like an office or school or college is difficult. You find them in places of your interests
    [eg: Clubs- sports and books and all. Online blogs. ;)]

    You will then find, the office to be a refreshing break from intellectual people. :P We are an irritating dissatisfied lot, I tell you.

    -> Of finding the Rehnuma:

    Devoted respect for a person is difficult to achieve for a skeptical mind. I think we don’t realize that on some level, we would hate it.
    But I get that, a need for a mentor who’d guide you, respect your budding, philosophical angst, show compassion and give some direction. It’s difficult to find in one person.
    I’ll get back to you when I figure that out. :P

    ->You are a good writer. You could put in so many thoughts (and I’ve commented only on three) without jumping ideas. I struggle with that most of the times.

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    1. Thank you Kajol! I really like what you’ve said.

      Also, why see it as “true meaning lost” when we can see it as “new meaning >found.”

      Interesting. What I intended to say at the beginning of the post was not that translation spoils things, rather that translation without proper effort spoils things. To demonstrate, I have also come up with alternatives. But I do agree. We should be more optimistic.

      But then if Oxford can add some new words, in all it’s authoritative sanctity, I >can definitely forgive or look past the un-punctuated nonsense that my friends >write.

      I too try my best to accommodate that. Thankfully very few of my friends write like that, so it isn’t a major problem. However, I always exhort people who are willing to listen to use the longer forms with proper punctuation. This I do not to protect the language or promote proper English, it’s just that it makes it such a joy to read (for me) when things are written like that.

      What I have learnt is: Don’t try to find people like you in the wrong places.
      Finding them in a diverse place like an office or school or college is difficult. You >find them in places of your interests
      [eg: Clubs- sports and books and all. Online blogs. ;)]

      Very true. That is why I try to be part of as many clubs as I can. Sadly, there are few clubs here in Kochi (or so I feel). But I’m not giving up. I have started a club of my own (like Max Fischer in Rushmore) :D

      You will then find, the office to be a refreshing break from intellectual people. :P >We are an irritating dissatisfied lot, I tell you.

      Hahaha.. yes we are. More dissatisfied than irritating, though. There is so much for us to say and know that we’ll never be satisfied.

      You are a good writer. You could put in so many thoughts (and I’ve commented >only on three) without jumping ideas. I struggle with that most of the times.

      That’s really kind of you, but seriously, you wrote a better reply than my original post. My post was quite haphazard, I wonder why you didn’t notice that. I just wrote it as it came out of my mind.

      Anyway, thanks for the compliment. I have learnt (the hard way) that we should never refuse food, suggestions or compliments. Especially when it is unsolicited :D

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      1. Hahaha.. Agreed.
        I think all we need a little distance from our own work to see it objectively.

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        1. Amen! That’s a much needed prescription for all of the world. Distance and Objectivity.

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    2. On a related point to all that you have mentioned, I just wanted to point out that different languages have different expressive powers, each with their own specialized domains of peak articulation. English just happens to be an amalgamation of several domains of human emotion, interest, specialization and capability – absorbing tidbits from disparate global lingos in the process. It’s gotten to a point where today’s English is about as “English” as Oil can be considered Water.

      There have been scientific studies which also suggest that the complexity of one’s conscious thought – it’s form, boundary and texture – is very much shaped by one’s choice of expression through language – and in turn shapes the language further. That is to say, people knowing English and comfortable with the wide alphabet set of Greek, Latin and Cyrillic – will find that they have a greater fluidity in converting and representing intuitive yet abstract mathematical notions in the form of self-evident equations, while having universal ease in disseminating such knowledge crisply through the use of English. People knowing and speaking Hebrew might have other novel characteristic ways of thinking and expression.

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  5. (I still want to say so many things. I want to make some corrections in the comment too. But chuck it now, I am also tired.)

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