AUTUMN LEAVES- Three Stories
A Brief Introduction
The advancement in knowledge and the growth in opportunities away from home, contributing to a more independent individual learning to live life on his own terms, though desirable, has led to the splintering of families and in a sense an inevitable reality of being left alone as one aged. ‘Autumn Leaves’ traces one such family’s travel through four generations. Krishnan finds himself sandwiched between his father Vishwam’s and his own children’s generations similar to what his father had gone through; each moving away to accept new values and shedding old ones which had ceased to be relevant, to accommodate the changing world. Despite all this drifting away, the one reality that seems to recur at some stage or the other in life, is the yearning to understand oneself when faced with existential angst. Anuja, Krishnan and Kavita’s daughter, though born and bred up in the US and in all sense, an American, sets out on a journey to understand the roots of her parents and forefathers and in the process arrive at her own self-discovery. The story is a fiction and does not judge, for each generation has to live with its own strengths and weaknesses. But whatever the scenario the one thing that will always persist is the reality of birth and death. Whether it is a biological process or God ordained is a matter of conjecture, and so will it always remain and continue to occupy the human mind. Each one charts his own way and defines his own fulfillment.
Autumn for me, conveys quiet contemplation and a reliving of the past and the seasons gone by, and a period of waiting. Keats’s four lines on Autumn still lie etched in my mind -
: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
Adolescence is that time of growing up from a child to adulthood. The onset of puberty brings with it, apart from physical changes in the human body, a need for exploration of one’s sexuality. This is a time when one does not distinguish between love and infatuation. While we always talk about love as everlasting, infatuation is a passing phase which we only realize when we move away. This passing phase for some takes a long time, in the course of which they exist subjecting themselves to procrastination and in the process unfulfilled. Even what we call as love is a fixation that accompanies us as long as we believe it exists. Once it ceases to exist, we are shattered, for there is always an expectation of reciprocity. A sense of betrayal of trust is predominant.
The next two stories ‘Amora’ and ‘Enigma’, deal with infatuation, love, friendship and a search for unifying the divergent forces that exist within us to attain fulfillment.
‘Amora’, I thought was a unique and lovely name. Amora is the closest to ‘Amour’ the French word for love. It was strange but the name’s origin lies in a dream I had, the only thing of which I remember is of a woman who appears therein and when I ask her name, she replies ‘Amora’. I do not know whether my subconscious was at work or whether hidden infatuations had surfaced. But from that single word the story of Aparajit the protagonist developed. Aparajit finds himself bound between two women ‘Amora’ (love) and ‘Maya’ (illusion). Unable to initially accept the truth, he ultimately realizes that relationships are based on understanding and acceptance and that alone is permanent.
Hermann Hesse has been a great influence in my life. Long ago I read Hermann Hesse’s ‘Narziss and Goldmund’ and to this present day it still remains one of my favorite novels. Through all his novels one can sense his attempts at bringing about a balance between the two opposing forces of asceticism and the world so that we reach a better understanding of life and move towards self-realization. In fact, one senses that life is incomplete without experiencing both the states. Like in ‘Narziss and Goldmund’, the theme of duality is dealt with in ‘Siddhartha’, and ‘Demian’ effectively, one of disillusionment and the other of Order versus Chaos.
To say that while writing ‘Enigma’ I have to a large extent been influenced by his writings, will be the truth. The human being is by nature multi-dimensional, but he lives exploring a small part of his potential, frightened of the conflicts that could arise in trying for a synthesis. Real fulfillment can happen only when he is able to do that and for which he has to summon all his courage and brave the consequences that could arise.
The central characters of this story are Atulya, Arundhati, and Amol the narrator. The story is about friendship, love and ultimately fulfillment. To sum up this it would be necessary for me to quote from Hermann Hesse’s ‘Narziss and Goldmund’ –
“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other's opposite and complement.”
The two characters Atulya and Amol though very different in their approach to life, stay bonded throughout, recognizing and accepting the other as an integral part of each other. Aside from ‘Autumn Leaves’, which is quietly contemplative and recognizes the reality of aging and loneliness, ‘Enigma’ is intense and highlights the strength of relationships, synthesis, and fulfillment.
The stories do not follow a narrative style and I have stuck to what I have been following in my previous books of going back and forth from past to present and back to the past, avoiding the monotony of a straight narrative to keep the reader engrossed.