THE KARMA ATM
The Millennial Yogi
This is a parable that goes by parallel paths through roads not taken. It begins with a chance meeting at an airport between the on the make quick and ambitious Jay and a man whose face is wrinkled deep in time and who carries a musical instrument that Jay can’t at first recognise. With the recognition of the instrument comes recognition of the man, a once mega-corporate honcho who dropped off the networking grid and vanished into some unspecified black hole. Now calling himself Vini, the man listens to Jay’s various phone conversations and with perfect understanding of the scenarios he overhears suggests that life might be more meaningful if it was less commerce centric and more spaced out.
In a fast-paced rush, burnout among millennials is high. The juggle of multitasking, the scrabbling for at least five minutes of fame takes its toll but no one listens. Jay nods, is touched by Vini and awed by the knowledge of the latter’s notorious past – Ashwini Kumar Singh was the poster child for success after all – and moves on to catch his flight in such a hurry that he forgets to take Vini’s number.
Then the two separate and the stories of their lives unwind through the pages. Vini’s past and Jay’s present, are peppered with wise adults and anxious friends, not to mention managing girlfriends who ride on high-income high voltage lifestyles and come and go with increasing frequency.
Vini holds a majlis every evening and tells his cautionary tale to those who come to listen in the manner of a dastan goi who halts at just the right moment to keep his audience coming back for more, or perhaps more in the manner of wise men unfolding their wisdom with the help of songs from the sages. Chatterjee evokes Meera, Lalon Fokir, Bulleh Shah and even Henley’s Invictus, with thoughtful translations where required, that help to take the message of the narrative further without having to transmute their messages into the stuff of the text.
Parables are not normally told with Styrofoam coffee cups as accompaniments but that and the contrast between the world of material success and that of learning to live through the soul and understand the true meaning of karma makes it a story for the everyday.
Chatterjee’s morality tale inhabits the worlds that most people know – those of grasping for attainment and renunciation. It is a reiteration of a message that is beginning to seep up amongst today’s millennials - a newfound urgency to remake the world of work and ease the crisis that society finds itself in. There is a never-ending quest for a source of truth in a world that has undergone apocalyptic proportions of change. What was in the fast-paced technologically advanced 21st century has now become a confused new normal, one that might have made sense to a pestilence ridden Renaissance but that has resulted in a search for some kind of spiritual comfort. Souls are too easily lost in a search for gains that prove short term. Yes, the scales are weighed heavily against materialism – life lessons for the sake of the parable have to be delivered quickly – Jay, blinded by overconfidence and yet again by the latest instalment of gold-digging girlfriend, receives a lesson in what not listening to old friends and parents can mean.
In a world of highs and lows, one should learn to ride with the tide and not read too much into success and failure as in the old folk tale of the farmer and his horse. Chatterjee has obviously delved into his own life experiences to evolve this message for a new millennium, an amassing of gathered wisdom told simply and to the point, backed by the weight of spiritual research in several languages.